Herald Journal Columns
August 14, 2006, Herald Journal

Let natural selection take its course

By IVAN RACONTEUR

The survival of mankind is threatened, not by some outside menace, but by our decision to interfere with a natural process.

Recent headlines describing how a family of meercats at the Minnesota Zoo were destroyed because a 9-year-old girl deliberately circumvented a barrier and stuck her hand in a cage are just one example of this.

In this case, even though there was “little or no chance” that the animals carried rabies, the animals were put down because the girl’s parents did not want to vaccinate her.

The incredible capacity for stupidity and arrogance demonstrated by some people defies comprehension.

It is bad enough that the parents in question let their brat run around harassing wild animals.

What is worse is the fact that after the incident, the child and the parents still refuse to accept responsibility, and this is indicative of a larger issue.

In more and more cases, it seems that it would make more sense to put the people in cages and set the animals free.

The same is true in the wild.

For years, visitors to our national parks fed the bears, and then were shocked and offended when the bears raided their campsites looking for treats.

Often, the bears were destroyed, and the people went home and continued to blunder their way through life, oblivious to the tragedy that they had created.

The larger issue goes far beyond tormenting defenseless animals.

When people deliberately do stupid things and put themselves and others in danger, we somehow lose sight of who is ultimately responsible.

Some people like to whine about their rights, but they often forget that with rights, there are also responsibilities.

Perhaps people should have the right to do stupid things, but if so, there must be consequences.

If, for example, a person decides it is a good idea to ignore warnings, climb over fences and barriers, and enter a tiger pit (tigers are more dramatic than meercats), he should have the right to do so.

However, if a person is obtuse enough to enter a tiger pit, the tiger should have the right to eat the imbecile (if he is willing to risk the case of indigestion this may cause). The tiger should be able to go about his business without fear of reprisal.

Acts of stupidity become a larger problem when innocent parties are put at risk.

If, for example, a person is foolish enough to drive a 3/4- ton truck onto thin ice, and ends up in the drink, other people should not have to risk their lives to save his pathetic hindquarters.

What is really amazing is that when people do blatantly asinine things, we still tend to look elsewhere to assign blame.

There is a distinction to be made between simple mistakes that we all make, and willfully irresponsible acts that a reasonable person knows, or has reason to know, will cause problems.

If a person ignores alarm bells and flashing lights, and deliberately drives his car around a barrier at a railroad crossing, and as a result, gets mowed down by a train, we don’t blame the moron who caused the incident, we investigate the railroad company.

And, the family of the perpetrator will no doubt sue the railroad, as if it is somehow culpable.

Left to their own devices, these buffoons will eventually improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from it.

When we stand in the way by passing laws and adopting policies to save these imbeciles from themselves, we are interfering with an important natural process.

Charles Darwin explained it in 1859 in his book, “Origin of Species.”

Natural selection is the process by which individual organisms with favorable traits are more likely to survive and reproduce.

Broadly speaking, the strong (and those who have the sense to learn from the experience of others) survive, and the weak (and foolish) do not.

In this way, the species as a whole is strengthened, and evolution can proceed.

Some people are just too dim, or arrogant, or reckless, to make the cut.

To recognize this is not mean-spirited or insensitive, it is survival.

When we interfere with this process, we are disrupting the natural order of things, and we jeopardize the survival of the entire species.

Farmers and ranchers know that culling the herd and eliminating some particularly poor specimens is critical to the survival of the group, and the same is true of humans.

I am not suggesting that we actively seek out individuals for elimination. I merely suggest that when foolish people rush toward their own demise by making absurd decisions, we simply leave them to it.

Instead of holding people accountable for their temerity, we seem to reward them for it, or, at the very least, condone it, and this endangers all of us.