The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

By John Kricher | Go to book overview

9
Be Glad to Be an Earthling

“It's all about me” is a commonly used expression of egocentrism. Of course it's all about me. Natural selection saw to it. Why would it be about you, at least from my vantage point? You have your genes, I have mine, and mine are what I care about, more than I care about yours. Or actually, as evolutionist Richard Dawkins tells it, it's the other way around.1 I am the product of my “selfish genes” (though, of course, they must have “cooperated” to make me) and thus my behavior (and beliefs, at least to a degree) reflects my genes' coded instructions for self-preservation. “I think, therefore I am.” Sure, Descartes (who actually wrote Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum) sounded profound. I do think and I am what I think. Thinking is a huge deal. But I think very much along certain lines because I am the product of my DNA. Though the idea is anathema to many social scientists (certainly the ones I know), as an evolutionary biologist I believe I am fully programmed to care more about me than about you.2

The reality of egocentrism is by no means confined to Homo sapiens. Anyone who has studied animal behavior knows that nonhuman creatures are concerned about themselves, especially their personal safety. Even dumb ones get suspicious and run. But we are different. Toss in a really large and complex human brain, one that is capable of nuance and projection, and it is but a short hop from egocentrism to anthropocentrism, the notion that it's all about humans. We humans are, evolutionarily, a kind of social animal, and thus anthropocentrism is virtually preordained to occur

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The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Why It Matters 1
  • 2: Of What Purpose Are Mosquitoes? 8
  • 3: Creating Paradigms 20
  • 4: Ecology B.C. (“before Charles”) 40
  • 5: Ecology A.D. (“after Darwin”) 53
  • 6: The Twentieth Century Ecology Comes of Age 67
  • 7: A Visit to Bodie Ecological Space and Time 84
  • 8: Ecology and Evolution Process and Paradigm 97
  • 9: Be Glad to Be an Earthling 113
  • 10: Life Plays the Lottery 128
  • 11: Why Global Climate is like New England Weather 140
  • 12: Taking It from the Top–or the Bottom 155
  • 13: For the Love of Biodiversity (And Stable Ecosystems?) 170
  • 14: Facing Marley's Ghost 186
  • Epilogue 203
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Notes 209
  • Index 229
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