Art Chadwick forwarded a request for feedback on an argument.
Unknown Student wrote:
US>I am arguing that the logical endpoint for evolution
US>(survival of the fittest) is extinction.
From the rest of this post, I take it that the Unknown
Student is not coming to this as a conclusion, but rather
is utilizing it as a premise. It isn't a good premise,
either. The logical endpoint of any particular
*population* is extinction. But that hardly necessitates
concluding that evolution as a process has the same
"endpoint". Nor does "endpoint" as given above translate
as "goal" or "desired goal".
US>My premise is that humans are the apex of evolution and
US>have the natural right to exploit our earth's resources
US>however we see fit, as we are simply living out our genetic
Another premise adopted without reference to whether it fits
reality or not. There isn't any such concept as "apex of
evolution". I think the Unknown Student is trying to simply
repackage the concept of "crown of creation". However,
biology need not (and does not) have parallel constructions
for every theological construct.
Any species, and particularly heterotrophs like humans,
necessarily utilize resources in order to survive and
propagate. Whether this can be described as a "right"
is another debate entirely. Species do not have a
"social contract" with the environment.
US>Other population explosions and extinctions have occurred
US>in the past (here i could use some examples) and humans are
US>probably no different.
The wording is confused in the above. Does the Unknown
Student refer to an impending extinction of the human species,
or to humans as a causal factor in the extinction of other
species? By the rest of the message, I assume the latter is
the intended sense. There are many examples of extinction
events, in that species and higher groups disappear from the
fossil record at various times. There are around five
recognized mass extinctions in the past. The KT boundary
event has as a putative cause a meteor strike. The Permian
extinction has been chalked up to continental alignments such
that much coastal habitat was destroyed. Raup's "Extinction"
is an accessible read on the topic.
Some researchers claim that we are in the midst of the next
mass extinction, and that the causal impetus behind it are
those changes wrought on the environment by humans. The
important difference between mass extinction by meteor
strike or by continental drift and mass extinction by human
influence is that humans can choose whether to continue to
push mass extinction as a policy or not.
US>I would further argue that we are doing no harm in
US>accelerating the destruction of the earth's habitats as we
US>are simply creating new opportunities for evolution to
US>further diversify and radiate into new niches.
This depends greatly upon how one defines "harm". If "harm"
is defined as the complete annihilation of all living
populations, then humans are powerless to cause "harm". But
if "harm" is constructed such that humans can consider
negative effects upon the human species or other species, then
humans in pushing for mass extinction do "harm".
US>In fact if evolution is the sole driving force to create
US>new species than I would further argue that we are actually
US>doing harm to the gene pool of managed animals by
US>protecting their environments and thus preventing fortunate
US>mutations from having an opportunity to further diversify
US>the species, thus preventing the species from progressing
US>to its natural endpoint (which of course it has an
US>inalienable right to achieve:).
How does protecting an environment prevent fortunate mutations
which might lead to diversity? The Unknown Student might do
better to actually read some of the textbooks lying around.
We know that not protecting environments will lead in short
order to the extinction of particular populations; no further
mutations of any kind will help diversify an extinct
US>Please consider this argument and forward to me [via
US>Chadwick] any comments, examples, or citations that you
US>feel will be helpful. My goal is not to promote evolution,
US>but to get my peers to recognize the end results of the
Well, the Unknown Student has not actually addressed
evolutionary considerations, but rather has produced an
argument against certain "Wise Use" stances, which are based
in part upon "end-times" theology. Again, there is not
a biological construct to match every theological construct.
US>Most ecologist religiously believe that they must preserve
US>the environment. My objective is for the listeners and
US>participants ask themselves why they have an innate desire
US>to protect the creation around them rather than to live for
US>selfish, self-centered gain. The natural conclusion is
US>that we have a higher moral sense that guides us to protect
US>our environment, not because we are all descended from
US>mother earth ( that would lead to self interest), but
US>because we are commissioned by our creator to preserve. I
US>have about a month before I present. Thank you in advance
US>for any ideas you may have.
Theological approaches to the problem of mass extinction do
not uniformly lead to protective impulses; much political
action is undertaken by those whose theology condones or
encourages exploitative use of the environment. "Wise Use"
advocates pose a counter to the Unknown Student's simplistic
alternative, as those people advance a "use it up" approach
based upon belief in mankind as "crown of creation". Of
course, conservation is not entirely divorced from issues of
self-interest. Widespread ecological disruption is unlikely
to be of long-term benefit to our own species. The innate
desire to see our children put safely into an environment
conducive to a good quality of life would seem entirely
sufficient to explain concern over conservation issues,
without reference to either sort of theology that Unknown
Student ascribes as motivational above. As such, I find
Unknown Student's conclusion to be founded upon false
premises, to utilize unsound logic, and to be completely
unconvincing. Your mileage may vary.
I think that extinction is a theologically interesting topic.
Why have 99%+ of all species gone extinct? If God allowed so
many species to go extinct in the past before the advent of
humans, is there some theological reason that humans should
attempt to do better? Recall that the "Wise Use" people have
already answered this in the negative.
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