Publius

The Voice of Reason. A look at contemporary philosophy and politics from outside the Left vs. Right continuum. RSS FEED

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Lions and tigers and bears...

Okay, so we actually do have lions and bears in North America. As well as cougars, wolves, and a variety of other predators. Not to mention a large variety of food for those predators.

But apparently some guilt-ridden busybodies want to take African "megafauna" (i.e., very large animals, such as elephants, African lions, cheetahs, etc) and "re-wild" North America with them. You see, they feel bad that some species went extinct in North America at the end of the last Ice Age 13,000 years ago, and think that we ought to "fix" things.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4160560.stm

There are numerous, substantial problems and errors with this idea.

1. Large predators are dangerous to human beings. Just wait until these researcher's giant kitties start eating pets and children.
2. While ice age megafauna were clearly hunted by Homo Sapiens, we don't really know if it was Homo Sapiens that was responsible for their extinction. It could well be that the giant animals were ill-suited for warmer weather and could not adapt quickly enough.
3. Even if they were made extinct by ice-age American immigrants, why is it our responsibility to try to un-do that?
4. Will an African lion be able to handle a Kansas winter? What will that lion do in response to such an environment altered from what it evolved in? Try to hide in people's homes?
5. What will the thousands of bacteria, parasites, and other carry-ons that live on/inside these imported African megafauna do to native American species?
6. Do these researchers understand clearly the impact re-introducing these species will have to all other life forms currently here? (I doubt it).

Look, 13,000 years ago a number of species died out. In the intervening 13,000 years, other animals and plants have been adapting to fill empty niches. We have very large prey (elk, moose) and pretty large predators (a mountain lion is nothing to sneeze at). Maybe they're not Flintstone's-sized critters, but who says that's what "ought" to be here?

I don't trust these ecologists any more than I trust economists, to know what the hell they're talking about and to understand the substantial ripple effects of their monkeying about.

The main error here, though, is this:

7. Who says nature is a "steady state"? Who says that a certain collection of animals is the "right one"?

That's ridiculous! Nature is constant strife, birth, death, change, and evolution. We have no reason to believe that any ecosystem lasts longer than a couple thousand years. We certainly have no reason to think that the climate in a particular land area lasts that long; and if the climate changes clearly the living creatures in that area will die or change. Look at the Sahara; only a few thousand years ago it was lush tropical forest. Then the climate changes and *poof* animals and plants have to adapt.

That is the way of life. Life in nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". The world doesn't "nurture life". There is no goddess Gaia that cares about living things. These primitive anthopomorphic concepts are obviously false - the world is a dangerous place that life manages to survive in, in spite of constant random destruction, devastation and change. Homo Sapiens is the best species yet at survival - in our short few million years we now have the tools to shape the world into a place that is safe for life.

Every living thing strives to survive; all living things by definition change their environment. Very successful life will eventually change the equillibrium in an ecosystem and other living things that are not as adaptable will suffer and perish.

That is just the way it is! When a beaver builds a dam for the benefit of the beaver, and it floods out other animals, well that's okay, that's just nature. But when human beings build a dam for the benefit of human beings, well that's evil, that's against nature, and it must be stopped!

Clearly a double-standard applies. Man is inherently evil, and everything but man is inherently good.

Unfortunately, some humans feel guilty because we are very successful life forms, and we are changing the equillibrium. They would prefer a world with no people in it, as if that world would somehow be "better", more "idyllic". Of course that's a fantasy. It's as if they believe the world would be an unchanging paradise if not for the presence of man.

Well, maybe the world WOULD be better.. without the people that believe the life of snail is more important than the life of a human being.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Out of the mouths of religious kooks

My friends know that I am generally supportive of George Bush.

But his recent comments suggesting that "intelligent design" should be taught in schools alongside evolution were just plain dumb.

"Intelligent Design" is nothing more than a pseudo-scientific whitewash of Christian creation myth.

The notion that "life is so complex it must have been created by an intelligence" is not only simplistic and primitive, it's just plain wrong. If life was created by an intelligence, it was an incompetent intelligence. E.g., why do I have an appendix? All it does is collect crap and get infected. Does the Creator belong to a union that protects this kind of incompetence?

There is an overwhelming mountain of evidence supporting evolution. To compare this to "intelligent design" and to teach kids that the two are somehow equivalent unproven "theories" is to show no understanding of how science works, and ignores that mountain of evolutionary evidence.