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."