Humans Can Selectively Wipe Out Certain Animals
The human impact on animals is well known today and is becoming apparent in history, too. Implications for ancient history are considered.
The white rhino is nearly extinct in our own time. We know the cause: poaching. The majority of humans respect these magnificent animals (see scientists desperately trying to preserve an embryo of the last northern white rhino on Science Daily). It only took a few bad humans, though, to wipe them out. Sometimes humans drive an animal extinct out of superstition, as in the case of the rhinoceros. “Even though these spikes are just made of keratin—what makes up our nails—many Asian markets deem it a viable treatment for low libido, among other things,” Emma Bryce wrote in 2014. “This has made rhino horn enormously popular, and poachers supply traffickers with horns that get sent across the globe.” Sometimes greed endangers animals, as in the case of the demand for elephant ivory. Sometimes vanity drives extinction, as in the case of a hummingbird threatened by ladies of a bygone era who thought them beautiful on their corsages. We know about how beaver narrowly escaped extinction in the fur trade era, all because European men found beaver hats fashionable for awhile. In Roman times, emperors would gather exotic animals for gladiators to fight in the arena.
Human influence can be quick and dramatic. American bison were nearly wiped out within a few decades during the era of westward expansion. Some men thought it sporting to shoot them with rifles from the comfort of their railroad cars. Other humans drive animals to extinction out of anger, such as the ranchers who would see their sheep and cows lying dead from wolves and would go on a rampage to shoot every wolf they saw; one can understand their reticence at the decision to re-introduce wolves into Yellowstone. Fear can be another motivation. It may be a default human reaction when seeing a snake or spider to kill it. Other animal deaths are accidental, as in road kill (8 bears killed in Georgia this year by cars, Fox News reports). Then there are all the unforeseen consequences of human activity, such as encroachment on a species’ habitat, that can threaten creatures with extinction. In summary, these human motivations can drive species extinct:
- Civilization expansion
Education can help people respect the proper role of each species in an ecosystem, even rattlesnakes. Learning about animals’ benefits can help to reduce shortsighted actions that endanger species. The BBC News reports that some women in the UK got “sick to their stomach” when told that ivory trinkets they were wearing came from elephants slaughtered by poachers. Oregon State researchers have shown that bears are like seed farmers: “Berry-gorging bears disperse seeds through scat and feed small mammals.” The goal of this article is not to excuse human behavior, nor endorse measures by bureaucrats to protect endangered species that can sometimes seem over the top to landowners and other stakeholders. The point is to note that human beings—exceptionally among creatures on earth—can bring about extinction of selected species, even large animals, and do it relatively quickly.
Scientists continue to debate whether the rich American megafauna that thrived in North America were killed off naturally or by early humans. (Consistent evolutionists who view humans as just another mammal wouldn’t say there’s a difference.) In the La Brea Tar Pits museum, remains of these large animals silently tell of a prior time around Los Angeles ruled by mammoths, mastodons, giant sloths, camels, lions, saber-tooth cats, wolves and many other species of significant animals. Humans were present, we know, because a woman’s skeleton was found at the site, and evidence of mammoth hunts are known. The large animals ranged far and wide on the continent before, during and after first humans arrived. They are all gone.
The following news articles touch on human involvement in extinction.
America’s lost dogs (Science Magazine). Today’s pet dogs have almost no direct relationship to the dogs that followed the first human migrants from Asia. “It remains unclear why precontact dogs survived and thrived for thousands of years in the Americas only to swiftly and almost completely disappear with the arrival of Europeans.” (The full paper can be found at Science; see also Science Daily.) This story has a parallel with horses. Several species of horse thrived throughout North America. They were all gone before Europeans re-introduced them. As we know, Indians quickly made good use of horses after they were imported.
Lost history of brown bears in Britain revealed (BBC News). Bears are large and fearsome beasts compared to people, but wild bears are unheard of in the British Isles today, Helen Briggs writes, even though they existed relatively recently. Romans hunted bears for gladiatorial contests. Indirect evidence suggests they still roamed wild 1,500 years ago. Scientists are divided on what happened to these large animals that thrived before and after the Ice Age, according to secular timelines. “Either ‘native bears’ went extinct around the early Middle Ages, or they disappeared some 3,000 years ago in the Bronze Age or in Neolithic times.” A bear is no match for a motivated human:
Bears were present in the Tower of London and continued to be imported into Britain until well into the 20th century.
Dancing bears were a common form of entertainment. Bears were also widely used for their body parts, with bear grease still being sold in Britain in the early 20th century as a putative treatment for hair loss.
More work needs to be done to figure out the fate of British bears, says Science Daily about research conducted at the University of Nottingham.
Human Responsibility and World View
Chris Packham is angry. “Let’s stop sleepwalking towards mass extinction,” he preaches at New Scientist, decrying the mess human beings are making of ecosystems. He blames agriculture for species loss, but would he really give up western cuisine?
There, I’ve gone and said it, I’ve had the temerity to point out the great big bag of pesticides in the room. I’ve summoned the nerve to actually confront the sanctity of farming, to actually criticise the system that feeds us. Because that system has become dependent on vast quantities of poison and practices that are destroying our wildlife and our countryside. And will thus ultimately destroy us.
So what do you want to do? Carry on musing about the stats, mumbling about “loss” or stand up and say enough is enough? On 22 September, I’m organising the first Peoples Walk for Wildlife in London and if you would like your kids to ever hear a nightingale I would suggest you get your boots on and pack some sarnies. Your wildlife needs you, and it needs you more than ever.
Something in Packham’s soul finds beauty in wildness, and wants to preserve it. But why? At The Conversation, Elizabeth Boakes and David Redding offer this argument, “Extinction is a natural process, but it’s happening at 1,000 times the normal speed.” Let’s see if they (as evolutionists) can be consistent about what is ‘natural’ in the world:
The northern white rhino will surely be mourned, as would other stalwarts of picture books, documentaries and soft toy collections. But what about species of which of which we are less fond – or perhaps even entirely unaware? Would we grieve for obscure frogs, bothersome beetles or unsightly fungi? Extinction is, after all, inevitable in the natural world – some have even called it the “engine of evolution”. So should extinction matter to us?
They cannot deny that extinction is natural. Their argument for doing something about it hinges on the rate of extinction, and the fact that not protecting wildlife will eventually harm us.
The most regular counter argument contends that we should not worry about extinction, because it is a “natural process”. First of all, so is death, but it does not follow that we meekly surrender to it (especially not prematurely or at the hands of another).
But secondly, fossil records show that current extinction levels are around 1,000 times the natural background rate. They are exacerbated by habitat loss, hunting, climate change and the introduction of invasive species and diseases. Amphibians seem particularly sensitive to environmental change, with estimated extinction rates up to 45,000 times their natural speed. Most of these extinctions are unrecorded, so we do not even know what species we are losing.
Hidden within their arguments are moral feelings that human beings (who are also ‘natural’ in evolutionary thinking) “should” take action. But why? Is there really a ‘natural’ background rate of extinction? So what if it is faster now? They would counter, “but animals need more time to evolve defenses.” Again, why? Evolutionists believe that 95% of species went extinct in the Permian, before man had anything to do with it. They believe a meteorite wiped out 76% of animals, including dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. Humans were not around, in their scenario, to try to deflect the meteor so that ecosystems would survive. There is no “should” in the evolutionary world view. Stuff Happens. It follows that evolutionists can only observe, not preach, about what humans are doing now. If humans were to wipe out enough species, and go extinct themselves, it would be a tale never told, a tragedy never mourned.
Let’s turn a corner in the commentary and apply what we’ve learned to dinosaur extinction. The current extinction theory for dinosaurs has numerous problems, as we have shown over the years: its selective effects, and the presence of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils. The evolutionists’ mechanism doesn’t work, and their timeline is falsified. So Biblical creationists should get a shot at this never-ending debate.
The Bible suggests that dinosaurs thrived for centuries, probably for over a millennium, after being created on Day Six of creation week. The Flood wiped most of them out; that’s why they show the “dinosaur death pose” of suffocation, and why we can find soft tissue just a few thousand years after they drowned. If Noah took representative species of dinosaurs on the ark, and they began proliferating from the Ark’s landing site at the end of the Flood, they could have spread far and wide for centuries, giving rise to all the “dragon legends” from Europe to China (and possibly some in the Americas). None of the post-Flood dinosaurs fossilized. Recall that the bones of millions of bison that died in the American west left no fossils.
So what happened to the post-Flood dinosaurs? Read the top paragraphs again. Just like rhinos, bears, saber-tooth cats, and numerous other species, they perished at the hand of man. Look at that bullet list of motivations for driving animals extinct. Those were all certainly active motivations for centuries after the Flood and the Tower of Babel. The tales of Beowulf and Saint George and the Dragon typify the lust for fame at being able to kill a “dragon,” a word signifying a fearsome reptile. The fanciful accounts of dragons were probably exaggerated by storytellers to enhance the hero’s reputation. The word “dinosaur” didn’t exist until it was coined by Richard Owen in 19th-century Britain.
Many people probably considered dinosaurs major pests or threats to their own safety. If they could wipe out bears and lions, they could have wiped out the post-Flood dinosaurs. This explains the selectivity of the extinction. It happened by intelligent design, not by a chance event like a meteor strike. It explains the soft tissue remains (because the Flood was recent, not millions of years ago). It explains the ubiquitous “dinosaur death pose” and the fossil graveyards in flood deposits. Sounds like a good explanation. If it weren’t for secular scientists’ hatred of the Bible, it should be a contender.