January 8, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)


Nothing is constant but change! All existence is a perpetual flux of "being and becoming!" That is the broad lesson of the evolution of the world.

Ernst Heinrich Haeckel(1834-1919)

In the 12/14/98 issue of Science News, under a headline that says "Superstud grass menaces San Francisco," is an article about an East Coast salt-marsh grass that may replace the native marsh grass. There is a photo of the grass captioned, "taller, prolific Eastern cordgrass threatens California's native species." One botanist described it is "a pushy New York cordgrass that's moving in fast on the native laid-back California kind of species." One of the scientists cited seemed truly disturbed and said "We need early detection and rapid response." By this, I assume that he means that the stronger and better eastern grass must be destroyed in order to allow the native grass to survive. I would guess that if push came to shove, he might even use Roundup; Horrors!!!

Attitudes among field biologists seem to have changed from an acceptance of the fact of natural selection, to a social worker type of philosophy, that Native is Better and that the downtrodden native species must be preserved even at the cost of the naturally superior species.

I may be the only one to object to the projection of human values on to nature, which has no such values. In fact, nature doesn't give a damn which species got there first. If a more "fit" species comes along, that is what will take over, despite man's wish to preserve the native species.

Change is the way of the universe and any attempt by man to impede it is doomed to failure.

We tend to think of the Native Americans of the plains, with their lances and bows and arrows, mounted on horses and hunting the prolific herds of bison. We tend to forget that the horse was brought to America by the Spaniards. It didn't take long for the natives to realize the great advantage of the animals and to become experts in their care and use. The repeating rifle was adopted by the Indians as far superior to the bow and arrow.

I should point out that Native Americans have recently become as adept at victimizing their patrons in the gambling dens as their new mentors. They have been successful enough to have raised 60 million dollars to push their gambling initiative to a win at the California polls. Just as the Indians learned from the Spaniards, they have learned from the Mafia. Not content with tourist dollars and basket weaving, they will soon take full advantage of the tools that lead to affluence. We can expect better schools, full employment and better living. And the social workers had nothing to do with it.

The world as we know it today is very different from the way that it was a scant 50 years ago. Fifty years from now it may be unrecognizable. For people who worship the good old days, it is a disaster; as it has always been to people who look with nostalgia at the past.

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