The Global Crisis and the Myth of the Whale
|That humanity may threaten its own
survival and the viability of the biosphere is reason enough
to question the influence of civilization on sanity. It is
imperative that we examine ourselves. With so much science,
specialized knowledge and information how could we have
ended up at this point? What is wrong with us and what can
we do about it? Exactly what are we missing?
The Greek story of Narcissus makes the point. Narcissus was
hunting with his young friends when he left them and went to
a pond where he saw his face reflected. He fell in love with
himself, but his fate soon followed in the form of suicide.
This is an ancient story about the cost of turning one’s back
on nature, which is exactly what we, as a civilization, have
done. Just like Narcissus, we suffer from undaunted pride,
and it is destroying us and our world.
Is it possible that the very thing we believe will solve the
global crisis is actually the problem? Men and women all
around the world are hard at work coming up with myriad ways
to alleviate human suffering and environmental degradation.
They trust the human ego and intellect to save the day. But
is it not the ego-intellect that created the crisis and
spawned domestication, civilization, warfare, materialism,
unsustainable economy, greed, massive starvation,
environmental degradation, disharmony and ultimately the
meaningless of life? The answer sadly, is yes. If the fear
that fuels defensive ego-consciousness is ultimately
responsible for our suffering and that of the planet, can
more of the same serve us well?
The Myth of the Whale
Interest in the intelligence of whales is a pervasive,
contemporary myth. Humans are saying to other humans,
“They are intelligent beings, and if you see them as
intelligent you can discover your own ignorance and improve
According to our most immense scientific theory about life,
natural selection, humans and all organisms serve their
ultimate interests, survival and reproduction, only by
acting selfishly towards these ends. If this theory is true
then why do so many humans invest so much in communicating
to others their beliefs that whales are intelligent beings
and thus should be saved? What’s in it for the whale lovers?
What’s in loving whales for the non-believers? “So what if
whales are intelligent, their intelligence doesn’t solve
The possibility of whale intelligence serving human
interests – solving human problems – is sufficiently
promising to warrant cessation of whaling and much
investment in research. At the deepest level, however, whale
lovers are making adaptive projection about humanity’s need
for intelligence – knowing what is appropriate to do. To the
whale lover, the fact that whaling is still an issue rather
than history speaks to the vastness of human ignorance. To
recognize the mere possibility of whale intelligence as
comparable or superior to our own is to admit our ignorance.
In this radical sense the concern for the whale is a measure
of civilized humanity discovering its serous limitations.
The whale myth is testimony of the need for open-mindedness
The whale people are telling the rest of us that with an
open mind, free of the phylogenetic and culturally
conditioned clutter of the past, it is possible to see that
whales are intelligent, but, moreover, intelligent in ways
humans are lacking but in need of. Essentially, the whale
myth is the new adaptive perception which heralds awareness
of the need for cooperation both among humans and between
humans and the biotic community.