Science News throws out some striking figures:
Have you ever felt weighed down by your material possessions? The boundless variety of stuff that humans manufacture — tractors, buildings, ballpoint pens, Hello Kitty backpacks — has serious heft: 30 trillion metric tons, a new study estimates. That’s about 50 kilograms for every square meter of Earth’s surface.
The human-made “technosphere,” all the manufactured goods around today, surpasses the natural biosphere in mass and variety, geologist Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester in England and colleagues report online November 28 in The Anthropocene Review.
To which Douglas Axe, author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed, aptly replies:
"The human-made 'technosphere' [man-made stuff].. surpasses the natural biosphere in mass and variety." Certainly not in elegance though. https://t.co/DFiN0SHa4C
— Douglas Axe (@DougAxe) January 24, 2017
Human beings have created sublime art that, as George Steiner says memorably in a brief video I’ve recommended before, gestures to the mysterium tremendum. That might be true of music above all, which of course leaves no trace. It’s pure information, if you want to call it that. Yet human beings also create a lot of trash, mountains of sheer ugliness. Our total work product, the “technosphere,” outweighs human beings ourselves, en masse, by 60,000 to 1. Much of that stuff is garbage.
Volume aside, the contrast with nature and its elegance is Dr. Axe’s point. A dolphin or a spider is a masterpiece of what he calls “functional coherence.” Which is the more sublime artist, man or nature? It’s an interesting question to put to a Darwinist, if he’s honest enough to answer forthrightly. I have a view on it, and you likely have yours. We could talk about that.
Why would we expect art in nature at all, given the premise of a cosmos without purpose or design? The fact that there’s something to discuss at all, that nature can be compared meaningfully with Mozart, say, seems pregnant with significance.