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Early Man: The Cause of Mass Extinction? 324

xpccx writes: "There's an article over at CNN about the possibility that early man hunted large animals ( like mammoths ) into extinction. "New work by American and Australian researchers is adding weight to the theory, while undercutting the notion that climate change and not human influence was the cause."" Update: 06/14 03:32 PM by H : This is touched on in Guns, Germs and Steel, which I highly recommend. This has been the going theory with many (most?) historians as to why the megafauna in Australia, the Americas all disappeared within a couple thousand years of the appearance of humans. Considering they had survived countless millenia before our arrival, I'm inclined to think that the two events might just kinda be linked.
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Early Man: The Cause of Mass Extinction?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    How come you got pissed off halfway through the first sentence and flipped on the bold?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The main problem I have with Bob's theory is that diseases only cross species boundaries with difficulty. I.e. when was the last time your dog or cat caught the flu or a cold from you? There are exceptions to this, of course, like the main reservoir of human flu epidemics seems to be ducks and other fowl. (At the same time, how the heck could a mammoth catch a cold (say) from a human?)

    As was pointed out, natives used to run entire herds of buffalo over the side of cliffs. Is there any reason to think that they wouldn't have herded/dispatched mammoths et al. the same way? Personally, I'd rather let a mammoth kill itself than take one on with a pointy stick.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    (begin shamelessly stolen content)

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And Satan said, "It doesn't get any better than this." And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit," and God saw that it was good. And Satan said, "There goes the neighborhood." And God said, "Let us make Man in our image, after our likeness, and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." And so God created Man in his own image; male and female created He them. And God looked upon Man and Woman and saw that they were lean and fit. And Satan said, "I know how I can get back into this game." And God populated the earth with broccoli and cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would=live long and health lives. And Satan created McDonald's. And McDonald's brought forth the 99-cent double cheeseburger. And Satan said to Man, "You want fries with that?" And Man said, "Supersize them." And Man gained 5 pounds. And God created the healthful yogurt, that Woman might keep her figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth chocolate. And Woman gained 5 pounds. And God said, "Try my crispy fresh salad." And Satan brought forth Ben & Jerry's. And Woman gained 10 pounds. And God said, "I have sent thee heart-healthy vegetables and olive oil with which to cook them." And Satan brought forth chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained 10 pounds and his bad cholesterol went through the roof. And God brought forth running shoes and Man resolved to lose those extra pounds. And Satan brought forth cable TV with remote control so Man would not have to toil to change channels between ESPN and ESPN2. And Man gained another 20 pounds. And God said, "You are running up the score, Satan." And God brought forth the potato, a vegetable naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And he created sour cream dip also. And Man clutched his remote control and ate the potato chips swaddled in cholesterol. And Satan saw and said, "It is good." And Man went into cardiac arrest. And God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. And Satan created HMOs.

    (begin shamelessly stolen content)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Will all you Conservatives and Liberals hurry up and rip each other apart? The sooner the people are rid of you, the sooner we can restore a mediocum of sanity to our culture and our political system.

    -- Guges --

  • by Anonymous Coward
    You'd think that at a web site devoted to computers, nerds and logic, we would be immune to fellatious arguments

    You'd think so but fellatio is hard to resist.

    The only humorous sidenote is that this punctures the myth of the American Indian as an environmental superbeing. Obviously, they committed carnivorous genocide on every being their primitive technology allowed,

    Where did you get your facts you fucking moron? American Indians were the original practitioners of conservation, a fact that would be obvious to you if you had done anything approximating study of them. Just because they killed things doesn't mean they were out there raping the environment. It is the white man, by killing off all of the upper level predators, that wrecked the biota.

    You greens are the most misguided bunch I have even seen. The only time you have spent in the woods is to chain yourself to a tree to stop a logger, or taken a nap in a meadow at some college campus. Try to learn something before you run your mouth about who wrecks what, stop watching so many Disney movies where the animals cooperate with one another. It isn't like that in real life. You think deer aren't supposed to die to feed predators? Do you think that if we just stopped killing them they'll all be just fine? The biota is far more intricate than you will ever understand, more intricate than we will ever be able to model. You think because people hunt they are somehow contributing to the destruction of nature but thats because your are guided by your politics.

  • You've just demonstrated why so-called "pure logic" is difficult to use as a good basis for making decisions. Both of you have "logical" arguments that come to very different conclusions, opposite conclusions actually. One of you is no more "right" than the other, but you both think the other is wrong.

    Just to add my own $0.02, you'd be hard pressed to say that farms are not nature. They're just a small part of nature contained but still subject to the larger overall system that includes sunlight, rain, soil, and many other things that are hard (or impossible) to replicate on a large enough scale to feed everyone.
  • by Tim Macinta ( 1052 ) <> on Thursday June 14, 2001 @04:27AM (#151870) Homepage
    From the article's list of creatures that are extinct: "...a 26-foot lizard also disappeared."

    I, for one, am glad that I don't have to worry about one of those showing up in my back yard.


    Notice when that was posted. Nice try, though.
  • Thank you. Exactly the example I would've chosen. Someone can post one way or the other what is "right", but in the end it comes down to values and beliefs. And those aren't based on logic.
  • is in fact old news among ethologists; this article describes modeling support for trying to get the details of how it happened. A good reference is Robert Ardrey's The Hunting Hypothesis, published in the late seventies. Homo sapiens is a cursile group-hunting species, in fact a very efficient one. Note that the only places there are large fauna extant are where the species arose in Africa and Asia, and evolved slowly enough that the rest of the fauna could keep up. Elsewhere, they didn't have time to adapt.

  • often this sort of nonsense.

    "John Alroy, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, used a complicated computer model to simulate what may have happened when humans first entered North America some 13,400 years ago over an Ice Age land bridge from Asia..."

    So this guy has got tenure, and he's making himself famous and getting quoted on CNN by coming up with some off-the-wall theory that makes him stand out from the crowd, by saying that aboriginal native americans caused mass extinctions...

    Yeah, right...

    Remember that university professors are under absoulutely *no* obligation whatsoever to espouse theories that make any sense.

    Just as there is the attitude of "publish or perish" that drives much of what comes out of the university context, so is there the attitude that "I can say any damn thing I want to because of my 'academic freedom'"

    It doesn't have to make any sense, it just has to get him noticed.

    When I was at CSU at Long Beach in the late sixties, taking a geology minor, there was an extremely influential professor there who based his entire career on the position that plate tectonics was a bunch of crap.

    Everyone took him very seriously, and he went on and on, and he was totally wrong.



    And yet everyone pretended to take him seriously because he had tenure and he'd been there a long time.

    And wait just one minute:

    "Regardless of the variables he plugged in, the presence of human hunters triggered mass extinctions..."

    No matter *what* variables he plugged in, he still kept getting the same answer?!?

    Are you putting me on?

    Either CNN is full of sh*t, (heh.. don't get me started...) or the guy had a result he wanted, and set up his model to get that result no matter what.

    Some "scientist"...

    I think not; therefore I ain't®

  • ...from my sources in PRE-pre-Columbian American History, that Native Americans only became enlightened Noble Savages AFTER they killed off the mammoths.

    Nobody complained about the extinction of the "giant lizards with really big teeth" (as some of the megafauna of the day were known). But, in the famine which followed the death of the last wooly pachyderm, many were heard to lament, "Maybe we shouldn't have killed them all. I wonder if we shouldn't adopt a different philosophy vis-a-vis these bison. Something along the lines of we're-all-the-children-of-the-Great-Spirit or something like that. Besides, Rousseau will respect us more."
  • by Skip666Kent ( 4128 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @07:05AM (#151886)
    It's not like ancient man had the tools nessecery to kill off a sufficient quantity of any animal as to drive it to extinction

    They sure as heck did, especially in cases of the huge, lumbering wooly-mammoth type animals. In the beginning, such animals were hunted at close-quarters by spear-holding humans. Kills were hard-earned with frequent human casualties until an innovation called the atlatl [] enabled much smaller bands of hunters to kill much more easily and with far fewer casualties. Various difficulties involving population growth and over-hunting insued, with lasting ramifications for our old wooly pals!
  • by Tharsis ( 7591 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @03:59AM (#151889)
    Since when did we stop being part of natural selection?
  • Since it seems popular to forget that every "great tale" had some basis in fact most people never bother to check into what could have led to a so-called great flood.

    Which is a shame, because when the world, for all intents and purposes, consisted of the cities of Mesopotamia (Ur, Kish, Lagash, Eridu, Nippur...) there was indeed a great flood when both the Tigris and Euphrates spilled over covering some if not all of the major cities of the time. Since this would have covered most of the cities and the only records we have of large city based civilizations of the time come from these cities...

    ... there was a great flood.
  • The best research never sets out to prove or dis-prove something, rather, it sets out to find out what happened without any prior opinion.

    While I understand what you're trying to get at (can scientists really be dispassionate if they start out with a preconcieved notion ... the answer of course is both no and yes, no, they are not dispassionate but yes, their methodology and results can be), your characterization of scientific methodology is wrong.

    The most common scientific method (there is more than one scientific method btw) is to pose a falsifiable hypothesis and then go about proving or disproving it through the rigorous gathering of evidence. Inherent in this method is having a prior opinion, and then proving (or disproving) it through rigorous scientific research. Despite the high fluff/low fact ratio of the article in question, it does appear that this group followed exactly that approach: they formed a falsifiable hypothesis, then went about gathering evidence to support it. It appears their methods were sound and that the available evidence thus far supports their hypothesis.

    Does this mean their right? Perhaps, perhaps not. Someone else may well come forward with evidence which knocks the legs out from their hypothesis. But for now it appears their hypothesis is standing up to scientific rigor. Of course, others in the scientific community will examine their hypothesis and in turn add supporting or contravening evidence.

    It is not really surprising that this makes certain camps of Randian rationalists uncomfortable to the point of frothing at the mouth (no, I do not include the post to which I am replying, but do point to other posts in this thread) ... the (almost religious) belief that capitalism can do no wrong and unfettered trade with no restraint or regulation holds little water when set against the obvious ecological impact such lassaiz-faire approaches have engendered in the past. The notion that even low-tech cavemen were having a negative impact with nothing more than their native intelligence, a mastadonian thigh-bone, fire, and a lack of restraint would serve to threaten those beliefs even more potently. The dubya supporters and their ilk have had another beloved myth torn from their eyes, with predictable results.

    And yes, of course "the greenies" will point to this as further evidence that mankind needs to learn to tread more lightly on this planet. After all, if even cavemen can damage their environment so severely that mass extinctions are a result, what of modern man, where each individual commands more energy to their own ends than the whole of humankind ten thousand years ago? Clearly this is evidence supporting their perspective, so yes, they will come forth. As well they should, right wing frothing at the mouth notwithstanding.
  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @07:37AM (#151893)
    Read Daniel Quinne's Ishmael. He discusses this issue in depth with far more eloquence than I.

    Humans aren't just hunting animals, they are waging all out war against (some) animals. Why? Because they compete against us for food. Farmers exterminate wolves and foxes that prey upon their livestock, rabbits that prey upon their produce, etc. etc. We gas insects routinely for the same reason. In this all out war, many species are diven to the brink of extinction and beyond. Others survive, marginalized and with an ever more depleated reserve of genetic diversity, lessoning their capacity for adaptation when natural ecological changes occur. Add to that the very unnatural, man-made ecological changes occurring (global warming, which a mountain of scientific evidence supports despite the nay-saying of a few ostrich-mimicking humans) and you do have mass extinction caused by humankind.

    But, and here's the real catch people like you seem to miss, it isn't just about the extinction of other species. It is about our own impending extinction. Contrary to popular myth, propogated by everything from right-wing religious fanatics to left-wing "we can manage the ecosphere" to trekkie/trekker "social and technological change will solve these problems" optomists that we are somehow "above" or "outside" of our ecology, we are an inherent part of the ecological structure and web of food chains we ourselves are ravaging.

    If we continue as we are, we will in the not so very distant future bring the entire structure crashing down, along with it that portion of the ecology which supports our own food chain. For example, if the worms die, our soil dies, and with it our crops, and ultimately ourselves. Why should worms die? The reason may not be obvious, but they, as we, are a part of an entire complex web of interdependency, key portions of which are being thoughtlesshack hacked out of existence with unforseen consiquences. Warnings abound: dustbowls, the desertification of once lush areas through absolutist agricultural methods which, in those regions, left the ecosystem in such tatters that, thousands of years later, it still hasn't recovered. Entire civilizations (e.g. the Mayans) are believed to have vanished in no small part as a result of agricultural collaps.

    Take a look at it from another perspective. At one time there were a thousand different types of apples, some sweet, some tart, some red, some yellow, some green. Now there are a handfull of types which are mass-farmed. The same holds true for virtually every other food product we consume: where once there was tremendous diversity there are now a scant few surviving types, and many of those (oranges, for example) have been deliberately bred to not be able to reproduce (no seeds). What was once a robust food chain, with enough redundancy to withstand tremendoous changes in the environment (whether such changes be the emergence of a new species of plant, animal or insect, or climatic change) there remains only a fragile few choices, any one of which can be wiped out by a single parisite or disease.

    It isn't as obvious as the Irish potato famine, which resulted in no small part because there was only one food crop of significance, and when it failed, everyone starved, but the principle is the same. The more we weaken our supporting ecology, whether it is by reducing the diversity of our own food sources, or that of the life around us (even competing life, such as wolves and the like), the more vulnerable we become to any change, no matter how small.

    Down this road lies inevitable extinction, it is really only a question of how soon and how fast.

    The solution doesn't require us foregoing technology, as some of the luddite inspired environmentalists would have us believe. It doesn't even necessarilly mean foregoing genetic enhancement of food products (although Monsato's habit of making seeds steril to protect their so-called intellectual property is certainly one way to jump-start a famine). It is only necessary that we stop waging war on the life around us and stop trying to turn every square meter of land into a production device for human food.

    Back off, allow some robustness to return to our supporting ecology, and we will not only have less extinctions, we may even manage to prevent our own.
  • When humans started getting alot smarter than their prey they sort of artificially took themselves out of the predator/prey loop. Human's didn't over specialize because they moved around so much. We're arguably omnivores which means we never needed to specialize in hunting any particular sort of prey. When supply dwindled we moved to a new area or chased down animals that were roving. Strict carnivores don't have that ability because they've got too many special straits for hunting particular types of animals. Our specialty was our brains and with that we were able to augment the rest of our abilities. You don't need to run really fast to throw some sort of missle weapon and you don't need sharp claws if you've got oposed thumbs and can grip sharp rocks. Since we could outlive the extinction of our prey we could afford to make it go extinct. I'd assume if you looked at human populations during a prey downturn you'd see their populations didn't shrink too much only moved on or split up.
  • Modern man paving the earth and killing animals can still lead to natural selection. Those animals that can exist in the new envornment survive, others don't. That's what natural selection is all about.

    Of course, I'm not saying let's pave the earth.. only that natural selection happens whether we interfere or not.
  • Check out this book (title in subject line) that looks at the same issue and posits that on land masses where the large mammals were mostly exterminated, the societies failed to develop technology and more noxious diseases because there was less surplus food.

    It is much more complex and detailed than the summary I provide above, and a good read. (It won a Pulitzer).

  • >Have it ever occured to you that only people,
    >surprise, surprise, kills animals in an
    >unecessary manner, and the richer you are, the
    >more you need to kill? (not that you would do it
    >your self, mind you, but all those BicMacs were a
    >cow before).

    See my comment about my cat below, but I've
    noticed that the richer I am, the more I can
    afford to go down to the local stockyards and pick
    out a cow and butcher it myself. I don't have any
    reasonable evidence that this is reducing the
    total amount of animal deaths due to me, but one
    cow sure lasts me a very long time.

    On to the fun part.

    -Do overweight people need to eat that much meat?

    Apparently, I have met more overweight vegetarians than you.

    -DOes somebody that has already a leather jacket
    (that could be replaced by something else) need
    another leather jacket?

    Well, the cow is hamburger anyway, it would be a
    shame to waste the skin. Leather is a byproduct.

    -Do animals kill other animals as a sport or

    Where do you think we got the phrase "cat and mouse"

    -Do people need to eat shark fin soup? (throwing
    away all the shark, after cutting away the fin,
    in the process).

    My cat regularly leaves her kills after taking
    just a few bites. I don't know how long the local
    ecosystem is going to last. Guess I'll have to
    start buying kittykibble.

  • > Do you think that is is morally and ethically
    > acceptable for you to toy with something before
    > killing it?

    I find it ethically acceptable, but not
    necessarily morally. Sometimes it may be necessary
    to extend the death of something, but that doesn't
    mean I should necessarily feel good or bad about

    > Assuming you are not in danger, do you consider
    > it more noble to kill something or not to kill
    > something?

    I don't consider killing something noble or
    ignoble. As far as I know, I only kill in three
    ways: to obtain food, to prevent some parasite
    from sucking my blood, and when driving(or any
    time the death is not a deliberate action). The
    first two might be construed as "in danger". The
    last is perhaps unfortunate, but hardly ignoble.

    > Imagine for a moment that God exists and has
    > appeared before you at a young age and given you
    > a choice to make for your future. You may either
    > become a fisherman who kills sharks for their
    > fins and becomes very wealthy, or you may become
    > a low-paid doctor in a small urban community.
    > Which would you chose?

    Well, first I don't have to imagine:}
    Second, I would do the same thing I do every time
    God gives me a choice: ignore the obvious for the
    correct. Free will and all that.

    If truly forced to pick, I would become a wealthy
    shark fisher, pay the doctor salary when my
    neighbors can't, and start a fish farm. There are
    no black and white choices.
  • >Actually, it is strongly believed that Jesus was
    >an actual person whom existed, though whether he
    >even remotely resembled (in action, not
    >appearance) the Jesus described today is
    >concidered extremely unlikely.

    All I can think of is: "He has given us... a shoe!" - Fanatics, "Life of Brian" (Monty Python)
  • I hope you disposed of them carefully. Wild birds, especially those that roost in large numbers like crows, frequently carry viruses, such as influenza, Eastern Equine Encephelitis and (now) West Nile Virus, that can infect humans. As their bodies break down, they can be pretty "hot".

    A book I read recently, "Virus X" [], posits that some viruses which inhabit animal populations (sometimes, as in the case of hanta virus and rodents, with no ill effects) have a symbiotic relationship with their host. They are a form of natural defence against other animals moving into the host's range.

  • Try picking up a stick and approaching a strange dog on his territory, and see how much he likes playing "fetch".
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @04:43AM (#151924) Homepage Journal
    Take a visit to Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. They have quite an exhibit of recently (within the last few tens of millenia) critters. North America of a few tens of thousands of years ago was packed with exotic megafauna that would make the Serengeti look like the North America of today in comparison. The reason Africa has so many animals is that they evolved with people, and instinctively know to avoid them.

    A friend of mine showed me an interesting trick. If a dog is harassing you, reach down and touch the ground with the knuckles of your first two fingers. The dog either backs off, or it goes completely ballistic, because that posture, that of a human being reaching down to pick up a rock, is hardwired into its genes to mean trouble.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @06:03AM (#151925) Homepage Journal
    and if you can name a greater despoiler of the environment than the Godless commies, name one, cf. the Caspian Sea has shrunk in half due to Communist environmental degradation and water diversion

    I believe you mean the Aral sea, which has shrunk in size due to the diversion of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya river for cotton agriculture.

    While authoritarianism in its various forms is particular prone to environmental abuse, the Aral disaster is more due to the unique nature of the place than a divine punishment of an evil economic system. The Aral is a landlocked lake in an arid region, and is fed by two major rivers that are the only source of water in the region.

    I've exactly seen the same practices in captialist countries, it's just that the impact is different because the geography is different. For example, I've personally leaped over the Rio Copiopo of northern Chile where it meets the sea -- it starts as a good sized river in the mountains and it ends up about two meters wide and 3 cm deep. If there were a landlocked lake that was fed by this river, it would be gone. The difference is that it empties into the Pacific.

    What about the mighty Colorado? What if that emptied into a lake instead of the Pacific? It's hard to believe that if the Aral were in the US or any other capitalist country, it would be much better.

    Capitalist countries have their own litany of environmental disasters: soil salinification in Australia, mass forest die offs in Europe, eutrophication or sterilization of lakes in North America, and so on. This is not a value judgement about Capitalism, just an simple observation. Planned economies stick people in a cycle of environmental misery from which they cannot escape, because of the general low level of development and adaptability in the economy ties them to the land. Capital nimbly redeploys itself so that as an investor I am blissfully insulated from the "bads" that my investments creates.

    So capitalism is better for people, in the short run, in that it provides them with ways to route around environmental damage.

    It doesn't mean we have to live this way. We don't have to catch the last two cod in the sea. We don't have to leave toxic waste ponds behind our gold mining operations. We are not unthinking animals. However, there are two kinds of positions to take in this debate. The first kind is taken by those who see an intrinsic value in nature and want to preserve it to some degree by regulating the actions of the market. These shade from moderates like myself to environmental extremists who would consider me no better than the worst of the lot. On the other hand there are those who believe there is no value other than what can be assigned by current market prices, and thus for whom any kind of regulation or limitation on environmental impacts is simply an irrational, unwarranted interference in the workings of a system which by definition is perfect.

    There are axiomatic differences between these camps, and thus in the final analysis not much basis for rational discourse between them. So, we must fight.

    You'd think that at a web site devoted to computers, nerds and logic, we would be immune to fellatious [sic] arguments based on emotion instead of logic, but you'd be wrong.

    People who don't recognize the force of emotion in their arguments are doomed to be its unwitting slaves. I've never seen anybody who claims to be ultra-logical who actually puts down his axioms and produces theorems from them in a formal and correct way. Instead, they use the term 'logic' as a content-less emotional blugeon to dismiss people who weight evidence differently from them or disagree with their values. These are the people who are so blinded by their emotions they mistake their subjective preferences for objective reality.

  • by DrRobin ( 33359 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @06:37AM (#151927)
    One interesting side point on the subject of New World Mass Extinctions is its implications for how we think about Native American cultures as seen by the Europeans after Columbus. Typical European portrayals depict the Native Americans as existing in a pristine aboriginal state of Nature. What we can see now is that North America at the time of the first European colonists had actually undergone enormous environmental upheaval in the previous several thousand years. What the Europeans saw was not an original state but a hard won equilibrium. The striking harmony with nature seen in many Native American tribes was itself the product of a long process of natural selection.
    As an aside, as a biologist and a grownup, I find it dispiriting to see the fraction of posts on biological topics that degenerate into sophomoric political ranting (invariably from non-biologists with a very shallow grasp of the topic). Even the simplest biological phenomenon -let alone something as complex as a whole ecology- is so much deeper and more complex that our simple political theories that it is just foolish to try to score polictical points by making the biology fit one's ideological preconceptions. Please, for the sake of the readers, keep the political ranting somewhere else and spend some time actually learning the biology.
  • Let me ask you a couple of questions:

    Do you think that is is morally and ethically acceptable for you to toy with something before killing it?

    Assuming you are not in danger, do you consider it more noble to kill something or not to kill something?

    Imagine for a moment that God exists and has appeared before you at a young age and given you a choice to make for your future. You may either become a fisherman who kills sharks for their fins and becomes very wealthy, or you may become a low-paid doctor in a small urban community. Which would you chose?

  • You'd think that at a web site devoted to computers, nerds and logic, we would be immune to fellatious arguments

    Nope, your post disabused me of that notion.

    I expect the green factions on Slashdot (oddly enough, they overlap with the Communist factions, and if you can name a greater despoiler of the environment than the Godless commies, name one, cf. the Caspian Sea has shrunk in half due to Communist environmental degradation and water diversion

    Wow, that's such a list of logical fallacies, I can't pick which one to point out first. Let's start with the straw-man:

    "green factions" "overlap with the Communist factions"? Ok, you don't support this thesis, but there, you've made the statement. Not having backed it up, you will of course refrain from using it as the foundation for futher argument, and get to your original point? Nope, "Godless commies" (appeal to fear/ignorance). "despoiler of the environment"... gee, Dr Potter, are all Godless commies despoilers of the environment? That must mean that all "green factions" are commie, tree-burners too, right? Strawman: 0, Slashdot: 1

    will soon be out in force declaring man to be the most heinuos figure of environmental disaster

    Strawman #2

    instead of our Lord's crown of creation

    Offtopic, and unsupported, but ignorable.

    If it was up to those greenies

    Insults are hardly a form of logical debate, but we're going for "fellatious arguments based on emotion" here, aren't we?

    the human population would be 100 million, and we'd live in huts eating soybeans.

    Irrational and unsupported strawman #3. I love this guy! What it must be like to be totally unfettered by reason....

    The post goes on to posit that Native Americans, given guns would have wiped out the bison herds... Of course, no supporting evidence is given, so I can't really debate the point.

    Can someone please mod the original post down a tad?

    Aaron Sherman (
  • Maybe they were just camped there eating the buffalo? Also are there a sea of buffalo bones becuase if you read the lewis and clark diaries (and you should it's very interesting) they describe waiting for three days for the buffalo herd to walk by. If you have stampeded such a herd it would seem to me you would have thousands of buffalos in one spot not just one or two.
  • It's a vicous cycle. Modern farming enables 6 billion people to live thereby needing to feed 15 billion in a few years. Eventually it will fold like a house of cards.
  • "Has it ever occurred to these people that animals (Surprise Surprise!) eat other animals?"

    Did you ever kill a cockroach? Did you eat it?
  • Actually it had nothing to do with any of that. It had to do with scarcity. In the Americas (especially the north americas) food wa plentiful and the population was low. Whenever resources got scarce in some area the tribes simply moved up the road a little and ther was more food. There was so much food from animals and plants that there was never any need to develop agriculture.

    Europe and Asia on the other hand were much more populated and there was enourmous competition for food and fertile land. It is because of this reason that cities were born, armies were raised, animals were domesticated. The Europeans after waging non stop wars for centuries had perfected the art of killing humans in ungodly numbers.
  • Some of the areas that are now desert in Australia used to be covered by bush. It would appear that man came and hunted a large (hippo sized) wombat like thing to extinction which caused the underbrush to get out of hand and the resulting fires would wipe out huge areas.

    I was told that there Australia has a few types of trees that lose their leaves in the summer which is the fire season. These seem to have evolved at the same point as the large animal extinctions. These also seems to be some cases where a few local plants are adapting to the new fire conditions brough in by the european trees.

    Keep in mind that there are places in Australia that are about the same climate as they had for the last million or so years.

    Anyone will tell you it's a prisoner islandHidden in the summer for a million years -Icehouse
  • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @06:38AM (#151938) Journal

    You can make your point without insulting people's beliefs.
  • If you're going to claim something as being false, just remember that everything can be faked, so fo everything that you can prove, someone else can disprove it.

    The great flood? Real. Was it world wide? No. Was it everything in the scope of the writer's known world? Most likely.

    [Imagine if in 1993 that we didn't have today's communication network, and we lived in the Mississippi flood plain.... if you weren't in a boat, everything you've ever seen in your life might have easily been wiped off the earth].

    Moses may not have parted the tides, but based on data to estimate the time [when there's a total solar eclipse over the area which coincides with a major locust year], there were abnormalities, combined with low tide, which could have resulted in the river being significantly low.

    Science has proved that almost every item _could_ have happened. That does not mean that these things were an act of a higher power [unless you consider physics to be a higher power], but it strongly suggests that these things happened, as it's just a freaky coincidence otherwise.

    People who are can't figure out why something happened tend to make up something. That's how almost all religions start. When people can't explain a 'miracle' that they've obviously seen with their own eyes, they're willing to believe in higher powers.

    That's not to say that there aren't things that have gotten blown out of proportion over the years. [Is the 'loaves and fishes' story about a guy who took a knife and cut everything into smaller pieces, only people doubled the number of servings with each retelling?]

    Now, that's not to say that there isn't use for religion. Personally, I'm going to go with what Rufus said in Dogma, that it's better to have ideas that beliefs, as you can change ideas. However, religion can have a major calming effect on populations where there would be no reason to go on living otherwise. [The whole 'God works in mysterious ways' argument] Religion is infinately more effective in controling a population than government is, as to someone who believes, hell is a much scarier place than prison will ever be, even if they take the TVs away.

    Religion seems to be one of the few institutions that still instills a sense of morality on people these days, and it's a major thing which many people are simply not being taught these days, as their parents divorced, and they're both working to make ends meet, and so no one's home to watch the kids, so they decide to take a few guns and shoot up their school....
  • > If you use a natural resource faster than it can replenish itself that natural resource will decline. If you continue to take more than the area can replenish; eventually the resource will be gone. This a LAW and no amount of anti-environmentalist rants will change this TRUTH.

    But you yourself provide evidence that it's a self-limiting phenomenon:

    > All the high school kids expected to follow thier dads into the local mills. But, we cut the trees faster than the trees would grow. Some companies survived cutting second or third growth. But the scale had to be incredibly restricted. Most of the kids are doing things other than working in the lumber mills.

    "Where are we gonna work now that the trees are gone?
    Will the big boss have us wash his car, or maybe mow his lawn?
    I'm a man, I'm a man, I'm a lumberjack man, but I fear it ain't for long, so tell me
    Where are we gonna work when the trees are gone?"
    - Mojo Nixon and Jello Biafra

    As we run low on fish, fishing becomes a less-viable source of life. Old fishermen find something else to do, or go on welfare, or are supported by their families. Their kids don't become fishermen to begin with. Within 50 years, fishing as a way of life dies out. Eventually, a few large boats keep fish stocks at a constant level, and provides the population with fish.

    Natural selection? Here's natural selection for you - In all probability, much of the native population simply starved to death when they ran out of large herbivores to eat, and winter came. But this is what happens when any new predator is introduced to a region - prey numbers decline, predator population grows until there's insufficient prey to support the predator, and then the predator population crashes.

    It doesn't matter whether the "new technology" is GPS (Homo Sapiens, 20th century), spears (Homo Sapiens, -250th century), or big claws (Big-assus Saber-tooth-tigerus, 10M BC ;-).

    I'm not taking sides on the enviro-debate here. I'm just pointing out that we're not "destroying the ecosystem" - we're part of the ecosystem.

    The environmentalist argument is usually phrased along the lines that human activity is somehow bad because it's bad for other species. ("Save the Whales! [because they're cute and humans are icky]")

    I'd submit there's an equally valid "rational self-interest argument" to be made that certain human activities are bad because they're bad for our food sources, and could lead to a population crash of the human population. ("Save the Plankton, [because if we run out of plankton, the hell with the whales, what are we gonna eat next week?]!")

    (Of course, as an American, I'm not terribly concerned. If it happens, a population crash will wipe out the poor/subsistence economies first. There will continue to be plenty of food for the rich industrialized nations for the 20-30 years while the devastated areas recover. And with a post-crash population of 1-2 billion, there'll be tons of food to go around after the crash. Hey, bring it on! :-)

  • by YellowBook ( 58311 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @04:25AM (#151943) Homepage

    Anthropology in the News [] has links to a lot more news stories on these findings. The BBC story is very short, but noteworthy for including a little bit of information on the dating methods used in the Australian case.

    Anthropology in the News updates a lot and doesn't keep stuff on its front page for very long, so for the sake of Slashdot's archives, I'm copying the links here.

    The scalloped tatters of the King in Yellow must cover
    Yhtill forever. (R. W. Chambers, the King in Yellow)
  • Not that anyone's gonna see a post coming in so late, but I just got a chance to read the article this morning and it had a glaring hole in it that the reporter inexplicably glossed over. To wit, these researchers were looking at how it seems to them that e.g. here in North America, animals started becoming extinct at the same time that humans migrated to the continent, some 12,500 years ago. Well, if that were true, then they might be on to something. But it's not true.

    A lot of research over the last 10 or 20 years has indicated that humans have been here for at least twice that long, with verified evidence of human presence dated to 20k or 3k years ago, and with some tentative evidence of humans being here as long as 50k years ago. I grant that this settlement wouldn't have been all at once, and maybe there was an increased wave of migration during the timeframe in question, but the fact remains that these researchers picked an (out of favor) date of human settlement and then massaged their research to fit that timeframe.

    That's bad science, and the reporter was negligent not to call them on it, either directly or by bringing in an anthropologist that would have raised the point. It's this sort of sloppy research and sloppy reporting that allows pseudo science to flourish. There may have been an interesting fragment of new knowledge at the heart of this research, but I (as a science nerd)am no closer to understanding it now than I was before, and the average non-technically literate reader could well be even more confused now.

    This is terrible.

  • by tentac1e ( 62936 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @05:10AM (#151945) Journal
    When animals hunt other animals, it's survival of the fittest, but when humans do it, it's mass extinction?

    I find it funny when I hear about environmentalists who are vegetarian because they believe that animals should be held up to the same level as humans. Has it ever occurred to these people that animals (Surprise Surprise!) eat other animals? The only difference between what we do and what a wild cougar does is that we _debate_ whether we should do what we are doing. The most ironic part is that by debating, we prove our distinction, nay... superiority over the animal kingdom.

    Yes, I know we shouldn't extinguish an entire species, but I can't wait to hear environmentalists use this news to try to prove the destructive nature of man. To try to blame modern man for the actions of its ancestors is absurd. This is almost as stupid a notion as Americans today being in any way responsible for their great, great grandparents owning slaves.


    Why don't we combine this with the strategy of racial reparations? These species have been wronged, so why not do something to set things right evolutionarily?

    Since I believe the elephant is probably the descendant of the Wooly Mamoth, we simply calculate how much more populated the elephant species would have been had we not slaughtered their ancestors. Then, through system of equal social distribution, we round up a proportion of the human species equal to the number necessary to "level the playing field," and boil and serve them to the elephants.

    It's simple, fair, and you have to be a scum sucking capitalist who cares more about his own life than the greater good of the planet to think otherwise.

  • Humankind: the only species capable, and dumb enough to wipe out prior species, and themselves.
  • by taniwha ( 70410 ) on Friday June 15, 2001 @10:56AM (#151949) Homepage Journal
    There's pretty obvious and more recent examples that are well documented - consider New Zealand which had no indiginous humans untill about 900ad ... before that it had no mammals - well ok it had a species of bats, and sea mammals ... but no grazing mammals or predators - as a result it had a whole bunch of bizarre birds that had evolved to fit niches usually held by mammals, many of them flightless.

    the humans brought 2 mammals with them - rats and dogs - and also started to hunt the indiginous Moas (think ostrich/emu but twice as big) within about 800 years all the moa species were extinct - and in the process large parts of the ground cover had been burnt and, in places, the topsoil blown away (there are whole mountains covered in nothing but shingle still today) - the result was wide spread, lasting ecological damage - as a side effect of hunting these species to extintion.

    We have this myth of indigenous cultures as having this close affinity with the land ... and in fact the polynesian people who came to NZ had a well developed system for managing and protecting their fisheries that must have developed over the centuries surviving on small islands totally dependant on the sea. But when they came to NZ none of that applied to the land and the promptly did what europeans have done moving to new places (think buffalo, whales, etc) - slaughtered everything in sight assuming it was infinite and supply would last for ever - rather taking more of a controlled (farming like) approach to resource management. I suspect that sanity in resource management is sadly something you learn by screwing up badly - and as the Moa shows sometimes by the time you realise that it's a problem it's too late

  • When I am writing this reply, the post from Erikson has got (Score:5, Informative). Who are the stupid cavemen moderating this up? WE LIVE IN THE 21st CENTURY! We know about evolution, dinosaurs, the big-bang et al. Creationism is a myth! There is not one scientific fact in creationism. Not one.
  • I have been taught and have taught science. Yes sir. As a scientist I try to demonstrate theories with facts. I teach facts and not myths. I tell my students to be critical and not to believe at face value what they are told (even by me) or what they read (even from Darwin). Then they decide by themselves. Is that too liberal for you? You would prefer them to be brain-washed from an early age with the bible or whatever other book. That's your prerogative. That's not what I do.
  • Surely you're just a troll but I'll bite anyway...

    If God went through the trouble of instantaneously creating the universe, evidently "with age" as many have said, in order to make it appear to be billions of years old and be consistent with scientific observations, then why did He gloss over such details like the radio halos in granite or whatever? If you're gonna create the universe With Age, do it right, and don't skimp on the details! Either 1) God isn't perfect, or 2) God intentionally "missed" certain things for some reason.

  • To me, even more interesting is whether or not man killed off Neandertals. These guys were all over Europe for a very long time, and they were smart enought to fight back. A war with them would have truly been "World War One".

    It's possible, but it's only a possibility among others. The only thing we know about interactions between Cro Magnon (the modern man) and Neanderthal is that they actually existed. Other than that, the evidence is scarce, and it's difficult to figure out. As of now, we think that Neanderthal were simply displaced by Cro-Magnon (modern man) immigrants who pushed them further and further, until they got "cornered" in southern Spain and Gibraltar [], then eventually disappeared altogether. Interbreeding was long thought impossible, but recent evidence indicates that it was. Maybe we (white men of European descent) all have Neanderthal genes. Maybe not. We don't know.

    The first genocide in history probably happened quite some time later, between two kind of people belonging to modern mankind: mongoloids and blacks: it was the destruction of Australian-like Aborigines (i.e. Blacks) by Northeast-Asians (i.e. the ancestors of what you call "Native Americans"). We have some archeological evidence [], and more surprisingly, we even have documents [] !

    However, even in this case, it is very possible that actual fighting only took a minor role, and that the first inhabitants were simply driven out of their lands further and further, up to Terra del Fuego (the island that forms the other side of the Magellan Strait).

    When the number of years exceeds four figures, the only thing we know is that we hardly know anything.

    Thomas Miconi

  • They're addicted to the rush.
  • What weenies, it took those guys thousands of years to cause mass extinctions. _WE'RE_ accomplishing the same goal in decades!
  • There are currently plans to clone a wooly mammoth found preserved in ice. Once we have perfected cloning, we'll be able to bring back some of the species that our ancestors (may have) hunted to extinction.

    Then we can kill and eat those animals again. I can't wait to try a wooly mammoth steak. With a side of bald eagle and passenger pigeon. And whale for dessert.

  • Actually, that is completely incorrect, logically.

    I'm afraid not.

    Logic dictates that you plan the destruction of the ecosystem in an area and plant massive farms. This will enhance greatly your species' ability to survive.

    So are you telling me you can precisely predict the exact impact of exterminating a species(or many species by your logic) of plant and animal life? If you can, there's a Nobel prize waiting for you. The fact of the matter is, we know very little of the cycles that continually renew the minerals in the earth and the keep the air fresh to breath or about what animals contribute what parts to this renewal. You kill some bacteria and upset the nitrogen cycle, plants die. If plants die you may upset the oxygen cycle. Once all this starts happening, you may affect climate change because of changing atmospheric compositions. Animals will start dying because of the little plant life there is and differing levels of oxygen in the air. Humans wouldn't be able to eat since meat would run out quick, they wouldn't be able to plant since plants wouldn't grow. The only thing they could do is die. This scenario wouldn't happen overnight, but it would happen given a sufficient disturbance. Sure life may adapt, then again, it may not. Are to willing to bet your life and all your kids' lives on our ignorance of how the ecosystem actually works?

    Assuming a life form is worthless simply because it appears to have no significant impact is the sign of short-sighted ignorance. Acting on ignorance is not only illogical, it's mad. Doing any such thing as you propose on a massive scale is suicide. The blind, ignorant and uncontrolled destruction we pursue nowadays is bad enough.

    To preserve plants and animals in a "natural" area is not logical. It leads to the death of many people, not the large farms, which feed many.

    Leaving an area alone does not lead to any deaths. Deaths are the result of incompetence in the pursuit of illogical goals(or sometimes even just incompetence in the pursuit of logical ones).

    To summarize, humans are not above nature; they are a dependent(at least for the time being).

    "Goose... Geese... Moose... MOOSE!?!?!"
  • by cybrpnk ( 94636 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @04:39AM (#151981)
    Actually mammoths didn't die off as long ago as everbody thought. There was an isolated group on an island that survived until only 5000 years ago. The thinking is that being on a remote island protected them from hunting by man which is why they survived so long. Details here [], including the quote: "...surprisingly recent dates on woolly mammoth remains from Wrangel Island in 1990, ranging between 7390-4740 BP. The finds were remarkable for two reasons: they indicated mammoth survival on Wrangel Island for as much as 5000 years after the last known date of mammoths on the Eurasian continent, and they documented the evolution of a distinct dwarf mammoth population on Wrangel Island." Other theories include a virus induced extinction [], but I think it was man... To me, even more interesting is whether or not man killed off Neandertals. [] These guys were all over Europe for a very long time, and they were smart enought to fight back. A war with them would have truly been "World War One". There is so far only one possible example of a possible human-Neandertal hybrid [] , so their disappearance probably wasn't from interbreeding...Let's take a poll, did humans deliberately destroy neandertals or were they the original Homer Simpsons that just died out???

  • A friend of mine showed me an interesting trick. If a dog is harassing you, reach down and touch the ground with the knuckles of your first two fingers. The dog either backs off, or it goes completely ballistic, because that posture, that of a human being reaching down to pick up a rock, is hardwired into its genes to mean trouble.

    A friend of mine showed me an interesting trick. If a troll on Slashdot is harassing you, start replying with increasingly crazy answers. The troll backs off, or it goes completely ballistic because that reply, that of a deranged madman, is hardwired into its genes to mean trouble.

  • "Everything in the Bible is literally true except where it's obviously intended as a parable or metaphor."'s bullshit, because every Christian you ask will have different ideas about "obviously intended."

    Obvious to whom? Under what circumstances?

    Obvious to me under my circumstances. And that statement is applicable only to me. You see, I choose to interpret on my own, pray about what confuses me, and have faith that God knows that my understandings will be flawed but my heart is in the right place.

    Other folks choose to take other paths. Some need a big, centralized church with lots of fancy robed teachers to interpret for them. Some choose to follow a single charismatic voice. Others find other ways. More power to 'em. God gave 'em free will; they can use it as they wish.

    I knew people who would argue literally to the death that those were 7 24-hour days, just like days are now.

    Yep. I know those same people. And I look at 'em kinda funny, too. I admire their faith, but that particular viewpoint is one I choose not to share.

    ...the Christian...once he admits that some of the Bible might not be true, doubt creeps in."

    Speaking for myself only, of course, I've never experienced doubt creeping in. It usually charges in at a full and noisy gallop. Daily.

    I don't believe God expects us to be perfect and have perfect confidence. I think He would call people who think they've attained that level of enlightenment "total assholes" or some such. (I trust He could come up with a better description, though.) After all, not even His son escaped doubt. I think He just expects us to try. And usually fail. And then to deal with it.

    Did Elijah the prophet really have control over bears? Did he really use that control to kill 42 little kids who were mocking him? Was that very nice? Aren't we supposed to turn the other cheek?

    I dunno. I suppose some day God will clue me in. Till then, such things will bother me.

    The Bible is not internally consistent, and you'd look like a raving lunatic to claim so.

    Well, God knows I don't want to look like a raving lunatic. :-)

    Humans have a nearly incredibly capacity for self-deception and rationalization...

    Yep. Sure do.

    and nowhere is this better demonstrated than Bible-worship: millions of people believing without question the handed down myths and legends of a little tribe of people, translated and sanitized hundreds of years ago by a king with an agenda by monks who didn't know the language.

    Bible worship? Nah. We're supposed to worship God.

    You bring up an excellent point, though, about the corruption of the scriptures. There are multiple editions being published all the time. They don't agree. So, obviously, not all Bibles can be, as a famous TV preacher used to like to say, "the inerrant word of God." I don't have a problem with that. "The Bible," meaning the inspired word of God, is without error. Having said that, though, I must immediately follow up with that fact that I doubt there's ever been a copy of the thing assembled. People have done their best to put together the fragments of those writings and the books we have today are a pretty good approximation. They get the basics right. But I've never been one to argue that, in precise detail, everything written in the most recently published book with "The Bible" embossed on the front is exactly what was originally written. Or even intended.

    Maybe I just come from a long line of doubters. My grandfather, an uneducated itinerant hard-shell Baptist evangelist in depression-era rural Mississippi, taught himself both Greek and Hebrew so that he could read and study more and older versions of the Bible. He knew that "the bible" that you go buy in the bookstore today is probably more than a little different from "The Bible" that was originally hand-written by people in, essentially, direct communication with God. I agree with him.

    But they're pretty close and I'll continue to use them till something better comes along.

  • The Hebrew word for 'day' in Gensis...means a LITERAL 24 HOUR DAY...

    ...a simile is... a comparison using 'like' or 'as'. The Bible says "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years" ... note: "*AS* a 1000 years".

    Thanks for the correction on the phrasing. The memory isn't what it used to be and I don't have a Bible close at hand.

    As for the literal make a very good point. On the other hand, I have serious trouble wrapping my mind around lots of big, important concepts like the big bang and the long stretches of time in the history of the world. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the original author simply didn't have a handy word for such epochs.

    I consider your point just literalism taken to an excess degree. We know that a week, on our calendar, isn't the amount of time that creation took. From that I draw the conclusion that the days in Genesis aren't literal 24 hour days. And if the last transcriber of that book in Hebrew used a word that is at odds with that conclusion, it'll be up to God to either punish me for my impertinence or congratulate me for using the brain He gave me.

    I'm betting on the latter.

  • I love that link! I had never seen all that stuff in one place before. I'll definitely be going back to that page in the future. Thank you big time.

    The way you applied the baloney detector to my post, though, was a tad less useful. You sort of hit around some of my arguments, but I don't see any real center-punched home runs. To wit:

    the Bible is literally true [Argument from "authority"]

    Bzzzzt. Close, but no cigar.

    The argument from authority requires that I say "I'm an authority so you should believe me." That's not what I did. I said the Bible was authoritative. In the context of an intellectual rasslin' match, that's the equivalent of quoting an encyclopedia. It's not a perfect argument, but overcoming it requires that you undermine the authority of the source of the quote. That's a tough row to hoe with an encyclopedia. With the Bible, it sort of depends on your frame of reference. In any case, this particular baloney detector doesn't apply.

    except where ... [Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses)].

    Nope, again. Exercising judgement always requires observational selection. And judgement must always come into play when deciding what data to include when making a decision. Is this authority more to be trusted or that one? Is the data I'm seeing valid or has something screwed up this set of experiments? If yes, do I throw out these results or do something else?

    "Observational selection" is a valid counterattack to an argument only where you can show that any stated criteria for exercising judgement are not being properly or consistently applied. I stated my criteria. I believe I'm adhering to it. Show me otherwise if you want to successfully classify my statements as "bad" observational selection.

    His days [Special pleading (typically referring to god's will)].

    Ya got me. Of course, I don't consider pointing out that God is different from man to be a terribly intellectually dishonest thing to do...but YMMV. :-)

    self-important idiots [Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument]

    Oooo, no! Unlike the previous darts you threw, in this case you missed your target by a mile. An ad hominem attack requires that there be someone who is attacked. The quote above didn't attack any immediately identifiable person or group. It only referred to a simple bit of good advice - one that I hope everyone takes to heart - namely, that there are some people in this world you just shouldn't listen to. People who claim to have all the answers to Biblical mysteries. Self-important jerks. Microsoft PR guys. Chat room denizens who message you claiming to be 16 year old cheerleaders who just wanna talk to an older guy. You get the idea. :-)

    Now, if you'd called it a straw man argument, you might have had a point. :-)

  • I admire your faith, but I separate the notion of faith in God from faith in every single bit of physical evidence on earth of His power. The evidence here is strong, but my perceptions of it are necessarily, humanly flawed. That, and the fact that anything on this earth is subject to corruption by the forces of evil, leads me to discount the physical world (though I certainly do not discard it) in favor of the supernatural, believing that that is the essence of faith.

    Reasonable? Or, in your view, just wishy-washy?
  • by benenglish ( 107150 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @06:07AM (#151991)

    As usual, wheneve the issue of ancient history (where ancient mean "before last Friday"), the flaming Jesus freaks emerge from their self-flagellating to inflict their disgusting morals and creation myths on rational people.

    ...the only rational approach is to reject religion and accept evolution and the big bang for what they are: the truth, shown by science.

    Accepting evolution and the big bang as truth doesn't require rejecting religion. It doesn't even require rejecting fundamentalist Christian religion.

    I've never really understood all the hoopla about this subject. There was a time, roughly the 1950s, when most of the U.S. professed to Christianity and nearly all of the U.S. was enraptured by science. If there's such a big conflict between science and creationism and evolution, wouldn't you think it would have been a big topic of debate back then? Yeah, the discussion flared up occasionally then and before (Scopes, anyone?), but most people just seemed to go along with one foot in each camp.

    Or did they?

    When I was a wee child, I was taught that science had most of the answers precisely because it was helping us understand the wonderful universe God had made. I was taught that God created everything in 7 days. And I was also reminded that the concept of time is pretty elastic. God probably doesn't view it like we do. Remember your Bible: "A day is like unto a thousand years."

    So when I first asked about the conflict between "7 days" and "creation and evolution takes a bazillion years," I got a simple answer. To wit: "Everything in the Bible is literally true except where it's obviously intended as a parable or metaphor. In this case, of course God created the world in 7 days - 7 of His days. From our point of view, 7 of His days looks like a mighty long time. Don't get hung up on literalism and legalism. They are mere intellectual cudgels used in meaningless verbal battles between self-important idiots furiously engaged in competitive but highly transient mental masturbation." That always seemed reasonable to me.

    God created everything in 7 days. The big bang and evolution are probably some of the tools he used to accomplish that task. Between those two statements, there is no conflict.

    Is that so hard to accept?

  • Judging from the comments, it seems as though the best way to get modded up is to express a view from the far right or far left. So I doubt this post will get very far :(

    Actually, I would say that they get modded up as funny or flamebait - proving that no one, not even the moderators (crack-smoking or not crack-smoking) is immune from appeals to emotion. Reason and rationality is rare.

  • "Everything in the Bible is literally true except where it's obviously intended as a parable or metaphor."
    I went to an evangelical Christian high school, so I've heard this more times than I can count. Hint: it's bullshit, because every Christian you ask will have different ideas about "obviously intended."

    Obvious to whom? Under what circumstances? I knew people who would argue literally to the death that those were 7 24-hour days, just like days are now. Such arguments are pointless, because the Christian has his world-view, his sense of self, wrapped up in the argument: once he admits that some of the Bible might not be true, doubt creeps in. "Did Elijah the prophet really have control over bears? Did he really use that control to kill 42 little kids who were mocking him? Was that very nice? Aren't we supposed to turn the other cheek?" [2 Kings 2:23-24]

    The Bible is not internally consistent, and you'd look like a raving lunatic to claim so. Thus your point of view: "Um ... some of it's true, and some of it's ... kind of true, in a, uh, metaphorical way." Humans have a nearly incredibly capacity for self-deception and rationalization, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than Bible-worship: millions of people believing without question the handed down myths and legends of a little tribe of people, translated and sanitized hundreds of years ago by a king with an agenda by monks who didn't know the language.

    The Bible is a great book, but so is The Lord of the Rings. It doesn't make sense to get science, or a template for your life, from either of them.

    question: is control controlled by its need to control?
    answer: yes
  • Thanks for the reply. I have the utmost respect for an intellectually honest Christian. It's the vocal minority that pretend to be doubt free, and take their fears and aggressions out in condemning others, that really get my undies in a bunch.
    Bible worship? Nah. We're supposed to worship God.
    Agreed. The world would be a much better place if those who professed to do so really did.

    question: is control controlled by its need to control?
    answer: yes
  • Ah, a person who has no clue what they're talking about. Whee! :)

    The issue is not the fact that humans make species go extinct - lots of animals do that. What is truly amazing is the vast numbers of animals that humans have caused to go extinct. Humans have this incredible habit of killing off every last one of every last thing that is dangerous to them when they organize in a certain area, with an efficiency no other animals are capable of.

    Do you know what used to be the most widespread mammal in the world? The lion. Where'd it go? The same place almost all large preditors went. At the exact same time human remains started showing up in the regions they existed, lion fossils started to cease to exist. So did several thousand other large species. Not just mammals. Large predatory bird species, large enough to kill a child or injure an adult, were widely killed off. Same with large reptile species. Even many non-carnivores. Humans are just that way.

    Don't believe it? Fine. But the timing off the fossil record is waay too detaileed to be even close to a coincidence. Wherever humans have spread in the past 60,000 years there have been mass-extinctions on the scale of the dinosaurs.

    Humans have made the genetic diversities of many other species too weak to sustain themselves. You mention corn. Its hardly the only other plant we've cultivated into dependance. Have you ever seen, for example, a wild onion compared to a commercial onion? Or wild tomatoes vs. commercial? Etc? The difference in the fruit size is huge. Our cultivated crops are mockeries of their former selves. We've made them so disproportionate that they *need* us to care for them to keep them alive. We've bred this into them.

    Not just animals have we killed off. Think native people used to be in touch with their environment? Read about what happened on Easter Island, or with the Anasazi. In both cases, mass-scale deforestation and desertification destroyed both their societies (in the later case, over a 120-mile radius of forest was cut down, until transportation, even over the elaborate roads and canals they made, became impossible).

    And how you got "liberals" into this is just ridiculous. Bring anthropology into it next time.

    - Rei

  • by e_lehman ( 143896 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @04:49AM (#152022)

    This evidence of mass extinctions caused by early humans is going to rattle some people that I'd very much like to see smacked down.

    In particular, there is this line of thought in environmental history that primitive humans were the "first ecologists". Many people seem really wedded to this idea to an extent that runs far, far beyond the facts. For example, the book Conquest of Paradise [] by Kirkpatrick Sale argues that not only were native americans environmentally enlightened, but-- by god!-- they were pretty much late 1990's liberals.

    Since we know so extremely little about, say, native americans before 1000 AD, they too often serve as a sort of inkblot test. You can project your own fantasies about how people "should be" upon their culture. Not surprising, then, that a slipshod researcher like Sale "discovers" that humans in their natural state were card-carrying democrats.

    Awkward facts, such as the native practice of stampeding buffalo heards off cliffs or burning entire forests to flush game get talked around in a fashion that would do ICANN proud.

    The problem is that these notions do a great disservice to aboriginal people. First we colonize their land, and then we colonize their history: we run roughshod over the delicate, real evidence of their cultural history, and instead impose a fantasy history that serves our current political agenda. It's disgusting, and I'm glad to see another nail in coffin for such thinking.

  • Only a simpleton would think that book has deep insight into human nature

    Dear Troll,
    This is a book written by one man stating his views on the world and how it came to be in its current state. I've read Jane Goodall (note the spelling!) and I can appreciate her work as well. But, instead of forming my own views and opinions, I would much rather you tell me what is right/wrong.

    So, great Derek, please lead us...let us know where and when we run askew.

    btw, you should get together with guys could have an unfounded assumption party.
  • called Ishmael. This book has so many interesting concepts and ideas... I won't even attempt to summarize in a blurb. But Ishmael talks at length about how man puts himself in a position where he(she) is at odds with the world.

    I highly recommend reading this book, as it will open your eyes to some new ideas and most of all, make you think.

    Take a look at amazon []
  • Plains Indians were hunting buffalo (sometimes) by setting fires and driving whole herds off cliffs.

    It's not that dramatic. They actually didn't start huge fires, they just used torches. And the cliffs weren't Looney Tunes style mile-high cliffs, they were more like 75-degree hills. And they only got three or four buffalo at once. You can see this at Wanuskewin, outside of Saskatoon, Canada.

    Tell me what makes you so afraid
    Of all those people you say you hate

  • - sarcasm on -

    Actually, I'm also opposed to factory farming. Of all varieties. Including vegetables and grains. Think of the pain and anguish we're causing those poor plants by forcing them to grow in tightly regimented rows! Even those evil organic farmers have to go for their enslavement of the plant races. I say, if you're willing to gather it yourself, bon appetit. At least those plants get to live decent lives before we get them.

    I'm also opposed to vaccines and other drugs. Think of the environmental destruction we're bringing down on all those poor viruses, bacteria, amoebae, worms, and other parasites that cause us pain. We should end this senseless destruction! We should let those diseases take their toll.

    And schooling, let's not forget to eliminate that. If we were supposed to be taught in schools, they would have existed in nature. And homes, houses, electricity, heat in the winter, cooling in the summer. It's all wrong! Ban it all!

    - sarcasm off -

    Needless to say, I disagree with you. We should always be mindful of the potential outcomes of our activities, because there are downsides (I would prefer to see more biodiversity in our food crops, and less use of antibiotics as growth factors in farm animals, for instance). And there is no reason to cause unnecessary pain or harm to farm animals. But, restrictions and regulations should be based on real science, standards that strive mightily to be objective. Modern farming methods are far from perfect, but they manage to feed 6 billion humans daily, and they have helped to give us longer, richer, safer, healthier lives than our ancestors had. I don't want to go back to the age of the hunter-gatherer, and the agony, disease, and short life expectancy that entails....

  • No. You are saying these pieces don't fit, THEREFORE these theories don't fit. But you're missing the other 100,000 pieces that DO fit.

    Unfortunately for you. Darwin is true, verified science. We can read the genome well enough to see the entire family tree of life. Everything is interrelated. You and every other person shares 50% of their genes with bananas, and that's because we have a common ancestor. There is no reasonable doubt that Darwinian evolution has happened. In your language evolution is a fact. Hard, hard evidence.

    Another example. Wheat. Wheat is a mutation. We know this, because it's very recent and the mutation has been studied. A random mutation. Actually wheat is almost sterile. You have to winnow it to allow it to propogate. So it stuck for one reason and one reason only. A person walking past spotted it, and manually propogated it. Random mutation plus selection. Unnatural selection in that case...

    Oh BTW. Theories. You've been had. Totally suckered. Formally, 'theory' is the scientific name for any law, concept or set of laws or concepts. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with doubt or absense of trust. I can equally claim that you have a theory of God; you would call it 'belief'. And we'd mean exactly the same thing, (actually there's a lot more evidence for scientific theories!)

    e.g. Einsteins Special Theory of Relativity is substantiated thousands of times per day in cyclotrons all around the world. Even GPS (a navigation system used by aircraft, cars ships and boats) is off by literally miles without corrections that can only be derived using the theory. There is no doubt but that this theory is true; its a law and a fact. As certain as water flowing down hill.

    Like evolution. Genes don't lie.
  • >Theories are hypothesis with insufficient evidence to be laws... What do I mean?
    >Theories have a few pieces of 'evidence' that support it, but not SUFFICIENT 'evidence' for it to be a law."

    I'm glad your such an expert on the technical use of scientific language. Tell me, how many scientific papers have you actually read lately? Do you have any scientific qualifications? Or do you write dictionaries? Are you a lexicographer by profession? Who the hell are you to tell the scientific community what a word they use in a technical sense means?

    'Cos I got news for you buddy- that ain't what a theory is. Thank you for playing.
  • >A law is an observation of an occurence, such as the law of gravity. The law states that gravity occurs, but does not seek to explain why. There are innumerable THEORIES of gravity that seek to explain why.

    Negatory. Newton's law of gravitation in fact is a theory. It is a theory that nature agrees with the law. In fact it has since been discovered that nature doesn't follow Newton's law, and does follow Einstein's general theory. Newton's law of gravity in fact has been disproven.

    Unsurprisingly, modern physics now uses 'law' and 'theory' interchangeably.

    >A scientific theory is NOT law, and it is NOT fact.

    I have a theory. My theory is that I won't see anything in the cup in my hand when I look next. Gee, my cup really was empty. My theory is proven. So it is possible to prove some theories which can be explored via exhaustive search; or atleast come up with extremely persuasive evidence that amounts to turning the theory into a fact.

    I know where you are coming from. But taking your argument to a reasonable conclusion, you are saying that there is no such thing as a fact ever.
    So what is a fact in a scientific sense? It's the simplest theory that has good evidence to support it, and no known disproof.

    By that standard, Newton's law isn't a fact, but Einstein's General Theory of relativity is.

    >In science, a theory is an idea that has withstood the test of time and has not yet been disproven. You can NOT prove a theory. Never. EVER. You can only disprove it by experimentation.

    An interesting scientific theory. Can you prove it?
  • by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @07:41AM (#152041)

    But your argument is flawed

    He says this without irony????

    First off I would like to mention that even if we do kill off an entire species, it means that natural selection isn't working for that species...

    Natural selection must be flawed because fish don't evolve fast enough to keep up with technological developments in GPS, fishing nets, diesel engines, and all of the other tools we use to catch fish? When you get laid off from your job because you are a moron will you complain that natural selection failed you too?

    Secondly, The commercial fishing and hunting industries do not want to kill off an entire species or even come close to it...

    Yes but individuals need to maximize thier personal efficency to make the greatest amount of money. It doesn't matter if The Institute of Fishermen Association of America doesn't want salmon to go extinct if every one of its members still goes out every day to catch as many as they can get away with.

    You obviously have never lived in an area where the economy depended heavily on a natural resource that replenished itself slower than the companies were able to extract it.

    In my case, I grew up in a timber town. All the high school kids expected to follow thier dads into the local mills. But, we cut the trees faster than the trees would grow. Some companies survived cutting second or third growth. But the scale had to be incredibly restricted. Most of the kids are doing things other than working in the lumber mills.

    The same logic applied to fishing and hunting. If you use a natural resource faster than it can replenish itself that natural resource will decline. If you continue to take more than the area can replenish; eventually the resource will be gone. This a LAW and no amount of anti-environmentalist rants will change this TRUTH.

    Anyway, enough time wasted responding to a troll...

  • by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @08:59AM (#152042)

    As we run low on fish, fishing becomes a less-viable source of life. Old fishermen find something else to do, or go on welfare, or are supported by their families. Their kids don't become fishermen to begin with. Within 50 years, fishing as a way of life dies out. Eventually, a few large boats keep fish stocks at a constant level, and provides the population with fish.

    Obviously this didn't work with the Dodo (too convientent a food source for sailing crews) or the Passenger Pigeon. I was trying to keep this fairly simple so the original poster wouldn't get lost. What you say is true, but its also a lot more complicated than you indicate here.

    One thing that's missing is the idea of genetic diversity. Some scientists say the Siberian tiger is already extinct (despite a few still walking around zoos and in the wild) because there is too little genetic diversity. Potentially, they are doomed to extinction via the tiger equivalent of hemophila, mental retardation, or other diseases of inbreeding. The Cheeta (sp?) also falls into this catagory. By the time our children are adults, both species will probably only be in zoos. By the time thier children are adults, both cats may exist only as DNA samples in government laboratories.

    Sure, many species may reach a stable, free-market equilibrium with human harvesting of those species. If that equilibrium maintains a large enough pool of creatures that they can survive disease, non-human hunting (sea lions eating salmon, for example), and other pressures not associated with the act of harvesting these creatures (climate change, pollution, habitat loss) then we have reached the best solution. We get to enjoy the "harvest" like retirees living off the interest of their investment. I whole-heartedly support this kind of environmentalism. It's not the "animals good/humans bad" environmentalism that you seem to be complaining about, but the same kind of common sense that your accountant tries to get us to use when planning for our individual retirement.

    However, there are other motivations. I personally can't go through life making every decision like life is a entry in an accounting ledger. If I have kids, I don't want to explain why tigers only exist in old picture books, I want to be able to take my kids out for an authentic maryland crabcake, and I want to be able show them western red ceders and redwoods that are hundreds of years old (it will be difficult to explain to a four-year-old how the indians used to carve canoes out of a tree if the only tree she has ever seen is a 6" diameter douglas fir on a tree farm). These are purely selfish reasons but they are definitely a motivation and I, personally, am willing to pay a bit more for my crab cakes, lumber, and salmon in the hopes that those things will still be around a century from now.

  • They found that the mass extinction occurred around 46,400 years ago, give or take 3,000 years.

    Indeed. Not to mention that, if CNN quoted him accurately, the idiot quotes a figure with more significant figures than his margin for error ("Hey Roberts, are you sure it's not 46,500?")


  • It is the scientific theory that prehistoric people moving for the first time into new geographical areas during their spread around the world invariably hunted large animals into extinction.

    The scientific theory? Already we can see the hubris of the professional scientist at work here, portraying one of several such "theories" as the only game in town. Well, I'm sorry to say it here on such a liberal hive of scientism, but there's another game in town, and one which has more proof behind it than a few elephant tusks dug out of the ground.

    There were no mammoths! Nor dinosaurs, nor any of these so-called "extinct species" that have been placed in the ground by God Almighty. It's all a myth concoted by the liberal agitators intent on supressing the humanist notions that the Bible teaches us, that people can better themselves without prostrating themselves before the holy god of the State.

    Don't belive me? Well, there's evidence! Yes, despite what the liberals would tell you, there is plenty of evidence that the Lord created the world not that long ago. For instance, radio halos in grantie can only be explained by instantaneous creation. And the thousands of skeletons and chariots found at the bottom of the Gulf of Aquaba - with no boats! - perfectly matches the Bible's story, as do a thousand other pieces of historical information that archaeologists have uncovered over the years.

    No, we owe nothing to these pseudo-scintific theories that exist only to allow the liberals to continue their pogrom against those that see beyond their hateful lies. Do yourself a favor, and get down to a church on Sunday to find out what real truth is.

  • by Jon Erikson ( 198204 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @04:43AM (#152054)

    We know about evolution, dinosaurs, the big-bang et al.

    And how do we "know" indeed? Yes, that's right, because you've been told so! And who by? The liberals in charge of "educating" our young, that have made it impossible to have decent Christian teachings taught in schools because it would let people see the lies they have wrought throughout our society!

    Creationism is a myth! There is not one scientific fact in creationism. Not one.

    See how you've been indoctrinated into hate? That is the legacy of the liberal - hatred of their fellow man and a love of the State. See here [] for why Creationism is scientifically proven, and that currently cosmology is nothing more than a tool of the Godless in their purge of Christianity.

  • by Jon Erikson ( 198204 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @04:56AM (#152055)

    As usual, wheneve the issue of ancient history (where ancient mean "before last Friday"), the flaming Jesus freaks emerge from their self-flagellating to inflict their disgusting morals and creation myths on rational people.

    Of course we do. Whenever nonsense like this is released from another liberal brainwashing centre, then it is the duty of all concerned Christians to fight back, to show to people that the Truth of history is already out there in bookshops, churches and missions across the world!

    For any truly rational person, persuing wild theories about hairy elephants and "giant lizards" is a waste of time and energy, and playing directly into the hands of the anti-humanist liberals.

    Let me give you a hint: Science works. I don't need proof of that.

    See how you have been brainwashed! You attack me for not having proof (despite it sitting here on my desk at work!) and then go on and claim science doesn't need any. How hypocritical of you! But then again, the Bible does warn about the hypocrites. Thankfully, they will receive their just reward.

    Religion is a mind-controlling device invented by a certain Jewish huckster named Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago. 2000 years!

    If you believe that, you are even more profoundly ignorant than I had thought.

    There is *no* proof for any facet of creationism. Not one.

    As I said before, radio halos found in granite, the decay rate of planetary magentic fields, the amount of interplanetary dust and many more. But you obviously haven't taken the time to find out these things, sure in your smug liberal ideology.

    Why doesn't he open his big mouth anymore, Jon?

    Why should be have to? All the evidence is already there!

  • "as do a thousand other pieces of historical information that archaeologists have uncovered over the years."

    Hyperbole doesn't make an argument any stronger. The bible often makes reference to events that did take place, but there is absolutely no proof that its explanations for such events are correct. If I happen to scribble on a scrap of paper that nuclear waste is a product of the tears of god, and this scrap of paper one day gains some theological praise, it's still a falsity. Chariots at the bottom of Aquaba? sometimes floods DO occur, and we ARE discussing a gulf, and not some tiny inland sea that could only flood by miracle.

    Of course, the real fun comes in asking for proof of your claims. While I don't consider Google of Yahoo the be-all and end-all of research sources, typing in "grantie halos" turns up a sole link to an outdated ezboard posting. Maybe them rascally liberals are up to their evil ways again, huh?

    By the way, which church do you refer to? While I'm obviously not of sound faith, I do frequently attend church, as I have since early childhood, and can't recall me local pastor ever speaking out so violently against those views that don't directly concur with his own. You speak of "hateful lies," but I don't think that lies are the sources of hate in this case. My understanding has always been that most branches of Christianity will at least attempt to prove their points reasonably, without going out of their way to insult and condemn those that may only present minor contradiction.

  • It seems that the Greens don't want any increase in the standard of living since it kills off various species.

    Now it seems that even if we go back to living they way we used to, no matter how far back we regress we still cause extinctions!

    The solution is simple.... Humans must undergo a mass extinction in order to save the planet for every other species.

    I'm only joking....really....I don't mean it...

  • The very existence of humans on this planet is an abomination. What arrogance that we continue to choose to exist! Why cannot we come to the logical, rational conclusion that it would be much better for our planet for us to all simply vanish into the ether?

    [I think this way because I believe everything I read.]

    As Gas-Guzzling, Anti-Kyoto Americans, we should know this best. Ever since we handed those typhoid blankets [] to the land's original occupants, we have cut a swath of pollution and evil human influence across the continent.

    Right now the ugliest ugly American [] is defending his oil-friendly policies to the more enlightened leaders of the EU. I bet they're making fun of him using words he doesn't understand. Ha.

    Everyone tells me that human beings are bad for the environment, and why should I doubt them? If it weren't for us hunting the dodo to extinction, we would still be able to see that funny little bird hopping around in its non-adaptive fashion. I remember someone in a lab coat telling me that all of Nature is connected in a beautiul and delicate network. Even the macroscopic shifts in climate over the eons is probably caused by human under-arm odor or something. And since the guy was wearing a lab coat, I recommend we listen.

    So, why can't we all just vanish and make the Earth pure again?

    NOTICE: We will begin distributing the "magic pudding" at noon.

  • Don't worry, I hear those big lizards are scared of camaros.

    Hmm, I have a bitchin' mp3 to load up.
  • It sounds like they set out to prove that man had an involvment in the extinction. The best research never sets out to prove or dis-prove something, rather, it sets out to find out what happened without any prior opinion.
    Perhaps man did hunt the animals into extinction, but I wouldn't go by it 100% since it set out to prove that they did.
  • by sansoo ( 227144 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @04:15AM (#152090)
    to accept our role? The Giant Moa (elephant bird) went extinct in New Guinea & points east about a thousand years ago - right after humans showed up.These disappearances had nothing to do with climate change. Plains Indians were hunting buffalo (sometimes) by setting fires and driving whole herds off cliffs. A great waste. They didn't pick them off one at a time by horseback until they acquired the horse from the European invaders. (The American horse had disappeared about 10000 years earlier.) You think we couldn't kill a mammoth with a pit, or a glyptodont with poison tree frog arrows? I watched a film of the Kung! of the Kalahari (bushmen) kill a giraffe with sharp sticks (and poison). This has nothing to do with "guilt" BTW; several postings have brought this up and there will be more. It's just that it's stupid, and self-destructive. A simplified biosphere is less robust. Like a cyberlandscape with only one OS available... variety is more flexible, and adaptable, and interesting. Sure, the biosystem recovered from the dinosaur extinction, but it took a coupla million years.
  • It's interesting to me how the mainstream media fails to adiquitely report on scientific thought in any sort of balanced fashion. Fro mthe title of the story, you'd think this guy was some left wing nut case proposing an outlandish new theory

    In fact this theory has been around for 30 some years and in the middle of the article, one of the guys to whom the theory is atributed qualifies his argument in such a way to make it sound quite reasonable
    Roberts proposes a variation on the theme, saying it is possible the extinctions took place over a longer period of time and were not the result only of hunting but also of environmental chaos wrought by humans, such as burning the landscape to facilitate hunting or travel.
    OF course, if you introduce a new predator into any closed or reasonably closed eco-system there will always be a draumatic result. Why would anyone be suprised by that...? It's not like ancient man had the tools nessecery to kill off a sufficient quantity of any animal as to drive it to extinction (unlike more modern man drove the american water buffalo to extinction - using more modern weapons like guns - imagine doing that with a knife or spear, in sufficient quantities to drive any animal to extinction).

    But then the guy goes on.... he really does a masterful job of fence sitting here:
    The idea that climate change triggered the extinctions is undermined by the fact that they were not simultaneous, Roberts said. "If it had been a global climate change phenomenon, everyone would have gone extinct in all of those different places at the same time. The fact that they didn't really points the finger very, very strongly at human beings, as the new kid on the block, causing all the trouble."
    Nah... That's not really plausable... Climate change could vary easily have contributed to the extinction. Look at Gloval Warming, or destruction of the Ozone Layer. These events represent large scal climatic events, but they are affecting different regions of the globe in different ways, and at different rates, baserd primarily based on proximity to the epicenter of the event (antarctica in the case of the largest Ozone Hole) and the pre-existing climate.

    I have two problems with this article, first, it didn't cover the theory it strives to cover in a fair and non-judgemental fashion, and it presents it in the light of the enviromentalists versus the conservatives. Well, this is science. It is an exploration of historical events to try and determin fact. There are not politics to it and there are no accusations being made here that would impact modern man. No one is using this theory to try and band deer hunting, or something like that.

    People need to relax and take science for what it's worth, rather than taking it so personally. The article it seems was designed to be inflamatory, co I can't fault the traders - perhaps that was the only way it found its way into the mainstream media in the us, after all, an earlier poster pointed out that the BBC had this story a week or more ago...--CTH

  • by rppp01 ( 236599 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @05:11AM (#152092) Homepage
    It isn't our fault we started killing all these animals. I mean 4 millions years ago we were happy starving, surviving day to day. And then one day a weird black rectangle appeared in our cave entrance, and taught us to eat meat and beat the shit out of each other. We weren't smart enough to get the fact that we would have been better off starving, and being prey to the cheetah. Blame it on those damn monoliths. They did it!
  • This is NOT a Theory. It's an hypothesis. I know damn well everyone learns the difference by high school. For a group that pops a blood vessel when someone confuses "hacker" with "cracker", I'm suprised you tolerate this misuse of the language. Perpetuating the popular myth that a Theory is just 'an idea' does a great disservice to real Theories. Don't make the same mistake Creationists do.

    "Evolution is just a theory"
    "Yeah. But so is gravity."

  • It's not like ancient man had the tools nessecery to kill off a sufficient quantity of any animal as to drive it to extinction. Yes they did, at least for herd herbivores (horses, camels, mammoths). You follow the herd until it is near a cliff, then the whole tribe comes out screaming and waving torches or whatever, and scare the whole herd over the cliff. Everyone eats until they puke for a few days, then when the remaining 99% of the meat smells too bad to eat you go looking for the next herd. Of course, you do have to live off of roots and bugs for a week or two until the next opportunity for a herd kill arises, but on the average you are well fed.

    I think the bison ("buffalo") avoided going with the rest of the large North American herbivores because they mostly live where there aren't enough roots, bugs, and field mice to keep a man alive until the next bison herd comes along. Indians living on the fringes of the great plains where there is barely sufficient sustenance only bagged one or two buffalo herds a year before Europeans brought back the horse, and they did it by driving them over a cliff.

    The large predators that also died when man moved into North America are more of a mystery, but it is not inexplicable. The large animals they depended on for most of their meat became scarce. Strange new animals were around and looked like easy prey teetering on their hind legs, but few of those who tried eating them lived to learn better. And in the end, "trophy hunting" may have become a factor; grandpa keeps showing off his necklace with dozens of saber-tooth tiger fangs, and you really want some, but he won't share so you go hunt down the last saber-tooth in the area...
  • Humankind: the only species capable, and dumb enough to wipe out ... themselves. Not true. Bacteria will wipe themselves out quite well in the right conditions. You fill a dish with rich bacteria food, drop in a few bacteria, keep it warm and wait. Within days (or maybe hours) there will be millions of dead bacteria, poisoned by their own wastes. What _is_ disheartening is that, as smart as one human is, a million humans together are usually no smarter than bacteria...
  • Er... How Tenochtitlan ever managed to import enough food to survive is hard to explain (unless the Aztec army marched slaves into the city as a food supply, but as far as I can recall that was about the only conceivable evil the Spanish didn't accuse the Aztecs of). The city probably was in the middle of extremely productive fields (they had water, and deserts usually are extremely productive when you first start irrigation), but a meat supply would have been darned difficult and the Aztecs don't seem likely to be vegetarians. Did runners wear themselves out bringing in bits of fresh meat for the king, while everyone else lived on corn, beans, and a little jerky?

    One thing is that unlike European cities, Tenochtitlan did not have to be self-supporting economically. European cities traded manufactured and imported goods for the food they needed. The Aztec capital apparently depended on a harsh system of conquest, taxation, and slavery. There may have been more slaves carrying dried food in on their backs than there were people living in the city, plus vast numbers of tributary tribesmen (not quite slaves if they behaved themselves, but close enough) growing or catching and drying that food. Then in the city, a lot of slaves who probably got only corn and beans and eventually died of deficiency diseases, a number of nobles who visited for a few days then went back to the country where they could get fresh food, and the kings inner circle and personal guard who got the best of the local garden produce and occasionally a relatively fresh haunch of deer brought in by relays of runners. Maybe they imported dogs for the king's greatest feasts. In any case, the cost of supporting that city must have been a great burden upon the countryside, and the tributary tribes were ripe for revolt when Cortez showed up.
  • by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Thursday June 14, 2001 @08:39AM (#152109)
    The basic difference is: the early americans ate all the horses. Someplace near present-day Ukrainia, some of my ancestors learned to ride them instead, and the horse-riding peoples spread over Eurasia in waves of conquest (Celts, Hellenes, Huns, Goths, Normans, Mongols... Similarly, tameable breeds of camels, cows, sheep, goats, and donkeys were domesticated in Eurasia or Africa, but eaten in North America. The result 13,000 years later was that the europeans easily overwhelmed the native americans and took their land. Horses and a wider variety of farmable plants helped, but maybe the biggest difference was that with no tame meat animal except the dog, Indian towns had to stay small enough to allow farms nearby to grow the corn needed and the men to _walk_ to their hunting grounds, while much larger European cities were fed by cattle driven into town and grain hauled in by horse-drawn wagons. City life gave Europeans metal, gunpowder, government, large armies, measles, and smallpox, and all the Indians had to counter with was skill in the woods.

    So when we drive another hundred species to extinction today, just what possible uses might we have missed?
  • It's difficult to imagine human populations in the few thousands somehow wiping out large indigenous species through over hunting. On the other hand, introduction of new diseases can be disastrous very rapidly. The article gives a brief mention of this possiblity, but it seems intent on promoting the concept of the inherent destructiveness of humanity.

    Bob Bakker, the off-beat paleontologist, has been promoting disease scenarios for years as a primary cause of mass dinosaur extinctions. It seems a more probable cause in these cases of large mammalian extinctions as well.

  • Actually, I'd wager the theory has been around for a fair bit longer than that. When I was in school, this WAS the accepted theory as to why the mammoths, sloths, etc. had been wiped out.

    A good couple of decades of trying to convince people that native americans lived in harmony with nature and were happy bunches of vegans pretty much forced teachers to stop even considering it.

    My personal thinking is that climate change, combined with (hu)man's effects, still seems to be a bit more plausible, but one thing archaeology never fails to teach us is, what goes around, comes around.

    Someone refresh my memory: are dinosaurs warm-blooded or cold-blooded this year?

  • These were the bigger species and they tend to reproduce slower. Hunters would want the most gain for the least work so they would hunt the bigger species. Lets do an example. There is a tribe of hunters with a population of one hundred people. This tribe hunts in a region that overlaps the grazing grounds of a herd of mammoths that consists of forty adults. The hunters will go after the young and weak because they will be easier kills and are more likely to get seperated from the group either by not being able to keep up or by being confused in a crisis situation. Lets be generous and say that there are twenty-five females in the group and that they can produce a calf every five years. Before the advent of man they would have been in equilibrium and the total deaths over any reasonable timeframe would equal the number of births. Man would have started killing off their predators as soon as he ran into them because any predator that could take a mammoth is a serious threat to him. He would throw off the equilibrium and more of the mammoths would now be free to grow and multiply except he is hunting them for food. We'll ignore the effect of man on the predators and just make a guess. Say disease and predators kill off two of the mammoths each year. All man has to do is kill three of them each year to wipe out the herd in one generation. There would be other herds that would still be relatively free of mankinds interference for a while but he'll move on and kill another herd in the next generation and then another and so on. Using brushfires to herd them and cliffs to kill them he would actually finish the job on any given herd in far less time than that. Mankind tends to take the easy way and when your survival depends on it you will take the easiest way to put calories in your belly. I have no doubt that mankind was the major contributor to these extinctions. The timing is right and human nature is right. Other factors probably helped but mankind was probably the dominant one. I have seen people here saying that there is no way that mankind could have done it with the primitive weapons of the time but he was expert with these weapons and none of these animals would have been outside of his capabilies. While these animals were still around the population would have expanded very rapidly. They were easy sources of food and the people would have been relatively well fed. Probably better fed than their contemporaries in the old world. They would have kept applying more and more pressure on fewer and fewer walking grocery stores. They would have always been on the move to where the next easy source of food was. If you don't think man was capable of it you are seriously underestimating the human race. About the only people who would not believe they were capable of it are people who have never seen the resourcefulness of humans in adverse conditions. I could make a strong case that if anything the people of that time were smarter than the people of today and had were immensely stronger willed. The weak and stupid died young.
  • Without disagreeing with you that setting out to prove something is bad science (can't comment if that's true in this case), your proposal of what constitutes "best research" strikes me is flawed too.

    For the most part, research tends to constitute looking at the evidence already available and forming theories (explanations that are capable of being proven wrong if they are wrong), and then subsequently testing those theories (trying to prove those theories are wrong.)

    If you start out with no prior opinion, (or better, opinions) you're unlikely to have a basis with which to start - where do you start looking?

    Trying to prove theories right is obviously a wrong approach. Trying to test them to see if they can be proven wrong, and reporting the results - together with any circumstantial evidence to back up the theory - would strike me as being fundamentally good research.

  • "Man the Hunter" was a pre-Raymond Dart era philosophy that was thrown out by almost all paleoanthropologists. Early humans and pre-humans were not great hunters. Most paleoanthropologists suggest that early humans were scavengers. The article immediately launched into a suggestion that since there were mass extinctions associated with the arrival of people, it must have been because people were hunting the animals to extinction. That is pure crap. Later in the article, someone suggests disease as a possible agent of extinction. This is much more likely. Any change to an ecosystem can result in disaster. People could have introduced new diseases, replaced the soon-to-be-extinct species in the food chain, or any other action that resulted in an imbalance in the ecosystem. However, the idea that our ancestors wasted all the big animals by hunting them to extinction is patent, sensationalist nonsense powered by a drive by modern scientists to say that extinctions are caused by people. While this is definitely the case today, it most likely was not so many millions of years ago.
  • Actually, it's not circumstantial evidence. 1) When archaeologists uncover evidence of large groups of humans having migrated into an area at a particular place and time, they always uncover evidence of enormous numbers of animal bones and other remains with mortal damage to the bones of said animals in the form of crushed or cracked bones (as with a blunt instrument) and/or deep nicks and scores proven to have been made by crudely sharpened edges. 2) They've also discovered ancient pit traps with the remains of long, thin poles of sharpened wood stuck in the bottom and more animal bones piled up in them, as well as old prehistoric cliff bottoms literally strewn with piles of animal bones...evidence that humans deliberated created traps and drove herds of herbivores into stampedes in the direction of cliffs where a few animals will get shoved off of by the panicking herds. 3) Anyone who can provide DIRECT and INCONTROVERTIBLE evidence proving for or against all this 'circumstantial' evidence had better be able to produce a working time machine as well, because that's the only way you're going to get anything more solid than an archaeologist's findings.
  • You think we couldn't kill a mammoth with a pit, or a glyptodont with poison tree frog arrows? I watched a film of the Kung! of the Kalahari (bushmen) kill a giraffe with sharp sticks (and poison).

    I saw that film on the contemporary !Kung San hunter-gatherer culture in college. Unfortunately, it wasn't particularly accurate: After following the tribe of hunters for days and watching them harasss this poor giraffe, stalking it, poking it with spears until it looked like a pincushion, the Western camera crew shot the beast with a rifle. Then they filmed it falling dramatically, like a mighty oak felled by the logger, as if these noble savages were claiming their quarry.

  • I find it funny when I hear about environmentalists who are vegetarian because they believe that animals should be held up to the same level as humans. Has it ever occurred to these people that animals (Surprise Surprise!) eat other animals? The only difference between what we do and what a wild cougar does is that we _debate_ whether we should do what we are doing. The most ironic part is that by debating, we prove our distinction, nay... superiority over the animal kingdom.

    Actually, I'm a vegetarian, but I'm not opposed to hunting. I am opposed to factory farming. I say, if you're willing to kill it yourself, bon appetit. At least those animals get to live decent lives before we take them. Not only that, but depending on where you go looking for food, if you're not careful there's a chance a bigger animal might get you. Fair's fair, and if you don't like the rules, don't play. (I don't.)

    Are you suggesting that wild cougars take entire species of animals & keep them chained up & fed so that the cougar population can grow fat & lazy & not have to work for food? I don't think you are. But there's a fundamental difference between predation and agriculture.

    [Incidentally, as a rule I never preach vegetarianism, acknowledging it as an eccentricity of mine. But you provoked me. 8{)> ]

    As for rational discourse, it's a tool that our species has adapted to help ensure survival. Nothing more, nothing less. Boy has it worked! I dig it & wouldn't have it any other way. That's why I'm here. But let's not get too full of ourselves. We are a species, & we do what we do best.

  • How exactly is this +3 informative?
    I know the rule about modding up stuff that adds to the discussion, and not if you necesarily agree with it, but come on, people.

    I'd like to forward my own theory.

    The Native Americans were beamed in here from the third moon of the planet Lothax, third planet in a star system 55 light years away. They arrived in the year 1996, but the reason why we believe they were here so much longer was that, working with the Godless Liberals, they devised a scheme where a mind-controlling memory chip was implanted in the mind of every person on earth, which contained false memories of the Native Americans being on earth for years and years. Implanted memories, like in Total Recall (where do you think Arnold got the idea from?)It's just an elaborate plan to make Honey Nut Cheerios sell better, since they are the main export of the planet Lothax.

    The reason I know this is my brother's best friend's uncle's dogwalker's hairdresser used to live next door to the guy who mowed Arnold's lawn.
    Do I have any other proof? Of course not.

    Now lets see if this one gets modded up to +3 informative.

    -Johnny 5000

  • I recently read Ishmael too, and found it to be one of the best books I've ever read. Not because of the writing technique, not because of the story, not because of anything that usually makes a book great, but because it completely changed my attitudes towards the world, especially the human condition. When the book posed a question, I often found myself putting it down and trying to think it out on my own before continuing on. Hell, it also makes me want to live a couple thousand years ago or find a remote tribe somewhere to "join".
  • But University of Melbourne geochronologist Richard Roberts and colleagues used advanced new techniques to get the answer. They found that the mass extinction occurred around 46,400 years ago, give or take 3,000 years.

    Precisely what advanced techniques are these? Good enough to tell us that humans came and the animals died, in that order, rather than the animals died, and then the humans came because there weren't any large animals to scare them off?

Loose bits sink chips.