Friday, August 29, 2008

Walking on eggshells

I've been on leave from the philosophizing business for a while, much to the disappointment of my dad. Well, it's a hard job to be a full-time philosopher. It's a risky business, and the inspiration has to hit you just right. I'm glad I don't make my money doing this. Actually, I can't imagine making money being a philosopher. Who would pay someone to think for them? I suppose inspiring someone to think for themselves might be worthy of payment. Of course, the kind of philosophizing done nowadays seems to lean toward the "it's all OK, there are no absolutes, right and wrong has been out of style for a while now, so do and think whatever you want, just as long as you don't actually make it look like you're stating a concrete truth" mode. Because, America, it's time for a change!

So, I'll give a report about my vacation. A few weeks ago, when my mom was here visiting, we took a day trip to Anacapa Island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. The Channel Islands are known as "the Galapagos of North America" for the diversity of flora and fauna which has adapted to the islands and is not known to any other place, such as Torrey pines, tree sunflowers with a trunk, tiny foxes, etc. It was overcast the day we visited, thankfully, because there are no trees at all, only scrub. There are no beaches on Anacapa Island, it is one huge rock, looming out of the ocean. We had to climb the equivalent of several flights of stairs to get from our boat to the top of the island, because every edge of the island is massive cliffs plunging into the sea. The entire island is about one mile long, so you can walk back and forth on the whole thing within a few hours. And you'd see the same thing everywhere: scrub, these funny short tree sunflowers (which had dead blossoms at that time), and, oh, birds. Birds. Seagulls everywhere. And seagull poop. 

Another indigenous bird on the Channel Islands is the brown pelican. Our tour guide was careful to inform us that the other half of the island, about a quarter mile away and separated by a small isthmus, was off limits to all humans because it was a brown pelican rookery. We were told that the brown pelican population had been diminishing because of the pollution of DDT in past decades. Apparently the presence of DDT in the ocean's food chain affects the brown pelicans by causing the eggshells to become soft. These type of birds have the habit of standing on their eggs to incubate them, instead of sitting on them, so with the soft eggshells, the parents actually break their own eggs. Out of 500 or so eggs laid in this rookery one year, only one survived, we were told. 

Of course, this had caused widespread panic among environmentalists and brown pelican fans. DDT was outlawed, and vast amounts of money was spent to try to clean it up and establish safe havens for the poor creatures. My immediate thought was, why doesn't someone just try to teach the pelicans not to stand on their eggs? Which led me to wonder about something: We are told that life has changed and adapted over 5 billion years or whatnot, from the level of protozoa through frog and monkey and finally human. These changes have been a result of adaptation to surroundings, even to the point where not only will a given animal physically and genetically adapt to a challenge it faces, say, color to match its surrounding, but it actually has the capacity to change into another species. My question is: If a frog can, over time, transform itself into a bird to solve the problem of, say, wanting to catch flies which are higher than it can reach, why are humans so disturbed about the pelican and its eggshells? You would think, logically, that the evolutionists would be the first to say, "Who cares about DDT? Just give it time, and the pelicans will evolve to figure out not to stand on their eggshells. Then, eventually, they will turn into beavers." Creationists ought to be the ones to worry that what we're doing might mess up God's creations the way they were originally designed. 


Ed Darrell said...

A few facts often help in the philosophizing department.

1. Pelican egg incubation is instinctive, not a learned behavior. While DDT certainly produces some selective pressure for brown pelicans to evolve a new way of incubating eggs, it's highly unlikely to work, since the chief problem is the abundance of poison in the tissues of the birds.

2. DDT also kills the chicks in the eggs, and makes those few that might survive to hatching liable to die of nervous system damage before they can fledge.

3. Evolution theory doesn't posit that frogs change into birds after yearning for a way to catch bugs. That's fairy tale magic -- and in wildlife management, fairy tale magic generally doesn't work.

4. If someone told you humans evolved from monkeys, you should slap them. Humans share ancestors with orangs, chimps and gorillas; our shared ancestor shared another ancestor with monkeys. We are not descended from monkeys. Again, that's fairy tale stuff.

5. Creationists? Worry about God's creation? Surely you jest.

Rachel and Eric Nelson said...

EXACTLY!!!! Rachel and I spent 20 minutes talking to some Sierra Club volunteers trying to sign us up for membership asking the same question. "How can you be an environmentalist and an evolutionist? The two philosophies are mutually inconsistent."

Stephanie said...

OK, gorillas.

Anonymous said...

Are you agreeing about humans from gorillas or calling the commentors gorillas?

Stephanie said...

he he he! neither...just acknowledging that I was mistaken: humans evolved from gorillas, not monkeys, of course! :)

Joelle said...

I think you succeeded in philosophizing even though you didn't seem to set out to do so. Hahaha!