Anti-evolutionary thought

We were in some nature preserves on our vacation.  In each place, on every informational placard, at least half of the material presented was about the fact that this plant or that animal is going extinct.  Other species are moving in and destroying the whatever it is.  We must stop it!

It all makes for very depressing reading and its typical of any natural history place I’ve been anywhere in the world.  I’ve also noticed that I’m not the only one who has learned to bypass these signs because of their relentless proselytizing.  I miss out on a lot of good information, but at least I’m not consistently banged over the head by the fact that something is losing the battle to something else.

It occurred to me on this last trip, though, that there is something anti-evolutionary about this whole “freeze this species in time” approach to things.  The whole concept of evolution is about change.  It holds that nothing is static, but that the natural world is constantly facing challenges and either adapting or dying.  Some challenges ought not to occur, and do represent the worst type of human intervention.  For example, the hunting to extinction of the gentle Dodo bird was a dreadful thing to happen.  I also have a very hard time finding any excuse whatsoever for the animals in Africa that are being hunted to extinction to satisfy the insatiable desire for aphrodisiacs in some parts of Asia.

Other challenges to a species’ survival — at least in its original form — are man made, but I doubt that many would claim they ought to be undone.  If anyone needs reminding, dogs, cows, pigs, sheep, goats and horses were not originally domesticated.  They became domesticated because humans deliberately interfered with their development, winnowing out the “bad” ones that did not suit human needs so that the only ones left were the useful, helpful and very comforting animals that are an integral part of most human life on earth — and have been for thousands of years.

And then there are those natural challenges:  climate change, which has been occurring for millenia, not just since the industrial revolution; volcanoes, whether creative or destructive; natural disasters, such as floods or tornadoes or earthquakes; etc.  I won’t enumerate them all.  It’s sufficient to note that nature changes without any input from us, the humans on this earth.

My sense is that, at all these national parks, and zoos, and natural history museums, the curators make no distinction whatsoever between the different engines of change that can affect the wildlife (plant or animal) under their care.  In their view all change is bad.  But that can’t be right.  Without change, we’d all still be single cell creatures living in a vast shadowing ocean.  There has to be change, and the parks, zoos and other places would do better, and make themselves more interesting, if they would acknowledge that fact.