Mr. Teobaldelli incident

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at
Fri Sep 5 05:07:46 EDT 1997

	Neil Jones said:

>Insects are as highly evolved as any other kind of animal on the planet.

and objected to the term 'lower animals'--no longer a PC term in these
enlightened days.

	Of course this is literally true--insects have been evolving as long
as humans, and are presumably as well fitted to their niches as we are,
if not (judging from their success) better so. So have plants, and so have
the major (in terms of numbers of higher-order groups, and in terms of
numbers of individuals, and biomass) lifeforms on earth: bacteria. There
are two extreme ways to react to this fact as regards collecting (or kil-
ling, experimenting with, disturbing, etc.) other lifeforms. One way (Sin-
ger might approve) is to say they are all equal, individual for individual.
A rat has as much 'right' to live as a human. An insect as much as a
rat, and a bacterium as much as an insect. On this basis, humans could
barely manage to exist as a very rare organism--no agriculture, no engin-
eering. Back to hunter-gatherers in small numbers....

	The other way is to be 'speciesist' (an uneuphonious word) and to
judge the rank of organisms on their closeness or distance from us. Thus
we would be more concerned about experimenting on (or collecting) chimpan-
zees than bacteria. If we wish to maintain a high-energy lifestyle I see
no alternative to this viewpoint. To live in houses, cities, etc.; and
use powered vehicles, computers, electronic media; eat food produced
elesewhere--all this takes an immense toll on insects, bacteria, and
the smaller vertebrates, even if we were able to preserve the so-called
'charismatic megafauna', which we are not doing very well at to date.
Even under a 'green' scenario--small isolated villages surrounded by
immense tracts of untouched wilderness, we would still be killing more
than our share of bacteria and insects.

	Speaking for myself, I would go out of my way to avoid killing
most vertebrates (except for food), but when I walk through the tundra I
don't bother to plan my path so as to take the absolute minimum toll on
springtails, let alone bacteria. I guess I'm a speciesist at heart...

	However, I love the idea of entomologists as 'lower scientists',
because the same reasoning allows us to regard chemists as lower still,
and physicists as even lower.  :-)  Thanks, Neil.

							Ken Philip
fnkwp at

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