Dystopia in the Making

If anyone ever wanted proof that supposedly intelligent people can come up with the most idiotic notions imaginable, you need look no further than this piece of radical idiocy.

Yes. You read that right. There are apparently intelligent people who know enough about the surface of biology to make a quasi-plausible argument and genuinely believe (at least I think they do. It’s not April 1, after all) that it’s possible to bioengineer the predator out of predators and make everything sweet and light and somehow magically not cause horrendous imbalances in every ecosystem on the bloody planet.

The model our bright spark uses is the attempt to eliminate the Anopheles mosquito in order to eliminate malaria.

I shall leave it to the folk here to come up with all sorts of wonderfully horrendous outcome any of this could have – not only do I not need any more plot bunnies running wild, I could really live without the research something like this would take me.

That said, our bright spark has apparently never heard of the “fun” Australia has had with rabbits. Myxomatosis had up to 90% kill rate – but now most of Australia’s rabbits are immune. Then there was the calcivirus and RHD which was even more effective – but not effective enough.

Hell, if he proposed his lovey-dovey utopian tripe anywhere near anyone with experience of Australian wildlife, he’d never get past his opening because the Aussies would be pissing themselves laughing. Honestly, does this twit think predation is the only way animals hurt each other?

Let’s see… major causes of death in large herbivores other than predation include injuries sustained fighting off rivals for mating – unless our utopian twits (who are clearly close relatives of the glittery hoo haas, with about as much understanding of reality) plan to control them and jerk off the males to get the goods to artificially inseminate the females (I’ll let Dave Freer talk about being shoulder deep in large herbivore and the potential issues with doing this to… oh, for shits and giggles, let’s say a hippo). Not to mention territory disputes, herd hierarchy arguments, intermittent issues with drought, flood, and so forth.

Then there’s the matter of parasitic entities. They’re not predators per se, but what they do is even less fluffy and wholesome and cute. I’m not linking to any of that stuff because you need a strong stomach (but damn some of them on steroids would make awesome alien life forms to terrorize your poor characters. Just saying).

As for those Jain monks the utopian one mentioned, the ones who sweep the ground before they walk so they don’t accidentally tread on any insects, their legendary compassion apparently doesn’t extend to those poor, confused ants who just lost their scent trail and have no idea where they are. Or the who knows how many micro-organisms living contentedly in that patch of dirt who have now been sent flying to who knows where (come on, to your average micro-organism, a few feet is like the other side of the bloody universe).

Not to mention the poor, suffering plants. Yes, the plants. Plants communicate with each other (sod if I understand how but apparently that’s what all the research is saying) and they respond to injury with vegetable analogs of pain. Do they not count for the utopian vision of eliminating suffering? (Don’t start. Seriously. Just don’t.)

Now, to be fair, I’m all for minimizing suffering whenever and however we realistically can, but – and this is a pretty big but – there is no life without suffering and no life without death. You’ll notice fluffy utopia is all about changing the python so it doesn’t eat the small child or the pet dog. It’s not about changing the crocodile so it doesn’t eat the python (or vice-versa).

When you screw around with something as delicately balanced as the average ecosystem (it’s rather like any decently large economy – self-correcting under most circumstances, with a ridiculous number of variables making the whole thing impossible to predict, and when meddled with can produce wildly unpredictable and dangerous results) you run the risk of destroying it and losing not just the nasty predators you don’t want, but the cute fluffy things you were trying to save, and the plants they eat, and a crapload of other animals and plants you didn’t even think mattered.

Just ask Australia. The tropical and temperate rainforests that used to cover most of the landmass were replaced first by eucalyptus forest, then in a lot of places by savanna/desert courtesy human intervention between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. In the process most of Australia’s large animals (predators and prey) vanished – along with a hell of a lot of plants and insects and who knows what else. Those humans had no idea what they were messing with. They just wanted to clear things out enough that they could move freely and see any problems nearby.

If this twit and his friends try anything they won’t have that excuse.


        1. I think I read either a similar story about that kitten, or a rehash of the same report on a different site (forget where, but that one is slightly different)

          1. That particular piece of idiocy crops up fairly often among the militant vegan set, since they apparently haven’t done enough research to know cats are obligate carnivores. (headdesk)

  1. What a moron. Although he does remind me of the TV documentary that had (among other things) a guy trying to prevent an endangered predator from killing an endangered prey animal. [Evil Grin]

    1. Unfortunately neither the predator nor the prey is likely to intervene in this case.

  2. I bet the “futurist” and his associates get large government and NGO grants to actually try parts of this. And I want the rights to show the videos of them trying to “force” modified genetic material into herds of moving animals. Please, please, please. And Josh is right – they’d be the kind to watch “Serenity” and say, “Hmmm, we’ll get it right this time.”

    1. Oh, no doubt. They probably think cows are sweet, placid creatures, not half a ton on legs that will crush you if you get in their way at the wrong time.

        1. How dare that woman intrude into the cows area. Cows were here first! [Evil Grin]

          ::Stolen from people who dislike others worried about cougars in Denver suburbs. IE They are always saying that the problem is humans moving into areas that the cougars in first. I sometimes hope that first children in those areas attacked by cougars are children of this sort of people.::

          1. Cougars are a problem in urban areas. All those women seeking meaningless physical relationships with young men. Just awful I tells you awful!

          2. Heh, there are Big Cats lurking around my home town. There were None for oh almost ever. They have moved back or possibly introduced by the DNR (who did that with wolves and lied for years about doing it), though most of my relatives think they just migrated there.

  3. the logical next step, of course, would be removing any predatory instinct from humans. for the good of society, you know.

        1. Wait, cultural means to stop predation? How does that work? Passing out pamphlets to lion prides on the savannah? “The Joy of Cooking the Tofudabeast?” “1001 Salads for the Sharp-Toothed Vegetarian?”

          1. Electroshock treatment from implants and cultured meat delivered by GPS trackers, if I read it right. Probably drugging the predators, too. Sort of an alternate-universe Animal Farm involving Brave New World engineering. My head hurts, now.

            1. Yes. Very likely. Then wondering why they find the endangered predators kicked/stomped/whatever to death by the supposedly “peaceful” herbivores.

          2. Wait, cultural means to stop predation? How does that work?

            Rather similar to how it did in the show, although they were way too optimistic about the rate of horrific psychopaths.

            1. Way, WAY too optimistic, yes. Apart from the little consideration that ultimately only the horrific psychopaths survived so whatever it started as the rate *finished* at 100%

          3. TINS. Many years ago, my parents went to several game reserves in southern and eastern Africa. While they were in the Ngorogoro Crater, they went out looking for animals. The guide warned them to be quiet, and told the following tale about the previous group.

            The guides had spotted some antelope (I don’t remember what kind) and everyone got very quiet and started watching. Not too many minutes later, someone noticed a hint of movement in the grass as a lioness began stalking a young antelope. Just as the lioness started to attack, a lady in the group screamed “run, run!” Yup, off shot the antelope and the lioness slunk away hungry. The guides (and other tourists) rounded on the woman, who said, “I don’t care. The lioness can just eat grass.” Yes, the fool was serious and had no idea that the big cat just might starve because of that missed meal. And she didn’t care. The guides refused to take her on any more excursions away from the lodge for the rest of her stay.

              1. Well, yes. The problem when a PETA drone gives someone a piece of their mind is that they run the risk of nuclear fission because there’s buggerall between those ears.

              2. That second article had to have been the creation of a deranged mind.

                Vegetarian or vegan dogs and cats enjoy their food and good health, and a vegetarian diet for your companion animal is ethically consistent with animal rights philosophy.

                In what alternate friggin’ Universe??!?

                1. vegan cats are very easy to care for … just dig a hole deep enough and bury the now deceased animal. It is animal cruelty to be forcing a dog or especially a cat (they are called Obligate Carnivores for a very good sound scientific reason) to eat a vegan diet. Read somewhere recently a kitten was confiscated from one of these wastes of semisentience as it nearly died of liver damage and the Vet called the police and the SPCA.

            1. … I wonder if that twit realizes that she probably is raising the probability of another lion attack on human being.

              I have no illusions of what big cats are. You can’t deny the utter terror you feel when you realize the only thing keeping you alive from the tiger stalking you and your children are the bars on that cage. My children were enchanted, and too young when I took them to that zoo; “Mummy the tiger likes me!” was met with “No, it wants to eat you.” I wanted, very much, that tiger dead. It had picked out it’s chosen prey, my toddler boy, because every time we passed the cage it would rush up to the bars.

              1. Amen.

                Oh, lord, AMEN.

                My babies did a similar thing with the tiger a few weeks earlier. I wanted to murder the pretty animal that didn’t know better, because… well, no glass, my babies are dead.

                1. First of all Foxfier, I won’t want any child in the same cage as a wild animal.

                  However, I didn’t see that baby tiger as in “hunting mode” but in “play mode”.

                  Still dangerous because it could hurt by accident not intent.

                  My “point” is that people can make two mistakes about wild animals.

                  The first mistake is to think they’re “completely safe”.

                  The second mistake is over-reacting to the real danger of wild animals.

                  On the gripping hand, I’d rather people over-react especially when young children are involved.

                  There was some idiots in Yellowstone who wanted to take pictures of their kids on a Bison.

                  When called on it, the idiots claimed that the park rangers would not let “wild animals” around people. [Frown]

                  1. I look at it from effect, not theoretical intent– if that “baby” tiger “played” with my baby, she would kill it.

                    And afterwards she would eat the remains.

                2. Pretty much, yes. I had the opportunity once to chat with one of the tiger handlers at Dreamworld (http://www.dreamworld.com.au/Wildlife/Tiger-Island/Tigers-at-Dreamworld.aspx), the ones that raise the tigers practically from birth. They’ll take cubs about that age walking around the park on quiet days and chat with visitors – and the one I spoke to was letting people pet the cub (you bet I did), with careful instructions like “Don’t touch the head. That’s a dominance thing.”

                  He never once let the cub out of his focus, and he was constantly working with it to make sure it was comfortable and not overexcited. He also had one hell of a healing scab on his leg from one of the cubs that had forgotten to keep its claws in, I guess from the state of it a few days before.

                  At the tiger show, they explain that because they’re spending time with the cubs from such an early age, the cubs see them as deformed tigers and as they get older they still respond as though the handlers could pick them up by the scruff. No pissing around about how cute they are, either. It’s all about how they have to respect the way the tigers think in order to work with them at all and if they mess up, they’re likely to lose a limb – if they’re lucky.

                  1. When I was in high school, the local theme park (King’s Dominion) still had “Lion Country Safari”, a tram ride though their zoo-ish thing. A couple of their handlers used to bring some baby animals to our school and we allowed to see them and spend time with them ostensibly as part of biology class.
                    The lion cub they brought responded really well to me to the point where after some coaching I was allowed to hold him for a bit. That was awesome.

              2. Not “probably”, definitely. Humans aren’t normal lion prey because there isn’t enough meat on us compared to the medium-large mammals they usually hunt. But a hungry lion or an injured one will go after a human.

                1. Can’t remember the show, but there was one about the “Demon Of (South African Country)” that was a huge, old lion with almost no teeth that was dragging workers out of their tents during a train building thing.

                  1. Oh, yes. Caused a hell of a lot of panic until they caught the old boy and finished him off, as I recall.

                    1. “The Man Eaters of Tsavo” was the first one, about two lions that picked off workers on a railroad. There have been a few others, plus Jim Corbett’s books about Indian man eaters. Oh yeah, and Peter Capstick’s (mis)adventures (hint: don’t try to kill a snake in the outhouse using a shotgun).

                  2. Are you talking about the inspiration for ‘The Ghost and The Darkness?’ Michael Douglas has a nice speech in there where he explains why he refuses to explain.

                    1. No idea, but maybe. If I remember right, there were really two animals, and nobody thought to do more than go “WOW!@!!– big lions!”

                      When they LOOKED, they were toothless lions….

                    2. You can see them at the Field Museum in Chicago, should you happen to go. After they bagged ’em, they were stuffed and put on display, then lost for several years. When they finally found ’em again, the hides were in relatively poor shape. They’ve been “fixed,” but in doing so, the poor dead beasties were significantly reduced in size, so they aren’t nearly as impressive as they once were. It’s still worth it to see ’em. One thing, though, there’s a low bar in front of the display – usually where the small children gather – and you should pay attention to where the cats’ focal point has been placed. That combined with the dim lighting makes for just the creepiest, little tableau. (Though, to be fair, you should go to the Field Museum for Sue. See Sue, and realize just how small you are.)

            2. Lucky the lioness didn’t decide she was going to stalk slow-moving two-legged prey that just chased the other prey off.

              (have heard of multiple instances of this… idiots all.)

              1. Absolutely. Lucky for that twit, anyway. Not so much for the lioness who was just doing what she had to to survive.

            3. Oh dear lord. I don’t blame the guides for refusing to let her out. I wouldn’t blame them if they’d managed to accidentally “lose” her, either.

          4. I was thinking about how they are already trying to take the predator out of humanity. You know, public schools and zero tolerance. Fortunately it’s not working–on average. Unfortunately that average seems to drifting toward the combination of appallingly undisciplined unruly children, over-diagnosis by non-doctors of ADHD and subsequently drugged children, inner city gangs . . . and the dreaded metrosexuals. I just hope the real world correction comes before we’ve lost all memory of normal family dynamics.

        2. So far, yes. They clearly don’t get that with humans the predator side tends to get pushed into competitiveness – and that competitiveness more than anything else is what’s behind all those nice creature comforts we enjoy.

      1. Worse than that. Taking it and similar items as a frigging instruction manual.

    1. Of course. And then they’ll wonder why everything else is falling apart…

  4. Reminds me of a story. I have no idea if it’s true, but in grade school I read that the starling was deliberately introduced into the USA by some dotty millionaire. Why? According the story, he was a fanatic Shakespeare fan, and wanted to introduce every species of animal mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays into America. Just because. Haven’t thought of that story in years. Now that we have the internet, maybe it can be verified. For every insane philosophy, there’s an insane money man with a pen and a checkbook.

    1. That – only for hunting – is how Australia got rabbits. Still, things could have been worse.

    2. Knuckleheads who liked hunting racoons moved a truckload of coons from FL north to VA. Took racoon rabies with them. *Idiots*.

  5. I think the part where he noted that if we can’t do it with genetic programming, selective extinction (kill them all!) will work just as well pretty much makes it clear where he stands. Also the comments about achieving power over everything on Earth. I just wonder who he thinks he is going to be running this ethical wonderland of his dreams?

        1. Only as long as it’s on the other side of a monitor. Played for keeps it gets rather ugly rather fast.

    1. He’s quite certain that if he isn’t in charge of all of it, he’ll be one of the Important People. And oblivious to what usually happens to his kind when something like that takes power.

  6. Hell, if he proposed his lovey-dovey utopian tripe anywhere near anyone with experience of Australian wildlife, he’d never get past his opening because the Aussies would be pissing themselves laughing.

    Honestly, I think the ones who aren’t laughing would take him on a one-way trip into the Outback so he can ‘naturalize’ to his heart’s content. Perhaps mention to a few Aborigines what the moron has in mind.

    Actually… can that happen? Please?

    PROTIP: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six subplot isn’t a blueprint, it’s pointing out how epic fail the thought processes of these wannabe druids are.

    1. Yes, yes, YES! His idiocy would not fly amongst those who, when their child says, “Look, Daddy, there’s a bunny!” respond with “Keep still and don’t scare it, sweetie, while Daddy gets the shotgun.”

      1. I actually read a bit more and realized this retard’s proposing some kind of unrealizable lotus eater machine. The dangers of that were realized as far back as Greek legend, but some morons seem to think that it’s the ideal thing to strive for. Unmentioned is the fact that the lotus eaters invariably wasted away because at no point is it mentioned that eating or nutrient part of the drugged state.

        1. Well, yes. He’s welcome to go do that for himself and opt out of humanity, but if he wants to do it to anyone else he can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

          1. I still suggest introducing him to the wild, without any survival gear. The Daintree, Great Barrier Reef, and the centre of Australia in all their glory will surely introduce him to a place called Hurt.*

            They’re the morons that go ‘but…but, rabbits are prey animals and are innocent of any evil‘.

            *If I ever get a place of my own with enough space to warrant naming it, I want to name it Hurt, just so I can have a place named Hurt, Australia. (PS – click two strips further along, that wasn’t enough.)

            1. Considering that there are multiple Mount Miseries in Australia (SIX of them in Queensland alone) I doubt you’ll have a problem! (And DAMN YOU! I don’t need any more web comics)

          1. I gather this kind of thing is what they’re hoping to use on the rest of the world actually. I see it as another proposal of addiction lifestyle being ‘validated’ because the advocate in this case is a ‘philosopher’. I don’t and never will aspire to a lifestyle of hedonism. I’ve done the ‘jobless, living at home’ stretch and oh dear gods it was boring. If it weren’t for books and the option to study stuff on my own, summer vacations were hell. I like keeping busy, even if it’s ‘just’ mentally. A constant state of bliss is not attractive to me, and an artificially induced state of bliss strikes me as nothing more than a lie (which is pretty much why I don’t see or understand the attraction of recreational drugs.)

            As for happy, this moron can’t offer me that either. I’ve got my happy, and I’m glad it’s not a constant state, or else I’d start taking it for granted.

        2. Oh no, I think lotus eater machines are quite realizable. Raymond Z. Gallun thought so too.

          Their potential is terrifying. What’s worse, there’s no clear and easy distinction between them and, say, ordinary gaming.

          1. Not in this case; because he wants a lotus eater machine for every form of life on earth. How the farkety fark do you give viruses bliss, when most people don’t even have a concept of what makes them happy? And that also differs from person to person.

            The Matrix was a believable Lotus Eater Machine concept because it was essentially a VR MMO simulation from the moment of birth – but it’s still confined to a single species. I mean, nothing else in the world is alive.

  7. The thought of someone wanting to massively-change ecosystems without having any notion of how they work is terrifying.

    It has occurred to me that — if we are able to communicate with other sapients on Earth and integrate them as allies into our world, we might wind up trying to protect (say) elephants, gorillas and some other species from predation. This in itself. would be difficult. To try to apply this to the ecosystem as a whole would be so far beyond our technology that I have only the vaguest clues as to how it might be possible while still allowing the ecosystem to function at all.

    It would be a monumental task — I'm not sure even a possible one.

    1. Ally with other sapients on Earth and protect animals from predators.

      Let’s look at potential sapients on Earth.

      Among the herbivores, IMO Elephants are the only potential sapients.

      Of the primates, IMO chimps are more likely to be sapients and they have been known to prey on other animals.

      IMO most of the other potential sapients are predators like wolves and dolphins.

      I suppose that pigs are also potential sapients but like humans, they are Omnivores that have been known to prey on other animals.

      Sorry, but the only reason beings who prey on other animals would “protect” potential prey animals is to protect them from *other* predators.

      Humans protect cattle and sheep from other predators either because they have products we use or because we want to “reserve” them for feeding us not other predators.

      1. Yup. We’re not the only species to “farm” useful animals, either. Of course, dimwit probably wants to engineer that out of us, too. So *we* can learn to be “peaceful” and eat grass.

        1. I think we should, rather, start attempting to remove *idiocy* from the human genome. By offering our utopian dreamer a free vasectomy. Before confining him to a padded room.

            1. When my friends online and I discussed this several years ago, one of them suggested sending the idiots off to Antarctica with at best the bare minimum to survive. The Aussies said it might not work, since that’s what England did, and look mate, we got us Australia.

              The idea was amended to have no survival gear on the basis of ‘external help is cheating.’

              I can totally get behind the idea of taking that ‘seeker of eternal bliss’ out of the gene pool and out of society, but I’m not really keen in having to support yet another waste of oxygen with taxes.

              Relating this thread to my hubby while driving to a doc’s appointment earlier, Rhys said “…Never mind the local wildlife, I’d like to see this idiot try to cut bargains with the sun. Exposure will get him.”

              1. We really don’t need to worry about these individuals re-producing. The males have tiny genitalia and usually can’t recognize a receptive female of the type. The females are rarely receptive anyhow.

              2. Well, yeah, except England was shipping off its riff-raff, not the useless idiots (if anything, the folks England sent over were a little *too* useful when it came to less than 100% honest pastimes). And of course, Australia promptly eliminated the ones that were useless, and then the rest kind of took over and turned into the world’s most perversely subversive culture 😀

                  1. Nope, never. Nature is very much “red in tooth and claw”. And Australia lives up (or down) to that in spades – it’s very much the “everything is trying to kill you” place.

      2. I think sapience creates the possibility of modus vivandi. Having said that, most animals aren’t that smart. And even with sapient ones, they’d need to develop whole new ways of living, or we’d need to develop them for us. Took humanity well over 100 thousand years to do it alone. I don’t think it’s at all easy.

        If you tried to create an “ecoysytem” with no predation, what you’d have would be a park. One that would have to managed 24/7 with massive information processing systems and swarms of microscopic effectors. As I said, well beyond our technology.

    2. I rather doubt it’s possible, for the simple reason that monitoring enough of the variables to understand the system would require as much information as exists within the system in the first place. Without that knowledge, it’s not possible to model the system, and without an accurate model that can predict behavior of the system (and be run from a known state to a known result *consistently*) it’s not going to happen.

      Every ecosystem starts with a crapload of variables (for a value of start that’s more or less “let’s watch this”) and has a constant stream of updates going in and out that goes way beyond any computing power we’ve got.

      Guaranteed epic fail, in my view. I suspect we’ll figure out interstellar travel before we get this one sorted.

  8. I’m unfamiliar with historical Australian eco disasters. 10-20,000 years ago? What was supposed to have happened?

      1. The win answer is Peter’s. The serious answer is humans burning the forests to clear space tipped the prevailing climate into a much drier one and started the desertification of the Australian inland. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riversleigh is kind of a starting point (it looks like my memory of the exact sequencing is a bit on the fuzzy side – but a good deal of the megafauna was still around when the first humans got to Australia)

        Oh, and you know you’ve got a massive fossil site when the most effective extraction method is a combination of dynamite and acid.

        1. Drat you, Kate. 🙂 Now I’ve got another eight paleoclimatology and paleomammal books on my wish list. Grrrrrrr.

          1. TXRed & Kate

            There might be some corelation confused with causation here.

            Humans show up so they must have caused the fires that then caused the desertifacation.

            How about the climat was changing already we were coming out of an ice age. There was desertifacation acroos a lot of the world at this time: Sahara, Gobi… others.

            You have a drier climate you going to have more fires. Which might have caused a systemic feedback loop. Humans might or might not have had a contributing factor, but to be listed as the leading cause?

            I don’t see it, but thin again I’m not looking very hard either.

            1. Josh, there’s a ferocious fight among palentologists over what happened to the megafauna between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago, especially 13-12,000 y.a. http://australianmuseum.net.au/megafauna-extinction-theories-patterns-of-extinction This museum says climate, others say over-hunting. The “overkill hypothesis” appeared in 1965 and they’ve been going at it hammer and tongs ever since. I lean toward climate change at the end of the Pleistocene, and local population stresses (and survival islands. The last mammoth were killed out about a thousand years ago, on an island off the eastern coast of what is now Russian Asia.)

              1. If you [searchengine] “Australian megafaunal extinction” you get a bunch of decent sites with all sides of the debate/argument/fight.

                1. The theory I vaguely recall from long-past geology classes was one of burning to clear insanely dense forest (the remnant rainforest tucked away in the Australian coastal ranges really is insanely dense), then regularly setting fire to the eucalypt forests that replaced the rainforests.

                  By that theory the habitat change did a number on the megafauna and hunting was pretty much the last nail in the coffin.

                  How accurate it is? Absent a time machine, I guess we’ll never know.

                  1. What I find funny is some of the opposition to the “humans caused the megadeaths” (at least in the US) comes from the same folks that believe humans are a blight on the Earth. The problem is that when you start saying that it’s the “American Indians’ fault” they get into “but the American Indians lived close to the Earth, they can’t be at fault”. IE non-whites are always Good and White Culture is always bad. [Very Big Evil Grin]

                    1. Oh, yes. That’s one of the reasons the Oz excuse for intelligentsia dislikes the way the Australian megafauna vanished so soon after the first humans appeared on the continent…. and the number of megafauna bones found in those humans midden heaps.

                    2. Now why am I not surprised? [Wink]

                      Seriously, a few years back one archeologist believed he found evidence for cannibalism among the Indians of the American Southwest.

                      One of the apparently serious complaints about this idea was “Well you’re talking about my ancestors so you’re racist”.

                      IE nothing about the facts of the matter just an accusation of racism. [Frown]

                    3. Oh, but of course! It’s better than admitting that they don’t like it but they can’t think of any good reasons why.

                    4. …and the number of megafauna bones found in those humans midden heaps.

                      Great taste is not a survival trait. Smart species select against it.


                  2. As people here in CA keep learning, ‘regularly setting fire to a forest’ does not require human action.

            2. That’s quite possible. I did my geology degree in the 1980s and have since forgotten large chunks of it. Riversleigh was a new discovery back then, but a lot of the question of lost megafauna (and there’s a crapload of Oz megafauna that’s only known from the Riversleigh site) is one that’s probably changed a fair bit since I last did any serious reading on it.

  9. No comments on the most heinous line in the whole thing? I’m surprised. Here, I’ll quote it (emphasis mine):

    Carnivorous predators keep populations of herbivores in check. Plasmodium-carrying species of the Anopheles mosquito keep human populations in check. In each case, a valuable ecological role is achieved …

    I’ve deleted my first response, because it had more asterisks in it than letters. On more reasoned consideration, my response to him in person would be:

    Me: “Excuse me, did I just hear you right? Did you just say that keeping the human population in check is a valuable ecological role?”

    Him: “Yes, I think–”

    Me: (Hauls off and punches him in the face, with as little warning body language as I can manage)

    1. Just got finished reading it. That one caught my eye right off. Also, he’s not convinced we need predatory species to survive at all. Really. With neural implant electroshock therapy and gene tweaking and all. To stop those predatory behaviors.

      Horse cacky.

      Point one. Homo sapiens are the most lethal, creatively violent species on the planet. Bar ‘effing none. We are the top of the food chain. This Pearce fellow is going to have to take on the top predator first. Us. Things do not look good for the challenger afore the fight’s even begun, folks.

      Point two. Unintended consequences. Everything from death by nuclear fire, a wasteland of unbroken sand from horizon to horizon, to unbridled chaos, disease, and unprecedented violence are possible outcomes. Human beings will “probably mess things up”? Really now. Especially ones with more hubris than sense.

      Point three. “Involuntary suffering” is part of what makes us who we are. Maturity. Wisdom. Compassion. Courage. What worth are these without suffering, pain, and loss? What depth of love can be felt without the sure knowledge that it must someday end, if nothing else, in death (religious notions aside)? Who is to say that without pain we do not become monstrous, indeed?

      Point four. Possibly 2a. Life is far, far more complex than Pearce evidently theorizes. Could a simple mutation in the viral coding create a hell on earth, constant unrelenting pain, rather than eternal bliss? Or yet more predators who learn to slay for pleasure. Or that increasing population pressures (don’t think that all those contraception measures will work) do not create a world where we must kill… and now take pleasure in it (as we would now do in all things), whether we want to or not. Possibly corollary to point three.

      Nothing here y’all haven’t already come up with of course.

      How about this. We try and pursue happiness in our own ways without enforcing it on anybloodybody else. Keep our noses out of other people’s- and other species- business, by and large. Keep our principles, yes. Laws and whatnot to keep interactions peaceable-like. Not meddling about with things what have consequences far too deep and broad for the human mind to comprehend, like oh, say, serious meddling with the genome of entire species to prevent three of the fundamental building blocks of life (those being death, food, and pain).

      Ironic that the campaign to end all suffering, everywhere, is dependent on force. Rape, if you will. I can’t see but that any attempt in this direction would end very, very badly.

      1. I skimmed through the comments and there was a point where he responds to a query about cellular level predation – ergo, white blood cells.

        It’s not just on a macro scale this utterly unmitigated moron wants to ‘bring about endless bliss’ or some such stupid thing, but down to micro scale.

        There were vague mentions of ending the need to reproduce at some point so that populations would no longer increase; at which I dismissed this fool as one of those people advocating nihilism, a variation of the ‘voluntary extinction’ project, where the people advocating it don’t off themselves first but try to convince others to do so.

            1. He may be a victim. Since although he’s able to write he shows scant evidence of any ability to reason.

        1. Anyone who advocates voluntary extinction in my hearing had damn well better be prepared to demonstrate their dedication to the cause by offing themselves right there and then and putting themselves out of our misery.

      2. Oh, hell yes. From the evolutionary perspective, every single living thing from the single-celled organisms up is the result of a ridiculous number parent organisms that were more competitive, more ruthless, and more bloody badass than whatever was around them. We know this because they survived long enough to produce offspring. And those offspring survived long enough to… ad nauseam.

        Just as there’s no reason to think any spacefaring alien species we might encounter would be anything except the apex predator of its home world – you don’t get to be ambitious, reckless, and driven enough to do that without being an intelligent apex predator.

        We have words for extended periods of peace and comfort without intervening “challenges”. Those words tend to be things like “boredom” and “ennui”. And “decadence”.

      3. “Life is pain. Anybody telling you any different is selling something” – The Princess Bride

    2. I suppose you could – in theory – say that from a purely biological perspective. Humans *are* the world’s apex predator, after all, despite the lack of claws and fangs (humans are pretty badass, the way we’ve figured out how to use other stuff to make up for the biological weaponry we don’t have, and use our actual biological weaponry – the brain and the endurance and the resilience and… – to *make* ourselves the apex predator everywhere we go).

      That said, anyone who just dismisses the misery and suffering that bloody mosquito causes in places that aren’t our comfy first world problem can go perform an anatomically improbable act.

      1. … the misery and suffering that bloody mosquito causes …

        Yeah. Let’s say someone handed me a box with a big red button and said, “If you press this button, the Anopheles mosquito will be completely wiped out as a species. The catch is, we don’t know what that will do to the ecology, so we’re hesitant to push the button and we’ve left the decision up to you.” I wouldn’t think for more than half a second before I pushed the button. WHATEVER ecological catastrophes might be caused by the loss of the mosquito, they’d be better than what we have now.

        1. You and me both, there. If it’s a choice between human life – any humans – and animal life, I will choose to save the human life. We can adapt to ecological disasters. We can’t adapt to being dead.

          1. Also, the ecology has proven itself interestingly resilient and adaptive to extinctions. I’m not worried if you take out mosquitos. The removal of bees and wasps will, I expect, have long term effects, but the ecology will adapt and change, minus a number of species of flora and fauna unless they adapt quickly enough to survive.

            1. Indeed. It’s if someone starts mucking with things wholesale that it gets really messy. So far the Australian ecosystems have managed to survive cats, dogs, rabbits, cane toads (I was very restrained when I wrote this post. I did not mention cane toads), humans… It’s pretty impressive when you consider how delicate the balance of things usually is.

              1. Delicate the balance may be, but “life” is a pretty stubborn sucker. Some species are smarter and more adaptable than others (d*mned wild pigs). But ecological niches generally get filled up pretty quick given the slightest chance.

                See also, trying to keep a rural kitchen clean and free of bacteria. And mold. And flies (yeah, right). And insects, and rats, and on and on the species that live off our leavings given half a chance.

                1. All true – but the kind of life that’s going to fill ecological niches when some idiot tries to eliminate predation is likely to be something that we really don’t want to be dealing with.

                  1. No argument in the least. It’s enough to give one nightmares, if a body were to think the idjit could actually pull it off. Or, hell, even get a solid start on it.

                    1. My genius brother Steve , a genius researcher for the Gophers, says “The idea of using that kind of technology to induce widescale modification of nature to satisfy the emotional disposition of a few seems inappropriate and arrogant. It’s also well beyond the foreseeable application of what we currently know about genetic modification.”

              2. As I am very aware of cane toads, we make a point of throwing them VERY HIGH when ejecting them out of our yard (or outright killing them if we have something handy before chucking ’em). Our SA-ian housemate said he’d never seen toads that huge.

                1. Yep. I’ve seen them survive being hit by cars. And seen them trying to hop away while holding their insides in with one foreleg.

                  They’re ridiculously tough beasts, and the local joke is they don’t have any natural enemies other than the wheels of a passing car.

                  When I lived in Brisbane, I used to stun them with a shovel, then chuck them out onto the road. My brother used a sledge – there wasn’t much LEFT to chuck on the road.

                    1. Plinking teaches character, marksmanship, self reliance, and patience. All good things for a teenager. Unfortunately, I am given to understand that the government of Australia assume that there are no adults on the continent and thusly disallow arms to the average citizen. Too bad really.

                    2. Sadly, yes. The perpetrator of the incident which caused that ban didn’t get them legally, but the idiots still decided that this would stop any future occurrences.

                      Never mind that this was the first time something like that had ever happened in Australia anyway.

                    3. With you on all that, Kate. I think though that the very careful pushes to more common gun ownership that local gun groups are doing are gaining some ground – at least so Rhys assures me. It shouldn’t surprise anyone though that the majority of illegal guns and thus gun violence happen in areas with high populations of illegals and with a more leftleaning mindset than the average (ahem Sydney, certain areas of Melbourne).

                      They never DID explain how those supposed poor widdle refugees got hold of firearms and rifles in one of those riots where they were DEMANDING TO BE LET IN AUSTRALIA NOW – firearms which were not part of the guards’ arsenals!

                    4. Yeah, funny, that… And no doubt the ever so politically correct sorts never did bother to try to find whoever supplied the things.

  10. You’ve got Australia and rabbits as a cautionary tale. Less well-known was Goering (yes, THAT Goering) importing raccoons to Germany. I think the idea was to have something to hunt. Hilarity ensued. The raccoons thrived and spread everywhere. Even a world war didn’t eradicate the little bandits, and they are still cursed by Germans for getting into attics, wrecking roofs, dumping trashcans, and generally being the little furry terrorists we all know and love.

    1. The Japanese made a cartoon in the Seventies about the true story of Rascal, complete with releasing Rascal into the woods. Cue rich Japanese ordering raccoons as pets for their kids,and finding out that the book did not lie about mischief levels. Cue the Japanese releasing raccoons into areas without natural predators, competing with local tanuki, and gnawing wooden temples away.

      1. I’ve been told that the large population of macaques in Hong Kong (living in and near “Monkey Mountain”, Kan Shan Country Park) are all non-native – and a major pest. Apparently some were introduced in the 1930s in an attempt to control at biological weed control (a poisonous-to-humans fruit), but they got an infusion of new genes a few decades back when a traveling circus went bankrupt and released their monkeys.

        Homes anywhere near the park need to keep their windows closed or have very close-set bars (even windows 5 to 10 stories above the ground) to prevent the monkeys invading – they’ll wreck the place while searching for food. Hikers in the park are warned not to feed or approach them – they can be dangerous.

        They’re not at all afraid of people, or hard to find. When we hiked there last year, I lost count at 40+ monkeys, and at one point (idiots in a car tossing food out the windows as we walked past) I half-expected the dozen plus monkeys in the area to swarm us.

        Hong Kong is attempting to reduce their numbers . . . using birth control. They’re trying to capture as many as possible and, essentially, hand out monkey vasectomies and Norplants. It doesn’t appear to be too effective, judging by the number of young ones we spotted.

        I’m just glad that we don’t have macaques competing with the raccoons and feral pigs in my neighborhood.

  11. What an idiot. I like my husband’s comment: “If you’re going to read Rousseau, you shouldn’t read him on drugs.”

  12. Too bad David Pearce is not an alcoholic. First thing we learn is “There is a God, and it’s not me.”
    Yellowstone Grey Wolf removal project = disaster.
    You simply CAN’T understand a complex ecosystem well enough to make this radical adjustment, and not expect destruction.

  13. Can we just take him to observe a herd of bison up close, say two or three feet, in Yellowstone National Park? They’re pretty good at dealing with idiots who get up close. And they aren’t predators, so they must have good intentions in dealing with idiots.

    1. Cape Buffalo are deeply intelligent, and possess a boundless compassion towards all living beings.

      1. You forgot to add “and they love to be petted.” Darwin needs a little more help these days.

          1. That’s not funny, this is super duper serious.

            The only real measure of intelligence is enlightenment. In animals this is approximated by how suitable they are to being therapy animals for substance abusers. Like hogs and hippos.

            It’s only Darwin’s problem if these issues are heritable. I submit that the issue is not in the gametes, and that it might be better described as helping out Mr. George Maledon.

          2. It’s a damn good thing I know better than to have anything in my mouth when I read comments here.

  14. I make all my dystopias with dystoponol.

    Dystoponal, sourced from 100% authentic free trade organic cruelty free kleptocracies.

    1. Jeez, it must be a right bastard getting hold of that stuff. Unless you’re universe-hopping, anyhow.

      1. Free trade and cruelty free are as meaningless as all natural. Third world hellhole, using third world hellhole methods, because industrial engineering is apparently against the Tao or something.

  15. Ever seen the show “River Monsters”? One show was on the “Ball Cutter”. A fish was attacking men … yeah, the name gives you a clue as to what it was doing … and it turned out to be a transplanted fish brought to Africa from South America. Related to the Piranha it was a vegivore in the Amazon, but after being in the African waters and doing damage to the ecosystem it couldn’t find enough food and went carnivore and occasionally was gelding men. Not over a span of eons or eras, but within a few years this transformation occurred.
    This fool might be educated, but they certainly are not very smart.

      1. I hadn’t heard of either of those, but neither surprises me. Plant matter is relatively low in nutrient load. Flesh is much richer source of nutrition, and most things in an environment that’s low on plant matter end up eating animals. And insects.

      2. yeah, but Catfish are almost all predatory so I went with what is supposed to be a “harmless” vegetarian that “evolved” to carnivore in a very very short period of time.

        The even smaller catfish that swims up the urethra is one to really give nightmares.

  16. Ugh. Every time tale of environmental invention reminds me of the story of the Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly.
    Also, playing God always works out so well for humanity, doesn’t it?

      1. Both apply pretty well, actually. And yes. We’re not nearly as good at playing god as we think we are.

  17. Not clicking on.

    Don’t want to give the loads.

    However, it makes perfect sense if you define evil as “makes me uncomfortable.”

  18. I look forward to a future where all sentient beings enjoy life animated by gradients of bliss. “Those who promise us paradise on earth never produced anything but a hell”, said Karl Popper. In a similar vein, my sympathies lie with the skeptical reader who reckons humans will probably mess things up.

On a brighter note, if we get things right, the future of life in the universe can be wonderful beyond the bounds of human imagination: a “triple S” civilisation of superlongevity, superintelligence and superhappiness. I doubt I’ll live to see it, but it’s a future worth striving for.

    Remarkable. Remarkable for the lack of complex understanding of human motivation, never mind any inkling regarding every other biological population on the planet.

    Remarkably frightening in that somebody will use this overblown intellectual framework to justify and pursue mechanisms to achieve this goal, without clear understanding of the consequences.

    1. Not to mention the theory that letting both lifespan and intelligence be increased might well lead to an increase in murders motivated by boredom.

      1. It would certainly lead to an increase in destructive behavior caused by boredom.

  19. I ain’t sure but what David Pearce ain’t just full of crap, and if yer not from the South, that means I think he is.
    In the first place, the drift in the definition of ‘sentience’ toward the Jainist view needs to be made frakken apparent for what it is, which is a frakken RELIGIOUS (yeah, I said it) stance.
    Secondly, I have an obligation to my pet cat Sugar Belly, which includes feeding and being polite to her, but I have no such obligation to the lion’s lunch.
    C. S. Lewis addressed the issue of animal pain in his book ‘The Problem of Pain,’ but I have no recollection of what he said. I’m sure it was on point, though, and that it proves David is an ass.

    1. Yep, it is a religious stance – it’s also a way for these oh, so superior types to lord it over us less enlightened sorts who – horrors! – eat meat.

      1. Yep. Want to do something truly horrible, start pointing out to these sorts how we’re designed to eat meat….

        1. MadMike commented that meat is one of the few things we can eat without processing it.

          1. Sushi. Steak tartare.

            On the other hand, most fruits and vegetables too (many salad ingredients, for example, are only “processed” in that they are chopped into bite-sized pieces and mixed together), so I don’t know that I’d agree with the “few things” part of that comment.

              1. MadMike’s comment was more to the idea that we can eat it without cooking. Mind you, there’s one South American plant that makes a sort of bread but needs more than “cooking” to make it eatable.

                1. Of course, most of the fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts we eat now have been selectively bred for thousands of years so that we COULD eat them without a whole lot of extra work.

                  Meanwhile without too much training most of us could go out and “acquire” a recently deceased wild animal – much of which, yes, we could eat raw. I’d personally prefer to give said deceased animal a decent amount of time to get acquainted with Mr Oven or Mr Hotplate or Mr Grill.

                  Our intestines are not ideally adapted to digesting plant matter. Leafy stuff is generally something we eat for the extra roughage, not its nutritional value.

    2. Okay, doing a bit of research, but ONLY a bit. Evidently Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) is sort of the patron saint of the animal rights folks, but his positions were nowhere near what David Peoplemurderer Pearce advocates. Bentham IS concerned with animal SUFFERING, but was not against experimentation; any suffering must be offset by “prospect of preponderant good.” His arguments are well written, rational, and as applicable today as they were 150 years ago. David Pearce, on the other hand, is an ass.

      1. If you go through Pearce’s actual website, it gets even worse. And now I have another book idea, dammit.

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