[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]
Extinction Distinctions revisited
Perhaps I should have continued my thoughts about the past as a place the
other day. This is some stuff that I've just started rethinking and
challenging. [Dinosaur seems to be a great forum to toss out ideas and
take some lumps.] Let me fill in the context in which my previous
thoughts about prehistoric overkill fit.
Steve Gould has written extensively on the history of science with an
emphasis on placing science within its social context. In one essay he
wrote "Scientific discovery is not a one-way transfer of information from
unambiguous nature to minds that are always open. It is a reciprocal
interaction between a multifarious and confusing nature and minds
sufficiently receptive (as many are not) to extract a weak but sensible
pattern from the prevailing noise." Scientific minds opporate within a
culture and reflect that culture in a recursive manner. The culture of a
scientist can be inferred, in part, from the "sensible pattern" that he
or she perceives from the data. It is from this foundation that I try to
examine theories and conclusions.
I suppose that I lofted my overkill critique too hastily and it came out
backwards. Let me put it this way: the prehistoric overkill hypothesis is
based more on correlation-as-causation and an outdated man-the-hunter
paradigm than on the data available or the more current paradigm. (I would
say that the current evolving paradigm is a rejection of determinist or
reductionist explanations with an eye to combining detailed and well
controlled small scale studies into an environmental overview.) The stuff
about the past being a place where it is "natural" for humans to cause
the extinction of other organisms serves as evidence for the cultural
biases being injected into the theory. It's standing the evidence for
such biases on its head but it didn't come out very clearly.
The whole man-the-hunter (m-t-h) picture of human prehistory has been pretty
well shot down. Hunting was very important, but m-t-h attempted to
explain the evolution of the line Homo and all resultant culture. It was
clearly a much more "multifarious" process.
I just resist determinism in
most of its forms. That includes the bolide discussions. No doubt they
happened and no doubt they were devestating to ecosystems. I think we'll
learn more about the impacts, and extinctions in general, by looking at
the survivors more than looking at the losers (a approach that does not
affirm nor deny much about prehistoric overkill).
Mickey Rowe brought up a point that I don't understand: "the fact that
something happened before should have no bearing on the ethics of it
happening again." I know that I muddied the argument earlier with using
the justification or "precedent" (thanks Mickey) example, nonetheless
there is clearly great significance _if_ human behavior, decisions, and
actions are involved. Ethics connote good decision making by people.
Precedent is often an initial basis for ethical decisions. If human
mediated extinction exists as a precedent it paves the way for very poor
decisions in our immediate future. The ethical implications of the
overkill hypothesis have no bearing on its veracity, but serve as an
example of its origins.
great to tap into the flood of information and opinions. I'm kind of new
to the paleo world and I'm exposed to only a limited set of opinions at
Lets get out of this Quarternary and human stuff and get back to dinos! :-)
I just went out and got a Toronto Raptors t-shirt. Pretty cool.
P.S. I don't want to bog everyone down with my pet pieve but I'd welcome any
comments directly to me at the above address. I'll be unsubscribing for
the summer in about a week so that'll be the only to get a hold of me.