Thought Experiment: Suppose a group of aliens flew to earth / Facebook post, Walter Haugen

classification of living thingsNovember 6, 2015  Walter Haugen

Okay, let’s do a little thought experiment. Suppose a group of aliens flew to earth and noticed all of us humans scurrying about.

They might want to investigate us more closely. So let’s say they captured a few of us (cue the X-Files music!) and looked at us closely. Here is how they might classify us:
1) Well, we move about and aren’t tethered to the land by roots.
2) We have a spinal cord.
3) We have a backbone instead o a shell.
4) We generate heat internally and roughly half of us have mammary glands to feed our young.
5) The specimens that give birth do so by live birth of their young but without a shelled egg.
6) We all have a petrosal bulla, which is a bony cap in the middle ear. (Sorry, some dissection of dead specimens necessary here.)
7) We don’t have a tail and we have a tooth number of 2-1-2-3, or two incisors, 1 canine, 2 premolars, and 3 molars. (No dissection necessary here, but be careful! We bite!)
8) We walk on two legs and use our hands.
9) We talk (a lot!) and have shared collective behaviors that are passed on to other generations.

At this point, the aliens might just pack up and leave. Notice that what I have done here is lay out the Linnaean classification system, based entirely on morphology. It is objective and just requires observation. Now let’s use this same rigorous logic and apply it to our modern world, specifically the question of poisons on our roadsides.

1) We have weeds along the roads. Are they bad? Not necessarily.
2) If they are bad, do we need to do something about them? Not necessarily.
3) If we do something about them, do we have to poison them? Not necessarily.
4) If we poison them, can we be sure that there won’t be aftereffects that will harm us and our children and grandchildren? Nope.
5) If we disregard the harm we could be doing to ourselves and our heirs, does that mean that the harm doesn’t happen? Nope.
6) Since we have unknown knowns and unknown unknowns, can we adequately assess the risks and compare them to the advantages? Nope.
7) If we do nothing, do we lose anything? Not necessarily.

Ya get it?

Read Walter’s post on his Facebook page here.

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