Saturday, September 27, 2008

Darwin's Dangerous Idea (by Phila)

One of the mantras of climate inactivism is that polar bears will simply adapt to climate change. The fact that this theory is usually advanced by people who question the reality of climate change and the utility of polar bears should give you some idea of how sincere it is.

At any rate, it looks as though polar bears are indeed adapting:
Scientists have noticed increasing reports of starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another in recent years. In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female's den and killed her.
Starving bears will occasionally attack humans, too. The inactivist response is straightforward: if this is how polar bears are going to behave, why shouldn't they die out? The possibility that they might adapt to the loss of their natural prey and habitat means they shouldn't be protected; the fact that they try to adapt suggests that we're better off without them.

It's funny how the basic concepts of evolution inspire pious horror from social conservatives when they're taught in schools, and shouts of "amen!" when they're used to justify nudging some inconvenient species into extinction. The besetting sin of "Darwinism" is supposed to be its amorality; meanwhile, the idea that polar bears have value in themselves, either as created beings or as members of a fragile ecosystem that we don't fully understand, is cast aside as quasi-religious sentimentalism at best. They attack evolution as a justification of eugenics, and then embrace eugenics as a justification of economic and foreign policy. Like Jesus Christ, Social Darwinism must be martyred in order to triumph.

Curiously, it's the evolutionary viewpoint that tends to provide the moral seriousness here: you won't find too many biologists who contemplate the loss of large or small species without fear and trembling; their eye is on the sparrow, as the saying is. This, I suspect, is the only aspect of evolutionary science that right-wing ideologues truly view as "dangerous."