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Endangered Species And Evolution


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A certain person and I had a heated discussion this afternoon when I mentioned we'd watched a show on the Amazon and that a tribe was wiped out by roads being built and such. Well, he then said, it is the evolutionists who believe that the fittest survive and if the tribes cannot keep up with the evolution of man, why should evolutionist try to prevent species from going extinct? He made sure to point out that those who believe in evolution consider humans a species too. I tried to say that oberservation about survival of the fittest isn't a doctrine, but he didn't care. He said maybe the people who are cutting down the trees there have evolved by making technological process and if the tribes don't want to evolve then this is just their fate...according to evolution he points out.

 

Next he brought up the California Fruit Fly and why is it being protected when evolution says things just die out. IOW...why are evolutionists trying to prohibit the process of natural selection, by protecting something that without protection would be extinct...including tribes of people and endangered species. I said that belief in evolution doesn't equal not caring and that humans want to survive and that is one reason people want to protect the rainforest and people care when others are killed for financial gain...to which he said again, "IF that is evolution, why is it wrong...it's natural"

 

What are your thoughts.

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A certain person and I had a heated discussion this afternoon when I mentioned we'd watched a show on the Amazon and that a tribe was wiped out by roads being built and such. Well, he then said, it is the evolutionists who believe that the fittest survive and if the tribes cannot keep up with the evolution of man, why should evolutionist try to prevent species from going extinct?

 

A very common fallacy, the "Naturalistic Fallacy," in which anything "natural" is equated as "good."

 

There is a distinct difference in how you can evaluate a statement: it can either be a prescriptive statement (what SHOULD be true) and a descriptive statement (what IS true). The point of having descriptive sciences such as biology, physics, and chemistry is to give us the material with which we understand reality so that we may better engineer it to our prescriptive needs.

 

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that a closed system will progress towards a state of entropy: that is, nature has a tendency in specific cases to gravitate towards a state of disorder and decay. But this doesn't stop us from repairing buildings or seeking to live a long life.

 

Turning a descriptive statement into a prescriptive one, "It must be okay and morally good because it's true!" is retarted, just as the converse, "It must be true because it's morally desireable!" Want does not make facts, facts do not turn into moral compulsion. In all honesty this is a kiddie fallacy that is seriously practiced only by dirty, tree-hugging hippies. No offense towards hippies intended, of course. =P

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I tried to say that oberservation about survival of the fittest isn't a doctrine, but he didn't care.

 

I think you are onto something here. Survival of the fittest is a good explanation of what happens in the past, and it is a fairly good guideline of what may happen in the future, but it does not necessarily determine what will happen in the future, especially if humans are involved.

 

Suppose there is a group of dogs locked up in a cage with no food or water. And there is a second group of dogs outside the cage with plenty of food, water, and also some tools (hammers, chisels, bolt cutter, etc). Most likely the dogs outside the cage will not be able to free the dogs inside the cage and they will soon die. But with humans the outcome is much less certain. The people outside the cage could ignore the people inside the cage, they could free the people inside the cage, or they could retain the people in the cage but keep them alive with food and water.

 

Humans are not bound by any doctrine of Darwinism or survival of the fittest in either the Amazon tribe case or the fruit fly case. Humans can intervene to change the course of future events. What course to take depends on a whole array of human ethical considerations. And even then, as Mr. Spooky said, what finally happens cannot be considered good solely because that is what happened. A decision that allowed the fruit flies to die could be considered good for various reasons, but not the fact that it did happen.

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Even from a purely selfish evolutionary standpoint, there are good reasons to preserve as many species as possible. We want to keep the Earth as close to it's current conditions as possible (heat, water, O2, etc). There are far too many variable for us to know which species are "safe" to eradicate without the whole house of cards falling down around us. In addition, the greater the biodiversity the more robust life is (ie the less the chances of something going extinct all together). 90% of american's eat the same type/species of corn. The problem is that means a single plague could wipe out our entire corn production. There are societies now in america that recognize this and are making and effort to keep "non-traditional" species of plant and animal life going should we need them in the future.

 

"Survial of the fittest" means best adapted to it's environment, not the most powerful...

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Never forget that "fittest" is often misunderstood as "strongest" (Enter the moustached Austrian immigrant, and the still-common mistranslation of Darwin's claim into German as "Überleben des Stärkeren").

That tribe mentioned may well be ill-adapted to modern civilization, but go thee out to live in the wilderness just like them and you'll realize damn fast that there are other areas of adaptation where they beat "us civilized humans" hands-down.

That said, genetic variety (assuming that there is something special in the genes of these tribespeople, which might be true or not) is generally a good thing. You never know when there might come something useful from genetic traits previously thought of as neutral or disadvantageous.

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The other thing to remember is the difference between the evolution of a creature and changes to the environment it lives in. In the case of the tribe it is not that they have failed to evolve, but someone bulldozed through their lands. This is a unnatural modification to their environment and hence outside of a natural science like evolution.

It is why we protect endangered species, cos usually they are endangered due to humans stuffing up their otherwise perfect environment. Many cases of importing foreign animals only to have them wipe out the native ones, hunting to extinction, waste dumping/contamination, or simply destroying for our own benefit. These are not natural events and its therefore the human race trying to correct its own mistakes to save what the people before have started to destroy.

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