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Thread: Following a Script?

  1. #1 Following a Script? 
    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    I read in this morning's paper that scientists are predicting that in the next 50 years we are going to lose a significant amount of animal species to extinction. I believe the number was 10% but I'm not certain(I was half awake). Regardless of what the percentage is or what the real total will eventually be, is there really anything out of the ordinary happening even if we're one of the ones to go?

    There have been previous extinction periods through Earth's history due to a variety of causes.... disease, climate, catastrophe, etc. Perhaps I can enlist the aid of some of you with knowledge on the extinction subject. I'd like to know if there have been any theories put forth or if there is any hard evidence that the arrival of one species, other than humans, has spelled doom for many?

    I suppose that a germ decimating certain lifeforms could be classified as a type of a natural biological weapon but what I'm interested to know is if something akin to the arrival and subsequent dominance of the dinosaurs made life impossible for other species?

    Is our present dominance with the resultant or impending extinctions just following a natural order? We are a part of nature, are we not? Whatever we do obviously affects life on the planet but should our actions be considered unnatural?


    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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    Forum Freshman Kosta's Avatar
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    I'm not sure as to whether this type of extinction is normal or not. All I know is that it is potentially bad for us. Thousands of animals and plants go extinct each year simply by us cutting down and plowing the rainforests. Many of those animals and plants could have offered us cures to diseases and benefitted us in some way. Each day, we are potentially losing critical resources from these extinctions.


    In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the Universe. - Carl Sagan
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  4. #3  
    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kosta
    I'm not sure as to whether this type of extinction is normal or not. All I know is that it is potentially bad for us. Thousands of animals and plants go extinct each year simply by us cutting down and plowing the rainforests. Many of those animals and plants could have offered us cures to diseases and benefitted us in some way. Each day, we are potentially losing critical resources from these extinctions.
    I hear what you're saying but I'm wondering if nature has ever encountered such a problem, even if only slightly similar. I don't think of nature as a living consciousness but I do think that in the end, what's best for the planet's life will occur through natural means and we are a major player. Perhaps we are following a script that will destroy us for the good of the planet. Its like world war, the price for ridding malevolence is high. Some have to die for the betterment of those that remain.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  5. #4 Re: Following a Script? 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos
    ... but what I'm interested to know is if something akin to the arrival and subsequent dominance of the dinosaurs made life impossible for other species?
    there is evidence to suggest that the dominance of dinosaurs pushed mammalian ancestors off the fast track, as it were, until the dinosaurs' subsequent mass extinction. I think it's likely that at least a few pre-mammalian species went extinct when the dinosaurs expanded, but they definitely took over most of the niches at the very least.

    Is our present dominance with the resultant or impending extinctions just following a natural order? We are a part of nature, are we not? Whatever we do obviously affects life on the planet but should our actions be considered unnatural?
    Considering that, as you say, we ourselves are a product of nature, it could be argued that anything we do is ultimately natural. But what humans bring into the equation is a faster rate of environmental change than most natural phenomena, and a level of intelligence that endows us (or most of us, anyway) with a feeling of responsibility for those changes that we affect. This might just be an extension of our ability to make long term future plans for our continued (and comfortable) existence on this planet - but either way, that's how many people, including myself, feel.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    the K-T extinction and even our current series of extinctions is as nothing compared with the one at the end of the Permian - Michael Benton wrote a good book about it : "When Life Nearly Died", subtitled "The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time"

    i doubt whether our intervention will cause anything as severe : we're likely to do ourselves in before it gets that bad, and after that it will be business as usual minus that pesky infestation that's now crowding the earth
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    that the one where 90% of life died out?
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    something of that order - estimates vary between 75 and 95% of all species
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  9. #8  
    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    did it have something to do with the oxigen content of seawater? think i read something like that
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  10. #9  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    according to Benton it all started with massive lava outpourings in Siberia, which created problems varying from acid rain to lower oxygen content and global warming

    the latter is thought to have initiated massive outpourings of methane hydrates, which are normally found at great depth in the ocean (not sure whether that's the deep ocean or the continental shelves) and which would have made the problems caused by the volcanic eruptions far worse

    mass die-off in the oceans (e.g. as the result of algal blooms) and organic residue washing in from the continents (increased erosion from roots no longer holding the soil in place after the land vegetation died) would have created widespread anoxia in the oceans

    that is in a nutshell the scenario painted in his book, and in a way it has a certain macabre plausibility - although if things were really that bad, the problem becomes how to explain how anything survived at all
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
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    how did life differentiate afterwards? maybe one could look at what survived to get a clue?
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  12. #11  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    because of the difference in the biota before and after the end of the Permian also forms the boundary between the paleozoic and the mesozoic (larger divisions in the geologic column)

    many survivors only did so through one or very few known species - e.g. mammal-like reptiles just after the extinction are nearly all of the species Lystrosaurus (which was however widespread across all continents)
    in the sea it was mostly species that could handle low oxygen conditions

    there's also the classic example of brachiopods versus bivalves : about the same of both groups survived, but somehow bivalves got in their stride faster and seem to have taken over the ecological space for sessile filter feeders

    basically, if you look at life as we know it, you'll find that most of them had their origin in the 10-20 million years following the permian extinction
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    managed to track down an article that may explain it better than i can :

    How to kill (almost) all life: the end-Permian extinction event
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  14. #13 Re: Following a Script? 
    Time Lord zinjanthropos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paralith
    Considering that, as you say, we ourselves are a product of nature, it could be argued that anything we do is ultimately natural.
    I believe this to be true. The universe has been around a lot longer than our solar system. Many star systems came and went before ours got going. Is it beyond the realm of possibility to think that we are not the first creature to ever affect life on a planetary scale? We could very well be the result of such a thing. Nature to me is universal in its scope. Therefore what is occuring on our little blue orb is nothing out of the ordinary.

    Its a change, just as the appearances of the first multicellular or invertebrate creatures were. Perfectly normal. Dinosaurs dominated for millions of years and they may very well have been responsible for a era of extinction upon their arrival. However, no one can accuse them of doing it willingly. I think the same can be said for us. I don't think we as a species set out to destroy life on the planet. What animals we have lost since man's arrival, nature did not equip with the mechanism to adapt to our changing of the world. They were destined to fall.
    All that belongs to human understanding, in this deep ignorance and obscurity, is to be skeptical, or at least cautious; and not to admit of any hypothesis, whatsoever; much less, of any which is supported by no appearance of probability...Hume
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  15. #14 Re: Following a Script? 
    Forum Ph.D. Wolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zinjanthropos
    Is our present dominance with the resultant or impending extinctions just following a natural order? We are a part of nature, are we not? Whatever we do obviously affects life on the planet but should our actions be considered unnatural?
    I'd have to say: no (although the properties of that are a little skewed).

    As a species, biologically we achieved our current "height" a long time ago, and were able to co-exist with the environment quiet easily. Even in widespread nations of peoples, impact on the environment was light at best. (For instance the multitudes of Native Americans, which had extensive populations and cultures, maintained a balance with nature that worked well.)

    As a culture, humanity has the ability to advance technologically without destroying the environment...but it takes a fair bit of planning and effort to do things without destroying. Unfortunately, much of progress comes by advancing before knowing. So inadvertently we do things that we don't know are bad.

    And then sometimes we're just being stupid humans. Think of the millions being spent to save "cute" creatures (like pandas) and all the millions NOT being spent on broader projects that could save many endangered animals.

    Think about your own neighborhood. Is it environmentally friendly? Just a recycling box doesn't cut it. Where does the power come from? Where does the waste go? Where does the water go? What are the chemical laws? How good is enforcement?
    Wolf
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  16. #15 Re: Following a Script? 
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf
    (For instance the multitudes of Native Americans, which had extensive populations and cultures, maintained a balance with nature that worked well.)
    This is questionable. The activities of humans in North America probably deforested what became the plains and prairies.
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  17. #16  
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    Additionally, the migration of humans into the Americas at the end of the last ice age has been argued to be a contributing factor to the extinction of the large land animals (Smilodon, mammuthus, and others) from overhunting and possibly the introduction of diseases. This argument is not accepted across the board, as climate change also may have played a part in the extinction of the large American mammals following the last ice age.
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  18. #17 Re: Following a Script? 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf
    Think about your own neighborhood. Is it environmentally friendly? Just a recycling box doesn't cut it. Where does the power come from? Where does the waste go? Where does the water go? What are the chemical laws? How good is enforcement?
    the problem is more to protect the habitat. We could recycle all we want but if there are no habitats the species have no place to live.

    Of course, having a poisoned habitat will not do them any good either.

    The problem for the panda is mainly the loss of habitat. Since they are a bit silly in their very focused preferences they can't really look for alternatives. The raccoon has no such problems. It's population increased dramatically with the advent of human society. They do better in the cities then in the wild.

    They have gained a new habitat. A habitat that has gotten more plentiful.

    Similarly the fox in Europe ventures into the cities and does quite well there.

    Habitat habitat habitat.

    But let's be honest, we don't give a flying fuck about preserving the habitat. preservation of habitat doesn't stop at being obviously environmental friendly.

    In Europe the population is basically stable now. On its way to decline even. More and more nature is disappearing though, and will disappear. How can that be?

    Nobody wants to live in large groups any more. Everybody wants to live alone. More and more houses are needed to house the same population because we seek an individual life. More and more habitats are destroyed.

    The problem is much more deeper than being environmental friendly.

    Our current lifestyle is geared towards habitat destruction. And all points the way that this is just going to increase.


    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

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