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Disadvantageous Advantages.

  1. Oct 21, 2003 #1
    I was just reading the site (that Ivan Seeking referenced) about the "sixth extinction", and it got me thinking about something.

    We know that all animals strive for their own survival and for the survival of their species, right? Well, in this struggle for survival, a very "successful" (if you define "successful" in terms of ability to survive and adapt as a species) species has evolved, and it is now that very species that holds the power to destroy itself and every other being on Earth.

    Now, this is surely not an "advantage", since it is merely (when looked at logically) the ability to destroy yourself, which is the opposite of how I previously defined "success", and yet this disadvantage has spawned from an amazing series of "successes".

    Is this supposed to be a vicious circle, or do we need to re-think our definition of "success"? Perhaps success is merely ability to get along with your environment, while continuing your own existence - in which case, Myotis Lucifigus (which are Microchiroptera (small, insect-eating bats)...I was just reading about them in another window) is infinitely more successful than Homo Sapiens.

    It's something to think about, especially when one wishes to hold anthropocentric beliefs, as are being discussed in this thread.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2003 #2


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    It isn't too surprising. Any very successful species will eventually have its own kind as its primary threat. Evolutionary pressures will no longer cause changes that help deal with environment so much as they help deal with others of the specie's kind. This can be expressed in mating dominance or, in killing of competitors. Humans have just taken it to it's most extreme potential.

    Because there has never been an occurance of a dominant species annihilating itself, the propensity to do so could not be selected against. It would take many instances of species annihilating themselves to selectively keep the one that does not have a propensity to do so.

  4. Oct 22, 2003 #3
    Remember that evolutionary processes do not have foresight. Selection operates on the conditions at play here and now. The likelihood of future problems for any species are unseen and unacted upon by selection and adaptation.
  5. Oct 22, 2003 #4
    Well, there hasn't been another occurance at the same time and on Earth, but it is usually said that the Dinosaurs "dominated" the Earth in their own day. They were then annihalated by something that was completely beyond their ability to fight, but they were not a detriment to the environment, were they?
  6. Oct 22, 2003 #5
    That's very true. Nature didn't and doesn't care that the dominant species on Earth is a destructive one. The fact that this is probably the only way to become "dominant" is irrelevant, since it has become our disadvantage. We have been left compensating for it with (mostly failed) attempts at preservation and careful resource-consumption.
  7. Oct 22, 2003 #6
    Yes Mentat, this planet is taking a beating and we are losing so much every day...things we won't get back, habitats and entities that are the endpoints of over 3 billion year old lineages. This has been my lifelong sadness (and perhaps yours).

    I just don't see a likely good ending here (unless you look 10 million years out - and even then the human footprint will be there, big time). I would risk this strong statement: "Unless you are working on population control you are wasting your time (as far as protecting the environment goes).". All else is, at best, temporary and tenuous.
  8. Oct 23, 2003 #7


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    It's somewhat ironic that the very thing that makes us a detriment to our environment, I suppose, is the very thing that gives us the ability to fight such an outside force that could ultimately annihilate us.
  9. Oct 23, 2003 #8
    That's true. I don't know so much that it's ironic though, since this may turn out to be a pattern: The more power a species gets, the less compatible with the rest of the environment; the less susceptible to outside dangers, but the more dangerous to itself.
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