Unforgivably Short-Sighted Science

In the Origin of Species, Charles darwin theorized about the spread of species across great distances of impassable water. Darwin thought that to survive these distances, either seeds would have to hitch a ride on avian organisms or they would have to float. He tested* this hypothesis and discovered that seeds of certain types of vegetation could survive the months it would take to cross vast seas and oceans. These cast-away seeds would happily sprout and take root and bear fruit like normal after washing ashore and finding suitable soil to grow in.

Darwin found that natural forces, given time and the oppurtunity, can spread species across previously thought ‘impassable’ distances.

When the Japanese dock washed up on the coasts of Oregon, the response of scientists about the great threat of invasive species, then, seems incredibly wrong. Other than the artificiality of the dock itself, what is out of place here? What is unnatural about an earthquake, a tsunami and tidal forces?

Along for the ride were hundreds of millions of individual organisms, including a tiny species of crab, a species of algae, and a little starfish all native to Japan that have scientists concerned if they get a chance to spread out on the West Coast.

“This is a very clear threat,” said John Chapman, a research scientist at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., where the dock washed up early Tuesday. “… It’s incredibly difficult to predict what will happen next.”

In other versions of this story, including the broadcast on BBC headlines Thursday night, a few researchers expressed great concern at what these foreign invasive species might do to the native environment.

Chapman expected the organisms stuck to the dock would be deep sea species that hopped aboard during its Pacific transit. Japanese coastal creatures could not have survived a 14-month trip in the open ocean. But when he looked closer, he realized he was wrong.

“You know, it’s appalling to me that this artificial island of Asian species was ripped off of their shore and transported to here really intact, and that we would not have predicted that,” Chapman says. “So what we thought we knew is wrong.”

Nonsense. This seems like fretting about invasion for invasion’s sake. That anything different than the status quo of environment is wrong and dangerous and short-sighted. Not only that, Chapman doesn’t even understand the basics of genetic proliferation set down in The Origin of Species.


*From Chapter 11:

My own experiments with small seeds showed, to my surprise, that out of 87 kinds, 64 germinated after an immersion of 28 days in salt water, and a few survived an immersion of 137 days. Seeds may be occasionally transported on drift timber, in the carcasses of birds or, indeed, through living birds.

Abbreviated version of the Origin here.

Source (and a better) Source (that embodies this unscientific environmentalism)


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