Wednesday December 15, 1999

David Suzuki’s gloomy world of nothingness

National Post, April 8, 1999 Reprinted with permission from the author

David Suzuki’s gloomy world of nothingness

by Terence Corcoran

Lock up your brains and keep the children out of reach of any radio: Here comes David Suzuki with another tax-supported CBC propaganda series in which we learn for the umpteenth time that the world would be a better place if there were no ugly human beings around. “If all humanity disappeared…the rest of life would benefit enormously,” says one of Mr. Suzuki’s expert guests on From Naked Ape to Superspecies, an eight-part radio series that begins this coming Sunday on CBC Radio One.

The expert is American sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, a man who has spent his life studying ants and who has come to believe that a world without humans would be a blessing compared with a world deprived of his laboratory specimens. “If the ants were all to disappear, the results would be close to catastrophic,” says Mr. Wilson, whereas if humans disappeared “the forests would grow back, the whole earth would green up, the ocean would teem, and so on.”

That humans are a curse on earth is a theme Mr. Suzuki has been articulating for more than two decades as the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s resident scientist and ecological gloomster. A little later in the first part of Superspecies another expert arrives to declare that “earthworms are king. This is where the action is.”

Earthworms. Ants. Trees. Elephants. In the Suzuki world view, any species is better than the human species, and any talking head who will confirm that world view is guaranteed five minutes of air time in the great, rambling, irrational narratives that make up a typical Suzukian documentary.

In his 1989 radio series, It’s a Matter of Survival, the great metaphor for human activity on earth was cancer. Then the expert was Jay Forrester, an economist who believed that current economic thinking had turned human beings into a malignant force. “Biological cancer grows until it kills the host on which it is living and thereby kills itself,” said Mr. Forrester. “And I think mankind, in the world environment, is quite capable of following that same scenario.”

Another star of the 1989 series was population control zealot Paul Ehrlich, a notorious forecaster of disasters that never occur and famines that never take place. Like Mr. Suzuki, Mr. Ehrlich hates growth, people, and population. “Perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell,” said Mr. Ehrlich, picking up nicely on the dominant metaphor.

One of the hallmarks of any Suzuki effort is that it ignores or ridicules all opposing views. In the first series, Mr. Suzuki allowed Paul Ehrlich to maliciously put down one of his chief intellectual rivals, the late Julian Simon. While Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Suzuki are dark pessimists about human existence, to the point of ugly caricature, Mr. Simon was an optimist who glorified human potential and achievement. In his book, The Ultimate Resource, Mr. Simon debunked the entire Suzuki-Ehrlich world view and demonstrated that rather than being a cancer, human beings were the ultimate resource, and that population growth and economic development had produced and will continue to produce dramatic improvements in human existence.

Rather than answer Mr. Simon, they smeared him. Mr. Ehrlich said it is “nonsense” to claim that the ultimate resource is people, and economists who make that case are fools. “Actually,” he said, without actually naming Mr. Simon, “all they really prove is that the one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.” Such is the intellectual depth and integrity of a Suzuki vehicle.

While the 1989 series smeared economics as a profession populated by idiots who failed to live in the real world, the new series swings over to debase science and scientists. In From Naked Ape to Superspecies, human beings are a cancerous superspecies created by Newtonian science ­ called “reductionism” by Mr. Suzuki ­ that has failed to grasp the great mystical concept of the real world.

Forget Newton and Descartes and the science that has created the modern world of long life, abundance, growth and prosperity, says Mr. Suzuki. It’s an ugly and destructive prosperity. In place of the old science, he says there’s a new scientific era dawning.

At this point in the first hour of Superspecies, soft flute music wells in the background. The new science is linked to Buddhism and Hinduism and the “notion of emptiness,” says Mr. Suzuki. It is based in quantum physics, where, according to another expert, it is now “absolute scientific fact that the basis of reality is emptiness.”

The expert, described as a mathematician and cosmologist, says the new science has discovered a very mysterious reality. “It’s a reality that doesn’t consist of things. It’s actually a reality that consists of power to give birth to everything,” where the universe emerges out of a vacuum, out of nothing.

For this insight, and the view of humans as a malignant cancer, we can thank the government of Canada and the CBC.

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