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Let The Panda Become Extinct

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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drew
Posts: 23
Joined: May 19th, 2008, 9:50 am

Let The Panda Become Extinct

#1 Postby drew » September 18th, 2008, 12:53 pm

I was listening to a very interesting debate, it proposed that those who believe in Darwins Theory (Humanist or not) should allow natural selection to take its course and therefore Pandas should become extinct.

I have always donated to charities supporting wildlife projects, especially Born Free, does this undermine my Humanist credentials?

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Paolo
Posts: 1474
Joined: September 13th, 2008, 9:15 am

Re: Let The Panda Become Extinct

#2 Postby Paolo » September 18th, 2008, 3:07 pm

I would say that Darwin's theory is not something to be "believed", it is the demonstrable mechanism that gives rise to distinct species. Natural selection is not a preordained or moral rule, it is simply the name for the non-random inability of less well adapted individuals within a population to create a viable next generation. Opinions on how it is, or how it should be, applied are spurious since it describes what happens, not what should happen.

Pandas are going extinct due to human activity - mainly the clearing of prime habitat for farming, leaving the pandas marginalised in poorer mountain habitats.

Pandas may be struggling in the wild, but they are cute and fluffy enough to make humans want to bother conserving them. Since they are only at risk because of humans in the first place I see no reason why humans shouldn't also provide the support to ensure future generations of pandas. At the current rate of extinction/conservation within a few hundred thousand years only the cutest, coolest, prettiest and fluffiest animals will be left on the planet, since these adaptations are what will guarantee enough conservation work to save those species. Survival of the fluffiest.

drew
Posts: 23
Joined: May 19th, 2008, 9:50 am

Re: Let The Panda Become Extinct

#3 Postby drew » September 18th, 2008, 3:58 pm

Paolo wrote:Pandas are going extinct due to human activity - mainly the clearing of prime habitat for farming, leaving the pandas marginalised in poorer mountain habitats.


I was under the impression that their lack of a sexual appetite and poor digestive system was to blame. I understand the impact of humans is part of the problem, but is the money we spend on Pandas not better spent on people?

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Paolo
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Joined: September 13th, 2008, 9:15 am

Re: Let The Panda Become Extinct

#4 Postby Paolo » September 18th, 2008, 4:31 pm

drew wrote:I was under the impression that their lack of a sexual appetite and poor digestive system was to blame. I understand the impact of humans is part of the problem, but is the money we spend on Pandas not better spent on people?


They are perfectly happy to mate in the wild, when they have enough food and an adequate habitat. The problem is that they no longer have the suite of environmental conditions available to them that is required to reproduce effectively. This is partly due to the types of food that have been made unavailable due to habitat loss. The best bamboo is no longer available to them due to the encroachment of human settlements, so they have to make do with inferior quality bamboo growing on mountain slopes which has less nutritional value (and bamboo has a low nutritional value at the best of times).

As to spending the money for pandas on people - why? There are billions of people in the world, we're not in danger of going extinct any time soon (although with population growth at its current rate - who knows). People make their choices about the things that they think are important - if you don't think pandas are important don't give your money to organisations that help pandas!

I personally think that biodiversity is important to maintain for a variety of reasons, many of which positively effect people. When we lose biodiversity we lose resources for the future and we deplete the reservoir of genetic diversity that may be important in the long term future of this planet's life.

Of course, I also think that the panda going extinct doesn't actually matter very much for the future of the planet, but since we broke it we should play a part in fixing it - out of a sense of plain decency. That's pretty much why I consider myself a Humanist, not just an atheist - the sense of moral obligation that is easily rationalised away, but which you know shouldn't be.

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Joined: February 27th, 2008, 12:17 pm

Re: Let The Panda Become Extinct

#5 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » September 18th, 2008, 4:35 pm

Paolo wrote:I would say that Darwin's theory is not something to be "believed", it is the demonstrable mechanism that gives rise to distinct species. Natural selection is not a preordained or moral rule, it is simply the name for the non-random inability of less well adapted individuals within a population to create a viable next generation. Opinions on how it is, or how it should be, applied are spurious since it describes what happens, not what should happen.
Absolutely. It was that kind of thinking — seeing natural selection, and more specifically "survival of the fittest", as some kind of moral imperative — that led to Social Darwinism. Nasty stuff.
drew wrote:I understand the impact of humans is part of the problem, but is the money we spend on Pandas not better spent on people?
The money being spent on pandas is being spent on people: not only because people love pandas, but also because protecting the habitats of pandas involves the imposition of some kind of brake on deforestation, soil erosion and the destruction of ecosystems for the sake of economic growth. It's not just pandas, and other endangered plant and animal species, whose habitats are at risk; there are people in those regions, too. And their livelihoods and cultures and communities depend on the same forests.

Besides, the argument "Wouldn't the money we spend on X be better spent on people — eradicating poverty, disease, illiteracy, etc.?" is a spurious one, I think. What is needed to help people is not just money; it's a more fundamental change in the world economic system.

Having said all that, I'm not convinced that captive-breeding programmes are as important a conservation measure as they're claimed to be.

Emma

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Nick
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Joined: July 4th, 2007, 10:10 am

Re: Let The Panda Become Extinct

#6 Postby Nick » September 18th, 2008, 4:45 pm

I would say that Darwin's theory is not something to be "believed", it is the demonstrable mechanism that gives rise to distinct species. Natural selection is not a preordained or moral rule, it is simply the name for the non-random inability of less well adapted individuals within a population to create a viable next generation. Opinions on how it is, or how it should be, applied are spurious since it describes what happens, not what should happen.


Exactly so.

Another point to bear in mind is that by preserving the panda, we are also preserving thousands of other, less glamorous species which also live in the same habitat. I think there are plenty of reasons to do that.

Last but not least, this gives me an opportunity to remind you all of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzRH3iTQPrk

:hilarity:

ETA you beat me to it by a second or two Emma. :D

drew
Posts: 23
Joined: May 19th, 2008, 9:50 am

Re: Let The Panda Become Extinct

#7 Postby drew » September 18th, 2008, 7:56 pm

I wonder if we would care if they were scaly or creepy crawly?

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Emma Woolgatherer
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Joined: February 27th, 2008, 12:17 pm

Re: Let The Panda Become Extinct

#8 Postby Emma Woolgatherer » September 18th, 2008, 8:39 pm

Why wonder? It's bleedin' obvious. Of course we wouldn't! Or rather, we don't. According to various estimates, at least 35 species of plants and animals go extinct every day. And most of the animals are insects.

Emma

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coledavis
Posts: 369
Joined: August 17th, 2008, 6:29 pm

Re: Let The Panda Become Extinct

#9 Postby coledavis » September 28th, 2008, 9:38 pm

The 'let em go extinct, it's the environment innit' idea is rather akin to the 'let em go to the wall, it's market forces innit' notion. The environment and the economy are these days very much a matter of conscious human decision-making, not an invisible hand to be deferred to. Sure, rescuing a life form that is demonstratively failing to cope is a waste of resources, but we should be considering the collective effect of human beings on other living things and each other.
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