Earth: The Book Available Today! September 21, 2010

Earth: The Book Available Today!

Today marks the releases of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race.

Over the summer, I had a chance to interview one of the head writers of the book, David Javerbaum. We talked about what goes on behind the scenes at The Daily Show, the problem with the news media, and David’s future plans now that he has left the show.

In case you missed it, here’s a link to our conversation.

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  • The book might be fun, but the title bothers me. “Earth: A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race”. If it’s a guide to the human race, then really it ought to be called “Humanity: A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race” because there’s a lot more to the Earth than just humans. In fact, humanity is really a rather small part of the Earth, and not much more than a blip in it’s history, one whose significance is about that of, say, the asteroid(s?) that killed the dinosaurs.

    Really, I wish I could get everyone on the planet to wake up and see the world as a whole and shake off the childish fixation on our species as the only important thing here, but that isn’t going to happen. Our special self-centeredness seems an inherent part of our biology that is reflected by and reinforced by our cultural institutions, religion not the least among them.

  • Hooray! I work for a company that’s been doing a bit of promotional stuff for this book and got a sneak peek of it. The chapter on religion was very funny and pointed, and made me wonder if the writers were fellow skeptics. Now I know!

    BTW, the book’s website was announced on Twitter earlier today:
    http://earththewebsite.com/
    I think Friendly Atheists definitely deserve alien reconstitution! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • humanity is really a rather small part of the Earth, and not much more than a blip in itโ€™s history, one whose significance is about that of, say, the asteroid(s?) that killed the dinosaurs.

    Thanks for trying to prove the myth that atheists are anti-life.

  • Thanks for trying to prove the myth that atheists are anti-life.

    Heh, yeah. Don’t confuse being small and fragile and squishy with being insignificant, Scythe.

    Carl Sagan said, “We are a way the Cosmos can know itself.” Asteroids can’t do that, and that difference is significant.

  • Richard Wade

    I don’t think that Scythe was saying anything “anti-life.” I think he/she was talking about our tendency to be anthro-centric. We atheists get frustrated by that kind of shallow vanity when theists wax poetic about how the whole universe was created just as a stage for our drama.

    Scythe, I think is just suggesting that we should not fall into that same self-important rut, because all people have a tendency to get so reckless when we’re like that.

    Yes, humans are cool, and significant. To humans. I like them. But that opinion has, I must admit, a lot to do with the fact that I am one. I have to balance that bias with the acknowledgment that humanity is the only species that possesses that opinion, as far as we know.

    It’s just about keeping a wider perspective along with our very understandable fascination with ourselves.

  • Scythe was certainly complaining about anthro-centricity, but she suggested that humans are only as significant as the next major ecological disaster (the death of the dinosaurs). That isn’t a balanced view.

    Not your main point, but I disagree that the human creature is the only one to consider itself significant, even among those we know. Molest any tiger cub in front of its mother and we’d discover just what the tigress thinks about the importance of tigers vs humans. Tigers are tigers, and humans are humans. To extend your own statement: our interests, whether we are tigers or people, are naturally inclined to our own. I’m a bit cautious of evolutionary psychology, but in this case, I think the evolutionary advantage of this view is clear.

    Many of us have enough empathy (and a sense of self-preservation) to hold ourselves back from disturbing tigers. Empathy is the result of recognizing that others have feelings like our own. That’s only significant if “our own” are significant. I agree that it’s dangerous to believe that humans are the only important thing, but the way to stress this is not by devaluing humans as Scythe did. Humans are most like me; they are the root of my empathy; if I consider them to be of no more importance than an asteroid explosion, then I risk undermining the foundation of the empathy I extend to other species.