Professor McMahan, the guy who wants to eliminate all predators, is back with what he thinks is a refutation of his critics. This time he begins with a thought experiment: since Amur (“Siberian”) tigers are supposedly insignificant ecological actors these days, why not let them go extinct?
“Many of the commentators said, in effect: “Leave nature alone; the course of events in the natural world will go better without human intervention.” Since efforts to repopulate their original habitat with large numbers of Siberian tigers might require a massive intervention in nature, this anti-interventionist view may itself imply that we ought to allow the Siberian tiger to become extinct. But suppose Siberian tigers would eventually restore their former numbers on their own if human beings would simply leave them alone. Most people, I assume, would find that desirable. But is that because our human prejudices blind us to the significance of animal suffering?
“Siberian tigers are in fact not particularly aggressive toward human beings, but suppose for the sake of argument that they were. And suppose that there were large numbers of poor people living in primitive and vulnerable conditions in the areas in which Siberian tigers might become resurgent, so that many of these people would be threatened with mutilation and death if the tigers were not to become extinct, or not banished to captivity. Would you still say: “Leave nature alone; let the tigers repopulate their former habitats.”? What if you were one of the people in the region, so that your children or grandchildren might be among the victims? And what would your reaction be if someone argued for the proliferation of tigers by pointing out that without tigers to keep the human population in check, you and others would breed incontinently and overcultivate the land, so that eventually your numbers would have to be controlled by famine or epidemic? Better, they might say, to let nature do the work of culling the human herd in your region via the Siberian tiger. Would you agree?”
I’ll let my intelligent readers answer this– have at it. And for God’s sake, Daniela– not before breakfast!
Update for Lane: “What but fear winged the birds?/ And jewelled with such eyes/ The great goshawk’s head?”– Robinson Jeffers, “The Bloody Sire”.