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  Topic: The Skeptical Zone, with Lizzie< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 310
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: April 26 2012,07:14   

Quote (Lou FCD @ April 26 2012,06:19)
Quote (Kattarina98 @ April 26 2012,03:49)
Over at Joe's thread they are still trying to explain to WJM that the use of "natural" and "artificial" selection was just Darwin's shorthand for "made by a breeder" versus "not man-made" selection - even Joe seems to have grasped that basically it's the same thing.

I'm wondering if the boundary between "artifical" and "natural" isn't actually quite blurry: For instance, global warming is man-made; so in a changing climate we might find some species die off, others thrive, others develop new features. Would you call this process "natural" or "artificial"?

We wrangled with this question last week in my senior seminar on hybridization. It's kind of sticky, but bears on things like conservation policy.

Near as I can tell, in a Venn diagram of artificial and natural, the former lies in some sense entirely within the latter. The distinction itself is completely artificial (ha! see what I did there?), and arbitrary. It's context-dependent. To me it seems that the boundary lies wherever you choose to place it in a given discussion, but where you place it should be very clear to everyone involved in that particular discussion to facilitate clear communication.

My tuppence, worth exactly what you just paid for it.

Absolutely it's blurry and context dependent.  Arguably even more so in Europe and other places with a long history of intensive human meddling in nature than in North America. These are the sorts of issues I thrash about with in my work.  Those lovely species-rich grasslands that aren't plowed, herbicided or fertilised, they're natural aren't they?  But wait, wouldn't they be forests if you got rid of the cattle?  Or would the deer keep the grasslands open?  And what about the now-extinct wolves?

These sorts of arguments are why we use the term "semi-natural" a lot!

  589 replies since Aug. 15 2011,22:52 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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