As simple as 1-2-3

I've been thinking about the concept of 'indifferent consequence'. A bit of a clumsy phrase, but by way of explanation, allow me for a moment, to personify nature. That is to say, to attribute human qualities and traits to the universe, the laws of physics, the cosmos, the environment etc. as a whole.

As an erstwhile parent of young children I have often employed the 1, 2, 3 device - you know how it goes: "Do as you're told - one... two... two and a half... two and three quarters... "

It didn't work because the child knew I didn't want to get to three and so I would string it out - and so would the child. I once heard Dr. Phil on TV saying that 1,2,3 doesn't work. He said if you want your child to take you seriously, set an egg timer and tell the child that when it goes off so does the consequence. The child knows the timer is not going to play games, it will simply go off when the time is up, therefore there is a much higher chance of the child complying with your request.

Nature is counting to three right now. She has given us plenty of chances to behave. Two and a half... two and three quarters... but we're pushing our luck because we know she is tolerant, she will indulge our weaknesses and expedient choices.

She is telling us not to make such a mess of our planet, to tidy our oceans, and look after our ecosystems. We in turn, knowing she loves us and doesn't really want to hurt us, are stringing it out. We know we will eventually have to tidy up but we think we can get away without doing it just yet. 

On the BBC this morning there was an article saying that a group of scientists have determined that around a fifth of the world's ecosystems are in imminent danger of collapse. Two and four fifths... "Look," says Nature, "if you don't do as you're told I'm going to get really cross; I'll start melting the ice caps and burning the forests, then I'll launch a pandemic, I'll eliminate species from the wild at an ever-increasing rate - that'll teach you!" Except that it doesn't. 

Two and seven eighths... We just don't seriously believe she is ever going to get to three. 

But wait a minute - what if Nature is not sentient? What if nature is just a set of rules, physical constants and ratios governing the interactions of materials and forces, resulting in a consequence or state which must necessarily follow from the state in which those materials and forces currently exist?

That would be an indifferent consequence, as logical as 2 + 2. Unless we believe that some supernatural force is about to scoop us from the jaws of logic - our number might be up. And that number is three.

In other words, what if the egg timer is about to go off?


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