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Re: Asteroid vs. Dinosaurs [and all other life]]

>Preserve Extinction.  One of the concepts that I find difficult to swallow is
>that we should interpt the natural extinction process because the species
>that is causing extinction is h. sapiens. Would we feel the same if it were
>some other species; usula horbilus etc.? Why would we want to create a static
>environment with no extinction?
>Doesn't extinction play a major role in evolution and speciation?
>Preserve Extinction

An interesting perspective, John, but the current wave of extinctions are
not part of the natural extinction process and, to present them as such, is
to excuse them and their cause. I would see this as a misapplication of the
palaeontological perspective on both extinction and the environment.

As Bob has said (three times now?!) the timescale for extinction as an
evolutionary process far exceeds the human timescale. We may be able to
take some intelectual solace in the knowledge that, in the whole history of
life, we are the first conscious species and the first to be aware of its
own impending extinction, but that doesn't really help us much.

In a follow up post, John continues the theme that to interfere with the
natural process of extinction would be unnatural. Agreed, but we are not
talking about natural processes of extinction anymore. We are talking about
the effects of a plague species that is resource hungry, whose populations
have been artificially inflated due to "intelegent" use of its environments
and the effects of this over-populated, over-exploitive species will
potentially wipe-out itsself and many other species with it. As soon as
humans began to depart from the evolutionary checks and balances of the
environment by manipulating the environment in responce to environmental
challanges, we ceased to act "naturally" and the effects of our subsequent
actions must be "unnatural". More over, "natural extinctions" are events
that we have no control over. "Unnatural extinctions" (the ones we are
inflicting on species today) would not occur were it not for our activities
and could be prevented by appropriate action.

To try to bring this string back to the subject area of the group; We, as
palaeontologists, have a unique and vital understanding of extinction.
Should we be bringing this to bear on the current environmental debates? If
so, how? If not, why?

Cheers, Paul


Five points to all readers who realised that there is no such thing as a
phacoptid trilobite. Lose the five marks if you didn't make the logical
connection and tried to see the image anyway.