The Universe is Expanding

It takes a peculiar kind of mind–a highly civilized mind to be sure–to actively worry about the fact that the universe is expanding. The same could be said for worry about what will happen when the sun burns out. I say “civilized” because such anxiety seemingly stems from a perceived lack of control and the civilized, perhaps by definition, aspire toward complete control.

Only the civilized could interpret the fact that the universe is expanding as a problem which requires a solution rather than simply as a brute fact about existence. Indeed, refusal to accept things as given is both virtue and vice of the civilized mind.

In any case, rarely are such facts as the eventual burning out of our sun cited as grounds for accepting or rejecting a given political theory. Yet in a recent interview with John Zerzan, a VICE Magazine interviewer made the following observation:

One thing I wonder about—and Stephen Hawking has brought this up—is that life on Earth will eventually be destroyed by either a meteorite or finally the sun burning out. [Hawking] has suggested that our only hope of survival is to colonize outer space…

The implication being that anarcho-primitivism cannot provide the tools necessary for adequately responding to an expanding universe; it doesn’t place humanity in a position to colonize space and outlive the sun…consequently it must be rejected. The interviewer overlooks climate change, overlooks species extinction, overlooks how life on Earth is being destroyed right at this very moment in ways that are much more local and immediate than astronomical and distant.

An astute reader could point out that Hawking and the VICE interviewer are also concerned about meteorites and that the threat of meteorites cannot confidently be placed billions of years into the future. Perhaps meteorites are the reason that anarcho-primitivism should be rejected? Could The Argument from Meteorites be the silver bullet argument that renders primitivism implausible: we simply must prepare to obliterate any incoming meteor before it obliterates us–and primitivists are soft on meteorites.

In an article titled “We Can Survive Killer Asteroids–But it Won’t Be Easy” appearing in WIRED in 2012, Neil deGrasse Tyson explained that “[o]nce in about a hundred million years…Earth is visited by an impactor capable of annihilating all life-forms bigger than a carry-on suitcase.” A most interesting metric to be sure!

Tyson elaborates:

If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, we would be the laughing stock of aliens in the galaxy, for having a large brain and a space program, yet we met the same fate as that pea-brained, space program-less dinosaurs that came before us.

We cannot make the same mistake as the dinosaurs or be the butt of any alien jokes! And so Tyson would have us enter a space race with hypothetical aliens who are hypothetically in the lead.

At this juncture, I can only point out that the limits of anarcho-primitivism are precisely what make it compelling. An anarcho-primitivist society could not manage a nuclear power plant, rely on satellite communication, drop bombs from airplanes, etc. Likewise, as Stephen Hawking- and Neil deGrasse Tyson-inspired critics point out, they also could not chart the path of asteroids far into the future and actively avoid or destroy a devastating meteorite.

It is my position that the steps necessary to create a civilization capable of diverting meteorites would impose a worse cost on itself and its members than the meteorite could inflict.

There is a reason why anarchists tends to run things like coffee shops and bookstores rather than space programs. Anarchism does not scale up very well; to be plausible it must be primitivist.