One of Art's old students wrote him as follows:
> I am arguing that the logical endpoint for evolution (survival of the
> fittest) is extinction.
I'll adopt the position of a hardcore naturalist:
I wouldn't argue that the endpoint of evolution is extinction. I would merely
point out that extinction is simply a natural happening that is commonly part
of evolution. It ought to raise no eyebrows. There's nothing "wrong"
>My premise is that humans are the apex of
>evolution and have the natural right to exploit our earth's resources
>however we see fit, as we are simply living out our genetic program.
I wouldn't base the position on a special place for humans or natural
rights. I would simply argue that humans have been shaped by evolution
to be environment modifiers. Thus, it's in our *nature* to change and
exploit our environment. Clear-cutting and bulldozing a rain forest are
bit as *natural* as it catching fire (is there something non-natural about
actvity or choice?) A bunch of men cutting down a forest is no different
from a bunch of wolves chasing down a deer. Humans do what humans do
and wolves do what wolves do. What's the fuss? (personally, I don't believe
this stuff, but I am not a naturalistic monist).
What I find interesting is that I toyed with the same sentiments
on another list about a year ago. Here's what I posted then:
"This was nothing more than the age-old question of nature versus nurture,
and Boag knew how to test it. If he took some eggs from a pair of big
finches and put them in the nest of a pair of small finches, would the
young grow up looking like their true parents or their foster parents?
Boag never did have a chance to perform this experiment during his
watch on Daphne. And in retrospect, the finch watchers are glad he didn't,
because their study is now so sensitive that the large number of egg
switchings that Boag planned would have caused unnatural disruptions
from that day to this. In fact, locally, Boag might have changed the
course of evolution." (Weiner J., "The Beak of the Finch," 1994, p67)
I must confess that I am not all that interested in beaks and finches,
but what caught my eye was the last sentence, where an appeal is
made to "the course of evolution." Here we can see that even
the Darwinists haven't come completely to terms with their own
beliefs, as there would be no one course. If Boag had done these
experiments, he might have changed the course of evolution, but
so what? Is there One True Course of evolution? And when
humans change the environment, why is this any different from
any other species changing the environment? Why is human
activity any less a "valid" form of evolutionary change? Why is
human activity an "unnatural disruption?"
I think this one sentence from Weiner captures a tension between
environmentalism and evolution. Environmentalism is about
preserving the environment. But since when has evolution ever
been about preserving the environment? Evolution has always
been about changing environments and the adaptations that follow.
Boag's activity would have just translated as one of many
evolutionary courses where no one is "supposed to be."
Environmentalism is premised on the notion that there is
something special about our environment and something
special about humans. But naturalistic evolution denies both points.
Our current environment is just one among many and humans
are no more special than any other animal. One could
argue that if we destroy the environment, many animals
will go extinct. So? Isn't this common in evolutionary
history? Will not other life forms simply adapt to fill
the new niches? One could argue that if we destroy the
environment, we will destroy ourselves. Well, since
there is nothing special about humans, this is hardly
any more tragic than the extinction of the mammoth.
Instead, we would have to simply appeal to raw
self-interest. But ironically, it is this same raw
self-interest that is harming the environment.
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