Patterico's Pontifications

5/7/2007

Paul Watson Is Right

Filed under: Environment,General — Patterico @ 12:00 am

Instapundit links a story about a guy who says mankind is acting like a virus:

Paul Watson, founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and famous for militant intervention to stop whalers, now warns mankind is “acting like a virus” and is harming Mother Earth.

Watson’s May 4 editorial asked the question “The Beginning of the End for Life as We Know it on Planet Earth?” Then he left no doubt about the answer. “We are killing our host the planet Earth,” he claimed and called for a population drop to less than 1 billion.

The commentary reminded readers that Watson had called humans a disease before and he wasn’t sorry. “I was once severely criticized for describing human beings as being the ‘AIDS of the Earth.’ I make no apologies for that statement,” the column continued.

Instapundit says:

I JUST HOPE THAT THIS GUY never gets hold of nuclear or biological weapons . . . No, really, I mean that. Guys like him creep me out. If he ever got his way it would be Pol Pot all over again.”

Well, I don’t know about Paul Watson, but I think there’s some truth to what he says. I don’t subscribe to any call for a population drop to 1 billion, especially if he means for it to happen all at once. That’s too extreme. But the thing about humankind being a virus? I’ve been saying that for years.

Imagine that space aliens have been observing the Earth over the past several hundred years. What phenomenon do you think they would find the most remarkable?

I think it’s pretty clear: the way humans are taking over the planet — crowding out other species and driving them into extinction; polluting the planet; and generally behaving, yes, like a plague on the planet.

Now, there are several snide retorts: if I think I’m taking up valuable space, I’m welcome to leave the planet; how dare I have children (I have two and won’t have any more); etc. etc. etc.

Look, I’m not rabid about this. I’m not saying we need to take out large swaths of the human race in one fell swoop.

But I sometimes wonder if things like the conjunction of nuclear terrorism and radical religious beliefs that won’t bend for petty things like rationality and logic — well, could this be nature’s way of thinning the herd by any means necessary? What about the way that we spent years adding antibiotics to cattle feed, and continue to feed them to dairy cows on a regular basis — all activities that weaken our immunity and could set us up to be wiped out by an incurable disease? And what if the Al Gore global warming crowd is right (and I’m not at all certain they’re not)? There’s a huge danger there as well.

There are lots of other ways that many, many of us could go all at once — and it’s hard for me not to see the invisible hand of Nature at work in many of them.

I’m like anyone else. I want my kids to have kids, and their kids to do the same. When I live my everyday life, I don’t see myself as part of some huge problem. But then, when you’re part of the problem, it generally is hard to see.

I’m not saying I know what to do about it. But I’m not sure Paul Watson is as crazy as he’s being made out to seem — at least based on the quote above. Because I think that quote is right.

UPDATE: Perhaps a better analogy is to cancer, which spreads and spreads within its host organism, ultimately killing it. But if you were a cancer cell, you’d be all for it.

P.S. Commenter Paul Zrimsek says:

This illustrates an iron law of blog rhetoric, to be filed next to Godwin’s Law: Space aliens always agree with the author, who always imagines that having space aliens agree with him somehow strengthens his argument.

Heh. Actually, it was just a device to get readers to imagine an outside perspective. But that’s still pretty funny, Paul.

And commenter gahrie says:

OK, I can go along with this.

As long as I get to choose which 1 billion people get to live.

Don’t you think it would be a better world if I got to make a decision like that? If I got to choose, I’d keep most of you.

I said “most.”

73 Responses to “Paul Watson Is Right”

  1. What would be your opinion on life extension? It’s quite possible that there are people now living who will live well into their second century, if not longer. Should we put a stop to it? Asimov’s “60”?

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  2. And actually, you and he miss the entire point.

    Life isn’t a virus … life is accumulation of information. The exact opposite of entropy. volution in action. Intelligent life even more so. Intelligent life with the scientific method is stunningly efficient at this process.

    Stop, hell. Earth isn’t the subject of the drama. Mankind is. We need to not only survive, we, as a species, need to expand as far and as fast as possible, so that whatever happens to earth doesn’t harm the race.

    Expansion, growth and improvement are the way evolution points. Contraction, stagnation and navel-gazing are the way of death.

    So, no, I disagree. And I view ramblings of this sort much the same way one views schoolkids rambling about shooting everyone in homeroom, except on a much larger scale. Especially from folks with the knowledge to make it happen.

    Someday we may be asked why we didn’t shoot this bastard when we had the chance.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  3. Both Watson and Patterico must have been indoctrinated by government schools. The current doctrine being preached there is what they have regurgitated.
    I’m sorry for your depression and your polluted attitude about our treatment about the planet. Why don’t you just keep it between you and your analyst the next time?

    John (6fb4f7)

  4. So now we have a new version of moral equivalence – life equivalence. As if the life of an animal is as important as the life of a human. Sure, we killed a lot of buffalo, and tigers, etc., but it is to make room for humans.

    People who say mankind behaves badly on this planet are suffering from some guilt complex that I don’t share. Nature’s ok, but in almost every instance, man has made improvements on it. Virus’ don’t ever do that.

    I guess if you believe that a world covered with animals that stand a good chance of eating you, diseases that stand a good chance of killing you and food that’s often hard to come by is your idea of a beautiful world, then yeah, you might say we have done harm to the earth. Because we certainly put an end to a lot of that.

    Your post sounds pretty hippie to me.

    Kevin (e89cee)

  5. Just a note, extinction is a natural process. We’re no more guilty of causing extinction than anything else on the planet is. If species didn’t go extinct the amount of fighting over limited habitat would be insane.

    Taltos (c99804)

  6. But I sometimes wonder if things like the conjunction of nuclear terrorism and radical religious beliefs that won’t bend for petty things like rationality and logic — well, could this be nature’s way of thinning the herd by any means necessary?

    Wow, talk about your root causes of terrorism!

    While it is certainly possible that our actions will lead to future difficulties for mankind, Islamic terror (or any other) is not present because Mother Earth wants to spank her bad children. Nor would Nature’s displeasure lead to the emergence of a super virus that wipes out a good portion of humanity.

    Pigilito (9891dd)

  7. Imagine that space aliens have been observing the Earth […]

    You mean like Al Gore?

    The fact is that the environment and related measures of the quality of life are generally getting better, all over the world.

    A larger fraction of world’s population have clean water to drink, enough to eat, better health care, longer life expectancy, etc, than 20, 30 or 50 years ago. Read Lomberg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist for ample documentation.

    That is due largely to two trends:

    1) people recognizing that stewardship of natural resources is necessary, in which the developed world has taken the lead, and

    2) improvement in the technological and material means of using resources more effectively and efficiently, in which the developed world has again taken the lead.

    Yes, there are still problems that require working harder to solve, but calling for mass extinction is hardly the answer. Glenn is right, this guy is a total nutcase. In particular, the number of 1 billion is simply pulled out of thin air. The world’s population was 1 billion around the year 1800 – are we supposed to believe the world was a Garden of Eden 200 years ago?

    LagunaDave (cb0e49)

  8. Imagine that space aliens have been observing the Earth over the past several hundred years. What phenomenon do you think they would find the most remarkable?

    This illustrates an iron law of blog rhetoric, to be filed next to Godwin’s Law: Space aliens always agree with the author, who always imagines that having space aliens agree with him somehow strengthens his argument.

    Paul Zrimsek (94a870)

  9. I went to the grocery store for ice cream and they were all sold out of chocolate chip. It wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have too damn many people.

    nk (db0112)

  10. OK, I can go along with this.

    As long as I get to choose which 1 billion people get to live.

    (This is the plot line to a Clancy novel by the way…..Rainbow Six)

    gahrie (de5a83)

  11. But I’m not sure Paul Watson is as crazy as he’s being made out to seem…

    No, he’s b@t$hit crazy.

    RW (8f8726)

  12. At the heart of most of these environmentalists’ arguments is the “precautionary principle.” That is, we don’t know that our acts (or omissions) will prove disastrous, but the burden of proof ought to be on the polluters (parents, animal breeders, food additives manufacturers, etc.) to show that they are not leading us to disaster, given the stakes involved.

    My answer is to point out that AIDS came from chimpanzees or some other higher primate. Because of primates’ genetic similarity to us, primates’ viruses are uniquely threatening to us, and they carry other viruses than HIV which are deadly to humans, some we know about, some we don’t.

    As a precaution, we should move to exterminate all non-human primates. Sounds insane? But think of how much better off mankind would be if we did this in the 1960s, before AIDS entered the human community! Only a murderous homophobe could fail to see that it would have been a good thing to have killed all the wild chimps 40 years ago, and only the willfully blind could fail to see that we still ought to do it now, before another deadly disease breaks out of the wild primate population.

    I wouldn’t expect most environmentalists to agree with me, but I don’t see how one who claims that his environmentalism is good for mankind could do otherwise, unless he admits that the precautionary principle is asinine.

    After we get through with the apes, consider the unique threat of wild, migratory birds, spreading flu and West Nile Virus around the world, and who knows what next? As a precaution, shouldn’t we kill all the migratory birds?

    DWPittelli (87ad39)

  13. I made a similar point in an earlier thread and was ridiculed. Join the club Patterico.

    What it comes down to is that too many people on the planet ends up “soiling the nest” or they end up killing each other off. Ever watch rats in a cage too small for their numbers?

    Bucky Fuller once said: “Earth is too small and fragile a basket to keep all mankind’s eggs in.”

    dubya (753723)

  14. I would use the following strategy to reduce and maintain the population to one-sixth of its present level:

    1. Every time a child is born, we kill the oldest person living at the time;
    2. We place a limit to two children per couple. Should a man father, or a woman give birth to, a third child, the father or the mother should be killed to make room for the child.
    3. Two children per couple are not enough to maintain the population so once the billion people goal has been reached a lottery should be established to allow a calculated number of people to have a third child.
    4. Buying more than half a gallon of chocolate chip ice cream in one day should be punished by death.

    nk (db0112)

  15. This is very reminscent of something a good man once said:

    Agent Smith: I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.

    tom (612cba)

  16. Actually, re: comment 1, I have but one word:

    Carousel.

    (Congratulate yourself if you get that — it means you’re as big a nerd as me.)

    PCachu (e072b7)

  17. #11 RW
    Is that supposed to be a working link? Not working.

    m (e28b50)

  18. I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.

    Agent Smith (a2f5df)

  19. How does Watson advocate getting down to a billion people? Basically, he just says most people shouldn’t have children. Although how you go from “shouldn’t” to “don’t” is not at all clear:

    Who should have children? Those who are responsible and completely dedicated to the responsibility which is actually a very small percentage of humans. Being a parent should be a career. Whereas some people are engineers, musicians, or lawyers, others with the desire and the skills can be fathers and mothers. Schools can be eliminated if the professional parent is also the educator of the child.

    Crust (399898)

  20. I certainly don’t disagree with Watson’s premise that human beings are multiplying out of control, without regard for their host (the earth, and its ecosystems) much like malignant cancer or a deadly virus does. It’s a fact.

    The thing that makes humanity’s expansion really disturbing is the scale of the misery that has resulted, and the small percentage of living things who really benefit from the whole mess.

    The vast majority of even human beings don’t really live much better than before this exponential growth began. A huge percentage of people have no more control over their lives than a simple chimpanzee colony — they live and die in the same few square miles of the earth; their lives range from tolerable to horrible depending on factors completely out of their control like the climate, the season, and the concentration of nearby predators (read — human predators like warlords, dictators, corporations etc).

    Not to mention the utterly miserable conditions that huge numbers of animals, including whole species, have had to go through. In particular, industrial farming is truly hell on earth for the various species unfortunate enough to be easily domesticated. The food chain is way more merciful than an human-constructed industrial farm. Instead of living a relatively free life searching for food, with a few seconds or minutes of fear at the end upon being caught by a predator, our prey lives its entire life cycle in a space no bigger than its body, being bloated into as much meat as possible for its predator.

    So far, technology has postively transformed the lives of a relative few in amazing ways that would seem like magic to even our recent ancestors of a few generations ago. Yet it’s basically made life a lot more generally drudgerous and oppressive for the vast majority of life forms on this earth, including most humans.

    I happen to be one of the lucky few who are benefitting tremendously from the changes. I can’t help but recognize, however, that if I was evaluating the recent march of humanity without considering how much it benefitted ME and those I care about, I might very well decide that, on balance, it’s really not doing life on earth as a whole a favor.

    So what’s the solution? Obviously I don’t know. But being aware of the problem is the only way we’ll ever recognize a solution if it DOES happen to present itself.

    Phil (427875)

  21. Patrick,

    I hope your comments are some sort of subtle sarcasm that isn’t readily apparent. I agree with Instapundit, this sort of talk freaks me out. Ever notice that those who make these sorts of statements always seem to presume that they will be the one making the decision as to who stays and who goes? It won’t be a democratic decision where the people get to decide their fate, it will be the self-appointed elites who get to decide who are thier kind of people.

    Nobody likes crowds, but then no-one is forcing us to live in a crowded, congested area. We live here because we like the lifestyle, the weather and the money. The are plenty of places left on the Earth where one can live in virtual isolation from the “human virus”. The Mojave desert, South Dakota and Siberia are all pretty empty but I don’t see a massive exodus. Talk is cheap, you can’t have the benefits of civilization without civilization.

    Jeff (29f726)

  22. Jeff,

    Attericopay obablypray ashay eenbay orkingway ootay ardhay. Ustjay umorhay imhay. Enwhay ehay ecoverrays ehay illway uddershay ithway orrorhay otay inkthay athay Ilphay reeagays ithway imhay.

    nk (db0112)

  23. Then we start with PAUL WATSON and the other eco-freak maniacs we have him and the rest of the SEA SHAPARDS FREAK SOCIETY all euthinased then we scarp watsons garbage scow he aand his eco-freaks sail around in

    krazy kagu (d61c23)

  24. On behalf of all my Mormon friends and relatives, let me offer a sincere thank you to all those who agree with Paul Watson and Patterico and choose to limit your reproduction to sub replacement levels. I can assure you that your wise decision is greatly appreciated.

    Al (eb35d0)

  25. Who lives, who dies? Take an IQ test.

    If you’re not 99th percentile — outa the gene pool!

    dubya (753723)

  26. m,
    No, it’s not a link. Hitting the shift-2 key automatically inserts a link & I couldn’t edit after the fact.

    RW (8f8726)

  27. I’m waiting for the update that shows this post is a joke. If it isn’t, then you’ve clearly succumbed to California-think. What’s next? Reviews of Rachel Carson and Paul Erhlich books? Here’s my take: For every problem people cause and many that they don’t cause, people find solutions. Sometimes those solutions are revolutionary and make everyone’s lives better. I think you should have more faith in mankind than you have in nature, especially given that Mother Earth is far less sympathetic to her weaker inhabitants.

    DRJ (c6d1df)

  28. Well, I liked your post, Pat.

    lc (1b1e61)

  29. Watson and other human extinctionists are in the position of someone crying fire in a crowded theater. Consider that many of these environmental scientists have students, some of whome are as loopy as the late Mr Cho. With a teacher who preaches that the human race should be extinguisted, preferably by a form of air born Ebola virus, some day one of their nutcase students is going to come up with such a thing.

    John Costello (dc5d67)

  30. The flaw in this argument isn’t in the result, it’s in the premise. The way you phrase the question dictates the answer. Watson’s premise, which you seem to have fallen for, is that the earth has inherent value, and if we harm it then that’s a bad thing. But we don’t belong to the earth, the earth belongs to us. The universe and all its resources exist for us to use. If we don’t use it, if we lock it up forever, then what’s it for?

    Yes, we should use it prudently, so that it will still be around for as long as we and our descendants need it. But ultimately we will use up all the earth’s non-renewable resources, and we’ll have to find more elsewhere, or find ways to live without them. By the time that happens, both will be trivial tasks. But not using resources now, for fear of that far-away day, is like a miser hoarding his millions while living in a cardboard box and on rice and beans; if you’re not going to spend the money then what good is it?

    Milhouse (98ed4a)

  31. Whatever happened to “…boldly go where no Man has gone before”? Are we reduced to expecting Soylent Green?

    John425 (eae6ea)

  32. Who lives, who dies? Take an IQ test.

    If you’re not 99th percentile — outa the gene pool!

    Only trouble is, I’ve seen 99th-percentilers in action. There are some monumental stupidities of which only genius is capable.

    A human species consisting only of 99th-percentilers would be extinct within a week.

    McGehee (25adee)

  33. …and I’m one of them.

    McGehee (25adee)

  34. Sorry, guys. For funny Jeff Goldstein has us all beat:

    “curing the biosphere of the human virus will require a radical and invasive approach”
    —at least, so argues “conservationist” Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who, let me add, might better have illustrated his point had he leapt from a rooftop rather than expending the hot air necessary to cast himself in the role of public neo-Malthusian. (emphasis NK’s)

    nk (db0112)

  35. Sorry, guys. For funny Jeff Goldstein has us all beat:

    “curing the biosphere of the human virus will require a radical and invasive approach”
    —at least, so argues “conservationist” Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who, let me add, might better have illustrated his point had he leapt from a rooftop rather than expending the hot air necessary to cast himself in the role of public neo-Malthusian.

    nk (db0112)

  36. You forgot to link to the “By the way, I was just kidding” post.

    See Dubya (a3d6ae)

  37. Only trouble is, I’ve seen 99th-percentilers in action.

    Yeah, me too. I joined Mensa once but quit after reading 2 issues of their rag… nothing but “…we’re so smart it’s our god-given right and duty to tell the rest of the world how they should live…”

    Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like the Leftist/Socialist/Democrat refrain. heh! “…only the nanny gov’t can save us from ourselves…”

    dubya (c16726)

  38. Count me in with Kevin Murphy, the question is not the survical of the planet, it is the planet’s ability to remain a viable vehicle for human survival. To date there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that mankind’s existence, much less its continued growth, is in any way threatened.

    Being conservative by nature I’d like to see our state of existence remain somewhat unchanged, or at least that the rate and extent of change be slow and not too radical. Just as I have a decent semblance of understanding of what life was like for my great grandfather, I’d like my great grandchildren to share a similar understanding of our lives.

    Instapundit’s stated desire for longevity approaching immortality and other bits of futurama often seems a bit problematic even for me as they appear to push the limits of what I would consider human.

    Save the Earth is a silly notion anyway and ultimately a deep form of self-loathing. If we annihilated ourselves tomorrow in nuclear conflagration the earth would remain and life, of some sort, would persist and eventually flourish anew. In the absence of mankind who is to say that this would be better or worse? Being a human, and being gone, I’d vote ‘worse.’ Obviously there are others who seem to feel otherwise, I try not to bother with those people they have deep issues.

    On a more personal note, why should I be so concerned with mother nature? She has already made multiple serious attempts on my life, screw her, she’s a killer.

    ThomasD (21cdd1)

  39. #16 –

    Actually, re: comment 1, I have but one word:

    Carousel.

    (Congratulate yourself if you get that — it means you’re as big a nerd as me.)

    Gorgeous women walking around in Spandex and other soft, shiny materials? Way good.

    Dorks with bad haircuts running around in black pajamas yelling “Runner!” and shooting at people? Not way good.

    Sign me up for Sanctuary. Let’s just make sure we get Farrah out of the city safely first.

    JD (044292)

  40. well, could this be nature’s way of thinning the herd by any means necessary?

    Aren’t famine, diseases like AIDS, malaria, and dysentery, drought, and infertility actually nature’s way of thinning the herd?

    Would the space aliens say we should just let diseases of poverty kill people off, because sick impoverished people are a drain on resources?

    MayBee (eb1824)

  41. I’m reminded of a statement in a Biology class in a world far away:
    More species became extinct before man appeared on the Earth, than since he appeared.

    We forget, in our hubristic manner, that our longevity on this Earth, in the span of time since creation, is just a pimple on an elephants’ ass.

    As to Mr. Watson and his like-minded friends:

    You first!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  42. I think it’s pretty clear: the way humans are taking over the planet — crowding out other species and driving them into extinction; polluting the planet; and generally behaving, yes, like a plague on the planet.

    I believe that the scare mongers were saying similar things about population problems when the population was much less than it is today and that sutely there would be mass starvation when as the population exceeded the food production. Funny how that is not happening.

    czekmark (b56683)

  43. I agree with you, Patterico. Courageous post (if you aren’t kidding).

    Biologists estimate that by the end of the century, half of all known species will be extinct.

    Of the 40,168 species that the 10,000 scientists in the World Conservation Union have assessed, 1 in 4 mammals, 1 in 8 birds, 1 in 3 amphibians, 1 in 3 conifers and other gymnosperms are at risk of extinction. The peril faced by other classes of organisms is less thoroughly analyzed, but fully 40 percent of the examined species of planet Earth are in danger, including up to 51 percent of reptiles, 52 percent of insects, and 73 percent of flowering plants.

    By the most conservative measure—based on the last century’s recorded extinctions—the current rate of extinction is 100 times the background rate. But eminent Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson and other scientists estimate that the true rate is more like 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate. The actual annual sum is only an educated guess, because no scientist believes the tally of life ends at the 1.5 million species already discovered; estimates range as high as 100 million species on Earth, with 10 million as the median guess. Bracketed between best- and worst-case scenarios, then, somewhere between 2.7 and 270 species are erased from existence every day. Including today.

    This is a mass extinction. Stuff like this hasn’t happened since the K-T event, and it’s almost exclusively the result of humans.

    We’ve built up a massive population using energy sources that run out eventually. Some estimate that for every calorie we eat in food, ten calories of energy is burned. I just hope the great crash doesn’t come all at once.

    Russell (13a51a)

  44. This is the most dangerously ridiculous post you’ve ever written, Patterico.

    Ever drive around the countryside someplace more fertile than California? Ever see how fast the forests and meadows take back abandoned buildings and land? Animal species adapt and we are largely becoming wiser in our methods of dealing with them, nuts on the fringes who want to kill the baby polar bear notwithstanding.

    You’re at the top of the slippery slope to forced population control. Take two chapters of Mark Steyn and call us in the morning.

    Anwyn (a130c1)

  45. #41 – you don’t really believe that crap, do you?

    Are there species going “extinct”? Absolutely. Are they being replaced by other species? Who knows?

    But the main question that, for some reason eludes those on the left side of the spectrum, is this: “Why are you so confident that you know everything that there is to know?”

    In the 1500’s, it was “a fact widely accepted” that the sun revolved around the earth.

    In the 1700’s, it was “a fact widely accepted” that people indigenous to the continent of Africa were good for little other than to be used as chattel.

    In the 1800’s, it was “a fact widely accepted” that the atom was the finite particle of matter, and could not be further split.

    Etc., Etc., Etc.

    The suggestion, as you made, that this alleged mass extinction is “almost exclusively the result of humans” belies an arrogance in the current level of human knowledge and capability that is nothing short of stupefying, not to mention utterly lacking in factual basis of causation.

    But then again, the typical Mother Jones reader has never been too big on the actual concept of logical train of thought.

    JD (044292)

  46. You don’t have to be a dork to know Logan’s Run… do you?

    This post puts me in a tough place. I agree with some or most of the particulars, but describing fellow humans as a ‘virus’ just seems like far too foul of an act for me to join in… not too mention the long-term ramifications for societies that think too much along these lines. Democide is bad.

    David N. Scott (71e316)

  47. Why “space aliens”? Why not “God”? More evidence for God….

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  48. By the way, combining all of this, Whitley Streiber wrote a novel in the mid-80’s called “Nature’s End”, in which a major plot point was a world-wide vote on whether to accomplish an orderly population reduction via double-blind pills. [Would that be a “plebicide”? But I digress.] It’s actually a fairly good exploration of the issue.

    Since then Streiber has gone on to writing many books about the space aliens among us, as well as several “climate change” novels.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  49. I would use the following strategy to reduce and maintain the population to one-sixth of its present level

    nk–

    I’d be overjoyed if we could keep SUVs under 6000 pounds and maybe see one house in a hundred with solar panels.

    But I agree about the chocolate chip.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  50. Kevin,

    Please see my Comment #22. But when it comes to funny, Jeff Goldstein has us all beat:

    “curing the biosphere of the human virus will require a radical and invasive approach”
    —at least, so argues “conservationist” Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who, let me add, might better have illustrated his point had he leapt from a rooftop rather than expending the hot air necessary to cast himself in the role of public neo-Malthusian.

    (Sorry, the spam filter allows no link. Just click Protein Wisdom on Patterico’s side bar and scroll down for the whole post.)

    nk (db0112)

  51. And some wackos were naming this watson jerk asa hero of the planet STUPID CRAZY TREE HUGGING ECO-FREAK MANIACS and i understand that SIERRA CLUB founder JOHN MUIR was a eco-wacko as well

    krazy kagu (e70d3d)

  52. I know Watson’s ex girlfriend from 20+ years ago, she’s one of my clients, and she confirms that Watson truly does, (did), believe that the live of a worm is equivalent in value to the life of a human being.

    However, he sure hasn’t offered himself up to be robin food to save any of those precious worms. However, Watson is a mere piker compared to Erik R. Pianka — Google that one! More ranting along this line at ‘Okie’.

    okie (380225)

  53. That’s Eric R. Pianka.

    Doah!!!

    okie (380225)

  54. okie–

    So, does Watson believe in evolution?

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  55. It is a loss to see that many of the colorful rain forest frogs and amphibians that were plentiful as recently as 30 years ago are now either extinct or nearly so. On the other hand, 30 years ago you’d never see turkeys, perigrine falcons, or red-tailed hawks unless you drove 50+ miles out of the city: now the suckers are roosting in my back yard and killing the flying rats (pigeons) on the church down the street! (good riddance on the pigeons, although they’re good for air-rifle practice)

    dubya (753723)

  56. Can you see now why the question ‘Does God Exist?’ is so important?

    Suggestion for Christians: Buy & read “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity” by Nancy Pearcey. Equip yourself so that in the future, perhaps, it won’t be so easy to joyfully throw around the notion of genocide.

    JDS (82f5bd)

  57. In between jobs I once did some substitute teaching. I used to amaze students with the antecdote that EVERY man, woman and child on the planet would fit in Texas, and each would have over 1200 sq. ft to call their own. That’s at the current 6 billion population. Those who think mankind is the bane of the earth seem to give our kind way too much merit, much like a teenager’s identity with their own special group.

    Chris (888438)

  58. So, does Watson believe in evolution?

    I don’t know – but how much would you bet on that?

    Way up top in this set of comments was the wisdom of a true reality — it’s not the Earth that’s important, it’s humanity that must survive. Since our planet’s history is littered with mass extinction after mass extinction, it’s unrealistic to believe that it won’t happen again. The Earth doesn’t care.

    Humanity has to do whatever it must to get off this rock and have its great diaspora to the heavens or it will surely die off, maybe much sooner than later. If one throws religion into the mix other timetables come into play. But, G-d might just have a terribly ironic sense of humor.

    One of my main disappointments in life has been the sluggish pace of man going into space. As this teenage Okie lay beneath an under-construction freeway overpass drinking some lousy 3.2 beer way back in summer ’69, I looked up at the moon – Armstrong was up there, right then, on the moon. All of my sci-fi fantasies were coming true. The vision of 2001 A Space Odyssey looked like it might just happen in my lifetime. But, that was not to be.

    Mankind has decided to spend its precious capital in other ways. For much of human society, it’s far more important to kill off those that don’t believe the things you believe and great sums of human endeavor and wealth have been expended to accomplish, or prohibit such actions.

    Our conflict with radical Islam is going to waste decades of this precious capital, not to mention untold numbers of lives. If we can find the desire within ourselves and will make the sacrifices to win this one, I sure hope that we then make the efforts required to launch our species into a bigger game.

    Cutting our numbers back to 1/5 of what we have now won’t get that done. Re-wilding humans would only let those that remain live their “little house on the prairie” lives waiting for the next asteroid to hit!

    Good for worms – bad for man.

    okie (380225)

  59. Are there species going “extinct”? Absolutely. Are they being replaced by other species? Who knows?

    No, they aren’t.

    Current extinction rates are at least 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural rates found in the fossil record, the report stated.

    You said:

    The suggestion, as you made, that this alleged mass extinction is “almost exclusively the result of humans” belies an arrogance in the current level of human knowledge and capability that is nothing short of stupefying, not to mention utterly lacking in factual basis of causation.

    According to a survey done in 1998 by the American Museum of Natural History of “…400 experts in the biological sciences who are members of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. The scientists surveyed included researchers in biochemistry, botany, conservation biology, entomology, genetics, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, physiology, and other fields,” 70% of biologists believe that we are currently undergoing a mass extinction that “…unlike prior extinctions, this so-called “sixth extinction” is mainly the result of human activity and not natural phenomena.”

    The latest World Conservation Report stated:

    Of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria, 16,119 are now listed as threatened with extinction. This includes one in three amphibians and a quarter of the world’s coniferous trees, on top of the one in eight birds and one in four mammals known to be in jeopardy.

    Actually, the causal basis that I am utterly lacking in is not that hard to understand. Among the causes cited for extinction: melting ice caps, “unregulated hunting followed by habitat degradation,” overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, logging, and more. All of these are the direct result of human activity.

    Russell (13a51a)

  60. Russell–

    If there is a mass extinction happening, and if it is the result of humans, I must still ask: “So what?”

    Past extinctions resulted in wild bursts of evolutionary activity. Why would this be any different?

    It’s not like tons of genetic information is being lost, as nearly every gene that ever evolved is carried in many many species. Mankind differs from chimpanzees by only a smidgen, for example. Complex structures, like eyes, go back epochs and are common to everything since fish.

    Yes, some exact arrangements are being lost, but aren’t these generally the weaker ones anyway? The ones that nature kills on its own? Is not an insistence on preserving all species at least as unnatural as extinction by casual human expansion?

    Should we have an extinction board that decides?

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  61. Actually, the causal basis that I am utterly lacking in is not that hard to understand. Among the causes cited for extinction: melting ice caps, “unregulated hunting followed by habitat degradation,” overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, logging, and more. All of these are the direct result of human activity.

    If that is the case, Russell, then this “sixth extinction” that you bemoan is, by definition, a “natural” event, since it is, as you allege, the result of human activity.

    All species conform their environment as they see fit. Other species living in the same area which are unable to conform to the changes either leave the area, evolve (in order to fit better the local environment), or are made extinct due to their inability to evolve to the environment surrounding them.

    It’s that little Darwin thing that y’all harp on so much – it is truly a sharp instrument that occasionally cuts in multiple directions.

    JD (044292)

  62. I fundamentally disagree with the idea.

    Humans are not only consumers like other animals, but we have the ability to reason, problem solve, and make things better, like managing a river and its flood plain; making an area prone to recurrent disaster into a region of agricultural and residential plenty. It’s not that we have too many humans using up resources, it’s that we have too many humans who are either short-sighted, unwise, or wicked, or some combination thereof.

    Back in the last millenium there was not enough food in India, so people starved. Now India is able to supply its own food needs, in spite of a larger population. Great tragedies of starvation like the Irish potato famine and the Ukraine under the Soviets had much more to do with evil indifference of people than the inability of the environment to provide. Even today, humanitarian crises are typically the result of war compounded by profiteering and diversion of relief supplies.

    According to this site:
    http://geography.about.com/od/obtainpopulationdata/a/worldpopulation.htm
    the earth’s population was 1 billion in 1804, and 2 billion in 1927. What would earth be like if 1/2 of the population in 1927 didn’t exist? Who wasn’t around to contribute? Pasteur? Fleming? Lincoln? Grant? Lee? Hitler? Churchill? FDR?-he was a cripple after an illness, no room for those. Edison? Marconi? Einstein?

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  63. (Trying again to post something that is not showing up, please forgive if comes up twice)

    I fundamentally disagree with the idea.

    Humans are not only consumers like other animals, but we have the ability to reason, problem solve, and make things better, like managing a river and its flood plain; making an area prone to recurrent disaster into a region of agricultural and residential plenty. It’s not that we have too many humans using up resources, it’s that we have too many humans who are either short-sighted, unwise, or wicked, or some combination thereof.

    Back in the last millenium there was not enough food in India, so people starved. Now India is able to supply its own food needs, in spite of a larger population. Great tragedies of starvation like the Irish potato famine and the Ukraine under the Soviets had much more to do with evil indifference of people than the inability of the environment to provide. Even today, humanitarian crises are typically the result of war compounded by profiteering and diversion of relief supplies.

    A web source listed the earth’s population was 1 billion in 1804, and 2 billion in 1927. What would earth be like if 1/2 of the population in 1927 didn’t exist? Who wasn’t around to contribute? Pasteur? Fleming? Lincoln? Grant? Lee? Hitler? Churchill? FDR?-he was a cripple after an illness, no room for those. Edison? Marconi? Einstein?

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  64. great post! it’s a litmus for determining which of your commenters are idiots, and oh, they’re lining up.
    i don’t think we’re gonna need a forcible population control plan. when she has finally had enough, gaia will strike back at us.

    assistant devil's advocate (e4d694)

  65. If that is the case, Russell, then this “sixth extinction” that you bemoan is, by definition, a “natural” event, since it is, as you allege, the result of human activity.

    I’m not really sure what to say about that. You’ve turned the definition of natural completely on its head. In this case, natural means “existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial): a natural bridge.”

    Artifical means “made by human skill; produced by humans.” So you can see what you said is the exact opposite of what’s true.

    Past extinctions resulted in wild bursts of evolutionary activity. Why would this be any different?

    True, mass extinctions tend to open up all kinds of habitat for new speciation. Trouble is, it takes tens of millions of years for the gaps to be filled.

    It’s not like tons of genetic information is being lost, as nearly every gene that ever evolved is carried in many many species. Mankind differs from chimpanzees by only a smidgen, for example. Complex structures, like eyes, go back epochs and are common to everything since fish.

    Yes, some exact arrangements are being lost, but aren’t these generally the weaker ones anyway? The ones that nature kills on its own? Is not an insistence on preserving all species at least as unnatural as extinction by casual human expansion?

    It’s not that genetic information is being lost. The idea isn’t to keep biodiversity solely for the sake of retaining information. Yes, we only differ from chimpanzees by a small percentage of DNA, but look at what that 2% has resulted in!

    The trouble with extinction is that we don’t know what we’re losing. All kinds of medicines and products have been made from natural products–many potential sources of valuable materials are being destroyed permanently before we have had a chance to catalog their biochemistry. The potential loss for humanity would be huge.

    Russell (a32796)

  66. A curious question of logic is presented, Russell (and I’m not for or against your arguments, just making an observation).

    On one hand there is the claim that humans are just another animal species, nothing special about them, no more worthy of preserving than advance primates and dolphins (and perhaps no more than earthworms, depending on who you talk to). Like other animals, their behavior is explained in deterministic fashion from “nature and nurture” interacting. There is no inherent issue of “morality” in human behavior, at most a distinction between behaviors which are “useful” or “destructive” (although this too could easily be protested).

    Yet, on the other hand, there is an assumption, actually I think held by all*, that it is “wrong” for people to behave in a way that damages other creatures and the environment around us. We don’t say that wolves are “bad” or even “stupid” if their population grows to the point of diminishing the food supply and causing future suffering of the wolves descendants as well as deer ticks when there are no more deer for either to feed on.

    In this light it is curious that the definitions of “natural” and “artificial” are based on the consequences of the behavior of one organism alone. When the deer population increases, leading to increased deer ticks, leading to more people infected with Lyme Disease, is that “Natural” or “Artificial”? If “Artificial” is it because human activity drove out (other) large predators, or that humans artificially limited the behavior of the remaining large predator (hunters), thereby allowing deer overpopulation.

    *I think we all agree that destroying the environment is a bad thing fundamentally. The difference of opinion is more in the details of what constitutes “destroying the environment”. Is the ecosystem of Earth quite resilient, or easily altered permanently by human effort.

    (If unfamiliar, “The Abolition of Man” by C. S. Lewis discusses a problem in this same general area.)

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  67. Actually, the evolutionary question is more profound. How rare is life, and how rare are aware, tool-making, information-gathering, synthesizing species like Man?

    The first question is currently unanswerable, as we don’t have enough data points, but the second one has at least this bound: in the billion or so years that meaningful life has existed on Earth, intelligent life has been around for almost none of it. Roughly 0.01%. So by the data that we do have, intelligent species are 10,000 times rarer than your average species.

    So even on a “biodiversity” basis, intelligent is very rare and possibly unique to humans.

    Of course that extrapolation based on insufficient and very coupled data points. But it’s fairly clear that by whatever measure you choose, human life is MUCH more important than any other, and the continuance of that life also is much more important.

    And besides, what use is a universe with no observers?

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  68. That’s really funny Patterico… lots of your readers took you seriously…

    bob roof (8c0efd)

  69. And besides, what use is a universe with no observers?

    They’re already here, remember? Reference comment #8, above:

    This illustrates an iron law of blog rhetoric, to be filed next to Godwin’s Law: Space aliens always agree with the author, who always imagines that having space aliens agree with him somehow strengthens his argument.

    Russell – Would you then consider a beaver dam to be “natural” or “artificial”? And what of the (presumably) endangered insect that lives in the sands next to the stream that is dammed up by the beaver and is thus condemned to a wet, soggy extinction? Has this above incident (which I know you will call ‘strawman argument’) happened before, EVER?

    Prairie dog towns, dangerous to livestock. Termite mounds, deleterious to local weeds and ground growth. Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, utterly toxic to good grace and manners. Hillary Clinton, turns opponents into pillars of salt with her merest gaze. The list goes on and on.

    Should any deleterious change made to the environment to be judged either “natural” or “artificial” merely based upon the intent of the entity who performs the change?

    So like Kevin Murphy said above, are we in need of an “extinction board”? And if so, who decides?

    JD (044292)

  70. Pual Watson must be dispointed when not enough people die in all those disasters and that despite his radicalism he was named HERO OF THE PLANET by TIME which proves that TIME is a liberal left-wing rag

    krazy kagu (b3aac5)

  71. What are you talking about? I don’t think anybody wants people to all get killed but to act responsibly and compassionately to the other species around us. We do NOT have a right to take over the world and destroy everything else. We are part of a very complex system that was created and we are screwing it up to the point that in the end we will destroy ourselves. People who do say we need to die do so out of frustration at the ignorance and arrogance of people who don’t give a damn about anything but themselves. We are a link in a chain – nothing more. We are killing the entire chain. Don’t any of you see the beauty that is around us – the animals, the trees? Does it mean nothing? We, the supposed superior beings, are supposed to be the guardians of this world and instead we are the means to its destruction.

    I can't believe you people (3c901a)

  72. Wow, Patterico, I just read your post. All I can saw is — wow. I can’t say what I’m thinking, because you’ll ban me because your name isn’t Chuck Adkins, where apparently I can say anything I want.

    But… wow.

    Christoph (92b8f7)

  73. Like XRLQ posted at about the same time, Watson would better make his point if he jumped off a tall building.

    nk (c87736)


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