Wednesday, August 12, 2009

353!?

When I saw a Pudu, back in the 80’s, everyone thought it was the smallest deer in the world. We were all wrong. Science has a lot of limitations. For one thing it is based on observation. If we wanted to be completely accurate we would have to say things like: “The Pudu of the Andes Mountains is the smallest known deer in the world.” Even that wouldn’t have been true, because back then some people did know of the Leaf Deer of the Himalayas; it’s just that science didn’t know about it.

I grew up wanting to be a zoologist, exploring remote areas of the planet, discovering new species. The only problem was that we were told that there were no more remote areas, and the only undiscovered species tended to be plants and bugs. Again, science was wrong. In the past ten years scientists have discovered 353 new species in the eastern Himalayas. Sure, many of those are plants and bugs, but 16 are amphibians, 16 reptiles, 2 are birds and even 2 are mammals including a new monkey species! Once again, the scientific worldview affects that last sentence. These are not new species really. They are simply new to science.

The saddest thing to see is that science has not just become arrogant enough to think that things don’t count until they are scientifically verified, but science has started to grasp beyond the limits of the scientific method and claim to know truths that are not scientific. The context of the story of these 353 newly discovered species is not that this is a great discovery, but that these species are threatened by global warming. How can this possibly be determined? These species have been observed for less than a decade! How can we possibly determine that a species is on the decline—due to climate change—when we didn’t know the species existed months ago?

The answer: not scientific method, but scientific consensus; not the data, but the dogma.

Mainly though, this story makes me wish I could go on a cataloguing trip in the Himalayas!

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