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Biodiversity vs. Human Evolution: Insurmountable Constraints

In Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectual's Abuse of Science, postmodernists are taken to task for distorting physics and math through poetic license that says nothing and means nothing. Edward O. Wilson likewise has criticized postmodernists for their attacks on science and Western knowledge, and now we have the evolutionists stooping to the same distortions of logic and clear thinking in pursuit of personal agendas to create a new religion of nature. In the book The Biophilia Hypothesis (henceforth BioHyp) we can clearly delineate between the evolutionary observations of our past and what it should mean to us today. This book merges evolutionary knowledge of our environment for survival, with an ethic of deep ecology that is as befuddling and lacking in coherence as anything I have previously seen written by those who claim to be on the side of neo-Darwinist empiricism. But we should all recognize that it is easy, even for true empiricists, to slip into quasi-religious cults even while appearing to embrace the principles of science. Since this book does not have any coherence, aside from making some rather bland connection between how humans interact with nature which I accept but fail to see as profound, I will take a few of the most egregiously inept statements in the book to pull the rug out from under their proposed paradigm.

This book tries to equate affiliation with nature with the essence of a good life that has meaning. Granted, many aspects of human nature go into the make-up of our beings, including: the need to create, observe nature, have sex, accumulate and show off our amassed wealth, dominance over others, athleticism, gathering and enjoying food, AND competition with other human groups including warfare and genocide. Yes, along with a love of nature humans also have a blood lust that these authors all know exists but fail to address in this book. Another quasi-religious group of scientists could easily conjure up a new natural paradigm based on warfare (perhaps like the Spartans) and be equally content with a new culture based on love of animals but hatred of other humans (perhaps the genophilia hypothesis?).

"The biophilia hypothesis necessarily involves a number of challenging, indeed daunting, assertions. Among these is the suggestion that the human inclination to affiliate with life and lifelike process is: 1) Inherent (that is, biologically based); 2) Part of our species' evolutionary heritage; 3) Associated with human competitive advantage and genetic fitness; 4) Likely to increase the possibility for achieving individual meaning and personal fulfillment; and 5) The self-interested basis for a human ethic of care and conservation of nature, most especially the diversity of life." [20]

Assertions 1,2 and 3 I have no problem with, they are simple evolutionary statements. However I take strong issue with 4 and 5. Lets rephrase 4: "[T]he inclination to affiliate with life . . . is [l]ikely to increase the possibility for achieving individual meaning and personal fulfillment." Let us merely rephrase it to read, "The inclination for humans to commit genocide is likely to increase the possibility for achieving individual meaning and personal fulfillment." I contend that genocide and group cohesiveness are in fact far more powerful emotions than our need of love for nature. And yet we have been able to subdue this emotion quite nicely by introducing incentives in cultures to forego blood-letting for other more valuable past times. Likewise, BioHyp may improve our urban environment by paying more attention to planting trees and providing for some bird sanctuaries, but I would contend that the average urban dweller is far more impacted by daily road rage than they are sensitive to the number of animals and fauna they observe on their journey to work. That is, hostility to other humans who may have offended me carry a much greater burden on my temperament than seeing a squirrel climb up the tree as I walk to my garage.

Assertion 5 above, in order to be true, must show that an extreme caring and conservation for nature, one that must reduce the average material wealth of humans while also reducing the number of humans, is of real benefit to humans: that is, it is a good in itself, to all humans! Does this hold for those who will not be born? For those who will die on the way to the emergency room because we have reverted back to bicycles or horse and buggies? Don't get me wrong. I am not an egalitarian that thinks "banning guns to save just one child is reason enough to give up our constitutional rights." Its just that no group or philosophy can make the above statement to simplistically and universally alter our national or humans agenda. They are calling for a ecological Jihad that is not warranted. Our culture cannot be cut from whole cloth based on such simplistic assertions. They are made up of a myriad of compromises and constraints that do not fall easily into any one fundamental of human nature as espoused in BioHyp.

"Our sense of urgency is prompted by the conviction that the modern onslaught upon the natural world is driven in part by a degree of alienation from nature. Our modern environmental crisis -- the widespread toxification of various food chains, the multifaceted degradation of the atmosphere, the far-ranging depletion of diverse natural resources, and, above all, the massive loss of biological diversity and the scale of global species extinctions is viewed as symptomatic of a fundamental rupture of human emotional and spiritual relationship with the natural world."[25]

I see, instead of a desire to have a million dollar home on the edge of a golf course because I want to impress my friends, attract an admiring mate, and enjoy the fruits of my labor -- instead I just contributed to urban sprawl because I'm nature alienated. This double speak is right out of the modern journalistic practice of making simplistic correlations without any critical thought. Many people have happy, fruitful lives with very little contact with nature while others tend to need and embrace the great-out-of-doors. But neither preference embraces a value system that is superior to the other.

If a group of humans prefer scholarship or computer programming in the basement of an urban duplex, rather than trekking through the woods on the weekends looking at chirping birds, so what? All human pursuits have a basis in biology, or they would not be sought after! People are just different. My wife loves to go to Giants baseball games -- they bore me to death. We have different needs. My life is enriched by not going -- hers by going. Am I to argue that her needs and desires are due to some fundamental rupture of human and spiritual relationship with [you fill in the blank]?

The greatest angst for these deep ecologists is the loss of species due to human dominance of the planet's resources. Like every group with a cause, they see their own as highly salient to all humans and they aim to prove it.

"There is no question in my mind that the most harmful part of ongoing environmental despoliation is the loss of biodiversity. The reason is that the variety of organisms, from alleles (differing gene forms) to species, once lost, cannot be regained. If diversity is sustained in wild ecosystems, the biosphere can be recovered and used by future generations to any degree desired and with benefits literally beyond measure. To the extent it is diminished, humanity will be poorer for all generations to come."[35]

Of course this is a contradiction. They are arguing that humans must NOT be allowed to impact other species because a loss of species will cause humans to be poorer. But at what price? In order for humans not to suffer this fate, we must give up all progress, expansion, incursions, and most importantly we must stop creating and building. But that is what humans do! We work, we build, we create, we tear down and we build again. If we feel threatened by our neighbors we will bomb them into submission (Kosovo as I write) and after the war is won, we will rebuild the country destroyed. We are builders, we progress, we expand. That is our human essence more than anything else, so how will we be able to achieve a richer life by giving up what we do best?

But an even more sever duplicity in the logic of these deep ecologists is the argument that a loss of species is in some way harmful. And I challenge that view. With the power of modern genetic engineering, and given that all species are made up of the same genetic code arranged in different manners like the alphabet makes up languages, there is no inherent value in the number of arrangements. Would the world be a better place if every person spoke a different language in a way that every being has a different genome? It is an irrelevant argument. Life's value for the individual is not tied to biodiversity because humans at this juncture are not even able to comprehend the varying species anymore than we can comprehend the universe subjectively in such a manner. It just is. For example, would our lives be any less enriched if there were 90% fewer solar systems than there are now? If our solar system were exactly the same under such a scenario, still destined to burn out in 5 billion years anyway, how could one prove that our lives would be any more diminished? Is there a perfect number of stars that must be seen in the skies to make young lovers stare in awe at the wonder? This is our only world, and what we do with it is not tied to what ought to be, no matter what was once.

If we are the recipients of the complex algorithms of simpler genomic combinations from precursors to our present world, then do we not merely carry within us the biodiversity that we are speaking of? Why is it necessary to maintain or keep every extant permutation? Why not now concentrate, using our creativity, on developing new varieties of genetic diversity in our own image? New crops, new medicines, and new and more robust human forms that are more intelligent and dynamic than our present forms.

What the biodiversity advocates must show, in order not to make a break in their argument for universal and total species protection, is that we should not destroy ANY genetic variety including the Ebola virus, aids, poison ivy, killer bees, Dutch elm disease, rodents, polio, or any other genomic combination for fear of some loss to the world. It just does not compute. Humans have always attempted to eliminate other life forms that they perceive to be threats, or that they have hunted or displaced to extinction, and there is no reason for modern man not to be just as concerned with these destructive expendable organisms. It reminds me of the Alien trilogy where the cyborg wanted to keep the deadly creature alive while the humans knew it would destroy all human life if it returned to earth. But the cyborg had instructions to find all new life forms in space, no matter what the consequences. Is that what drives these scientists?

I on the other hand want a world that is futuristic, one that uses genetic engineering to tame nature to our creative desires, while improving the environment for humans first while taking a broad approach to alternatives. That is, eugenics in pursuit of breeding a human that approaches our concept of god, the ultimate creative challenge we can undertake. This to me is what being human is. Am I going to try and prove to anyone that this is the only way to human fulfillment? Of course not. It is what I want but I know others have a different agenda. What is dangerous is that these deep ecologists would shackle all humanity to their world vision of how humans should treat other species. And just as the Copernicans were persecuted by the religious dogma of their times, futurists are being restrained by these new autocrats who want to enforce their value system on others.

"The answer most frequently urged right now by conservationists, I among them, is that the vast material wealth offered by biodiversity is at risk. Wild species are an untapped source of new pharmaceuticals, crops, fibers, pulp, petroleum substitutes, and agents for the restoration of soil and water. This argument is demonstrably true -- and it certainly tends to stop anticonservation libertarians in their tracks -- but it contains a dangerous practical flaw when relied upon exclusively. If species are to be judged by their potential material value, they can be priced, traded off against other sources of wealth, and -- when the price is right -- discarded. Yet who can judge the ultimate value of any particular species to humanity? Whether the species offers immediate advantage or not, no means exist to measure what benefits it will offer during future centuries of study, what scientific knowledge, or what service to the human spirit."[37]

The above statement is interesting because the BioHyp perspective acknowledges that species may be of benefit to humans in some way, but that need is quickly diminishing and will not provide an adequate reason for preserving a species. For example, if the snail darter got in the way of building a dam today, we could merely record the genetic code for use in the future or keep it in an aquatic zoo. After all, it is merely the genetic code that they seem to want to preserve, and the need for investigation of a species genomic structures for the creation of developing new pharmaceuticals, crops, fibers, etc. is coming to an end. Within a few years, with the genetic revolution and the Human Genome Project it is becoming much more cost effective to model molecular structures and create artificial structures by computer rather hunting for natural forms in the deepest jungles.

The second part of the above statement "Yet who can judge the ultimate value of any particular species to humanity" is just down right ridiculous. Every human being makes decisions knowing full well that many of those decisions will be wrong, but we live on with fulfilled lives in spite of mistakes. To accept the above statement would require an end to all decision making. It simply hobbles life's choices because of a fear that the action will be negative instead of positive. It is therefore just nonsense. Every political, personal, and national decision carries the same uncertainty. But as rational creatures, there will come times when we make the choice of eliminating the polio virus, in spite of the fact the it could possibly be beneficial someday. This reminds me of thalidomide. It is now recognized that it is an effective cure for leprosy, and is again being used (though with precautions) to prevent the horrible birth defects it caused in its short life as a new wonder drug. But if given the choice, would we not say let it never be discovered? There are other treatments for leprosy and the horror of malformed children will haunt us for many years to come. So yes, we do make many choices. But to say we should never abort an unwanted child, or never allow another species to perish because of some theoretical "ultimate value" is mere religious zealotry. Or the junk man's argument, don't throw that away, it may be useful some day. Most of us recognize there comes a time to make a decision whether to keep an artifact or dispose of it -- or we would all smother in our own debris.

"Human intelligence is bound to the presence of animals. They are the means by which cognition takes its first shape and they are the instruments for imagining abstract ideas and qualities. They are the code images by which language retrieves ideas and traits. Animals are used in the growth and development of the human person, in those most priceless qualities we lump together as mind. Animals are basic to the development of speech and thought. A limited indication of the symbolic function is reflected in the finding that animals constitute more than 90 percent of the characters employed in language acquisition and counting in children's preschool books."[51]

So there we have it. Real animals are not important to human development; pictures of animals work just fine. One of the more absurd positions of BioHyp is that connection with nature is required for our intellectual (spiritual I won't even touch) development. One has to really be blind not to see the contradictions in this premise. I just finished reading The Rising Curve: Long-Term Gains in IQ and Related Measures by the American Psychological Association. And I can assure you, of all the things they consider, lack of contact with nature is NOT a factor in human development and in fact if anything it is negatively correlated. Urban children consistently do better on IQ tests than do rural children on farms. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that the increase in intelligence scores are related to children's exposure to video games, radio, television, and technology in general, including universal education and the transformation from one-room schools to larger schools that group children by age or ability. All of this data indicates that exposure to nature, especially at a young age, is for the most part irrelevant to cognitive development. All of the speculations in BioHyp seem to be utterly oblivious to what would be obvious to the casual observer -- meaning their premise is religious and not rational or scientific.

"The conservation of nature is rationalized, from this perspective, not just in terms of its material and commodity benefits but, far more significantly, for the increased likelihood of fulfilling a variety of emotional, cognitive, and spiritual needs in the human animal. An ethical responsibility for conserving nature stems, therefore, from more than altruistic sympathy or compassionate concern: it is driven by a profound sense of self-interest and biological imperative."[60]

Just to summarize the BioHyp position, the above wants us to believe that there are a multitude of reasons for conserving nature. If my reading serves me correctly, they never define what conserving nature implies. From the above statement is could entail: recording genetic codes of all species living or extinct, having available digitized video recordings of the now extinct wooly mastodons, letting children see a lot of species at the zoo, presenting children with animated real and fictitious life forms that seem to be such a big hit in science fiction like the Star Wars trilogy, etc. It seems that the real thing is really not that important for us and can be fulfilled by other life forms or symbols. In fact, if BioHyp research has any message, it is that humans have an innate ability to relate to other life forms, either real or imagined, equally well. The actual existence of these life forms is not that relevant. We merely surround ourselves with a few interesting or exotic pets like toys.

We are capable, with our powerful imaginations, to create life forms as we wish! Isn't that what we have been doing in breeding numerous bizarre and interesting dog breeds for thousands of years? These breeds did not exist before the mental image of what was desired. That is, it was the human imagination that created these breeds, not nature. Human creativity has the ability to create genetic diversity just as nature has in the past only with forethought. If we have traveled all this way, amassing a brain structure capable of directing nature rather than having nature direct us, why not use it? In fact, we have no choice but to use it because that is our nature! For 10,000 years humans have been breeding new forms of plants and animals without the knowledge of the mechanism itself -- just like nature or in Dawkin's vision, The Blind Watchmaker.

In fact, if one reads this book carefully, it leads to the conclusion that humans care little for biodiversity but do take comfort in surrounding themselves with elements of nature when carefully controlled -- artificially or naturally by selection of places that are comforting. In fact BioHyp admits: "Despite these assertions of an especially refined appreciation for nature in the United States and Japan, our research has revealed only limited concern for the natural world among the general public in both countries. Citizens of the United States and Japan typically expressed strong interest in nature only in relation to a small number of species and landscapes characterized by especially prominent aesthetic, cultural, and historic features. Furthermore, most Americans and Japanese expressed strong inclinations to exploit nature for various practical purposes despite the likelihood of inflicting considerable environmental damage. Most respondents revealed, especially in Japan, indifference toward elements of the natural world lacking any aesthetic or cultural value. Very limited knowledge and understanding of nature was found, particularly in Japan."[63] And again, "Similarly, a study by Chokor and Mene (1992) of landscape preferences in a developing nation -- Nigeria -- found that diverse groups of urban and rural dwellers responded with higher preference to natural scenes than to various urban scenes lacking nature. In the same study, however, a suburban scene largely dominated by natural content (large trees, flowerbeds, verdant plants, landscaping) but containing upper- income residences outscored certain comparatively wild landscapes such as a view of a dense rain forest."[94]

And I think there is ample anecdotal evidence from everyday life that humans need nature as long as it is tamed and to their liking, and that means fundamentally a nice home with a beautiful back yard with trees, birds, a dog or a cat, a babbling brook or fountain, and all the comforts to enjoy it without the dangers and inconvenience of getting too close to environs that are unpleasant. That is, camping is fun as long as it is in the right setting; the individuals ruggedness determines the level of natural hazardousness one will tolerate. Some adventurers will push the envelope to its extremes in surmounting or facing danger. But most humans would rather watch others attempt challenging nature's dangers. I would submit that at this dangerous level, that BioHyp has been displaced by the rush of excitement, novelty seeking, or impulsiveness -- a genetic tendency (see Living With Our Genes). I have to surmise therefore that the BioHyp politically correct propaganda is not about nature at all, except for a few scientists that are obsessed with finding other genetic life forms, but rather it is a means of obstructionism. That is, there is a religious zeal among some people to stop all human progress. They hate change and they fear the future, and any tactic that will stop others from creating and exploring will be used to turn us around and push us backward, into a Rousseau paradise of human simplicity. They are the anti-Nietzscheans. And to put it bluntly, they can no more understand my perspective than I can understand theirs. But there is a fundamental difference between us. I admit that I cannot prove my world will be better than theirs, only that it is the world that I desire. They will by all means necessary force me to adopt their perspective, just like other totalitarians in the past.

"Likewise, it might be conjectured that these employees would tend to be smarter in creative problem solving on a Monday following a weekend trip in a natural environment that produced lingering positive feelings. Do molecular biologists working at the Salk Institute in La Jolla have better ideas if their windows overlook the Pacific, for instance, or if they take a morning walk on the beach before going to the laboratory? There is anecdotal information suggesting that several Nobel Prize-winning ideas may have occurred to researchers during walks or other contacts with nature. Perhaps a parklike or savanna-like college campus yields benefits that go beyond aesthetic preference and in some cases restoration from stress and fatigue to include the advantage of supporting positive emotional states that facilitate creativity. These speculations aside, I am currently involved in a research project directed by L. G. Tassinary that is investigating the basic hypothesis that exposure to unthreatening natural settings, including savanna-like environments, induces positive shifts in emotional states and accordingly increases scores on an associational test of creativity."[114]

But of course the above has absolutely nothing to do with biodiversity and the fundamental proposition of BioHyp. If people work better under certain biotic aesthetic conditions, then those conditions can be provided for by moving masses of people and companies from cities to more country-like settings. But of course these same authors rail against such proposals, but of course do not provide any alternatives. Let's say we try to disperse the urban environment to more rural areas where every office worker or researcher can be close to nature by providing the campus like setting recommended above. If that happens, then the only environments left will be farmland and suburban sprawl, with no urban center left. Is that what they advocate? I think not. But that is what follows from their premises of creativity being linked to natural environments. The problem with biodiversity and the premise of BioHyp is that it is contradictory. None of the findings about how humans prefer certain natural settings and stimulation are contingent on the variety of species available.

"Although savannas have much less biodiversity than rain forests, their biomass productivity can be rather high, and this is related to the high productivity of food that is readily accessible to ground-dwelling humans. By contrast, much of the great biodiversity and biomass of tropical rain forests are concentrated in the forest canopy far above the ground, a location that represented a disadvantage for ground-dwelling early humans."[118]

The above only adds credence to the argument that by merely setting aside the required amount of farmland to feed people, we will provide a rich environment for biodiversity adequate for human needs. There is no basis for insisting that absolute preservation of every species will be appreciated or even recognized by 99.9% of humans. Nature has never cared about the number of species, it has only attempted to exploit every available livable space with life and in so doing has created diverse species. If humans, using their intellect, can take over those areas once occupied by other marginal species then we will flourish at the expense of others, until we trip up and fall prey to our own weak intellectual capacity to plan for the future. But it is in fact our future we should be primarily concerned with, and that is the fundamental rule of evolution. Each species takes advantage of its ecological niche, to multiply as much as possible at the expense of other species if need be. When the niche is gone, the species dies also. No value is attached to survival or extinction, it just is.

"Finally, an important research issue concerns the effectiveness of simulations of natural environments (color photographs, videotapes), compared to real environments, in eliciting restorative and other positive responses. There is evidence that simulations can sometimes be at least partial substitutes for real nature in terms of eliciting short-term aesthetic liking and restoration. Studies are needed to evaluate the extent to which real settings may outperform simulations, for instance, in producing stress recovery during short-term exposure. Might simulations lose much of their effectiveness in long-term exposure contexts? It seems likely that, over a long-term exposure situation, real environments may be much more effective than simulations in sustaining positive responding owing to the ongoing visual changes and multisensory stimulation inherent in real environments (such as vegetation changes associated with seasons)."[122]

All one has to do to see the fallaciousness of such an argument is replace real nature with real sex and simulations with masturbation. It is nonsensical. When we can have real sex over masturbation, usually but not always we choose real sex. But expediency, sexually transmitted diseases, unwilling to commit to a mate, these and many more are legitimate reasons to select masturbation over real sex. Do we need studies to see which is more beneficial! No, of course not because we are not comparing the two in equivalent contexts. Is real nature better than simulated nature? It depends on the context and the other life decisions that need to be made. I am quite happy with the artificial, as are most people who live in an urban or suburban environment. We could get closer to real nature, but the sacrifices would be too extreme for most of us. Life has many choices and compromises, we can not reduce each and every one to this or that because there are too many parameters to even list, much less to choose from.

"A biologically impoverished planet will not only reduce humanity's economic options, it will diminish our emotional lives as well. And it is a loss from which recovery will be virtually impossible."[168]

Of course this is false because we have been on a steady course from close contact with nature when we started leaving the hunter-gatherer phase of our evolutionary history to the present. A journey of 10,000 years and we are doing just fine. And even before our ascent from a nature-dependent species to a nature dominating species we were reckless with the existence of other species. The anthropological record shows an innate disregard for the preservation of other species, many killed by hunters into extinction. And yet humans just kept evolving to higher and higher levels of understanding and expansion. So far we have never failed to progress, and we have managed to do this by following one rule, we will survive and conquer.

"Our specific agenda for the preservation of wilderness, wetlands, and rain forest and the species they contain is to some extent a manifestation of this general desire to preserve and seek instruction from the past. In the case of the rain forest we seek to preserve the intricate record of interdependent biological evolution, a record in large part unstudied and unrecorded and hence vulnerable to loss. When we look for the source of a love for other life-forms in our genetic inheritance we are searching our past for the authority to act on that love. That bias should cause us to question our own assumptions so that we restrain our human tendency to see things as we want them to be."[173]

This statement goes a long way in explaining the real agenda of the BioHyp proposition. It is simply a desire by some scientists to pursue a quasi-religious program of some sort of paganism tied to the evolutionary record that for all practical purposes just is not there. They will never be able to use nature to form a new religion for nature love that will be any more rational than Christianity, Buddhism, or any other religious perspective. For them to jam this new religion down our throats, on some pretense that there is a disaster looming over the horizon if we do not accept their premises, sounds like just more fire and brimstone fear mongering that we have suffered from for too long already. Thanks, but for all the angst, humans are doing just fine. We are living longer and better lives, and the few tragedies we see on TV pale in comparison to the disease, brutality and human suffering that our ancestors had to endure.

"It is sometimes difficult for those who experienced childhood without television to recognize how difficult it is for modern children to see the world. Bill McKibben, in The Age of Missing Information, explicitly contrasts the kinds of information that can be extracted from television versus the experience of a hike on an Adirondack mountain. Children raised on television are exposed to vast amounts of information but fail to learn very much about their immediate environment. Too much is learned from a small two-dimensional representation of global events and too little from direct exploration of their own place in the world."[192]

Notice the double speak hear? We have been told by psychometricians that the reason children are doing much better on intelligence tests is because of the stimulation they are getting from the very two dimensional world they decry(see The Rising Curve). Also, children in urban environments are smarter than kids from farms. Then again you will hear that IQ tests are unfair and biased against aborigines, for example, because they test modern concepts of intelligence while ignoring some of the more primitive talents these low IQ testers show (like sub-Saharan Africans average IQ of 70!). Well, if in fact IQ tests test only what is needed in the modern urban world, then children apparently are being exposed to exactly the type of environment they should be exposed to in order to succeed! They don't need to know how to track a prey or how to find tubers. They need to know about the world they live in, today, in order to succeed. The above premise therefore is in contradiction to both the radical environmentalists' and behavior geneticists' position in the nature/nurture debate.

"In a radio call-in program recently I referred to animal companions as slaves. The telephones buzzed with angry callers who insisted that their dog was a comfortable, privileged family member. Their reaction was like that of certain pre -- Civil War southern plantation owners who could point with defiant compassion to their grateful, singing cottonpickers. The truth is that pets are subject to their owner's will exactly as slaves. Yet the term slaves may not be suitable, since human slaves can be freed by political and social action. The goofies, congenitally damaged, cannot. If freed they die in the street or become feral liabilities. We could simply quit breeding them. Their relationship to us is not symbiotic, either, or mutual or parasitic. None of these biological terms is suitable to describe organic disintegration in a special vassalage among creatures whose heartwarming compliance and truly therapeutic presence mask the sink of their biological deformity and the urgency of our need for other life."[286]

I found the above especially interesting because again, all one has to do is replace animal companion with the other group that is almost kept around like pets--the welfare class. These low IQ people have no place except to be supported by others just like our pets. If they were set free to fend for themselves like our pets they would surely die if it wasn't for the handouts humans dispense to those beggars around the world. But just as surely, they also are the goofies, those people who have been displaced from a viable niche and only survive in our zoos for the wretched--genetically doomed to non-productivity.

"Culturally, biophilia and biodiversity are scientifically sanctioned catchwords calling for us to attend seriously to nature and our responses to nature -- forms of attention already more fully developed in traditions less nomadic and technologically expansive than those of the West. If the love of life and the preservation of biodiversity are to become planet-scale education projects, Western countries should certainly lead the way -- and by example, not by preaching. Ethically speaking, the West, which has led the way in environmental destruction, has the greatest obligation to restore biodiversity."[349]

There are two major problems with this statement, though almost every word could be ridiculed. First, the West has not suffered the most environmental destruction. The Brazilian rain forests are being stripped, African endangered species are in fact protected by Western intervention, and the Marxists in the Warsaw Pact countries wantonly destroyed their ecosystems in trying to win the economic and military cold war with the West. In fact, the Western countries have been leaders in environmental regulations and clean-up efforts. Are these authors blind or are they merely rephrasing the same Marxist propaganda we have been hearing for decades now? I'm afraid it must be the latter.

Second, if lead by example they mean scaling back our high standard of living, I say not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Life -- and these evolutionists should now this -- has no meaning when one group voluntarily subordinates itself for other groups in such a way as to become non-competitive. This is self-declared slavery and runs counter to everything that has driven human culture for thousands of years, and is in denial of group evolutionary strategies, meaning that evolution would have to reverse itself to fulfill this absurd requirement.

"Can we, as humans, destroy the environment we love and yet remain hopeful and festive? Population growth has decimated the earth. An ecologically correct alternative is to rally the peoples of the earth together into an enforced state of stasis, one in which population growth and exploitation of the living environment for human ends are tightly controlled. Certainly what most environmentally minded persons advocate -- conservation -- itself seems to accord with the precepts of the Judeo-Christian tradition, from the rhetoric of salvation to responsible stewardship over nature. But even assuming that the nationalistic economies of the world could be convinced of the dangers of growth (a doubtful proposition), even assuming that the world's governments could be persuaded to confine themselves to their borders and leave other nations alone, can one truly imagine such retrenchment enduring indefinitely? Would not the stage be set for defectors? Life on earth is a complex, fractally individuated, chemical system whose basis is a mostly green layer of photosynthetic matter as bacteria, algae, and plants. This layer makes its own nutrition from air, water, and sun. This layer continues to grow and tempt any life-forms that would "cheat" and make use of it (or each other) rather than build themselves from scratch. What with solar radiation impinging on the surface of the earth, and its storage in the sediments as energetically exploitable matter, it seems inevitable that "unfair players," either cheating bands of humans or new species of organisms, will evolve, willing to transgress the enlightened growth-curbed policies of any hypothetical ecologically correct humans. Conservation on an evolving planet is ultimately a lost cause."[260]

Please! Read this statement several times to get its full impact! They are proposing no less than a world totalitarian state, one premised on enforcing absolute adherence to an egalitarian world power where everyone will be forced to subsist with as little as possible while preventing continued population growth. They are advocating that somehow, someway, a revolution by enlightened BioHyps (read neo-Marxists) will overturn all sovereign nations, suppress all individuality and human creative expression, to bring about this new quasi-religious biodiversity program. That is, humans would yield and submit to the proxy demands by lower species to exist. No account is given about how much we have to sacrifice or how many human lives will have to be dispensed with in order to bring this about. I have to conclude that the proponents of BioHyp are merely the old Bolshevik Marxists in new clothing, the same ones who tried to bring forth a Communist utopia that slaughtered 40 to 60 million people under Stalin and Lenin to change human nature. Are we willing to face this Gulag Holocaust again?

"From this perspective the fifty-fifty male / female split was a misperception; there is no more than a fraction of a percent difference between us; we have 99.444 (!) percent of our genes in common with everybody else, sort them uniquely though we do. Those genes of hers that seemed alien a moment ago are mostly my genes after all -- or, the other way round, my genes are hers. After all, my wife too has hemoglobin in her veins and an opposable thumb on her hands, as do all alien humans around the globe. There are only four blood types as far as transfusion is concerned. Where most genes are involved it is difficult to think of alien genes in any other human. All 5 billion humans have copies of genes mostly like the copies I share with them. The differences between us, if we must compete about these, all turn on a trifling fractional percent and a different turn of the genetic kaleidoscope. It is really only the relatively idiosyncratic genes about which we are quarreling."[393]

But of course it is the idiosyncratic genes -- selected by evolution -- that drives evolution in the first place. We could look at the we-are-different/we-are-all-the-same argument in many different ways. It is actually quite meaningless in the end if we can't agree how much difference is necessary to make one thing unlike the other. The fact is, I feel separate from all other sentient beings and that is what is unique about me and every other higher species with a mind. But again, there is no clear dividing line being sentient or not. And likewise we know that humans are attracted to others like them -- that is ethnocentrism is as innate as biophilia -- and people vary in how important it is to them. It does not matter how many genes it takes for the difference to occur, if we can recognize the difference between people then it is innately important to us and our culture.

On the flip side, if we are all so much alike, and if humans carry much of the genetic code that has come before us via other species, then let it be assumed that we carry within us the evolutionary history that the biodiversity religionists want to preserve. That is, we are the ultimate creation of the process and we carry much of the biodiversity within our genes so we in fact represent other species. Under this perspective, we are just the next level of complexity stacked upon all those that came before and we are therefore the representatives or the earlier species. And in keeping true to the premise that my species comes before others, my nation comes before others, my family comes before others, and I come before others, then we must also advance our interests over others. We will preserve other species when it is to our advantage, and let other species die out as nature intended. We merely overtook them. There is no value in one outcome versus the other.

"But humans can vastly expand the circle of reciprocal altruism, and this is the basis of all cultural cooperation. In all cultures, ancient and classical, people did not help just their blood relations; they helped other members of their tribe. Persons today cooperate at work, in politics, at school, in business, and so on with other persons with whom they have no known kinship except that they are all members of Homo sapiens. In modern nations, with trade by truck, mail, and telephone, they may never even see or know the names of these people. The small circles of reciprocal altruism in the animal world become national and international networks of cooperation. In this kind of behavior, judgments of kinship are irrelevant. This embedding of individual in society involves transmitting neural information superposed on genetic cybernetic systems. It involves language, artifacts, markets, computers, oil tankers, and jet planes."[400]

Of course no evolutionists would make such a statement in a scholarly work (which this book is not). Kinship altruism works at the level of the group, in competition with other human groups, including warfare and genocide. However, since the dawn of farming and the formation of cities and specialization, humans have suppressed their aggression against out-groups as long as it is advantageous to do so. If the balance of power is upset we recoil to our own kin. We see it all around us in ethnic wars, race relations, Zionism, nationalism, etc. We have not changed, the world has changed and made us more independent making genocide and warfare much more costly. But we are still the same violent ape we were 10,000 years ago.

"Although the organism is engaged in a short-range reproduction of its kind, the systemic processes are neither short-range nor do they selfishly maximize only one kind. The evolutionary system is 3.5 billion years old; it has steadily produced new arrivals, replacements, and elaborations of kinds, going from zero to 5 or (or 10) million species, through 5 (or 10) billion turnover species in a kaleidoscopic panorama. Every organism, in the subroutines of this system, actualizes its own values and transmits them to the next generation (with variations)."[405]

Again I ask, just how many species between one and 10 million species did the number of species become relevant? And why? How many humans have to live to make human life relevant? Is there a magic number? What is better, 10 billion humans and 2 million species or 2 million humans and 10 billion species? If any of these authors can answer that simple question then we may be able to make progress on preserving species for other than for the benefit of humans. But I have not come across one good argument for biodiversity as a stand-alone concept that is rigorous enough in its defense to preserve every species -- under every contingency.

"Humans can see these ten thousand interconnections and love this system of life in which they too are entwined. Humans, alone on the planet, can realize that they are kindred with all. Darwin taught us so, a century ago, from an evolutionary perspective; today, microbiologists confirm it. For structural genes, 'the average human protein is more than 99 percent identical in amino acid sequence to its chimpanzee homolog' (King and Wilson 1975:112). Differences between the species lie largely in regulatory genes (Sibley and AhIquist 1984). Edward Wilson recognizes this as well: 'We are literally kin to other organisms.... About 99 percent of our genes are identical to the corresponding set in chimpanzees, so that the remaining 1 percent accounts for all the differences between us.... Furthermore, the greater distances by which we stand apart from the gorilla, the orangutan, and the remaining species of living apes and monkeys (and beyond them other kinds of animals) are only a matter of degree, measured in small steps as a gradually enlarging magnitude of base-pair differences in DNA.' 'At the biochemical level,' he says elsewhere, 'we are today closer relatives of the chimpanzees than the chimpanzees are of gorillas.' Aren't these small steps gradually enlarging the self by degrees until the self is identified with more and more others?"[406]

Again, none of the above translates into a good argument for biodiversity. You may want to spend your life collecting species and I might want to spend mine collecting baseball cards. Neither one has more value than the other. All the arguments about how different or how alike we are become meaningless to evolutionary principles. Evolution is driven by small differences in allele frequencies with occasional mutations. And now that we have genetic engineering we are at the brink of directing our own evolution. So these titanic forces are bound to clash, between those who want stasis or even human dysgenic decline versus those who want to go higher in continuing the evolutionary process. No one can predict which will win, but neither will allow such simplistic arguments as found in BioHyp from dissuading me in my choice of action and purpose. I choose the creative, evolving, eugenic option. That is to nourish, create, and push the evolutionary process of human speciation by allowing subspecies (races or breeds) to compete against each other, including winner take all.

"The opposite of selfishness is altruism, and we have been enlarging selfishness so that it becomes more altruistic, embracing an expanding circle of relationships. Have we not reached the point at which the circle comes to include genuine others -- an altruism with universal intent? If so, the environmental ethicist is the ultimate altruist. We do reach a point where the quantitative expanding of self has reached a qualitative regard of a self for others with whom one is interconnected but whom one loves for what they are in themselves, not just for what they are for us. We cannot get off the Earth, out of the system, but we can get our identity enlarged to the whole. And then we see as what philosophers call ideal observers: those who see overall and not just from their narrow niche."[408]

The above metaphysical nonsense is more appropriate for postmodernist poetry. First off, the opposite of selfishness is not altruism because altruism evolved as a group evolutionary strategy that benefited the individual as part of the group. Altruism was a part of this selfishness if BioHyp is talking about the selfish gene. They evolved together, not separate. When humans give up being selfish they will then die, because the life force is gone. Selfishness, including for one's own, is the passion that makes us arise each morning and struggle to be better and do more. It is not an either/or. I can't separate what I do for myself from moment to moment from what I do for my family or clan or nation. But any pure universal altruism is merely an artifact of compassion when we began to understand death and pain. Very few species have evolved to the level of empathy for the other's condition: elephants, dolphins, humans, etc, are the exceptions. But there is no more value in a species having empathy than another species like the snake not having it. It is not an innate good. In fact, it has been argued that this so-called compassion for others is just another human self-deception, meant to project a goodness to others for our own selfish ends.

"Hardly. Because in the same breath [Wilson] urges, as an interhuman ethics, the three primary principles. First: One ought to protect 'the cardinal value of the survival of the human genes in the form of a common pool over generations.' Second: One ought to 'favor diversity in the gene pool as a cardinal value,' for 'of all the evils of the twentieth century, the loss of genetic diversity ranks as the most serious in the long run.' Wilson fears a tragic loss of 'the variety of human genes out of which endless new combinations can be drawn for the attainment of genius and further genetic evolution.' Third: One ought to regard 'universal human rights.., as a third primary value.' Sociobiology, Wilson concludes, is going to lead us to 'a genetically accurate and hence completely fair code of ethics.'"[411]

Am I to understand that along with universal biodiversity, we must also promote the diversity of human subspecies? If not then there cannot be genocide because then we are all just one big genetic pot of mush.  So it appears that the above is advocating a nationalist and racially pure separation of unique genetic frequencies. National Socialism wanted to advance Aryans and keep that genetic frequency of alleles pure from contamination. Orthodox Judaism is also obsessed with racial purity. If racial diversity is important, then the preservation of racial types must also be important. It is nonsense to discuss biodiversity on the one hand as a good thing in itself, and then to argue on the other hand that humans should all interbreed and eliminate unique human diverse types. It can't be both ways. If we recognize that races and ethnic groups are different because of frequency differences in a small number of genes, then we must submit to the notion that to stay a unique genotype they must not mix up their genes. If all humans interbreed, there will be no genotypes, races, ethnic groups or nations--we will all be the same and diversity will be lost. And unlike the rainbow, we can't use a prism to get the colors back again after we all become one color. Racial diversity will be gone forever in one bland common human type. Diversity in the gene pool must mean, diversity of allele frequencies among distinct groups.

So this raises the question, when the new biodiversity totalitarian state takes over and controls all human commerce, allowable lifestyles, and new human births, what ethnic group will be allowed to have children and which ones will have to stop breeding? We have already seen that the new egalitarians blame the West for all of the current problems, and dictate that the West should lead by example. Does that mean we should stop having children as an example to the rest of the world? Should we give up modern farming practices and go back to subsistence farming? Should the white race unilaterally submit to become extinct so that this new BioHyp ethics can take hold? Will a billion Chinese be expected, since they have the most people, to unilaterally take the lead and have no more children?

Alan E. Lewis says, "The mind boggles at the thought of these questions being left up to a small plutocratic elite and their bureaucratic operatives, with answers that lead us inexorably into their utopian fantasyland -- which, in spite of their 'best' intentions, stands a better chance of developing into a dystopian nightmare."  I would add that we have seen exactly that in the last century when Marxists tried to order the world in a way that was at odds with human nature, leading to over 100 million deaths under Communist regimes.  Likewise, BioHyp is a similar attempt at an egalitarian, transcendental ethical system, that will likewise fail because it ignores human nature.

"Wilson asks: 'What event likely to happen during the next few years will our descendants most regret?' His answer: 'The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.' If our descendants will judge it an all but unforgivable sin to destroy thousands of other species, this catastrophe ought not to happen. Nor is it just our descendants' regret that we fear; it is life lost from this wonderland Earth."[412]

Again, I have heard exactly the same argument by various ethnic supremacists from Jews, to Serbs, to Anglos bewailing the loss of their unique genetic genealogy by warning against miscegenation. This loss would be permanent, because it could never return as it was before. Human populations are as genetically unique as are any species and just as important to maintain. I would like to carry out a simple test. Ask people if they had a choice, which would they regret the most? A) Their own ancestors, that make up their unique genetic code, are annihilated in a bloody war; or B) The spotted owl's habitat is destroyed by lumber companies. If you can show me that any human in the future would be more concerned about other species than they are about their own subspecies (race) I will admit that I know very little about human nature. The premise that all else being equal, the loss of biodiversity will be looked on as the worst thing to ever happen to the earth is absurd. There is no absolute number of species that are required to make human life more or less pleasant or meaningful. Humans are builders, we will build within whatever world we find ourselves in, as long as we do not lose our unique intellect to do so.  Likewise, we are planning explorations into space and to other planets with no other species present upon our arrival to set up human colonies.  If other species are so important to our existence, then how could we tolerate going to places where NO other species exist?  And yet that is what a whole generation of explorers have yearned for.

"The drift of the biophobic society, as George Orwell and C. S. Lewis foresaw decades ago, is toward the replacement of nature and human nature by technology and the replacement of real democracy by a technological tyranny now looming on the horizon. These are reasons of self-interest: it is to our advantage to distribute the world's work fairly, to build a society in which lives can be lived fully, and to create an economy in which people participate knowledgeably. There is a further argument against biophobia that rests not on our self-interest but on our duties. Biophobia is not OK, finally, because it violates an ancient charge to replenish the earth. In return for our proper use, the earth is given to humankind as a trust. Proper use requires gratitude, humility, charity, and skill. Improper use begins with ingratitude and disparagement and proceeds to greed, abuse, and violence. We cannot forsake our duties as stewards without breaking that trust. Neither can we forsake the duties of stewardship without breaking another trust to those who preceded us and those who will follow.[420]"

Is this statement for real? Who gave us this ancient charge? I let this absurdity stand on its own. If there is a god, then preservation of other species is his problem and the technology we have acquired he provided. If there is no god, and the sun burns up as expected and ceases to sustain life in 5 billion years, then humans must evolve higher in order to escape this solar system if we are to survive. So you see, if we are really looking to take care of the future, it will be our human charge to advance to such a state to carry the genetic code that is so cherished to outer space in order to continue. Otherwise all is lost anyway. So I will turn the tables on the BioHyp ethics and claim that if there is any tragedy it will be that we forgot our own destiny and allowed humanity to perish with the earth, rather than laying the foundation for our escape from certain extinction.

"We must choose, in Joseph Wood Krutch's words, whether 'we want a civilization that will move toward some more intimate relation with the natural world, or. . . one that will continue to detach and isolate itself from both a dependence upon and a sympathy with that community of which we were originally a part.' The writer of Deuteronomy had it right. Whatever our feelings, however ingenious our philosophies, whatever innate gravity tugs at us, we must finally choose between life or death: between intimacy or isolation."[425]

Again, in order to live we must detach ourselves from nature and look towards technology because it is our only escape from a dying planet. Extinction of all life on earth is a forgone conclusion. But it can live on beyond our solar system. That is our destiny.

"Fourth, we have every reason to believe that love and biophilia alike flourish mostly in good communities. I do not mean necessarily affluent places. In fact, affluence often works against real community as surely as do violence and utter poverty. By community I mean, rather, places in which the bonds between people and those between people and the natural world create a pattern of connectedness, responsibility, and mutual need. Real communities foster dignity, competence, participation, and opportunities for good work. And good communities provide places in which children's imagination and earthy sensibilities root and grow."[428]

Again, I would submit that communities to have connectedness must have something to bind them together, and what better way to accomplish that goal than to form nations of like minded people with similar goals and aspirations, like Iran or Israel. Nations that are built on one religion, one pure race, or set of ideas. These are true communities where connectedness is real and sustainable. Multiculturalism likewise means death of a people. It is violent, contentious, dysgenic, and decadent wherever it has been allowed to obtain.

"Call it bioregionalism or becoming native to our places. Either way it means deciding to relearn the arts that Jacquetta Hawkes once described as a patient and increasingly skillful love-making that [persuades] the land to flourish. It means rebuilding family farms, rural villages, towns, communities, and urban neighborhoods. It means restoring local culture and our ties to our local places where biophilia first takes root. It means reweaving the local ecology into the fabric of the economy and life patterns while diminishing our use of the automobile and our ties to the commercial culture. It means deciding to slow down -- hence more bike trails, more gardens, more solar collectors. It means rediscovering and restoring the natural history of our places. And, as Gary Snyder once wrote, it means finding our place and digging in."[433]

No, it sounds like hell after a nuclear holocaust. It is not the world I would want and I have not met many people that do not enjoy and love the urban world that is vibrant and technology driven. I can't wait for HDTV, faster computers, next years new cars, faster Internet connections, and all the people I get to share this world with. I grew up close to nature, an almost idyllic combination of mountains, rivers, forests and yet close to urban amenities. I spent my youth in trees, on the river, climbing hills, and camping out. But when I became a teenager and discovered girls, nightclubs, the fast pace of the big city, I knew where I wanted to live. I wanted to be surrounded by fascination and creativity, from watching nature shows to going to music fests. Yes, it is all available. I've spent months in the South American out-back, I've been to the Himalayas, I've seen the Great Wall of China. All interesting places, but it is always nice to get home. If I had to choose I would pick the high-tech urban environment over any other. For those who want nature, make your choice. But we all have different needs and desires and I would prefer to keep the freedom I have now over the totalitarianism proposed by BioHyp.

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postscript

A much better book I think on how the mind evolved, explaining biophilia as just one module along with art, religion, and science leading up to the modern brain, is The Prehistory of the Mind by Steven Mithen. By looking at the mind as made of modules for specific tasks, we can project how these modules open up to each other and become integrated. That is, our brains can be extremely myopic in perspective in many areas of inquiry because it is not adequately integrated and has numerous blind spots still. The human to become will be less and less restrained by this modularization in thinking as we change genetically, through directed evolution. This eugenic view is in direct opposition to the retrograde view of BioHyp that wishes to freeze mankind to the present.

Two other very good books in my estimation are Demonic Males and Unto Others. They both explore groupism, altruism, evolutionary strategies, etc. Reading these books and others on evolutionary theory sadly reveals that the Biophilia Hypothesis is only sustainable by ignoring all other aspects of human nature but one, and a weak one at that. Humans, given the choice, are social and are far more concerned about their neighbors business than that of the squirrels playing in the trees. Nature is merely a momentary distraction from our life's work, whatever that might be.

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The Biophilia Hypothesis, 1993 {ISBN 1559631473}

Prelude: "A Siamese Connexion with a Plurality of Other Mortals"/ Scott McVay / 3

Introduction / Stephen R. Kellert / 20

Chapter 1: Biophilia and the Conservation Ethic / Edward 0. Wilson / 31

Chapter 2: The Biological Basis for Human Values of Nature / Stephen R. Kellert / 42

Chapter 3: Biophilia, Biophobia, and Natural Landscapes / Roger S. Ulrich / 73

Chapter 4: Humans, Habitats, and Aesthetics / Judith H. Heerwagen and Gordon H. Orians / 138

Chapter 5: Dialogue with Animals: Its Nature and Culture / Aaron Katcher and Gregory Wilkins / 173

Chapter 6: Searching for the Lost Arrow: Physical and Spiritual Ecology in the Hunter's World / Richard Nelson / 201

Chapter 7: The Loss of Floral and Faunal Story: The Extinction of Experience / Gary Paul Nabhan and Sara St. Antoine / 229

Chapter 8: New Guineans and Their Natural World / Jared Diamond / 251

Chapter 9: On Animal Friends / Paul Shepard / 275

Chapter 10: The Sacred Bee, the Filthy Pig, and the Bat Out of Hell: Animal Symbolism as Cognitive Biophilia / Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence / 301

Chapter 11: God, Gaia, and Biophilia / Dorion Sagan and Lynn Margulis / 345

Chapter 12: Of Life and Artifacts / Madhav Gadgil / 365

Chapter 13: Biophilia, Selfish Genes, Shared Values / Holmes Rolston III / 381

Chapter 14: Love It or Lose It: The Coming Biophilia Revolution / David W. Orr / 415

Chapter 15: Biophilia: Unanswered Questions / Michael E. Soul / 441

Coda / Stephen R. Kellert / 456