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Re: the future is wild, review

----- Original Message -----
From: "Daniel Bensen" <dbensen@bowdoin.edu>
To: "Robert G. Tuck Jr." <tuckr@digital.net>
Cc: <ratites637@hotmail.com>; <dinosaur@usc.edu>
Sent: Friday, January 03, 2003 11:52 AM
Subject: Re: the future is wild, review

> >>My major problem with the program was its pretense of being based on
> "scientific" extrapolations of the "laws of evolution." The honest
> approach
> would have been to bill it plainly as "fantasy," meant for entertainment
> purposes only.
> <<
> Right.  The TV show tried to straddle the line between fantasy and
> speculation and failed miserably.

I haven't seen the show, but I took the promos to mean that it was entirely
fantasy with some little scientific extrapolation. After all, 200 million
years ago, had there been somebody to predict it, there was no way of
knowing the dinos would become extinct. There was no predictive model to
follow that would tell anyone that a tiny shrew-like creature would
eventually evolve into hominids that would evolve into homo sapiens sapiens
who would eventually rule the world. How unlikely was that, anyway?

The reason that show doesn't work is that MOST of the species that now live
on this planet are selected to survive by MAN -- not by nature. There isn't
a place on earth where humankind hasn't stuck its fingers into the gene pool
and interfered with natural evolution one way or another. It's always active
interference, never passive. We burn down a rain forest and we do
potentially select which species are going to survive and evolve and how
they are going to evolve. We poison the oceans or drag net them dry, and
whatever is left alive is going to evolve differently than it might have
without us mucking with the gene pool. And, of course, there are all those
species we selectively breed to be useful to us -- cattle, goats, cats,
dogs, whatever. Would those twisted genes ever return to their normal
patterns without us? Dairy cows aren't capable of surviving in the wild. If
they ever got out of their cramped stalls, they'd die for lack of ability to
breed if nothing else.

So, evolution far in the future can't be predicted. Those things we have
selected for meat or milk or as companion animals probably couldn't survive
in the wild, and wild animals, also selected for in other ways, might not be
able to evolve fast enough to keep up with returning or changing habitats.
This might be a very empty world 200 million years from now.