Friday, January 4, 2013

Is The Earth Alive Survey Results

Last October, early, I wrote a short article titled Is the Earth Alive? which ended with an invitation to participate in a survey of 28 questions. I promised to publish the outcome of that survey, and here it is. To avoid being tedious, I'll summarize and generalize, but unlike the biased conservative! liberal! media (depending on who is doing the bashing), I'll do my best to avoid telling you what to think.

The sad truth is, this survey was flawed from the beginning, which I did point out. The major flaw is the survey is not random; it could only be accessed by people who read the article, then decided to participate. And it would be a fair assessment that only people already inclined to a particular point of view would be lurking about where this article may have ended up, which places I do not know. There is also the possibility the survey itself may be leading, which often happens. If it is, I apologize as it was not my intention to influence the answers.

A real survey would not tolerate the conditions under which this one was "conducted." A real survey would hire idealistic college students, give them a clipboard, hang an ID badge on them and bid them go out and approach people. All kinds of people, all ages, different backgrounds, different economic status, and so forth. You get the idea. And these people would be approached in enough cities and rural areas across the country that the survey could claim it had a fair sampling of the population. Within the standard three point statistical error. Ideally, this kind of survey would go into different countries. Now that would be interesting!

We start out with a series of questions about animals, the purpose of which was to see how people feel about animals as living beings. Not so much as pets or a food source, or to decorate zoos and sell calendars, but animals possessing what many consider human-only characteristics, such as reasoning ability, self-awareness, humor and grief, even consciousness and a soul. On these questions respondents agreed, almost unanimously that yes, animals possess these qualities. The only significant variation came from questions on karma and dominion. That is, 65 percent believe animals do create personal karma and 30 percent feel humans are in charge of animals. This is actually quite interesting as it appears to reflect a religiously informed view: 30 percent do not believe animals create personal karma, which made me wonder immediately if I should have asked how many believe in karma at all. Almost the same percentage believes humans are in charge of animals, possibly reflecting another biblical miscue. On communication it was a unanimous 100 percent that animals communicate with everybody, including the Earth.

We moved then to questions about the Earth and again, a unanimous 100 percent believe the Earth is a "living being." What makes this interesting is that the next three questions, dealing with consciousness, self-awareness, and self control, show 14, 16, and 30 percent deny these for the Earth, respectively. I wonder how the Earth can be a living being, and one of enormous complexity (we're not talking amoebas here), yet not conscious, self-aware, or in control of itself.

Nobody in this survey believes the Earth is malevolent, where 40 percent think it is benevolent, and 60 percent think neutral. Again, I immediately wondered if I should have asked if the glass is half full or half empty, as it would seem one's sense of optimism or pessimism would influence the answer, especially if there was some kind of personal experience with this in one's life, say living through an earthquake or hurrycane.

Another possible contradiction shows up when asked if the Earth has a spirit, of which 95 percent said yes. Maybe I'm not understanding what spirit is, given fewer agreed on the consciousness, self-awareness, and self-control questions. How can one not have these, yet have spirit? Or conversely, how can one have a spirit and not have consciousness, self-awareness, and self-control?

Questions that focused on the relationship between humans and Earth were interesting; 20 percent believe humans are in charge of the Earth, followed by 7 percent who do not agree that "nature" has legal rights, but yet 100 percent agree a river has a right to run free and unimpeded and a mountain has a right to stand unmolested. A near match showed up between the 7 percent who deny nature any legal rights as 5 percent believe it is moral for humans to take more than they need.

On the question of poverty, a whopping 24 percent believe it exists in nature. I am quite likely at fault here as I did not qualify this by saying "natural, pristine, untainted by human" nature. So this statistic is suspect, especially as I have never had anybody in innumerable lectures on the topic point such poverty out to me, tell me where it exists. My apologies. Equally interesting is the idea that animals actually prosecute wars against each other.

I had hoped I could make some grand proclamation based on these results, but I don't think so. There are some apparent contradictions, but these might disappear if pursued in yet another survey. But for now, I'm out of the survey business.

To see the survey results, please visit:

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