…And the Eagle Flies with the Dove

You can almost hear the sound of PZ Myers’ palm hitting his face as “a couple of vegetarian philosophers with no knowledge of biology” urge humanity to end predation worldwide—so that no more zebras have to suffer at the fangs of a lion, and no more mice at the talons of an owl. Their plea on behalf of prey species, inspired by the model culling of Cecil the lion, calls carnivory simply ‘unnecessary;’ PZ writes, “it’s as if they are completely unaware of the fact that predation maintains and increases biodiversity, or that there’s more to wildlife than mammals and birds, or that life is a complex web of interactions — that bears killing salmon is a critical source of phosphorus for trees.” PZ follows up on the debate by responding to a related essay that cites “Isaiah’s gifts as a prophet” in the Bible; i.e. visions of the leopard and the goat laying together, the wolf and the lamb becoming BFF, etc. As PZ writes, “humans have been busily pauperizing biodiversity in various habitats for a long time” and to continue that trend by targeting predators is the opposite of an moral stand. On the contrary, it would be another misguided step in our long, bloody crusade to anthropomorphize the natural world.

See also: The Value of Biodiversity on Aardvarchaeology


Horror Vacui

Aristotle thought that there could be no lasting void in the natural order, that any emptiness would be instantaneously filled. Of course Aristotle was full of batty ideas. But this one came to be rephrased by philosophers and Vulcans alike as “nature abhors a vacuum,” enduring as a powerful metaphor if not a precisely factual truth. In terms of critical thinking, scientists too abhor a vacuum, and are usually eager to fill in the blanks. On Pharyngula, PZ Myers criticizes a review of long-established brain anatomy, freshened with primary colors and a hypothesis that makes no sense. Describing the original purpose of an apparently useless neuron, PZ writes “It’s like sending a kite string across a chasm, then using the string to pull a rope across, and then using the rope to pull a cable across, and pretty soon you’ve got a bridge.” On EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse glimpses the formlessness underlying the arguments of Intelligent Design proponents, saying “there is ultimately nothing more to their argument than the claim that at some point in natural history, an unnamed intelligent designer did something.” Can we be a little more specific, please?