Saturday, February 18, 2012

Will instinct or intelligence win out?




Our world is home to over 8.7 million species of life.  It is thought that only 1.2 million of those has been cataloged and named by science with new species found every day.

That is, anyway, according to this article.  The article goes on to make an interesting point: "...it is normal for human beings to focus on their needs and wants – like all other species – rather than conserve ecosystems, despite our knowledge of environmental deterioration and our understanding of the natural world and our place in it."
Ostensibly, we humans are intelligent animals.  We are able comprehend...at least on varying levels...our place in the ecosystem.  We know that we need other species, such as bees to pollinate plants we harvest.  We know we need trees for timber and we're starting to figure out that we need them to help regulate climate.  Many of us are also keen to save whales, tigers, and polar bears because they fill their own ecological niche and because well, they're cool.

One of the important points that this article posted on Policymic makes clear is that while the aforementioned organisms are important, there are other ones that are arguably serving a far more critical role in terms of our own existence.  They, like the polar bear, are also in danger of extinction.  I'm talking about life such as fungi, salamanders, algae, et. al.  Can you imagine any of them being hoisted as poster children for conservation?  Yeah, me neither.

The reason I'm writing about this article is that it does such a wonderful job of articulating beliefs that run quite close to my own.  Most policy-making pachyderms see humanity as the top of the food chain, the most intelligent organisms in all earthly creation.  Might makes right and we therefore have the entitlement of doing whatever we want to the world.   In a way, they are correct.  Being so (questionably) intelligent, we can look outside of ourselves and see how we fit into ecosystems.  We can reason out that we are dependent upon other species and then act in ways to preserve and sustain our environment.  This in turn helps ensure our continued survival.  Right back full circle to preservation instinct.  By preserving the environment, we really do act in our own self interest.

Then again, we might opt to act solely on instinct.  Me, me, me, get me what I want and damn the torpedoes on everyone and everything else.  If that is indeed the case, then we won't need an asteroid, a Mayan 2012 prophecy, or any other major catastrophe to do us in.  We'll have our own greed and stupidity to handle that task.

Yes, we can think.  So let's act like it.




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2 comments:

  1. If we truly are the 'top of the food chain,' then when/if we act without intelligence our population will be kept in check the same way as other animals. We will overpopulate, and our food supply will be such that we will be forced to reduce our numbers.

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    1. Quite logical.
      My problem is that we have difficulty with logic when it comes to population control. This evidenced by the current controversy over providing birth control. When you talk "reducing our numbers," there are those who begin to fallaciously equate that with "Nazi death squads." It's not killing off what we have, it's simply not adding to.

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