1. Joined
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    07 Nov '05 13:36
    Because naturalistic evolution is as much of a faith as anything else, it seems fitting to address my concern in this forum. By “naturalistic evolution,” I simply mean the system of thought that holds that nature is all there is, that life developed naturally by unguided/purposeless mutations and that natural selection is the mechanism by which all of life exists today. (If you have a problem with this definition, please try to respond for this particular view before re-defining the terms).

    Here’s my question: How could an evolutionist (as defined above) be passionate about saving endangered species?

    This dilemma occurred to me after a visit to my local public zoo. This zoo evidently holds those two positions in perfect harmony. Can this stance be justified? If all of life is purposeless, and the weakest get killed off (or don’t reproduce) and are thus selected against, while the strongest do the killing and make lots of babies (being selected for), how could one place a value on harboring the weaker species that nature is trying (without purpose, of course) to eliminate?

    ((I must admit up front that I will be unable to actively participate in this thread over the next few days, but I’m confident that this think-tank will have an excellent answer when I return.))

    Bon chance.

    -Le Roi
  2. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    07 Nov '05 15:508 edits
    Originally posted by kingdanwa

    Here’s my question: How could an evolutionist (as defined above) be passionate about saving endangered species?
    One can only do it when admitting that it is a purely selfish position (selfish in the Ayn Rand sense, not in the politically correct sense).

    Let us take a practical analogy. Suppose I love sand castles. I stroll along the beach and stumble upon a beautiful one. To my dismay, I notice that the tide is coming in and the wind is picking up, and maybe some unruly kids are running towards it -- the sand castle is endangered. Nature or man will inevitably destroy it, but I attempt to intervene to preserve it so that I may continue to enjoy it. Maybe I'll dig an enormous moat around it to keep the water away, or maybe get a gang of friends to stand around it to keep the wind from blowing it away grain by grain. Nature will inevitably win, if the kids don't get to it first, but I find value in the castle and purpose in the preservation of the castle, even if its persistence is contrary to the otherwise natural state of affairs.

    The natural evolutionist of integrity must acknowledge that it is natural for species to die out, even those who die out at man's hand, for man is simply another species competing for life in the contentious environment. Given that acknowledgement, he is free to exercise his rationality as a value-seeker and act to preserve that which he values - in this case, some endangered species.

    I don't see the environmental activist's stance as contradictory. I do, however, see it as arrogant and naive, just like the guy who thinks he can preserve his sand castle forever, and also annoying if he tries to recruit everybody on the beach to help him.

    Now, I'm not sure to what extent the sort of evolutionist that you describe actually exists, for it sounds like he denies the existence of the metaphysical and supernatural altogether, rather than merely refraining from appealing to them to resolve scientific inquiries. That is, you characterize him by a "system of thought" rather than by a scientific methodology.

    Just like a judge must restrain himself to a specific set of rules in the interest of carrying out systematic justice, and as his actions qua judge on the bench don't necessarily reflect his "system of thought" qua person (like when he rules to exclude damning evidence that would show the accused's true guilt but was obtained illegally - his notion of justice as a judge must trump his notion of justice as a person while he is acting qua judge), a scientist must conform to certain principles in order to do any useful science at all, but they don't necessarily imply any additional "system of thought."
  3. Joined
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    07 Nov '05 19:562 edits
    Originally posted by kingdanwa
    Because naturalistic evolution is as much of a faith as anything else, it seems fitting to address my concern in this forum. By “naturalistic evolution,” I simply mean the system of thought that holds that nature is all there is, that life developed naturally by unguided/purposeless mutations and that natural selection is the mechanism by which all of lif ...[text shortened]... t that this think-tank will have an excellent answer when I return.))

    Bon chance.

    -Le Roi
    Here’s my question: How could an evolutionist (as defined above) be passionate about saving endangered species?

    Are you suggesting that this normative view would lead to logical inconsistencies in the evolutionist's stance? If so, then you are confused, and you need to look up The Naturalistic Fallacy and the closely related Is-Ought Fallacy. Your own provided definition of "naturalistic evolution" consists only of descriptive claims; therefore, the suggestion that any particular normative claim must follow from said definition is patently false.
  4. Standard membertelerion
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    07 Nov '05 20:41
    Originally posted by kingdanwa

    Here’s my question: How could an evolutionist (as defined above) be passionate about saving endangered species?
    Because they are perfectly consistent. Your question is like asking how a person who promotes dieting can eat.

    The conservation-minded evolutionist realizes that the adverse selection against other species has been rapidly accelerated due to human behavior.

    Ah! But you say, "Humans, according to the evolutionists view, are part of nature. Therefore negative human effects are just more natural selection."

    Now this may be true (i'd let a biologist define natural selection), however, by recognizing that the adverse effects on other animals and on plants will lead to powerful, negative backlash effects on humans, it is natural and consistent that humans as a species are taking measures to mitigate their harmful impact and to correct the prior serious damage done by them to many ecosystems.

    So to recap: Some component of selective pressure has been endogenized by human action. This increase in selective pressure has had devasting effects on other wildlife. If left unchecked, these effects will have severe, adverse effects on humans. Therefore rational, survival-seeking humans should alter their behavior to prevent said effects.
  5. Standard memberXanthosNZ
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    07 Nov '05 20:47
    If you consider modern humanity's effect on nature mearly part of natural selection then isn't any conservation effort also considered part of natural selection by the same logic?
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