Do Your Part. Stop Eating, Going to the Bathroom, and Reproducing.

So, this might be a little bit of a rant.

Today we have this lovely article, the link for which was sent to me by my husband:

Hobbits and other early humans not ‘destructive agents’ of extinction, scientists find

I’ll give you a moment to click on the link and go read the article in all its awful glory.


There. You back?

Let’s take a moment to appreciate everything going on with this article. First of all, the unironic use of “hobbits” in the headline. Waaay down in the article we get the explanation, “For example, on Flores in Indonesia, where the “Hobbits,” or Homo floresiensis, lived …” I kind of have an issue with naming an actual group of humans, “hobbits.” Granted, maybe they were short, like some people groups living in the Philippines, Australia, and Africa today. And at least, in the explanation, the term is put in quote marks. But when you use Hobbits with no quote marks in a headline, it gives the impression that you don’t know what you are talking about, sort of like some of the news articles that came out when the Lord of the Rings movies did, which incorrectly summarized the books.

Secondly, when we did start calling everyone hominins instead of hominids? That also looks like a typo. I’m guessing what it actually is, is some newfangled anthropological term that is meant to imply a class of beings that were somehow even less human than hominids. You all know my feelings on that. (Human rights for Neanderthals!)

Thirdly, as a not-too-dim layperson, I’ve got to say that the “findings” in this article strike me as a sort of rickety Tower of Babel of assumptions (see what I did there?), piled on top of one another, each one of which could possibly turn out to be bunkum. First, there is the difficulty and inconsistency of dating events millions of years in the past. Related to this is the uncertainty of determining, at this time depth, such things as exactly when and why a given species went extinct, and when a population actually arrived on an island.

Finally, the word “jerk.” I don’t mind this word; I use it when called for. In this article, all it takes to be a jerk, apparently, is to exist as a human and cause some kind of detectable change to the natural environment. This is coming out of the whole world view where humans are not part of any kind of design for the world and are not supposed to alter it in any way; hence any human-caused environmental change is by definition bad. I mean, I’m with you; I think the Mediterranean dwarf elephant was cute and it’s too bad if humans contributed to its demise. But when things pass away, we can mourn them even if it was their time to pass away.

Example: I recently heard the argument made that “the earth is fragile.” Evidence to back this up was that the Everglades, a unique swamp ecosystem in Florida, will vanish if sea levels rise. Now, that would be a shame. We would indeed lose many things if sea levels rose. But the Everglades are not the same as the earth. Sea levels have been lower in the past, as evidenced by many archaeological sites that we discover off the coasts. Sea levels rose, and those parts of the land were lost to us. But the earth went on. On the other hand, much of North America was once, I am told, a shallow inland sea. Now it’s plains, mountains, deserts, etc. Again, the ecosystems changed — a lot — but the event was more properly termed change than just purely destruction.

Assuming that the many premises in this article are actually true, and that they actually support the conclusion that ancient humany people had less of an impact on the natural environment than did people in the last 12,000 years or so, I can think of one major reason that would be the case: population density. Lower populations have less impact on their environment. They just do. You cannot eat all the mammoths when the mammoths outnumber the people. Also, if you have a teeny tiny village of just a few dozen people, even your sewage is not that big a deal. You can go and do your business back in the woods behind your garden. People don’t even really see the point of toilets until a certain population density is reached.

So, if a larger population means more environmental impact, and environmental impact means you are a “jerk,” then we have finally identified the problem. The problem, on this value system, is that there are too damn many of you. Put another way, the big problem with you is that you exist.

So, if you want to be morally upright according to this value system, but you don’t quite feel up to suicide, I suggest you that make like Harry Potter and “be in [your] room, being very quiet and pretending [you] don’t exist.”

Here are some practical ways to apply that.

Stop eating all the animals. (Ideally, stop eating.) Stop breathing out so much carbon dioxide. Try not to fart, of course, and also not to produce too much sewage. (That will be easier once you stop eating.) And whatever you do, for God’s earth’s sake don’t produce any more awful human beings! They will just go on eating and breathing and pooping and doing all those icky things that destroy the beautiful Everglades.

16 thoughts on “Do Your Part. Stop Eating, Going to the Bathroom, and Reproducing.

  1. ahester1

    I completely agree with you. The article seems to build “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacious arguments on top of unreliable data regarding the dates this was all supposed to have happened. They seemed to tie modern, technological humans to more destruction when even a low tech people group can’t help having an environmental impact when population increases, which is what you’re pointing out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for chiming in! It’s nice when someone with more scientific training than I have, sees some of the same things.

      And your comment took my thought in a new direction. Namely, the idea that “modern technological society is destructive” is an article of faith in the earth-worshipping religion. They can take it as a given and use that assumption, put together with ambiguous data, to build speculation. That’s inductive reasoning. It’s a kind of reasoning, for sure, but it’s not scientific.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is why I eat nothing but frozen pizzas and drink energy drinks. Nobody said suicide had to be quick, right? 😉

    Hurray, I’m doing my part for the planet! I feel like a true Eco Warrior, rooooaaarrrr!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s a lot I agree with in what you say. I pretty much don’t like science using incendiary phrasing like ‘destructive agents of extinction’. I probably wouldn’t have read the article because it makes me think they’re trying to anger me. I like fact-based, neutral, trusting me to connect the dots.

    Thanks for sharing this, though. That’s definitely the era I’m digging into right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Em @ The Geeky Jock

    Not having read the original article, it’s hard to say how much is … creative science journalism, and how much is actual science. But, this seems like a very salient case of correlation/causation … what we teach in the second week of PSYC 101.

    And, yeah … humans are jerks, but we’re also pretty wonderful sometimes. If only we could work together for common long-term good …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Chris Schallert, Idea Engine

    (reads the linked article)

    How do people graduate with writing skills like that?

    “There’s no proof, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.” Maybe, Brad, but it does mean you can’t claim it as a result of your research.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Benjamin Ledford

    What I find fascinating is all of the theological assumptions in the article.

    First, that humans are distinct from “nature.” We aren’t just another animal – we’re in a different category. This assumption is throughout but is most explicitly demonstrated by the line “The team also accounted for the fact that some extinctions happen naturally throughout evolution.” So there are, on the one hand, natural extinctions, and, on the other hand, human-caused extinctions. If an extinction were caused by some bacteria, or a parasite, or a predator, or even just being crowded out by another species filling the same niche, those would be considered natural extinctions. But if the predators are human, then it’s not natural. That is, humans are categorically different from other animals. We’re unique in the natural world.

    Second, that there is a way we as humans are *supposed* to relate to the natural world that is distinct from our actual patterns of behavior. Apart from how we actually live and whether our behaviors help us survive, it is assumed that we are intended or expected to behave in a different way, and that this involves caring for the other creatures around us and tending to the condition of the environments we inhabit.

    Third, that we are morally obligated to live according to the pattern just described, that we incur guilt when we fail to do so, and that we need forgiveness. The quote at the end that brings it together is really interesting:
    “We can understand, and perhaps forgive, those human ancestors that hunted for necessity as they traveled across the oceans,” Hume said. “What is unforgivable is that modern humans are destroying the natural world at an unprecedented speed, despite having detailed knowledge of what the ultimate price will be.”
    So, set aside the arrogance of Hume passing moral judgement on his ancestors for trying to eat, and notice that he implies 1) that our care for the rest of the natural world is a moral obligation, 2) that increased knowledge of a moral obligation increases guilt, and 3) that violating a moral obligation brings guilt even if the person was unaware of it.

    The whole article is built on the Christian assumptions that man is distinct from the rest of creation (the imago Dei), that we have been given dominion over and an obligation to care for the rest of creation (the Creation Mandate), that there is a way we were intended to live but which we do not (the Fall), and that we are guilty for it and need forgiveness (Sin). I don’t see how you get any of those apart from a theological (and specifically Christian) framework.

    Now, obviously there are points of divergence and inconsistency as well, but you can’t help but be inconsistent if you haven’t even identified or examined your own foundational theological beliefs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right. That’s pretty amazing how well the Great Story maps onto this article. Only question is, in the world of this article, what constitutes redemption? Most people with this world view don’t come out and advocate suicide and murder, but all the solutions they offer that I can think of seem aimed at either lowering the population (which does mean death for some people) or making people less human in some way (as in transhumanism).

      I guess the idea that humans are not part of nature in the same way that other species are, is something we just know on a deep level even when we have a belief system that supposedly contradicts it. People will often try to get us to look at humans as “just another animal,” or point out our commonalities with what we would call lower animals, such as Jordan Peterson pointing out that serotonin serves the same function in humans as in lobsters. This way of looking at humans is a thought tool that can yield some insights when used temporarily, just like you might turn an object upside-down in order to examine it. But apparently, for most people it doesn’t stick.


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