Traffic in plants and plant seeds

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at
Sun Sep 20 06:06:20 EDT 1998

	Semjase raised a number of points in reponse to my last posting:

> If one regards evolution as producing biodiversity

> It is a philosophical bend to say that, the fact is we don't know and
> biodiversity may not always be the direction evolution takes.

Leps-L is a most interesting group indeed, especially to someone raised on
'orthodox' Darwinian evolution driven by natural selection. I have never
encountered a group of people so interested in biology and yet so divided
on their feelings about evolution.

	For the record, and so I don't have to add 'IMHO' to everything I
say, I am one of those who regard (neo) Darwinian evolution as the unifying
thread throughout the biological sciences. Furthermore, because I was
trained as an astronomer, I regard biological evolution as merely the cul-
mination of stellar evolution (a process driven not by selection, but by
the laws of physics). So to me the basic idea of evolution connects the
entire realm of 'natural history', animate and inanimate, with a single
underlying concept. I find the concept of natural selection applied to
mutation and genetic recombination, as expounded by such people as Daw-
kins, Wilson, Gould, and Dennett (granted their differences on matters
of detail) as totally congenial to the way I see the world. Furthermore,
the biologists with whom I interact directly feel, in general, the same.

	Only on this group do I get my ears pinned back as a common occur-
rence. Maybe it builds character...

	So yes--I do indeed regard evolution as having produced biodiver-
sity, and know of no other process that _I_ can accept for doing so, just
as I regard stellar evolution as having produced most of the atoms in all
of our bodies. I would be willing to change these perceptions on the basis
of strong evidence to the contrary derived directly from the physical
world, as I think (hope?) most scientists would.

> It is a philosophical bend to say that, the fact is we don't know and
> biodiversity may not always be the direction evolution takes.

True. So instead I should say that biodiversity is the direction evolution
_has taken_, at least for those who accept it. Judging by the lowered
species diversity in the polar regions, a massive global cooling would
presumably lead to a reduced biodiversity as evolution responded to the
altered conditions. My suspicion is, however, that after an initial
crash, biodiversity would again increase, although not to our present

> Also if evolution becomes intelligently controlled the present world
> order would probably cease to exist eventually.

This is indeed a possibility. But if our intelligences allow us to control
evolution, as they may well, there may still be some doubt as to whether
it will be 'intelligently' controlled. :-) Or do _you_ place implicit trust
in governments?

To my comment about introduced species resulting in lowered biodiversity,
Semjase said:

> That is a possibility, but then again so is the opposite.

Let's leave prediction aside, and instead say that, for oceanic islands,
introduced species _have resulted_ in lowered biodiversity. Markedly so
in many cases. Presumably the diversity might re-evolve in time--but not
during our lifetimes. As a rule of thumb, the continued introduction of
'weedy' species to oceanic islands is not something to delight the hearts
of biologists who work with the native flora and fauna, or wildlife
enthusiasts who wish to view those species.

	Then Semjase asked a very important question:

> If we keep on interfering with people becoming familiar with nature we
> will have a  society very ignorant in that matter.  Do you see that as
> good?

	That's a question that I have asked myself, in the context of the
Lacey Act and its unwise (in my regard) extension to insects. And I can
categorically state that I do _not_ see a society becoming ignorant about
nature as good. I have stated many times that I approve of insect collecting
both for scientific and hobby purposes--for just this reason, among others.
But we don't want to damage the natural world that we love. Else there
would be less to study, watch, and appreciate. Collecting per se has done
little damage compared to exotic species and habitat destruction--so it
behooves us to consider habitat preservation, and caution about introduc-
tions, as things that should be done to preserve the organisms we are
interested in. How best to do that--by regulations, by education, by using
one's common sense--is basically a political question. But the regulations
will proliferate, I fear, if no other method is found...

							Ken Philip
fnkpw at

More information about the Leps-l mailing list