Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Natural wisdom

Every so often, I come across something stated so perfectly well that nothing I could say would add anything to it. Here, a letter to The Scientist (Sept 2006, with paywall), with some emphasis added:
“[Reverence] for nature [...] isn’t necessarily related to a view that mother nature is ‘benevolent,’ ‘kind,’ or ‘caring.’ An ecosystem can be both ‘in harmony’ and still be deadly to individuals (even humans) and species.

“Many of us are very nervous about genetic engineering and other issues within bioethics because we humans just aren’t smart enough to take those functions away from natural processes. Do we really want to reengineer our species’ genome so that we can have less malaria or so we can expect to live 150 years? It seems obvious and inevitable that the Law of Unintended Consequences will be much nastier than Mother Nature. Natural selection is not evil or good; it is simply the way ecosystems work. Some, myself included, see it as a type of ‘natural wisdom.’

These views are not anti-science; they are expressions of humility learned from science. If those views are anti-anything, they’re against reengineering our own and other species to suit human desires.”

- Chris Richard, University of California, Los Angeles, in reference to:
R. Gallagher, “Zealots for science,” The Scientist, 20(7):13, July 2006; and, I.M. Silver, “A nasty mother,” The Scientist, 20(7):49-53, July 2006.

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