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Evolution and Environmentalism

Kermit Duncan jodunca2 at vt.edu
Fri Sep 5 00:00:18 EST 1997

Dylan NICHOLSON wrote:

> Plants are grossly inefficient at creating food (although not by
> the current standards of our own energy production, except perhaps nuclear
> power).

They don't need to be more efficient. They generate as much as they need.  That is
what is important, As much as they *NEED*.

> Evolution will ultimately be slower than technological development, and, while
> I certainly don't encourage it, I believe ultimately we WILL be able to combat
> all other species to the point of extinction, from which they cannot return by
> mutation. We only have to shoot the bear fast enough.

We are able to force other species to the point of extinction.  You say that you
don't encourage it, but you also say that it is natural.  Then you say that no
other species will be capable of doing it without the technology we have.  How
likely does it seem that only one species (us) can do a "natural" thing?  It sounds
rather unnatural to me.

> >We, like it or not, are an integral part of the ecosystem - along with
> >birds and blue whales and earthworms.
> I agree entirely, and I hope most humans DO like it (I wouldn't want it any
> other way, as I've said). But I still suspect that with the ability to survice
> w/o the rest of the ecosystem, our genes WILL tend to encourage us to destroy
> it. Fortunately we have already proved capable of suppressing to a greater or
> lesser degree the tendencies of our genes, and I believe we have a good chance
> of doing so in this case.

What tendencies do we suppress?  I'm not arguing, yet, I simply don't know what you

> The weakest part of my case as I see it is that because we have always needed
> other species to survive during our evolution, our genes also predispose us to
> a certain amount of 'biophilia', a love of nature that counterbalances our view
> of other species as 'competitors'.

This is false.  We do view our species as competitors, but that has nothing to do
with whether we love nature or life.  Just because they are competitors doesn't
mean they are enemies.  We aren't supposed to kill them.  As far as I know, no
species systematically attacks its competitors.  They defend themselves, their
kills, and territory, and their young. If there is a gazelle shortage in Africa,
lions don't start hunting hyenas to stop them from killing gazelles, they hunt
harder for gazelles.  This flies right in the face of what you call "natural."

> It this is truly genetic, then the situation
> is even better than I predicted in the previous paragraph, as we have got some
> instincts that will help us stop destroying the rest of the ecosphere.
> Unforunately, I doubt this will kick in strongly until we start putting our own
> survival at a real immediate risk, so I still hold that we need to consciously
> govern our own behaviour to go against our basic programming.

Our behavior is against our basic programming.  If it wasn't, our lives would be,
in many ways, more similar to the livestyles of "primitive" cultures.  This seems

> Environmentalists
> are still absolutely correct in doing what they can do save the rest of nature
> (well, most of them, I have a hard time with those who propose wiping out
> humankind), but maybe they need to be more aware of just how tough a task it
> will be.

Wiping out human kind and wiping out the way modern humans live are two very
different things.  Humans are not fundamentally flawed, our society and our view of
the world, however, is.

> Keep the comments coming!

I will.


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