Comment on Rats, us, and my weak attempt at comedy. by erica

You guessed it, your wonderful pie chart warranted my response.
On one hand I disagree with the standing of your claim that rats significantly have contributed to global consciousnesses (dismissing the relative degree of consciousnesses the chart depicts of rats v. humans). Why? Rats only influence out total perception and understanding and we (humans) are the only animal upon which global consciousnesses can be evaluated. On the other hand our historical evolution with rats and our current interactions DO contribute to the ideas of the world but, perhaps, more realistically rats contribute to overall global understanding in unnoticed but powerful ways. I think the biggest contribution is the realization of our inability to control the vermin.

The importance of rats I think is our deep desire to control them – actually, to eliminate the majority of them. Nature will chiefly act according to only to its standards. It is shaped by our influences but we can’t control it. Hence, we can understand the importance of rats.

As far as ethics go… if we consider the historical significance of rats in human society… I think we can ethically, rightfully destroy them. The means, however, do not justify the ends. We can kill them but not cause them undue intentional pain.

Great post, Bill!

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Comment on Darwin: A Forward Dude by erica

I like the idea about your two different goals of natural and artificial selection. I might argue that the goal of artificial selection is what you present – greatly varied purposes perpetuated by human intention (which is collectively global consciousness). Natural selection is the survival of an organism, sure. So, how do you think human change to global ecosystems (and then the subsequent ecosystem adaptation or rebalancing to those effects) alters the idea of “natural selection” as survival of the fittest? Maybe it does not change the idea at all because natural selection is based on individual species. However, it is undeniable that human agency has profound implications on the natural world and animal relationships.

I disagree that domestication has produced greater species variety, thinking about the globe as a whole. Remember, Diamond explained that domestication (and geographic luck) lead to the inequalities and ways that humans use and have used nature to meet their needs.

Check out this graph of extinction:

(Here comes some future talk – I can’t help it – it’s how my thinking is framed as an environmental planner) I have come to learn it is clear that we must begin the preservation of genetic diversity, the maintence of ecological processes, and the sustainable utilization of natural recourses. If we can do these things (because today we know how and why it’s imperative) then the ideas of artificial and natural selection become less complex from their influence to the overall global ecological state.

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Comment on Charles Darwin, Evolution, and Civilization by erica

Apparently, we are the last generation that will have access to fresh fish in a regular super market (and not a special store). We may also be the first generation not to outlive out parents. “Natural?”

The question of weather man can tamper with nature is pretty interesting. I think of course, man or woman can tamper with present nature. I will agree with the idea that after person has made a choice to influence nature, nature will respond by evolving. We have a problem with too much growth – which leads to ecological collapse, generally. It is also possible to alter growth trends to establish conditions of ecological and economic sustainability that is sustainable far into the future. This intentional decision is a result of our new knowledge. (If the worlds people decide to strive for this second outcome rather than the first, the sooner they begin working to attain it, the greater their chances of success.) What’s more? We’re changing the fundamental chemical makeup of the atmosphere, the water, the air, and the soil.

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Comment on Terrestrial and Celestial by erica

The objectification of domestic animals? Throughout history (and still today) we have objectified people as slaves or in sexual ways. Thus the objectification of animals was not so hard, comparatively. If we understand behavior of other species in light of our behavior (like experiences of pain) then how far down the evolutionary scale does the analogy hold? It could appear to some (like some radical vegan friends of mine) that there exists a challenge for every human to recognize his or her attitudes to non-humans as a form of prejudice no less objectionable than racism or sexism. Domesticated animals, like human slaves of the past and present or land, is property. Today, the relationship to the domestic donkey (and other domestic animals) is strictly economic and includes no obligations only privileges.

It is understanding the historical development of human relationships with donkeys that will help us understand more fully their objectification… and our present-day moral responsibilities.

This was a bit of a tangent but relevant to previous class discussions. hum. till Tuesday, deep-spring2013-historical-philosopher-students.

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Comment on Horses and Donkeys: Past to Present by erica

I read this post and immediately wanted to provide my thoughts on the apparent lack of evidence to reconstructing what took place in our deepest pasts of human history. There are a large amount of holes in our understanding of deep history (or our early history) but the important point is that I was not surprised. I think given the distance in time we are separated from the initial point of animal domestication allows us to reasonably expect a certain level of uncertainty.

This level of uncertainty can be better understood by the utilization of general categories. But perhaps the more relevant consideration is could there be a better way to understand the inherent uncertainties?

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Comment on Real Food: goat milk and cheese by erica

I Wikipediaed “Raw Milk”

“The conditions of US During the industrial revolution included large populations congregating into urban areas detached from the agricultural lifestyle.”
“Pasteurization was first used in the United States in the 1890s after the discovery of germ theory to control the hazards of highly contagious bacterial diseases including bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis that was thought to be easily transmitted to humans through the drinking of raw milk.”

These illnesses were occurring because of industry development, logically reasoned below.

“Initially after the scientific discovery of bacteria, no product testing was available to determine if a farmer’s milk was safe or infected, so all milk was treated as potentially contagious.”

Am I missing something or was pasteurization simply fixing the effects and not the cause of a new system in which people began to become sick because of milk?

Milk, coming from living mammals, is alive. Pasteurization (according to a “Real Milk” campaign [ ] possibly not based in total scientific evidence so take with scrutiny),

“destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity. Processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification. Inspection of dairy herds for disease is not required for pasteurized milk.” I’ll be honest, Camilla! Help!, I have no idea what centrifugal clarification means….


Problem: Shipping milk long distances and profit maximization of milk (like most things) decreases production conditions and product quality (unless regulations prevent doing so). We cannot return to the prior existing state of keeping animals and their products naturally healthy without eliminating the current human influence to sterilize product AFTER harvest, milking, or slaughter. It’s not necessarily true that the prior pastorialism condition is more “natural” or “right” – It should simply be considered a difference. In the beginning of mammal milk consumption it appears the effort to ensure its drinking safety took place long BEFORE the milk was extracted. Healthy animals will produce healthy milk. It’s just a different way of doing. Getting the job done.

Today, there have to be regulations preventing externalities made possible by the incredible technology that discovered germs and allowed for the global distribution of agricultural products.

One example of a regulation was discussed in the chapter of his visit to France as “rigorous inspections for organic and unpasteurized dairies.” This meant, “everything on the farm had to be immaculate.”

Key Point:
1. It’s all relative and subjective.

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Comment on On Goats and Farming, Practicality and Pastoralism by erica

I’ve spent the last few minutes since reading your post thinking about the practicality of the small hobby-like keeping of goats presented. If practicality is being likely to succeed or being effective in real circumstances then I think the couple would consider themselves successful.

I’m not from a big modern farm nor do I have a technical agriculture knowledge background. Perhaps this is why It matters little if it is “practical” according to the dominate agricultural paradigm. Whether or not the person raising animals has an additional or past income of significance, the decision to do so and their different experiences tell us interesting things about our historical relationships that could (do I say this too often for a history course?) help us decide the most appropriate course for the future.

My grandmom is 93 years old. Born in 1919 she grew up as the youngest of ten siblings on 3 acres a few hours outside Philadelphia. When I was in 6th grade I conduced a video-interview about the great depression for my history class. I asked what her experience was like she explained it was really not that bad. Sure, her father lost his good work in city industry with a decent position and wage. But the family had a milk cow, a few chickens and a large garden. They took care of the animals together. They did it for good food to eat and when times were good (like Kessler’s story like or many people living today) keeping a few animals meant securing continuous products to trade or sell for extra wealth. It was their relationship with their animals and their land that fueled why they could be a happy family. I’m not saying conventional agriculture families are not happy too, I do not know. Maybe we must ask WHY do we practice animal husbandry? Is it to make a profit? Is it to feed ourselves? Is it tradition and heritage?

My point is that feasibility is only part of the picture. The relevant consideration is based in the assumption that attitudes are subjective to individual control for any circumstance. That feasibility is relative according to your goals, wants, and ideas of your individual culture.

The book’s goat heard may be more like a hobby than is conventional farming but that’s because it’s not profitable.It’s not profitable simply because of our socio-political legal institutions who sets agriculture policy. Fresh, slow, and small milk and cheese from goat heard does not have monetary value today in the United States but it perhaps has more value for the integrity of the biotic community and human health (But really, does raw milk somehow cure allergies?).

(okay, I’ll softly admit) I agree that present-day culture makes keeping goats like this largely impractical.

I think what I’m trying to say is that your right, Kessler does not say much about the conventionality of raising livestock because he is preoccupied experiencing a different cultural idea. His writing reflects how a past paradigm might fit into the current one of Vermont.

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Comment on The Mysteries of Evolution: From Dogs to Us by erica

Nothing is static. There are some who romance about the idea of living life today like our ancestors did in a particular past time. Are these thoughts too irrational to be actually achievable? Culture is dynamic and it stands to reason that any future way of life will evolve not from a perfect ideal of how it should be… (as you explained, if we go back too far we’re a single cell organism!) The culture that emerges in the future will come from today‚Äôs foundations and other relative social, political, economic, and environmental influences.

Will this create a subspecies of humans? I have no idea. Maybe we have already seen this in the differences across cultures modern agriculturalist vs. hunter-gatherer society. There are lots of grey areas. What are our duties to domestic animals? is it different for wild animals? Welcome to the grey area. What should we be thinking about our lives today as we learn about the deep evolutionary history of domestic animals from multiple view points? Welcome to the grey area.

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Comment on Dogs, Early Humans, and Destiny by erica

Your logical deduction that the dog was always in the wolf allowing for easy emergence of our friend makes excellent sense. I agree that we were naturally compatible with wolves before they were dogs. I wonder how this natural compatibility extends to the ancestors of other domesticated animals. We are not as similar in intelligence or social structure to other domesticated animals as we are to dogs. It does not seem enough to argue that we were not naturally compatible with other to-be-domesticated animals, perhaps because they were able to be domesticated in the first place.

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