Sunday, May 27, 2007
Lauren's New and Hot (Week 9) and Dawkins
This photo is of invasive goats and a native tortoise on the Galapagos. Here is the website the photo came from.
No kidding as slaughter of Galapagos goats nears completion
This article on the Scotsman.com website describes the measures taken to save the Galapagos from goats. Whalers introduced goats to the islands in the 1800s, and the goats have caused significant problems for the islands in that they eat the cacti that normally feed Galapagos tortoises and otherwise disturb the environment. In the 1970s, a program was started to exterminate the goats. This program took off in the 1990s, and now goats have been nearly eradicated from some of the smaller islands and a portion of Isabela (the largest island). One method of eliminating goats is flying over the islands in helicopters and shooting the goats. New Zealanders experienced with shooting feral goats from helicopters were hired to perform this task. Another method used is to take goat-sniffing dogs on foot and shoot the goats. The most creative method listed in the article is the use of hormone-treated sterile female goats to lure wild goats.
Some people say that the extermination effort is necessary because otherwise the goats could destroy the fragile ecosystem. Poor people living on the islands make their livelihoods from selling goat meat, so they object strongly to the extermination effort. Without the goats, these people would have extremely little to eat or live on.
One interesting reaction to goat extermination is that of natural resources management expert Robert Nelson, who says that the human impact on the Galapagos has been tremendous, and that goat extermination is merely an artificial means of trying to return the Galapagos to their state before human intervention. He says, "it is more like Disneyland than the real thing."
I have reviewed The God Delusion, and here is the link to my review. An amusing note: no one has marked my previous three reviews as helpful, yet within hours of my Dawkins review being posted, three people have marked it as helpful. I guess this shows how popular The God Delusion is. A preview of what I thought of Dawkins: overall it was a very well thought out book, however, he may have taken things a bit too far when he claimed that religion (including moderate religion) is the root cause of anything evil humans do. I can't help thinking that if it were not religion, something else would serve to do the same thing.
On an unrelated note, I was amused to find the following Daily article:What you didn't know about Darwin. The author takes the stance that Darwin delayed publication of the Origin deliberately out of religious concerns. This article amused me because it has a very cursory summary of a number of things we learned this quarter, and there are at least 14 students who already know the things that the author considered to be "What you didn't know about Darwin".