Original NZ mammal & forest (Was Re: Clear-cut)

Owen McShane omcshane at wk.planet.gen.nz
Wed Feb 9 15:23:01 EST 2000

Brian Sandle wrote:
> In nz.politics Owen McShane <omcshane at wk.planet.gen.nz> wrote:
> : DVK wrote:
> :>
> :> Brian Sandle wrote:
> :>
> :> > Bats are our only original mammals in NZ. What functions do they have?
> :>
> :> The same as sheep (talk about modifying the natural landscape!) : )
> :>
> :> Regards.
> : In this context it is unwise to talk of a species having a function. It
> : implies there is some great watchmaker who has designed a system in
> : which bats do this and dogs do this and lions do that. In fact bats or
> : anything else occupy an ecological niche. And if they don't something
> : else will. The new evolutionary science is trying to take more care with
> : the use of such words. For two long our language has endorsed the great
> : watchmaker view of the world or the idea that evolution is deterministic
> : and driven to end up with humans at the top of some biological tree. We
> : are simply on end of a branch of high complexity.
> : Bats have no function. They just are. Similarly it is not the function
> : of possums to top feed off our trees. They just do.
> If something happening in the forest depends on that then it would be
> their so-called function.
> Since it seems to have been missed I repost here an example of
> how systems have evolved in which organisms are dependent on others. I
> think `function' may be a high school biology term:

> You claim, Owen, that something else will take over. What then?
I am talking in evolutionary terms and time scales. Life is an
incredibly robust process. It is impossible to imagine a planet only
half covered with life. We now know that bacteria live to a depth of
three miles down and of course in boiling pools of Rotorua at phs
ranging from 2 to 10. 
Then there are the thermal vents.

Every life form is interconnected with others of course. We eat and
breathe. But is the function of that a nasty parasite to cause extreme
pain and distress to young children. No it has simply evolved to be a
parasite on a particular host. Is the function of the young child to
play host to the parasite? If so then we must not intervene with the
precious state of nature. And 99% of the species which have existed have
gone extince and yet life goes on.
There is a lot of tosh talked about "permanent damage" to ecosystems.
Next time you are in Auckland have a look at Rangitoto. Or if you are in
Rotorua have a look at the foothills and lakes surrounding Tarawera.
According to some alarmists there should be no trees, no animals and no
birds. Tarawera covered the whole countryside in toxic hot ash in 1886.
A blink of an eye in geological and evolutionary time.
Of course the Tarawera lakes Region was obviously not dependent on the
Spotted Owl. Otherwise it would seem from your posting that it would
still be a desert.

The old metaphor of the rivets falling out of the plane one by one until
the plane crashes ignores the fact that in living systems the rivets get
replaced. What are those bugs which have moved into the hospitals?
Owen McShane
Kaiwaka, Northland, New Zealand.
Publisher of Straight Thinking Magazine

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