September 12, 2012 Ten Myths in Biology!
In conversation with one of my mentors — cliff ecologist extraordinaire — Professor Emeritus Douglas Larson, University of Guelph
1. Claim: “I’m allergic to goldenrod”. Response: “Well you might be, but only if wasps and bees fly up your nose!! It is insect pollinated and does not have pollen that blows in the wind. People hate it because they think it causes allergic reactions. It doesn’t. It’s ragweed which has (invisible) green flowers and emerges at the same time. By the way, both are native species to North America! So -so much for biodiversity protection – when we kill these plants!!”
2. Claim: “We’re all acting like lemmings jumping off cliffs!!”. Response: “Lemmings have never committed mass suicide in the Arctic by jumping off cliffs. For one thing, most of the arctic is flat. They would have to walk a long way to find one. For another, Walt and Roy Disney staged an episode of “Worlds of Nature” in 1954 but collecting a half dozen lemmings from the Calgary Zoo. They then tossed them over the bank of the Bow River in Calgary and filmed this over and over again to create an image which has proven indelible. Lemmings DO undergo population oscillations. Lemmings DO NOT want to. And they DON’T commit suicide to help later generations.”
3. Claim: “Strong males have large harems! Response: “When one sees one male with many females, more often than not, it is the females picking the male not the other way around. Women are in charge!! They have the resource in limited supply (eggs). Males and their sperm are in surplus. The thing that looks like a male harem is nothing more than all the women lining for the same hot powerful guy. The guys are basically helpless in this. Get over it and go play hockey so the girls can tell who’s the best!”
4. Claim: “Doctors save lives!”. Response: “Lives cannot be saved and they should not be saved. All doctors do is delay the inevitable. But it is inevitable and it must be inevitable. If people lived forever, then all global resources would already be totally exhausted. It is recycling that permits new populations to live, grow, and evolve. Death fuels life. *So if there is no death, life itself is killed.*
5. Claim: “Global warming will kill the planet!”. Response: “The planet does not care about us. Even global thermonuclear war would not have killed the planet. One would simply select for radiation tolerance plants and animals like lichens and cockroaches. They would make a new planet biosphere. But it would not be killed. Global warming will kill us however. Or at least some of us! So the ultimate irony about climate change denial, is that those people are actually risking their own environment, their own families and their own money.”
6. Claim: “We can feed the world by farming the sea.” Response: “95% of the human diet is composed of three plants: rice, wheat and corn. No algae. Only protein in animals can be farmed in the sea. Because we have so strongly harvested all the wild predatory fish in the sea (food chain lengths are one or two links shorter now than they were 40 years ago), the only sea-protein that we get from the sea might indeed come from fish farms. But the planet will starve if the LAND is not looked after. Corn wheat and rice are land plants.
7. Claim: “We can colonize other planets.” Response: “The resources necessary to get 1000 people off this planet and moved to some other planet would require several times (2x to 5x) the entire GDP of the planet to achieve. Going to Mars or even the moon is a very expensive activity that will be useless in any effort to colonize another world. A tiny fraction of the resources needed to colonize ANOTHER PLANET could make this one indefinitely sustainable inclusive of humans.”
8. Claim.”A new form of human is evolving right now!”. Response: “Biological evolution has been STOPPED by modern medicine. There is no differential survival of phenotypes (forms of things) based on their genes. There can be no biological evolution without differential mortality based on genes. What DOES remain is cultural evolution. We can change our memory genes (memes according to Richard Dawkins) instantly. We are trainable. Even men!!”
9. Claim.”God will look after us.”. Response: “If GOD = luck, then no. Luck is a poor management tool. If GOD = some all knowing being somewhere in space, then no. Too risky to rely on something for which there is NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE OF ITS EXISTENCE. However, if GOD = love, hope, and work. Then yes.
10. Claim.” There is no hope!”. Response:. “Out of perhaps 500 million species that have ever evolved, and out of the 20 or so million still alive, there is only one that is willing to look after anything ANYTHING ANYTHING ANYTHING other than its own survival. Us. When attacked by other species or by the environment, most species will defend their own bodies, will defend their lives, will defend their offspring. Some will defend other members of their own species, only rarely will one see any evidence of any species defending a member of another species. And none other than us will defend habitats, environments, atmospheres, ideas, hopes and dreams. So we are fucking fantastically rare and wonderful. WE ARE HOPE. SO IF YOU LOOK AT #9. IT ALSO MEANS THAT WE ARE GOD………..
LET’S ACT LIKE IT. Professor Emeritus Doug Larson
Text © by Professor Douglas Larson and Dr Reese Halter 2012. All rights reserved.
Tags: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Conservation Foundation, Avaaz, Chicago, Conservation International, Defenders of Wildlife, Denver, Discovery, Dr Reese Halter, Ducks Unlimited, ecology, ellen degeneres, Environmental Defense Fund, Grist, honeybees, intelligent design, Jacque Cousteau, John Denver, leonardo dicaprio, London, London Olympics, Los Angeles, Melbourne, miami, National Audubon Society, National Geographic, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, New York, New York Times, Oprah, Peta, Portland, Riverkeepers, San Francisco, Sea Shepherds, Seattle, Steve Irwin, Ted Danson, Treehugger, trees, Tucson