Sunday, May 6, 2007


Are human choices as natural as forces like DNA? Are humans subject to natural selection laws when we make moral and ethical choices? I was wondering if we subvert or support natural selection through rational and scientific thought.

A comment to my Avian C.S.I. blog by a well-known agitator states categorically that we are interfering with natural forces when we value some life forms (Bluebirds) over others (House Sparrows) and make decisions based on those valuations. I think the implication is the negative involvement of a human ego posited to exist outside of the natural selection process. They may be right. After all, life forms that we have valued as destructive and wiped out or begun to control through medical advances (polio, AIDS, smallpox, measles, cholera, malaria) do affect only the human population. Would it be wiser to view these life forms as equivalent to our own and let viruses and bacteria run their course? Perhaps they are necessary checks to the overpopulation of the earth. Or is rational scientific thought a natural force. (We did invent birth control.)

It's a very ticky issue. After all, the House Sparrow was intentionally introduced to this continent by a human decision not by an external force. Was that decision part of a natural selection? Would the decision to destroy them be a rational natural selection for evolution by one of the forms of life naturally selected for survival to this point? Or are our limited abilities causing us to self-select a route towards extinction not only of other species but of our own species?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a general sentiment, I would agree that human actions are part of Nature-- there is nothing that is truly "unnatural." But, I would draw a distinction between meddling in natural selection for reasons of self-preservation ("A pox on you, smallpox!") versus aesthetic motivation (e.g., bluebirds are prettier than sparrows). But (again), I also believe that nearly all of the world's problems (including those that are exclusively human problems) are the result of Homo sapiens over-population. So, maybe we would have been better off to have let diseases run their course....