Evolution and Environmentalism

Dylan NICHOLSON dnich at cat.cs.mu.OZ.AU
Tue Sep 2 17:19:54 EST 1997


Kermit Duncan <jodunca2 at vt.edu> writes:

>> Mankind is indeed ruthlessly destroying its competitors in an
>> effort to survive best, just as its genes are programmed to do, and just as
>> those in other species are.

>As far as I know, no evidence has been found to suggest that the intentional
>destruction of another species is natural.  Our genes are not programmed to
>destroy anything.  No animal's genes are programmed to destroy anything,
>especially other species.  I think you may not understand how and why natural
>selection works.  It weeds out the particularly weak/poorly-adapted species, it
>doesn't destroy all but the most powerful, in other words, it contributes to
>biodiversity.

But surely the MOST powerful species should survive at the expense of EVERY
OTHER species, and have sole access to all resources available for life. This
necessarily means destruction of other species.

>> It is almost unquestionable that if this does
>> continue, this perfectly natural process, then the ultimate outcome will be
>> the complete extinction of all other species, mankind being the final
>> victor in the survival race.

>This is not a "natural" process.  Among other things, it is a result of
>"civilized" man's delusion that he owns the world and *must* do with it what he
>wishes.  Do so-called "primitive" cultures, untouched by the "modern world" run
>into these environmental problems?  Do they contribute to the extinction of
>species in a comparable scale as we do?  As far as I know, environmental
>destruction (not manipulation, as in beavers, etc.) is a behavior restricted to
>modern human society.  If I am mistaken, would someone please inform me?  

This is a good point, and unforunately the answer is rather open to abuse,
which is perhaps that in modern society there are a higher proportion of
aggressive genes, better at SURVIVAL (but nothing else) than those in less
developed cultures. Still as I pointed out, being better at survival is no
qualitative evalution, and a species would probably be better off happy than
trying simply to outsurvive all others.

>I also disagree with your calling survival a race, it is not a competition in the
>usual sense.  Yes animals compete against each other for food and other
>resources, but they do not hunt or attack their competitors just to get them
>out of the way.

This is because no species as yet completely severed its dependence on other
species. What I am interested in is what will happen when, inevitably, this
occurs.

>> rebounded on us horribly, and the fact that many, if not most people are
>> capable of being moved by nature, appreciating its intrinsic beauty, even
>> parts of it that make no, or even negative contributions to our survival
>> chances.

>Nature and its beauty do not have a negative effect on our survival.  If they
>do have a negative effect, it is on our expansion, an unnecessary and
>destructive process in itself.

Expansian is a destructive process for all other species, to be sure, but
it is not destructive for the species doing the expanding. Genes cannot
possibly evolved to look after other species, EXCEPT if those other species
are necessary for our own survival.

>own fields?  A variety of meals or the same thing, every day?  My point is that
>a variety of food sources is a very good thing.  It doesn't harm our survival,
>it helps insure it against almost any kind of disaster because it would take a
>very devastating event to destroy the entire food chain (such an event has
>never happened on this planet.  Proof: we're here).  Biodiversity is a very
>good thing for the entire ecosystem.

It harms our survival ONLY because there are more other species competing
for the same resources. Biodiversity may be good for the ecosystem but it
cannot be good for the *survival prospects* of a species that does not require
other species to survive. 


>Though I might have implied it earlier, I'll say it more clearly now:  Our
>problem isn't that nature's laws are destructive, it's that we ignore nature's
>laws because we think that we are above all other animals and the laws they
>MUST live by.  If you think about it, I find it apparent that as a society we
>are boldly/stupidly ignoring the goals and rules of evolution.  We use medicine
>and technology to make people with genetic diseases, defects, or deficiencies
>as capable as anyone of living a "normal" life, having kids, and passing their
>genes on to more generations.  We also treat almost every little cold and
>infection with chemicals that take care of what our immune system is supposed
>to do.  As a society we believe that man is the greatest species possible and
>evolution has no where to go, so we don't try to give it a chance.

This I agree with, and is one of our other tendencies to go against natural
law that is evolutionary quite interesting. But I still hold that nature's
laws are essentially destructive for every other species but the hypothetical 
one that does not require them.

>obviously not true.  Diversity exists because it is supposed to.  Why would it
>take billions of years of evolution to finally come up with one species (us)
>that is natural (using your definition of natural: destroy other species to
>survive)?  According to your arguement, Nature isn't natural.

I am not suggesting that biodiversity is not natural, it is natural so long
as species depend on other species for survival. Once this is no longer the
case for a single species, biodiversity is not natural. 

>There is much more to the theory of evolution than natural selection, and most
>creationist-biologists agree that natural selection does occur.  Saying that
>evolution is not good or bad is like saying that it has no point and has not
>helped any species at all throughout the history of life.  I doubt that you
>agree with what you are saying when it's viewed in this light.  Also, saying
>that it is okay to "go against" evolution is a poor idea all around.  You seem
>to believe that evolution put us here the way we are.  Why should we turn on it
>now?

a) not good or bad = no point? I don't see the connection, given I mean 'good'
or 'bad' in terms of human morals.
b) we should turn on it because we are not happy with the way evolution has
created us, understandably so

>> I would not like to live in a world with no forests, no bushland, no birds,
>> no animals, even with no annoying insects or disease, and even if we as
>> humans needed none of these things to survive.

>We do.

Currently.

>Evolution has nothing to do with happiness.  Nature as a whole, of which
>evolution is a part, does contribute heavily to happiness and a sense of
>meaning and worth, just learn about the lack of mental illness and depression
>in primitive cultures.

I agree entirely.

Thanks for the comments!

Dylan
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