Environmentalism

Global Extinction Rates Have Likely Been Exaggerated

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Gone but not forgotten

A new study in Science finds that global extinction rates of species has likely been exaggerated. As LiveScience reports:

Concerns that many animals are becoming extinct, before scientists even have time to identify them, are greatly overstated, according Griffith University researcher, Professor Nigel Stork. Professor Stork has taken part in an international study, the findings of which have been detailed in "Can we name Earth's species before they go extinct?" published in the journal Science.

Deputy Head of the Griffith School of Environment, Professor Stork said a number of misconceptions have fueled these fears, and there is no evidence that extinction rates are as high as some have feared.

"Surprisingly, few species have gone extinct, to our knowledge. Of course, there will have been some species which have disappeared without being recorded, but not many we think," Professor Stork said.

Professor Stork said part of the problem is that there is an inflated sense of just how many animals exist and therefore how big the task to record them.

"Modern estimates of the number of eukaryotic species have ranged up to 100 million, but we have estimated that there are around 5 million species on the planet (plus or minus 3 million)."

Good news indeed. Some years ago I testified at an oversight hearing before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The topic of the hearing was on the impact of science on public policy. I focused on various failed apocalyptic environmentalist predictions, one of which was the allegedly imminent extinction of a huge percentage of the Earth's species. Specifically I reviewed a number of earlier such predictions:

Let me close with a brief tour of past predictions about species extinctions. Again the predictions by concerned scientists were way off the mark. In 1970, Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, predicted that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct. That is 75 and 80 percent of all species of living animals would be extinct by 1995. In 1975, Paul Ehrlich and his biologist wife, Anne Ehrlich, predicted that "since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next 30 years or so, it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it." It's now 29 years later and nowhere near 90 percent of the rainforests have been cut.

In 1979, Oxford University biologist Norman Myers suggested in his book The Sinking Ark that 40,000 species per year were going extinct and that 1 million species would be gone by the year 2000. Myers suggested that the world could "lose one-quarter of all species by the year 2000." At a 1979 symposium at Brigham Young University, Thomas Lovejoy, who is now the president of The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment announced that he had made "an estimate of extinctions that will take place between now and the end of the century. Attempting to be conservative wherever possible, I still came up with a reduction of global diversity between one-seventh and one-fifth." Lovejoy drew up the first projections of global extinction rates for the Global 2000 Report to the President in 1980. If Lovejoy had been right, between 15 and 20 percent of all species alive in 1980 would be extinct right now. No one believes that extinctions of this magnitude have occurred over the last three decades.

What did happen?

Most species that were alive in 1970 are still around today. "Documented animal extinctions peaked in the 1930s, and the number of extinctions has been declining since then," according to Stephen Edwards, an ecologist with the World Conservation Union, a leading international conservation organization whose members are non-governmental organizations, international agencies, and national conservation agencies. Edwards notes that a 1994 World Conservation Union report found known extinctions since 1600 encompassed 258 animal species, 368 insect species, and 384 vascular plants. Most of these species were "island endemics" like the Dodo. They are particularly vulnerable to habitat disruption, hunting, and competition from invading species. Since the establishment of an endangered species list only seven species have been declared extinct in the United States. Four are freshwater fish: the Tecopa pupfish (1982), the Amistad gambusia (1987), the Cisco longjaw (1983), the blue pike (1983); a freshwater clam, the Sampson's pearlymussel (1984), and two small birds, the dusky seaside sparrow (1990) and the Santa Barbara song sparrow (1983).

Let me say clearly from a personal perspective that species extinction is undesirable and should be avoided when reasonably possible. Extinction really is forever. But to put it in perspective, Science magazine just published an article called "Prospects for Biodiversity" by Martin Jenkins, who works for the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Center that bears on this topic. Jenkins points out that even if the dire projections of extinction rates being made by conservation advocates are correct they "will not, in themselves, threaten the survival of humans as a species." The Science article notes, "In truth, ecologists and conservationists have struggled to demonstrate the increased material benefits to humans of 'intact' wild systems over largely anthropogenic ones [like farms]….Where increased benefits of natural systems have been shown, they are usually marginal and local."

I am very happy to report that there is now even more data suggesting that the extinction apocalypse has been greatly exaggerated.

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116 responses to “Global Extinction Rates Have Likely Been Exaggerated

  1. we have estimated that there are around 5 million species on the planet (plus or minus 3 million).

    With margins of error like that they ought to call themselves economists.

    1. I’m having a tough time with this one. We know how many species we’ve documented and when. Alternately, we could plot the number of species in an average well-researched area and determine how from “average” our not well mapped areas are turning out, then compile a prediction that shouldn’t be so far off. For instance, we have this number which gives us the number of non-domesticated species. (Weird, but hey.) So two million non-bacterium is a good minimum. Here is a rate chart for Europe. Extrapolating to 10000 species/year, but looking at the curves, I’d say we’re looking at not more than 4M.

      1. And you also have to define what constitutes a distinct species. Species are an artificial construct, not things that exist a priori.

        1. Another thing for which we have a pretty good biological definition. Species are defined by their ability to reproduce with other members of the species. If there’s a reproduction barrier, the thing is not a member of that species.

          Obviously, this definition is not quite precise enough. It doesn’t take into account cross-species breeding or sterility. But these are relatively rare and don’t affect the estimates at all. Asexual reproduction is a more difficult problem here. Luckily, that’s mostly relegated to bacteria, which aren’t included in these estimates.

          1. Species are defined by their ability to reproduce with other members of the species. If there’s a reproduction barrier, the thing is not a member of that species.

            Group A can crossbreed with group B who can breed with group C who can breed with group D.

            However, A and D cannot reproduce with each other.

            Are A and D different species or part of the same? If they are different, where is the line?

            1. I think I took care of that in my response above. That is a complicating factor for the reproduction-based definition of species. Fortunately, we think that such examples are pretty rare and definitely constitute no more than 1% of cases. When we’re talking about 5 million species plus or minus 3 million (60% error), that 1% simply doesn’t matter.

        2. Gotta take issue with that, Zeb. Taxonomy itself is an artificial construct, but the genotypical expression of a given species, strictly speaking, is not.

          Otherwise, in biology, and by that extension, medical science, identifying deviations from the norm and possibly identifying new species (or refining the definition thereof) would be impossible.

          1. Groovus, are you talking about classification based on some marker sequence (e.g., 16S for bacteria, Cytochrome C for animals, etc.)? It’s still a bit arbitrary as to where you draw the “species” line, but I would agree that it’s a good tool. Interestingly, iirc cytochrome c sequence-based trees actually come out pretty close to the original morphology and physiology -based ones for animals.

            1. Yes, Metazoan. It’s not perfect and subject to some bias, but it’s pretty much the best we have, particularly for unicellular organisms.

              1. Yes, and actually with next-gen sequencing, it’s becoming feasible to assemble genomes of microbes from environmental samples, so perhaps we could actually incorporate whole-genome sequences there.

                Yay Reason discussion of bioinformatics!

    2. With margins of error like that they ought to call themselves economists.

      Or climatologists.

  2. “Let me say clearly from a personal perspective that species extinction is undesirable and should be avoided when reasonably possible.”

    I believe that is a religious statement, not a scientific one. See, oh, Condors.

    1. Seriously.

      Unless you ascribe to intelligent design/God the Creator, you believe in random mutation, natural selection, and evolution. Which logically would lead to sky high extinction rates.

      Or am I missing something?

      1. No, you’re not. This is Ron really nuking the fridge here and being incredibly unscientific and purely emotional. Very disappointing.

        1. E: It is not “unscientific” to express my aesthetic preferences. See my reply below.

          1. Sure it is not. It is just unscientific to expect anyone to share them.

          2. Ron, aesthetic preference are absolutely irrelevant to actual reality. Please see my reply to your reply below.

            1. “Ron, aesthetic preference are absolutely irrelevant to actual reality.”

              How’s that? Ron’s preferences are part of reality.

              1. His, perhaps, but not mine.

          3. I think it _is_ unscientific, it just isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s not really the same thing unless folks try and force it to be.

      2. That is just it. Environmentalists want it both ways. They want to claim they believe in evolution and are fashionable crude materialists. But then they want to pretend that there is something special about man. That man is somehow outside of nature rather than just another random product of evolutionary process.

        If you are an evolution believing atheist, there is no “right or wrong” or really anything to be avoided. There are just events. Who cares if man comes along as an invasive species and destroys even 60% of the existing species? Hell asteroids have destroyed 90%. It is not like the earth or the evolutionary process cares. It just is.

        1. People like to believe that their personal preferences are somehow absolute truths. It’s hard to avoid. And if you admit that things like conservation and environmentalism are mostly matters of personal aesthetic preference, you have a harder time forcing people to conform to your preferences.

        2. This is an odd perspective for someone who comments on this website to take. If you’re here, you likely either believe in natural rights or utilitarianism. As a corollary, you probably believe that human actions should be guided by these ethical systems.

          One can easily imagine taking hunting species to extinction into these ethical systems. In which case, you shouldn’t do it. Not because the universe is cold and uncaring, but because your ethical precepts require it.

          Not saying that these systems require us to care about animals. Just that, if they do, who gives a shit is no more an acceptable answer to the question of extinction than it is to the question of tyrannical government.

        3. If you are an evolution believing atheist, there is no “right or wrong” or really anything to be avoided.

          Bullshit.

          Strawman.

          This is the only response which your post merits, John.

          1. It’s not bullshit or a strawman.

            Why is an asteroid or volcanic eruption causing mass extinction just part of nature and evolution but human’s causing the same is intrinsically evil?

            1. Because humans operate by moral precepts. Asteroids don’t.

              1. Yeah, but without a platonic “Absolute Good” you can’t determine whether one person’s moral precepts are better than another’s.

                1. Sure you can. Reduce a system to its axioms and work out the logical implications. If they are patently absurd, reject that system. That’s why I reject utilitarianism, Kantianism, virtue ethics, etc – all fall apart under reductio ad absurdum. As far as I’ve been able to tell, natural rights don’t.

                  1. Of course, the notion of absurdity may vary from person to person. But I think that there are some universal ethical precepts. For instance, just about every ethical system and every religion in recorded history has taught that murder is wrong. When something comes up that often, it’s pretty natural to believe that such a belief is fundamental to the human experience. And thus it can be used as a given in the formulation of an ethical system. If a system logically entails violation of these widely-held principles, it’s a good enough reason to throw it away.

        4. John, I think there might still be reasons to care about destroying the earth, and its inhabitants, even as an “evolution believing atheist.” There is no supernaturally-ordained right and wrong, but that doesn’t mean that there is no right and wrong.

    2. California condors can take their chelation treatments and eat lead-free goat meat in Hell as far as I’m concerned. Fuck condors.

      1. Rule 34?

  3. Who gives a fuck? Extinction is part of the evolutionary process. There have been extinction events where 95% of all species went bye-bye. Yet somehow, to quote Jeff Goldblum’s annoying character in Jurassic Park, “life finds a way”. Fuck all these stupid motherfuckers who want the world to be frozen in amber. They’re fucking stupid. They need to be ignored.

    Let me say clearly from a personal perspective that species extinction is undesirable and should be avoided when reasonably possible.

    Why, Ron? Explain why?

    1. It’s just his personal preference. I feel the same way.

      But you are right, of course. It’s mostly because of our limited perspective. In such a short time as a human life, it seems like the world changes very little, so we imagine that having all of the species around that were around when we were born is the natural way for things to be and any disruption of that must be bad. It goes right along with global warming alarmism and worrying about the loss of “traditional cultures”.

      1. worrying about the loss of “traditional cultures”.

        From my point of view, as a linguist, language extinction is a big deal, because, unlike organisms, languages don’t leave fossil records. Once a language is gone, it’s gone, and we lose the chance to analyse a unique way of looking at the world. We lose a chance to understand the evolution of language and the various phonological, syntactical and semantic combinations the human mind can construct with language.

        1. I care about that too. But the fact is that the vast majority of human culture and language has already disappeared forever. I think it is a worthy and very interesting pursuit to try to preserve and study what you can of that in order to try to understand more. But if people aren’t interested enough in maintaining their traditional culture and language to keep it alive, then tough titties.

          1. But if people aren’t interested enough in maintaining their traditional culture and language to keep it alive, then tough titties.

            It’s not always so easy. In many places in the world, governments actively attempt to suppress linguistic minorities. Many times, they even use violence, and not all countries are as “lucky” as Bangladesh.

            1. “In many places in the world, governments actively attempt to suppress linguistic minorities.”

              Well, obviously that sort of thing is bad and decent people ought to do what they reasonably can to stop it.

            2. So let’s require public school children to learn and speak a Papuan language if they want to participate in sports or other extra-curricular activities.

              1. I’m not sure what you’re saying SIV. Are you saying that governments are justified in using violence and coercion to stop people from speaking their native language?

                1. Are you saying that governments are justified in using violence and coercion to stop people from speaking their native language?

                  I can’t speak for SIV, but I don’t think that’s what at which he’s driving, HM. I believe he’s applying the “Survival of the Fittest” maxim to language, meaning that if the language is not predominantly spoken enough, it will eventually join the dustbin of either “dead” languages or ones that are very, very obscure. To resist the importation of cognates and other peculiarities of a given language, and I see this most often with Latin based Indo-Russian languages, to pretty much guarantee its decline in both prominence and utility.

                  Using your native language is fine, like say Ukrainian, for example. But outside of Ukraine, unless one is a member of an emigrating band of Ukrainians somewhere else, like say, the USA, its utility is arguable at best. Its not a value judgement, but one of pure (blech) utility.

                  This is why I said a week ago, “If you are going to live in another country, LEARN THE DAMN LANGUAGE!” even if your mother tongue is widely spoken.

                  1. I believe he’s applying the “Survival of the Fittest” maxim to language,

                    But that’s a fallacy. Learning a language is not a zero-sum game. Learning another language doesn’t have to subtract from using your first language.

                    To resist the importation of cognates and other peculiarities of a given language, and I see this most often with Latin based Indo-Russian languages, to pretty much guarantee its decline in both prominence and utility.

                    And it must be noted that this can only happen through the existence of state supported “language academies”, such as L’Acad?mie fran?aise and language-protectionist laws and policy. To continue the ecological metaphor, the State, with it’s monopoly on force is the top predator in the sociolinguistic ecosystem, and from the libertarian point of view, it is an invasive species that is distorting the ecological interactions of the native species.

                    I absolutely agree with you about utility. However, this is also why I don’t get perturbed by the Spanish-only speaker who spends his or her entire life in Little Havana or the Chinese-only speaker who does so in Chinatown. If that’s what they’re satisfied with, then who am I to argue linguistic benefit and cost-analysis with them?

                2. I’m half-joking but if you want to “save” a language the best way would be for other people to learn it. Giving up your own people’s native language makes sense when it is no longer useful.

                  1. Giving up your own people’s native language makes sense when it is no longer useful.

                    Again, why does one have to give up anything? People can be multilingual. You can have it all, baby!

          2. Yeah. People who want to come down from the mountains of Laos, and integrate into cities is fine by me. People like steady supplies of food, televised entertainment, manufactured clothing, and all the other trappings of civilization. If their language disappears, or they abandon their gods, so be it.

            I say, welcome to the modern world my friend!

            1. People who want to come down from the mountains of Laos, and integrate into cities is fine by me

              Well that’s because the majority of them look like this or this.

              1. SF’d the first link, and the second link is incredibly beautiful even for an Asian girl … and I looove Asian girls.

                1. SF’d the first link.

                  Try this one. Kulap Vilaysack is basically what my wife looks like, if my wife were lucky enough to have inherited the giant Laotian boobies gene.

      2. It goes right along with global warming alarmism and worrying about the loss of “traditional cultures”.

        It is the triumvirate of cultural paternalism. Case in point– Amazonian indians who want to clear jungle to grow cash crops. The effort to stop this practice used the three prong argument that:

        1.) Clearing jungle would increase global warming by reducing the amount of CO2 processing trees.

        2.) That the jungle contained the most diverse set of species on Earth, and clearing jungle would force many of those species to extinction.

        3.) The indians have lived a foraging existence for thousands of years, in relative isolation. Over time, they have developed unique languages, religions, and customs that will be lost by developing mass agriculture, trade with the modern world, and increasing wealth.

        It’s bullshit. Wealth for me, but not for thee. Take a photo of the noble savage, get back in the boat.

        1. Never get out of the fucking boat. God damned right.

    2. S and E: My “personal perspective” is obviously based on my values, not “demanded” in some sense by scientific data. Of course, it’s essentially an aesthetic preference – I would very much prefer that someone not destroy Michelangelo’s David and similarly I would like to still have red-cockaded woodpeckers around, if “reasonably possible.”

      1. That is nice Ron. And if you are willing to pay for saving such creatures, have fun. As for me, piss off. Pay for it yourself, if the only case you can make is “well I like it that way”.

        1. J: Calm down – who said anything about making you pay for anything? See my column critiquing the Endangered Species Act, “Who Pays for the Delhi Sand Fly?

          1. I am just giving you a hard time Ron.

            1. John is just giving himself a hard-on Ron.

          2. Telling John to calm down. Lulz.

      2. Your aesthetic preferences are irrelevant, Ron. If the woodpecker can’t cut it, it goes. That is the way of things. As Bender says, nature can be hilariously cruel.

        1. Your opinion of Ron’s aesthetic preferences being irrelevant are irrelevant!

          Mo, you’re out of order!

      3. “My “personal perspective” is obviously based on my values,”
        Got it.

      4. Michelangelo’s David =/= Percina tanasi

      5. “I would like to still have red-cockaded woodpeckers around, if “reasonably possible.””

        Thanks to cloning, we really don’t have to worry about it. Just gather some DNA, put it in a database, and the whole “extinct is forever” envirobabble becomes meaningless.

    3. I don’t know about Ron, but I would argue that,in general, biodiversity increases the overall health of a particular biome.

      1. Biodiversity is a direct function of competition which immediately encompasses extinction. Noncompetitive species need to go.

        1. Sure, but people forming governments and trying to force each other to save species from extinction is also part of the natural world. There is no purpose or right and wrong (from a scientific perspective). Nothing needs to happen, things just happen.

        2. That’s silly. When a fast-growing, “competitive” algae overtakes a lake or pond and soaks up all the oxygen, killing all the fish in the lake, are you going to argue that biome is “healthier”?

          For what it’s worth, I believe that with an intelligence, self-aware species with an understanding of genetic engineering, we now live in a post-Darwinian age.

          1. “Ron, aesthetic preference are absolutely irrelevant to actual reality.”

            There’s that too. Even just curing most childhood diseases has changed the whole natural selection dynamic pretty radically.

          2. The algae would.

            1. The algae would.

              No. With no organisms to recycle the oxygen, the algae poisons itself. That’s why Algal blooms come and go.

        3. “Noncompetitive species need to go.”

          But what if they have four asses?

      2. I think the reasons for extinction are important. If pandas can’t survive despite mankind’s heroic efforts to save them, then fuck the panda’s (because they clearly aren’t fucking themselves). But if a species can’t survive solely because people are deliberately killing them off, I think it’s ok to feel bad about that. After all, extinction is permanent and I would kind of feel bad about depriving future generations of the ability to enjoy a buffalo burger. (Of course the private sector has solved the problem of buffalo burgers, as it usually does with species that are delicious… but it was a close call).

        1. Are pandas delicious?

      3. HM: With regard to biodiversity, see my column, “Invasion of the Invasive Species,” where I point out:

        Here’s a fact I suspect most people don’t know: Wherever human beings have gone in the last two centuries, we have increased local and regional biodiversity. Biodiversity, in this case, is defined as species richness. For example, more than 4,000 plant species introduced into North America during the last 400 years now grow wild here; they now constitute nearly 20 percent of the continent’s vascular plant biodiversity.

        1. Indeed. And anyone who disagrees needs to only eat chocolate, potatoes, and chili peppers in North and South America, and only ride horses in Eurasia.

          1. This — I’m on vacation in San Diego, and a crazy amount of human imported biodiversity here.

  4. Well, that’s nice. The extinction predictions have always sounded kind of insanely exaggerated to me.

    The other question that is relevant here, I think, is what would the extinction rate be without humans, or if humans behaved differently? It is not as if nothing ever went extinct before people were around. That this is significantly worse because of people seems to be a large unproven assumption.

    1. “That this is significantly worse because of people seems to be a large unproven assumption.”

      There’s a further subtext here, that is purely religious:
      That humans are somehow not “natural”; that human activities are outside of “natural” events.

      1. Yeah, we are really just another animal competing with everything else. We’re just really good at it. It’s silly to pretend that we are somehow not just as much a part of the ecosystem as any other species.

          1. Diseases and cancer are natural.

            1. Not quite, Zeb. The processes how diseases (I assume you are referring here to infectious disease) develop and evolve is natural, but mankind is more than capable of engineering pathogens out of whole cloth, therefore strictly artificial.

              As HM stated above, we are living in a post-Darwin world that still adheres to Mendelian genetics.

    2. The other question that is relevant here, I think, is what would the extinction rate be without humans, or if humans behaved differently?

      Most of the extinctions already happened, shortly after the first bands of hunter-gatherers crossed the Bering Land Bridge during the last ice age, and wiped out mass quantities of species in a brief hunting blitzkrieg, including such really useful species as horses (bit them in the ass when the conquistadors arrove).

      Everything that survived that is likely to keep on surviving for a good long time.

  5. So environmentalist nitwits looking for fame and fortune and to push their leftist political agenda lied? Let me put on my surprised face.

    1. Don’t go thinking you can glean from this that GW predictions are anything but rock solid.

      1. I’ve been waiting for someone to tie GW predictions to other environmental doomsday predictions.

        +1 to you, KPres.

  6. I’m waiting for scientists to figure out how to make Jurassic Park for real. At least with recently extinct animals where samples of viable DNA exist. Passenger pigeon, dodo, things like that.

    Extinction doesn’t have to be forever.

  7. OT: NASA test fires Apollo era rocket. Actually, just the starter for the rocket, so they were only getting 30000 lbs of thrust, not the full 1.5M. Holy shit.

    Thursday’s test used one part of the engine, the gas generator, which powers the machinery to pump propellant into the main rocket chamber. It doesn’t produce the massive orange flame or clouds of smoke like that of a whole F-1, but the sound was deafening as engineers fired the mechanism in an outdoor test stand on a cool, sunny afternoon.

    The device produced a plume that resembled a blow torch the size of two buses and set fire to a grassy area, which was quickly extinguished.

    1. I would love to see a full Saturn five go off someday. What a show that must have been.

    2. You must go North to go South. East to go West. Backward to go Forward.

      Antique cars are fun. Antique rocketships are… out of this world!

    3. There is no rocket; the engine is on a static test stand.

  8. we are really just another animal competing with everything else.

    Yes, but the sort of ecological nihilism expressed by some here is every bit as much an expression of arbitrary values (‘religion’ as some have termed it) as the alternatives. There is no cosmic value to “winning” natural selection. There is only the self-interested practicality of keeping humans alive and prosperous.

    If the extinction of a species negatively affects humans, obviously that outcome should be avoided. If the effect of the extinction of a species is neutral to humans, there is only (what has been called) an aesthetic judgment to be made.

    But that’s too simple; as libertarians love to remind us, there is always the possibility of unintended consequences. There may be no cosmic virtue in the biodiversity status quo, but there is at the very least a precautionary stance to apply: we shouldn’t want to too radically alter the environment our species is accustomed to. And there certainly is no good reason to willfully turn a blind eye to the destruction of species and other aspects of the natural environment.

    1. Someone forgot to take his stupid pills today.

    2. *sigh*

      Why can’t you always contribute to the discussion in such a rational and well-argued way, Tony?

    3. “There is only the self-interested practicality of keeping humans alive and prosperous.”

      Which is sufficient to obviate any ‘religious’ values.

    4. Re: Tony,

      Yes, but the sort of ecological nihilism expressed by some here

      Translation: I’m starting my rant with a clumsy strawman, just as always.

      There is no cosmic value to “winning” natural selection. There is only the self-interested practicality of keeping humans alive and prosperous.

      I would say people find it practical to be alive compared to being dead.

      You should get a refund from whatever backwater college you went to.

      If the extinction of a species negatively affects humans, obviously that outcome should be avoided.

      How would you avoid it? Extinctions are a part of life.

      […]we shouldn’t want to too radically alter the environment our species is accustomed to.

      What does that have to do with the fact that the number of extictions has been exaggerated for years for purely political motives?

      I’m still trying to understand your point: Are you in favor of lying to get people worried about the environment, or are you against prosperous and living people, or what is your deal?

      1. You always struggle to understand my point.

        I was trying to respond to some of the criticisms of the aesthetic approach to conservation. That is to say, “fuck it, let it burn” is no less an aesthetic choice.

        1. T o n y| 1.25.13 @ 3:17PM |#
          “I was trying to respond to some of the criticisms of the aesthetic approach to conservation. That is to say, “fuck it, let it burn” is no less an aesthetic choice.”

          So, shithead, you *did* take your stupid pills.
          That’s a lie, shithead, and if you’re too stupid to know it, you should be confined to the ape section of the local zoo.

  9. When someone tells me how many species go extinct every year I ask them to name me the three extinctions in the last year which had the largest effect on the Planet and why this is so.

    I have yet to get an answer.

    1. If their numbers are so low that extinction is possible in the next year, then their disappearance will have virtually no impact on anyone’s lives.

      1. Ok, name any three from the last 5 years, whether they mattered or not.

    1. I’m glad I got to see him live before he died.

      My favorite line was “Ever notice at those anti-abortion rallies? You wouldn’t want to fuck any of ’em anyway!”

      He never met John.

      1. Life is so much better not being misogynistic weirdo who thinks anyone women over a size zero is fat.

        1. Says the guy who goes to the anti-abortion rally to get laid.

          1. Gentleman please! This is not that kind of establishment.

            WE HAVE STANDARDS.

            (looks at epi and warty)

            OH. NEVER MIND.

      2. Do you really think John is (was?) George Carlin’s type?

  10. I’m with Ron on this, because I’m a huge faggot for the goddamn retard animals that are too fucking stupid to adapt enough to not go extinct.

    1. Self-interest is always the best motivator.

    2. Fucking condor lover. They went extinct in the last century but the government wastes our tax dollars to maintain a domesticated flock of sickly birds which are allowed to “free range” just enough to eat a bunch of lead and get sicker.

  11. “I felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every Panda that wouldn’t screw to save its species. I wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all the French beaches I’d never see. I wanted to breathe smoke.”

  12. Let me say clearly from a personal perspective that species extinction is undesirable and should be avoided when reasonably possible. Extinction really is forever.

    There’s plenty of species that I would love to cause their extinction. Mosquitos, fleas, lice, herpes, the HIV virus, dysentery, tuberculosis …

  13. Whenever I hear someone say that tens of thousands (or other ridiculous number) of species are going extinct every year, my standard response is “Name five that have gone extinct in the last year.” No one has yet been able to do it, and yet this does not cause them to question their statement. They just say “well, we don’t know about a lot of them because extinction is hard to verify”. Which may be to some extent true, but if you believe there are thousands of something and you cannot name five, that should seriously call your estimate into question.

  14. In this 15 minute video, WUWT writer Willis Eschenbach describes a paper on extinctions he had published.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KOyFvA5f1A

    It’s worth watching. Here’s a post about it:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/201…..nsitivity/

    1. He has a new post today about it:

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/201…../#comments

      1. Ops, here a lin to the top of the post:

        http://wattsupwiththat.com/201…..t-extinct/

  15. I’m a radical skeptic on the subject of species. Take DJK’s definition, for instance. S/he admits that organisms reproducing primarily asexually don’t fit, but then since taxonomists do classify them by species, there must be something wrong with the definition — for what good is a definition suppsedly based on a fundamental distinction that applies to some but not all? It shows that the concept of species exists independently of that criterion, or taxonomists would just say there are no species of bacteria, or that they’re all one species.

    But look again at the definition and ask, for how many putative species is that criterion actually known? What good is a criterion that can never be applied, and is only assumed while taxonomists actually use other criteria (similar to those of other taxa) to classify species?

    Sorry I couldn’t fit this in the proper place in the tree (not taxonomic but comment thread tree), but I’m working with a big hardware & software handicap.

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