As I delved into the assigned readings and video, I found that many questions I had formed while attaining to one would later be answered by another. Relationships between assignments started becoming apparent so I tried to hone in on a central theme besides the obvious common topic of domestication. I became increasingly interested in the relationship between domestication and evolution. The two went hand in hand in more ways than I had thought previously. Evolution, as mainly discussed in the Evolutionary History article, is the root of most that is and most that was. It would seem that such a powerful force would be beyond harnessing but through domestication, humans have wielded the all powerful tool of evolution. Each assignment demonstrates individually and as a collective group that humans have taken it upon themselves to play the part of Mother Nature. With all of her complexities it is no surprise that problems have arose as a result of humans trying their hand at taking charge of the natural balance of all things.
Guns, Germs and Steel is based upon a seemingly easy question: why are some parts of the world more developed than other. Through his investigations and research, Jarred Diamond comes up with a seemingly easy answer: geography. It is almost frustrating to think that so much can depend simply on location. Are humans simply not able to thrive in certain locations? The journey to this conclusion is interesting and yet again displays the powers of domestication. I enjoyed experiencing the progression of domestication in civilization and how it led to better crops and animals and thus larger population densities. As domestication becomes more efficient, less effort is spent upon survival. With more free time humans become innovative and thus evolve as a species. I found this all interesting but I still could not get over my frustration and in this state I tried to force the possibility of domestication in New Guinea. Are some regions meant to domesticate and reap its benefits while others are striped of even having this chance? I agree that domestication is essential to evolution as demonstrated by the Middle Paleolithic population which became stagnant without it, but is it possible everywhere? The video dismissed the possibility of effectively domesticating insects, a technique that would appear to benefit a place deprived of large game like New Guinea. I thought this was an unfair assumption, just because it has not been attempted does not mean no benefit can be found in the practice. This practice could be perfected across thousands of years just as the domestication of large animals has been in prosperous regions of the world. The video also reflects on the advantages of having temperate animals available for domestication and uses the example of the flighty personality of a zebra to explain the lack of domestication of animals in Africa. Both articles, however, admit that early domestication can be the cause of temperate animals. The domestication of the wolf lead to modern day dogs, so it is possible that the temperament of zebras could mirror that of horses if they had been domesticated.
Despite these facts, if I were to submit to the notion that domestication is in fact impossible to achieve at a productive enough level to cause prosperous civilizations anywhere in the world, then I would make the argument that there is an imbalance regarding domestication. Furthermore inequality of civilizations as well as the negative effects of domestication proves that the relationship between evolution and domestication is not balanced. I could make the argument that too much domestication occurs in parts of the world just as much as I can argue that not enough domestication occurs in other parts. The article titled “Energy and Ecosystems” addresses the wasting of food and thus reveals the inefficiency of domestication. Why does food go to waste in some parts of the world while it is barely available in others? To this I propose that domestication is growing too fast for evolution. Namely our population as a result of domestication is growing faster than we can evolve to be as efficient as possible. Animals are becoming extinct, resource pools are shrinking and pathogens are becoming stronger. There is an imbalance in nature, we are became kings with our reign over other species and thus began our battle with nature. I believe the key to achieving efficiency and equality is to finding the true balance between domestication and evolution.
I think you are asking good questions and making good points. I too pondered what certain species would be like if they were subject to the changes that domestication would undoubtedly cause. Domestication would certainly preserve a species but the effects are completely unknown. Like your silk worm example, we have no way of knowing how species will react. Perhaps some species are not meant to be domesticated or maybe we just have to perfect our techniques of domestication. Improper domestication may have caused silkworm moths to lose the ability to fly, not just domestication. Your proposition with the tigers does seem to be a form of domestication. Willingly or not, those in captivity will evolve in a different way than those who are not in captivity. They may become smaller like fish have over time simply for the reason that they don’t have to be large skilled predator when humans are feeding them. I agree that simply domesticating tigers provides little to no benefit to humans. Saving tigers, to me, could provide some benefits. Extinction in an area can cause imbalance. Whatever the tigers where hunting may have a population explosion and send the ecosystem to unbalance.
I wonder if this will come through right now?
I think a key aspect of domestication is that one species is changed as a result of the mutualistic relationship, ala the wheat in “Guns, germs, and steel” being bred (pun intended) so that it’s more fit for human consumption. If I understand the topic correctly, domestication is a mutually beneficial relationship that also results in the changing of one species for the benefit of the other over time via some form of intentional genetic selection, like how cows can be bred to produce more milk, or horses to run faster. In the case of the ant-aphid relationship, it isn’t just that they have a mutually beneficial relationship. Some species of aphids have actually changed as a result of their interactions with ants. The question is, do those changes benefit the ants? If the answer is yes, then to me it says domestication.
Bill, your post about endangered species is an interesting consideration. The Energy and Ecosystems article explains that all organisms have a constant and never-ending impact on their ecosystems. When considered at surface value this assertion is easily rational and easy to accept. However, when considering the relative importance of protecting global biodiversity this question of influence is more complex.
If we are fundamentally changing the nature of an endangered animal by attempting to preserve its existence – is the ecological integrity of the animal actually preserved? Beyond that we can too consider whether animal domestication is simply a “war against nature”? Is it possible to distinguish natural selection happening by random genetic change and selection that was human intent?
I absolutely agree with you about Biotech becoming important; as a finance major, one of the things we talk about is Venture Capital–basically investors that give startup money to new companies. Recently, Biotech has been getting a ton of VC, which reflects the expectation of exactly what you just described.
I choose to respond to your question regarding genetic mutations from a quantitative POV becuase I simply don’t know enough about Biotech to answer it any other way.
I think that the reason these genetic mutants don’t exist is because I would imagine that to make something like that, if it’s even possible, would cost quite a lot of money (Seeing as it hasn’t yet happened naturally) and, frankly, there isn’t money to be made in mutating crops for New Guinea or Africa. Developed countries, which is where the money for this sort of thing comes from, simply don’t have food shortage problems. It would have to be a purely humanitarian project, which also somewhat implies that it would be done independently and therefore take longer and require donations. If a company did do it, it would be for goodwill (Reputation), but at that point they’re just more likely to donate aid directly because it is easier or bring food from developed countries to undeveloped ones because the cost to produce is probably higher than the cost to harvest existing materials and take it there.
I’m sure there are people who want to do that. I just doubt that they will have the financial resources to do it anytime soon. Will it happen one day? Probably, but I don’t think it’s profitable enough to be high up on the list of things people are currently doing with BT.
You make a very strong argument for how human ingenuity (plus some luck) and geographic location allowed for domestication evolution. It’s true that the human domestication of plants and animals allowed us to progress as civilizations since more energy could be used for various processes.
To answer the question, “how far is too far” we must, I think, determine and discuss the conscious intention. There may be a point in evolutionary history where clear, rational decisions were make to produce certain outcomes. If these can be determined – can responsibility be placed on those parties to provide better outcomes? Or is it impossible to determine intention – leaving evolutionary chaos to govern the way thing are?
I found the direction you took on the readings/video extremely interesting. The ideas you present in this post hadn’t even crossed my mind during my initial analysis of these pieces. But looking back on it I think your points on endangered species are spot on! Based on the readings I feel like domestication is a very loose term that simply encompasses a variety of cases of mutualism and isn’t limited to humans controlling animals as many people believe. Your arguments, about tigers particularly, provide a perfect example of the wide definition of domestication. Many people are actively trying to save a species of animal, the tiger, and are doing so by taking them in and attempting to boost their numbers by captive breeding, in addition to coordinating efforts set on preserving/restoring their natural environment. Without these interference’s, tigers would surely go extinct. But even if these interference’s do save the tiger, what changes will occur in the tigers? Will they become tame as many other animals we have interfered with throughout history such as dogs, cows, pigs etc? And if they do, won’t that limit their ability to hunt and feed themselves causing them to become dependent on handouts from humans, or some other species, for a source of food? And at that point are they even really tigers anymore? My idea of a tiger is a large fearsome hunting machine, not a house cat that feeds on our scraps and leftovers. It is really interesting that humans are going out of their way to save an animal that doesn’t seem to have a significant ability to improve our lives. It seems as if animals such as the tiger a doomed to a fate of either extinction or perhaps a life as the next family pet. Maybe our interference with animals that are cute or majestic like the tiger or the panda or the polar bear will save these animals from extinction but only as a new species that evolves to go against their natural predatory instincts and befriends humans to survive!
I really liked how you brought in a lot of outside material and ideas into your blog. The examples of human hoarding you presented dealing with oil consumption and the euthanization of animals really highlight our seemingly natural tendency to produce and use far more than we need. It seems strange that humans have exploited this common theme of nature to such an extent. It has become such an issue that it is even considered a disease and there are television shows highlighting individuals who take it to the extreme. Perhaps it is just due to humans massive population, but it seems weird to me that other animal populations haven’t taken hoarding to such an extreme. Stiner touched on the fact that many species exhibit hoarding behaviors as you mentioned; however, I can’t think of or find any examples that come even close to human levels.