Timothy S. Ross
rosst at CGS.EDU
Sat Jul 29 17:43:30 CDT 1995
Though I have nothing meaningful or productive to add to the
polylogue between Dr. Lamboy et alii, I feel irrationally compelled to
interject the additional couple or three quotes (with my own shameless
commentary imposed) from D. C. Peattie, naturalist, philosopher, astute
observer of cosmic stuff, and all-around nice guy. In an effort to
pre-empt some of the likely response, I will be the first to call myself a
donkey for doing so.
For those of you sick and tired of using the muscles in your
"delete finger" 20 times a day, I can only apologize in advance.
"...It is a trait of the human mind to search for conclusions, to
sit in judgment, to try to make a system of ethics out of all that lies
about us. We struggle to sum up our knowledge in what we like to call laws
-- as though these had an inherent power of compulsion in them. But to
think like a scientist, to speak like an honest man, is to be ready at all
times to scrap the most cherished and appealing theories. The biological
approach consists in circling round an object, contemplating front and back
with equal respect [I submit that, in regard to phylogenetic
"reconstructions", we can examine only the "front" as a result of our
momentary, fleeting, flickering place atop this trajectorial arc]. There
are never enough explanations of vital phenomena; there are always
contradictory conclusions. Nobody's dictum is final -- not Aristotle's,
But anyone can see the world as natural science sees it [pardon
the reification and hypostatization here], and think as a naturalist
thinks. Of our windows on the universe, science [reified and hypostatized
again] is set with the clearest pane; it is not warped or waved to make the
images appear to support any dogma [or IS it sometimes?]; the glass is not
rose-tinted, neither is it leaded with a picture that shuts out the sun
and, coming between the light of day and you, enforces the credence of the
past upon the young present...."
-- Donald Culross Peattie, Flowering Earth, pp. 243-244, G. P.
Putnam's Sons, New York, 1939.
To help put matters into a little perspective:
"...later, when we are grown so wondrous wise, we dwell apart with
millions of our kind, walk through stone vaults, and breath our own vapor.
But in the end our friends come and make us a last home out of a
log, and plant a flowering tree by which to remember us as fairer than we
were. Then it will be too late to walk alone and smiling through the
flicker of beechen shade, or to lie side by side on the wild sod. When
brambles throw their arms around our knees in the road, we had best be
partaking of the brusque offer of fruit. And if in this life we never
tended brave young seedlings, in what other world do we expect to see them
jumping up responding, their split seed shells cocked aside their heads?
For the fates of living things are bound together, and a wise man
can grow wiser, learning it. The perilous balance, the dangerous
adventure, the thirst, the needs, the crashing end -- they are impartially
allotted to us all, tall man or taller tree. What we the living require is
most of all each other. Progeny we must have, company, provender, friends,
and even enemies. The whole long vital experiment on earth is symbiotic by
chains of cause and relation past glib explaining.
It is not explained why there is for us all but one life, but it is
plain enough that all life is one. It breathes the same air, grows by the
same fiat, was conceived alike -- if one compare equal evolutionary levels
-- and was born through the same strait port. We die together too, in each
other's arms, and of each other, for life is its own best enemy, and to die
is functional in living. We mate together and, welding a life to a life,
get our seed, and so give, as we were given, a time to walk upon this
-- Peattie, loc cit., pp. 246-247.
For those of you who find this a little "too cheery and romantic",
and are concerned about uncontrolled exponential human population growth
and its ultimate ramifications (as I am), I'll back up and offer one more
"...[Man] cannot play physician to the whole of Nature. And this
is well, for she has another plan than his [pardon the reification again].
It is grander and more reckless and with no compassion in it -- an immense
productivity that is checked from over-production by the cost of supporting
natural parasitism in all its forms. So perpetual, so terrible is the
fecundity of earth that but for natural enemies any species would swiftly
rise to domination, crowd itself to the point of starvation and past the
point, exhaust the very chemical elements on which it lives, and die
ignominiously upon the pile of its own triumphs. Die of its own appalling
Peattie, loc. cit., p. 235.
I hope I haven't derailed the communal train of thought too badly
here. Incidently, to those who might cry out that any of the above
passages are anti-intellectual, I assure you that they are not. For those
who might be upset by the use of the word "man", this is meant in the
generic sense (i.e. Homo subsapiens). If it still bothers anyone, ask a
competent philologist about the role of gender in linguistics.
I generally only read the messages on this bulletin board and
refrain from posting notes of my own; however, I think that the dam that
normally holds in my psychotic side burst late last week, and I am still in
the mopping up phase. As a beauty queen once said: "I wish for universal
happiness and world peace...."
[I'll drink to that...]
TIMOTHY S. ROSS
Sr. Curatorial Asst.
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
1500 North College Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711, U.S.A.
(909) 625-8767 ext. 233
FAX (909) 626-7670
rosst at cgs.edu
NEWS FLASH!!! Dinosaurs still roam the earth! Recent discoveries clearly
indicate that there are dinosaurs plodding along engaged in field studies
and alpha-taxonomic studies of poorly-known organisms. Governmental
funding agencies and many scientists are still unaware of this fact. Line
workers with the New World Order Electrical Company report that phone lines
to most ivory towers were cut years ago at the request of those on the
upper floors. No celebrities were available for comment.
-- Reported by Tim Rex, carnivore-at-large in austral California.
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