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Old 11-22-2017, 11:27 AM
lissener lissener is offline
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WaPo OpEd by former doper: "We donít need to save endangered species"

My friend Alex Pyron, a former doper, is the Robert F. Griggs Associate Professor of Biology at the George Washington University. He published an OpEd in today's Washington Post suggesting that, on a geological time scale (my words), extinction is inevitable and natural, and that we shouldn't concern ourselves unnecessarily with conserving species that are of no direct benefit to us. Essentially, the piece is an attempt to point out the battle line drawn between science and sentiment (also my words) in conservation efforts.

Personally, I believe he got his facts right, but I'm not wholeheartedly behind his "therefore." I feel like he misses the emotional connection between us and the environment as a vital stopgap to a total "Brazil"ian hellscape. In other words, like a judge who says she needs her emotions in order to discover justice, I believe that choosing to ignore the intangibles here is a surefire recipe for unforeseen consequences.

I agree that there is an artificial and selfserving distinction between Humans and Nature: we are part of nature, and our technology, like the beaver's and the bees', is therefore, ultimately, also a part of nature. But does that mean that we should ignore the consequences of our technologies and practices on other species and systems? Yes, extinction is the engine of evolution. But it is also a bellwether of environmental alteration.

Is it sentimental of me to view the situation from a human scale? Is a planetary perspective more scientific? After considering the position Alex takes in this piece, what is the best way forward; for us and the planet we live on?
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Old 11-22-2017, 11:53 AM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
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1. We aren't knowledgeable enough to determine which species we can safely do without, let alone which ones may become beneficial to us in the future.
2. Even if were had the knowledge to accurately pick out which species were totally useless to us, we don't know how such a removal will effect those species we do value, either directly or indirectly.
Your friend talks about some species that we disposed of without doing any harm to us or the ecosystem, but without knowing what would have happened if they hadn't been tossed out the window, he can't say for certain that the path we took was the right one-his is the convenient guess.
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Old 11-22-2017, 11:53 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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I'm generally in agreement, and many moons ago wrote something along those lines as an assignment in HS. The devil, though, is in the details and we often don't know which species are beneficial to us. On one level, we have the "majestic species" that most of us treasure (elephants, eagles, even wolves). And on other level we have our food sources. On yet another level, there are millions of species that we know little about and that are threatened with extinction. What makes us so certain they can all just be ignored and that won't affect us in some significant way? Yes, our environment is ever changing, but rapid, massive change can have unpredictable results, and we should have some humility about taking that gamble.

But the author of the article kind of lost me at this part:

Quote:
The solution is simple: moderation. While we should feel no remorse about altering our environment, there is no need to clear-cut forests for McMansions on 15-acre plots of crabgrass-blanketed land.
Wow, the answer is "moderation". Who would have guessed? And I hate "McMansions" as much as the next guy, but it's unclear to me that that is anything more than just a matter of personal taste. What is that, compared to industrialized farming and massive urban centers? Looks like a cheap shot at those folks whose taste we frown upon.
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Old 11-22-2017, 12:03 PM
Beckdawrek Beckdawrek is online now
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Thank you for that. I have an artist sensibility toward nature and biology. I am not nearly intellectual enough to understand all of this, but I do know about intangibles and the world we live in. When Audobon painted the last Carolina parrots I am sure it did it for the beauty of the bird. That's my point for the ' beauty of the thing' should be reason enough to preserve it. IMO.
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Old 11-22-2017, 12:03 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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Everybody dies eventually, so it's okay if I murder my neighbor.
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Old 11-22-2017, 12:06 PM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
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Does the ability to kill off so many species confer the right to do so?
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Old 11-22-2017, 12:08 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
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Everybody dies eventually, so it's okay if I murder my neighbor.
Yes, but be careful when choosing which neighbor. You may need the guy on your left to loan you his lawnmower one day.
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Old 11-22-2017, 12:32 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Everybody dies eventually, so it's okay if I murder my neighbor.
Did you read the article? Because that analogy makes no sense in light of what the guy is actually saying. Here is just a bit:

Quote:
Conservation is needed for ourselves and only ourselves. All those future people deserve a happy, safe life on an ecologically robust planet, regardless of the state of the natural world compared with its pre-human condition.
If you were just making a joke, then consider me whooshed.
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:00 PM
HurricaneDitka HurricaneDitka is offline
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... And I hate "McMansions" as much as the next guy ...
I'm curious how you'd define "McMansions" and what you hate about them.
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:08 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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I'm curious how you'd define "McMansions" and what you hate about them.
Nb: The word "McMansion" was inserted by the Post's editor, and does not appear in the text Alex submitted.
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:09 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Originally Posted by R. Pyron
The solution is simple: moderation. While we should feel no remorse about altering our environment, there is no need to clear-cut forests for McMansions on 15-acre plots of crabgrass-blanketed land. We should save whatever species and habitats can be easily rescued (once-endangered creatures such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons now flourish), refrain from polluting waterways, limit consumption of fossil fuels and rely more on low-impact renewable-energy sources.
No problem with this part. He should have led with that in the article.
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:13 PM
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Brings to mind a National Geographic article where some scientists said they could target a specific species of mosquitoes with genetic engineering or something to kill them and stop the spread of certain diseases. They were hesitant to do so because of unforeseen consequences such as on birds that eat them or possibly having a different species assume the role of spreading this particular disease. Humans are not that great at seeing the big picture in terms of niche roles particular animals play, and as of today once an animal is gone that's it, I'd prefer it if we attempted to keep animals from going extinct, if possible.
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:29 PM
Richard Parker Richard Parker is offline
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This view fundamentally arrogant.

Even assuming the frame that benefit to humans is the only thing that matters, we do not know enough about ecosystems to forecast with accuracy which species could become extinct without affecting us, especially since our ecosystems are themselves undergoing systemic changes. In most cases, we'll get it right. But the consequences of getting it wrong can be quite significant. There have been instances in which a species plays a role in the environment that was completely unexpected until discovered.

Last edited by Richard Parker; 11-22-2017 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
1. We aren't knowledgeable enough to determine which species we can safely do without, let alone which ones may become beneficial to us in the future.
2. Even if were had the knowledge to accurately pick out which species were totally useless to us, we don't know how such a removal will effect those species we do value, either directly or indirectly.
Your friend talks about some species that we disposed of without doing any harm to us or the ecosystem, but without knowing what would have happened if they hadn't been tossed out the window, he can't say for certain that the path we took was the right one-his is the convenient guess.
I agree with Czarcasm. Which also likely has unforeseen consequences. But hey, Trump is already President, so it really can't get much worse, can it?
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:45 PM
Beckdawrek Beckdawrek is online now
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My estimation of how important a species is isn't determined by their intelligence or whether the human species can use it or abuse it.
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Old 11-22-2017, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
1. We aren't knowledgeable enough to determine which species we can safely do without, let alone which ones may become beneficial to us in the future.
2. Even if were had the knowledge to accurately pick out which species were totally useless to us, we don't know how such a removal will effect those species we do value, either directly or indirectly.
Yep. You beat me to it. Agree with both points.
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
... The devil, though, is in the details and we often don't know which species are beneficial to us ... What makes us so certain they can all just be ignored and that won't affect us in some significant way? Yes, our environment is ever changing, but rapid, massive change can have unpredictable results, and we should have some humility about taking that gamble.
Absolutely agree with that, too.
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I'm curious how you'd define "McMansions" and what you hate about them.
I interpret it as a general euphemism for ostentation and conspicuous consumption that has an unnecessarily wasteful environmental footprint. Some people with large families need large houses, of course, but no one needs a house in which a large proportion of floor space is devoted to wasteful ostentation. Some people like lots of land, and for them, there's lots of natural rural land around that can be treated in an environmentally respectful way instead of a high-priced acre of artificially manicured sprayed-and-scrubbed suburbia.

Same idea with cars, and with boats. When I was a boater, I had a modest-sized cruising sailboat. Some of my friends had bigger ones. We didn't much care for motorboats, but what we really had disdain for were the multi-story cruising apartment buildings that guzzled diesel fuel and belched fumes with reckless abandon, and which were usually occupied by a single small family with perhaps a guest or two. One such monstrosity I recall was about a 60-footer and was occupied by a young couple with one child. A boat like that might have three separate staterooms, and be powered by something like a 1200-horsepower diesel, working hard throughout a protracted cruise.

The argument that it's OK to have these things if you can afford them disregards the fact that we all have to live on the same small planet in which many of our activities are simply not sustainable. Perhaps not a great many people own apartment-building style motor yachts, but what about their McMansions, their cars, and their general lifestyles?
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Old 11-22-2017, 03:51 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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Did you read the article? Because that analogy makes no sense in light of what the guy is actually saying. . . .
To be honest, no, I didn't. I was basing it off of the OP's summary. If the summary was wrong, then that's why I was wrong.

However, now I have read the OpEd...and my rebuttal stands. "Extinction is part of nature." Yeah, and so is murder, so murder must be okay.

The essay was batshit.
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Old 11-22-2017, 03:58 PM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
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To those that believe in the idea of "Natural Law", are there any that are bestowed upon any species other than our own?
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Old 11-22-2017, 05:31 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by HurricaneDitka
I'm curious how you'd define "McMansions" and what you hate about them.
Totally not my style. But note that I don't begrudge those whose style it is.

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Originally Posted by lissener View Post
Nb: The word "McMansion" was inserted by the Post's editor, and does not appear in the text Alex submitted.
Whoahhhhh! Is that kosher, without attribution?

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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
To be honest, no, I didn't. I was basing it off of the OP's summary. If the summary was wrong, then that's why I was wrong.

However, now I have read the OpEd...and my rebuttal stands. "Extinction is part of nature." Yeah, and so is murder, so murder must be okay.

The essay was batshit.
Yes, that particular argument is bunk, as is the other one I brought up. But the author makes other arguments as well, and not all of them are specious. I see nothing wrong with defining value in terms of "value to humans". I'm not even sure how one would define "value" without reference to humans. Everything just is, and at some point it won't be. In the meantime, we're here.
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Old 11-22-2017, 05:38 PM
Asympotically fat Asympotically fat is online now
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There are a handful of examples conservation-induced extinction, which is when efforts to save one species leads to the extinction of another (usually an ectoparasite of the species that is sought to be conserved), so in sense people have already made choices about which species to conserve and which species not to conserve.
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Old 11-22-2017, 05:51 PM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
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There are a handful of examples conservation-induced extinction...
...and there a buckets full of examples of non-conservation-induced extinction, so don't be trying to equate the two.
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Old 11-22-2017, 05:59 PM
Asympotically fat Asympotically fat is online now
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...and there a buckets full of examples of non-conservation-induced extinction, so don't be trying to equate the two.
I'm not trying to equate the two, that is you (incorrectly) reading between the lines.
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Old 11-22-2017, 06:03 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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. . . I'm not even sure how one would define "value" without reference to humans. Everything just is, and at some point it won't be. In the meantime, we're here.
Perhaps the probability of a sustained and variable ecosystem? i.e., the big asteroid strike was "bad" in that value system. Extinction would be "bad" just in general (especially for the species directly involved!)
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Old 11-22-2017, 06:55 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Perhaps the probability of a sustained and variable ecosystem? i.e., the big asteroid strike was "bad" in that value system. Extinction would be "bad" just in general (especially for the species directly involved!)
Why is a sustained and variable ecosystem good?
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Old 11-22-2017, 07:52 PM
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Anyone who blithely says, "extinction is part of nature" and doesn't notice that (a) other than when a giant asteroid hits the Earth, it doesn't happen anywhere near this rapidly, and (b) in those previous instances, we weren't around to suffer the effects of an environmental collapse, has some serious blinders on.

IMHO, McMansions and sprawl are more effect than cause. There's a lot more demand for urban living than available housing exists to meet that demand. Zoning and NIMBYism make it hard to build more densely in urban neighborhoods, and the result is that a lot of people who'd be happy to live in cities, get pushed out into the comparatively affordable 'burbs, which of course pushes the 'burbs further out than they would otherwise have to be.
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Old 11-23-2017, 02:26 AM
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Anyone who blithely says, "extinction is part of nature" and doesn't notice that (a) other than when a giant asteroid hits the Earth, it doesn't happen anywhere near this rapidly, and (b) in those previous instances, we weren't around to suffer the effects of an environmental collapse, has some serious blinders on.
Right, but the earth has recovered from mass extinction events before. Even if we were wiped out, it wouldn't really matter much on a global scale. It might, in the long run, be good for the earth's ecosystem.
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Old 11-23-2017, 03:54 AM
SamuelA SamuelA is offline
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
1. We aren't knowledgeable enough to determine which species we can safely do without, let alone which ones may become beneficial to us in the future.
2. Even if were had the knowledge to accurately pick out which species were totally useless to us, we don't know how such a removal will effect those species we do value, either directly or indirectly.
Your friend talks about some species that we disposed of without doing any harm to us or the ecosystem, but without knowing what would have happened if they hadn't been tossed out the window, he can't say for certain that the path we took was the right one-his is the convenient guess.
Here's the thing. I do hear you on these points. However,

(a) I've heard the argument advanced multiple times that the reason we need to preserve the rainforests is that the next cure for <some disease> might be found in nature there.

I do not find this likely, or a compelling argument. At the present state of the art, organic chemists can basically make any small molecule, naturally occurring or not. Other researchers who deal with genetically modified bacteria and yeasts can generally make any small peptide, though this is currently more difficult than organic chemistry is.

The next cure is going to come from either an exhaustive search that involves synthesizing billions of possible molecules and testing them and/or a rational search, where knowledge of the target narrows down the search space. Nature is no longer needed or helpful, because some random plant in the rainforest is not going to have the exact thing we need for people*.

*I'm making a probability argument : the plant could, but the odds are against it.

(b) We don't actually depend on that many species to remain living as humans, and due to our new ability to edit genes, we could depend on a whole lot less. For instance, instead of the complex mix of agriculture and lifestock we keep our people alive using, we could probably do it all with just gene edited algae. (though the taste...)

So no, Czarism, these points of yours are not correct. The reason to preserve species - and natural areas - is because they are irreplaceable in the same way that the Mona Lisa is not replaceable. Paving it all over with McMansions will mean that these more interesting species will all have disappeared, and some areas that have dramatic physical natural beauty - like mountainous regions, parts of yellowstone, etc - would be destroyed if we pave it all over or fill it with condos or blow up the mountains in order to gather a little temporary dirty energy from the coal buried inside.

But there are inherent conflicts. Anti-environmentalists have pointed out that there are various rare species that are almost identical to their more successful cousins, and you can lose the right to develop land you own because the red spotted tree frog happens to live on it or whatever.
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Old 11-23-2017, 12:01 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Right, but the earth has recovered from mass extinction events before. Even if we were wiped out, it wouldn't really matter much on a global scale. It might, in the long run, be good for the earth's ecosystem.
I don't understand how there can be a "good" or "bad" ecosystem, absent human judgment. Does the moon have a good or bad ecosystem? How about Mars?
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Old 11-23-2017, 02:03 PM
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The loss of a few thousand random species is no big deal, except sentimentally. However attention on endangered species can focus attention on on-going habitat loss. A few thousand species here, a few thousand there ... soon you're talking of ecological catastrophe.

Our close relatives, gorilla and orangutan, are both endangered. The Asian elephant and the blue whale are both endangered ó intelligent creatures. The Monarch butterfly ó a creature so "sentimental" it was bred on the space station(!) ó is suffering severe losses from pesticides and habitat reduction. Many other flying insects are also in danger.

But the real fear is not the loss of a few dozen "sentimental" species or a few thousands of random species. It's the ecological collapse which is both cause and effect of these extinctions. The robust collection of cereal crops which spurred the Neolithic Revolution has dwindled until we're now dependent on the continued viability of a few specific crops.

It's silly to speak of "Great Extinctions" millions of years ago and say "mass extinction is no cause for alarm; it happens every 100 million years or so." That would be like saying "What's the big deal about Hurricane Harvey? There were millions of worse storms in the Jurassic Era."

Modern man is changing habitat violently. Even the oceans are undergoing huge man-caused change: there are vast swathes of the ocean where jellyfish are taking over the dominant role from fish. Some already refer to our era as the Sixth Great Extinction.
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Old 11-23-2017, 02:23 PM
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I don't understand how there can be a "good" or "bad" ecosystem, absent human judgment. Does the moon have a good or bad ecosystem? How about Mars?
Perhaps a valid point, since "good" does tend to imply a human-centered value judgment. But I think what was meant there is that one could posit an objective standard where mass extinctions and things that diminish and destroy life are generally "bad", while its opposite, a thriving and diverse variety of life, is generally "good". After all, an ecosystem implies life, and the systemic interaction of its biotic and abiotic components.

This is not an anthropocentric view. It reflects the fact that as far as we know, lifeforms don't seem to exist in isolation but rather, rely on complex symbiotic dependencies. So from that standpoint the kind of ecosystem that supports the most diverse and populous life with the most robust chances of survival should classified high on the "goodness" scale. Which ironically allows us to posit, with cold objectivity, that an earth without humanity would almost certainly be a superior ecosystem.

Of course you can ask why life is "good" at all and whether a universe without life might not be the best kind of all, but that's outside the scope of what an ecosystem is, and it's just a philosophical dead end that gets us nowhere.
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Old 11-23-2017, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by septimus
The loss of a few thousand random species is no big deal, except sentimentally.
Even that we do not know.
Take pandas for instance. They've been the touchy-feely preserve poster boys for as long as I can remember because they're cute as hell AND they're majorly disturbed by disruptions to their environment, because the fuckers suck at adapting. Plus they just won't fuck - not in captivity, not in the wild, they're just not making the effort. Two factors which have made them the fodder for endless jokes. Right now, beyond looking cute and causing taxonomic controversies on whether they're really pandas, or bears, or both, or neither, pandas have no fucking use whatsoever. We could burn the last panda at the stake and it wouldn't mean a fucken thing, practically speaking.

But here's the humbling thing : we have NO FUCKING CLUE how we could possibly benefit from pandas in the future. Maybe nature has "gifted" them some sort of unexpressed genetic trait that could cure cancer but we haven't figured it out yet. Maybe someday they'll be the only species to keep some invasive species at bay. Maybe some will mutate an heretofore unseen, useable trait. The point is : biology is at the same time a wide, deep, dark sea we have just dipped our toes into ; and something that evolves over time. And it's unpredictable.
So the REAL question isn't whether or not we should strive to save species, but what the opportunity cost for doing so is while knowing that an important part of that equation is opaque to us. It's like playing a casino game without knowing the odds and only knowing half of the rules : I don't care what your idea or strategy is, you're going to regret it, son. Howsabout don't do that instead ?

Plus I mean, humanity's history is a tale of fucking itself for hubris and lack of foresight. All of it. Howsabout we try and not do that ? For once ?
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Old 11-23-2017, 03:27 PM
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The loss of a few thousand random species is no big deal, except sentimentally. However attention on endangered species can focus attention on on-going habitat loss. A few thousand species here, a few thousand there ... soon you're talking of ecological catastrophe ... [snip]
Indicator Species ... if we had ignored the crashing populations of the birds-of-prey, we would have continued dumping oceans of DDT on our farmlands ...
  #33  
Old 11-24-2017, 01:05 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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Why is a sustained and variable ecosystem good?
To start with, because I defined "good" that way, which you said couldn't be done...and I did it.

Such ecosystems appear to promote survivability, with parallel paths for such things as pollination. When you get down to only one keystone species, the risk for overall collapse is larger. Humans generally, as a VERY broad consensus, define "survival" as good.
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Old 11-24-2017, 01:49 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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I did not say you couldn't define "good" that way.

But had I said that, and meant it literally, and if you can define any word to mean anything you like (Hello, Alice), then we're equally free to define the thing as "bad". Seems like a silly semantic game, but suite yourself.
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Old 11-24-2017, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
1. We aren't knowledgeable enough to determine which species we can safely do without, let alone which ones may become beneficial to us in the future.

2. Even if were had the knowledge to accurately pick out which species were totally useless to us, we don't know how such a removal will effect those species we do value, either directly or indirectly.
By these arguments, it was morally impermissible for us to remove smallpox from its natural habitat.

Both of your arguments are the naturalistic fallacy in somewhat prettier language. They're an argument, not only from ignorance, but demanding ignorance, in that they insist we can never know certain things. If you follow them, you must conclude that any action is morally impermissible, and humans are an unnatural intrusion into the natural world, as you've rendered all human action impermissible on the grounds of being dangerous to nature and, therefore, against nature, unnatural.

(It's a converse of Creationism and the Dominion Over Nature philosophy espoused by some Creationists: The Deity Created humans, and gave He him dominion over all Creation. Both arguments presuppose that humans are special, and outside nature, only one follows that logic into imagining humans as above nature and the other follows it into imagining humans as beneath it.)
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Old 11-24-2017, 03:03 PM
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So, what's the logical, non sentimental argument for why we should care about future humans?

Sorry, but an argument that states that there is no 'non-sentimental' argument for conserving species for their own sake, and they are only important in how they affect humans really needs to explain why caring for humans is somehow non-sentimental, otherwise it's just silly waffle.
  #37  
Old 11-24-2017, 03:26 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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By these arguments, it was morally impermissible for us to remove smallpox from its natural habitat. . . .
Something akin to that viewpoint was actually taken into account, and given serious weight. Many suggested we should keep frozen samples of smallpox, specifically to avoid extinguishing the species forever.
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Old 11-24-2017, 03:32 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Here's the thing. I do hear you on these points. However,

(a) I've heard the argument advanced multiple times that the reason we need to preserve the rainforests is that the next cure for <some disease> might be found in nature there.

I do not find this likely, or a compelling argument. At the present state of the art, organic chemists can basically make any small molecule, naturally occurring or not. Other researchers who deal with genetically modified bacteria and yeasts can generally make any small peptide, though this is currently more difficult than organic chemistry is.

The next cure is going to come from either an exhaustive search that involves synthesizing billions of possible molecules and testing them and/or a rational search, where knowledge of the target narrows down the search space. Nature is no longer needed or helpful, because some random plant in the rainforest is not going to have the exact thing we need for people*..
Sure. But we dont know what to synthesize, so finding a amazing cure in nature will give the lab scientists a place to start from.
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Old 11-24-2017, 04:17 PM
Derleth Derleth is online now
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Something akin to that viewpoint was actually taken into account, and given serious weight. Many suggested we should keep frozen samples of smallpox, specifically to avoid extinguishing the species forever.
That doesn't answer Czarcasm's objection: If a species is no longer in its habitat, it no longer contributes to the complex web of interactions of that habitat, so it is extinct in a fairly strict sense, even if it still exists in some form.

And if we were to take this radical ignorance (epidemiological epistemological agnosticism?) further, we might well say that changes in the human condition since the eradication of smallpox were due to this shift in the human microbiome. Heck, autism diagnosis rates have risen precipitously since the mid-1970s; maybe the smallpox vaccine (and the resulting extinction of smallpox) causes autism. Saying "we aren't knowledgeable" as an absolute renders you unable to refute this, BTW.
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Old 11-24-2017, 04:29 PM
Czarcasm Czarcasm is offline
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That doesn't answer Czarcasm's objection: If a species is no longer in its habitat, it no longer contributes to the complex web of interactions of that habitat, so it is extinct in a fairly strict sense, even if it still exists in some form.
I said that?

BTW, neither did I insist(or even imply) that "we can never know certain things".
  #41  
Old 11-24-2017, 04:42 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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. . . Saying "we aren't knowledgeable" as an absolute renders you unable to refute this, BTW.
Good thing no one's saying that, then. Appeals to extreme cases are usually logically unsound, and certainly a dead waste of time.
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Old 11-25-2017, 07:00 AM
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Sure. But we dont know what to synthesize, so finding a amazing cure in nature will give the lab scientists a place to start from.
This is a very good point, I think. Billions of years of evolution have made discoveries that can't be stumbled on in a laboratory so easily.

This became clear to me just by observing my wife and her almost magical garden full of traditional herbal cures. Wikipedia and Google were generally aware of their medicinal uses, although they weren't localized into specific chemicals. And these were all widely known species ó not the rare herbs used by just a few tribes in the middle of the Amazon jungle.

I made one pharmacological discovery myself! Tea made from the leaves of the star gooseberry tree is contradicted for co-use with nitrates, like nitroglycerine sublinguals (similar to the contraindication with sildenafil). After I accidentally discovered this myself, Google led me to some hints, but nothing explicit.
  #43  
Old 11-25-2017, 02:15 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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And if we were to take this radical ignorance (epidemiological epistemological agnosticism?) further, we might well say that changes in the human condition since the eradication of smallpox were due to this shift in the human microbiome. Heck, autism diagnosis rates have risen precipitously since the mid-1970s; maybe the smallpox vaccine (and the resulting extinction of smallpox) causes autism. Saying "we aren't knowledgeable" as an absolute renders you unable to refute this, BTW.
Uh...no one born in the mid-70s or later got the smallpox vaccine. I'm 40 and they stopped administering it five years before I was born. If eliminating smallpox was going to cause autism, wouldn't the autism rate spike have shown up decades earlier in the US when the last known outbreak was in the late 1940s?
  #44  
Old 11-26-2017, 12:30 AM
Derleth Derleth is online now
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I said that?

BTW, neither did I insist(or even imply) that "we can never know certain things".
Nice backpedal.
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Old 12-01-2017, 05:22 PM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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Speaking of nice backpedals, former Doper Alex Pyron says "oopsie."
  #46  
Old 12-01-2017, 08:28 PM
legion60 legion60 is offline
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To be honest, no, I didn't. I was basing it off of the OP's summary. If the summary was wrong, then that's why I was wrong.

However, now I have read the OpEd...and my rebuttal stands. "Extinction is part of nature." Yeah, and so is murder, so murder must be okay.

The essay was batshit.
How is murder part of nature?
  #47  
Old 12-01-2017, 08:54 PM
Lumpy Lumpy is offline
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Scientific American recently had an article on the controversy over conservation efforts geared towards saving the American Burying Beetle. Saving it is costing a fortune in opportunity cost, and a lot of people wonder if it's really worth it. They point out that the beetle is now extinct in most of its historical range, and yet the sky hasn't fallen there. In fact some wonder if the beetle's decline is due to the extinction of the passenger pigeon, which may have once been the primary food source for the beetles' larvae, and that therefore the ecological cost of losing the beetle may be minimal. The problem is that no one want's to step forward and explicitly adopt a policy of "this isn't worth saving", since no one knows what Pandora's box that might open.
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Old 12-02-2017, 11:22 PM
tim314 tim314 is offline
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pandas have no fucking use whatsoever.
Well, they give the USA a reason to get along with China, so maybe that's good for peace.
  #49  
Old 12-03-2017, 01:09 AM
eschereal eschereal is offline
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How is murder part of nature?
Male mountain lions, for example, will kill the kittens of one they have mated with so that the female will go back into heat. Murder in order to get laid. I think humans have done that. And otters have been known to rape baby seals to death.

We are part of nature. Nature constructed us. Every fucking thing we do or make is no less natural than a spiderweb or beaver dam. And nature, well, she is amoral and kind of an asshole.
  #50  
Old 12-03-2017, 02:02 PM
Alan Smithee Alan Smithee is offline
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My friend Alex Pyron, a former doper, is the Robert F. Griggs Associate Professor of Biology at the George Washington University.
Iím surprised no one has asked, but what was his username?
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