Posts Tagged ‘extinction’

The Thylacine aka Tasmanian Tiger is Probably Still Around in Tasmania

October 31, 2019 7 comments

Here is another post that I have wanted to write for almost three years, but somehow never got around to completing.. until now. I am sure that some of you have heard about the Thylacine aka Tasmanian Tiger, most likely in the context of whether it could be brought back through the use of cloning or it is truly extinct. So what is the deal with this allegedly extinct animal and why do more than a few people believe it is still around. The real reason why we are talking about this creature in the first place has a lot to do with mammalian evolution during the Cenozoic and plate tectonics and the final breakup of the remnants of Gondwana about 30-40 million years ago.

The thing is.. after the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs at the end of Cretaceous, there survivors (especially on land) were on the smaller side. As some of you might know, the two main surviving branches of mammals after that event were the Placentals and Marsupials. Today, the former dominate most ecosystems on earth- but things were not always so lopsided. For reasons that are speculative and beyond the scope of this post, the three southernmost continents (Antarctica, Australia, South America) and what is today New Zealand were dominated by birds, marsupials, amphibians and some rather usual reptiles until they either came in contact with other continents or became too cold to support most animal and plant life.

Long story short.. for many millions of years after its final separation from Antarctica and perhaps even before that event, the largest land animals in Australia were marsupials, birds, crocodiles and monitor lizards. Marsupials were especially versatile and evolved into creatures that occupied familiar ecological niches. To put it another way, Australia used to have marsupial versions of common placental mammals such as anteaters, moles, rabbits, squirrels, deer, rhinos, pigs and big cats. While usually not as large or diverse as their placental counterparts, these creatures nonetheless managed to hang around for tens of millions of years- with many becoming extinct only in the past 10-40 thousand years or less.

The Thylacine, despite its name, is best understood as the marsupial equivalent of a small wolf or coyote. Fossil evidence suggests that it was once found in Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania- because these three entities are on the same continental plates and connected by land bridges during geological periods characterized by lower sea levels. While it was almost extinct on the Australian mainland by the time it was colonized by the British in the mid-1800s (competition from dingos?), a reasonably decent sized population persisted in Tasmania- which has been a separate island since the end of last ice age. It would have been still flourishing on that island if not for stupid short-sighted white colonial farmers who saw this creature as a pest and hunted it to alleged extinction. But why use the words “alleged extinction” instead of “extinction”.

Because there is a lot of evidence to suggest that it did not become extinct. Officially, the last Thylacine in captivity died on 7 September 1936. There have been very credible sightings of this species in 1938 (shot in a remote area), 1957 (spotted from air) and 1961 (killed in another remote area). While there are no photographs of these sightings, the fact that those involved came from an era when people had seen Thylacines in the flesh make misidentification rather unlikely. Now let us move on to sightings of this animal in the post-1961 era. Before we go any further, let us make an important distinction between post-1961 sightings based on location.

All recent Thylacine sightings can be divided into two categories based on location. One set are concentrated in a remote coastal part of South-West Australian mainland and yes.. early colonists in the mid 1800s had reported very occasional encounters with these creatures. My point is that the idea of a few small populations of that species surviving in remote ares of the mainland is not as implausible as one might initially assume. Having said that, the case for them being around in Tasmania is far stronger. But why would I think so?

Tasmania is a reasonably large island (almost as large as Sri Lanka, Hispaniola or Hokkaido) and most of it is very sparsely populated. Over 70% of 530-540k people on that island live in five metropolitan areas with two accounting for over 50%. Which is another way of saying many parts of the island are pretty wild and seldom visited by human beings. You might have also noticed that a decent percentage of the island is mountainous/ hilly and not close to large population centers. Not to mention that 20% of that island is a national park containing some of least disturbed parts of that island. It is therefore not beyond the realms of possibility for small populations of a shy coyote-sized animal which is especially wary of humans to remain largely hidden from them. Remember.. the Thylacine was never known for being especially fecund or interested in approaching human beings. So ya, it is possible.

It is also noteworthy that post-1961 locations of alleged Thylacine sightings tend to cluster in certain areas of that island, with a rather large percentage occurring in or near the foothills in remote parts of that island- which is about where you might expect such a reclusive species to come across humans. To summarize, it is likely that small isolated populations of the Thylacine are still around in Tasmania. This conclusion is based on number of converging factors such as the number and geographical distribution of sightings, relatively small size and reclusive nature of animal, large amount of almost uninhabited area with enough food and moderate to heavy forest cover for hiding as well as the hilly terrain in interior of Tasmania.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts on the Best Way to Destroy Pathological Ideologies: 4

August 1, 2018 11 comments

In the previous post of this series, I made the point that pathological ideologies and their willing vectors never give up doing what they are doing unless the vast majority of them they are dead. I had made a similar point in a short series written almost five years ago (link 1, link 2). My point was that genocides committed during course of WW2 required a significant minority of people to be enthusiastic followers of whichever ideology they claimed to believe or practise.

With that in mind, let us consider a few thought experiments to understand the necessity of vectors for success or failure of pathological ideologies. On another note, please read the entirety of this post before commenting on it..

Thought Experiment # 1: Consider the artificially caused Irish Famine of 1845-1849. More specifically, let us consider whether the vast majority of deaths during those years were caused by a genuine lack of food or a system of governance which saw and treated most of the Irish as little better than stray animals. There are many villains in this story, some more well-known that others. Nowadays, many people rightly blame the laws passed by the British government in decades prior to that incident as well as their lack of response in response to human suffering. But were they the only villains, and more importantly- who enforced their laws in Ireland?

Well.. the unpleasant part of that famine and many others in the same era was the role played by local landed gentry and law enforcement personal in enforcing laws and regulations which caused the famine. Holding only the British government responsible for that famine gives a pass to all the Irish landlords, merchants, petty bureaucrats and law-enforcement types who made tons of money during the famine while their country men and women were starving around them. The Irish famine would not have been possible without the active and enthusiastic collaboration of many local CONservative-minded rich and petit bourgeois types who worked hard to make it so.

Now comes the ‘thought experiment’ part.. Imagine that the willing collaborators and their families kept on dying of an untreatable disease with extremely high mortality- which for an odd reason affected them almost exclusively. Imagine that the disease in question killed off over 50% of the collaborators and their families within a year. Now ask yourself, how long could the British government of that era keep on replacing all their faithful dead servants, if the new ones kept experiencing the same high rates of mortality? And why would even the most greedy and sociopathic types want to accept a job that came with almost certain death within a year.

Thought Experiment # 2: Consider Late Victorian Holocausts, especially in India. These are a series of famines which killed anywhere between 30-60 million people in the second half of the 19th century- and does not include tens of millions who died in similar artificial famines in the same countries between 1775-1850. These numbers, among many others, provide an interesting counterpoint to claims about death by famine under state communism in the first half (or so) of 20th century. If you believe that state communism caused the Ukrainian famine of 1930s and Chinese famine of early 1960s, one also has to accept that capitalism caused an equivalent of deaths in the 19th century.

But this post is not about whether capitalism caused these famines (it most certainly did) or whether racism played a major role in how events unfolded (shockers.. it did), but about who was responsible for causing the tens of millions of deaths. Once again, we can certainly blame the British government of that era, but doing so tells us only a small part of how things went down. Here is why.. you see, there were never more than 100 k British stationed in any part or the whole of India at any time from 1775-1947. In fact, there were less than 30 k people from the British Isles in India in most years. So, how can you entirely blame such large-scale events on presence of an absolute minority who never accounted for more than 1 in 500 individuals?

And once again, the answer to this apparent ‘mystery’ is that British had a huge number of local collaborators who were willing and enthusiastic about working for a system which was responsible for the death of millions of people who looked like them. Today, we often forget that policies which caused these famines also made many Indian merchant families rich beyond your wildest imaginations. Many Indians still do not want to face the unpleasant fact that the Indian army, police, local administrators etc which carried out the genocidal mandates for British colonial types were almost exclusively local and Indian. In other words, it was basically what happened during the great Irish famine but on a much larger scale and over multiple time periods.

Now let us perform a similar ‘though experiment’. Imagine a situation where willing Indian collaborators and their families kept on dying of untreatable disease with rates of mortality such that entire batches or recruits for various colonial institutions dropped dead within a year. Now ask yourself again, how long could the British government of that era keep on replacing faithful dead servants, if the new ones kept experiencing the same greatly enhanced rates of mortality? Also, would it be possible for them to be able to continue recruitment if the recruits knew they would be dead within a year? And would they be able to govern India without local collaborators?

The point I am trying to make in both thought experiments is that external state sponsored events such the Great Irish famine and large Indian famines were only possible only because a small but significant minority of local people were willing and enthusiastic about working for obviously pathological ideologies. Furthermore, timely removal of this small but significant minority from the realms of living would have effectively terminated those mass tragedies and prevented the untimely deaths of many millions of innocent people. The real question then is, what level of excessive mortality among a behavioral minority who are enthusiastic participants in a genocide is acceptable in order to prevent deaths of many times that number of innocent people.

In the next part of this series, I will use some more thought experiments to explain this concept in more detail.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts on the Best Way to Destroy Pathological Ideologies: 3

July 25, 2018 12 comments

In the previous post of this series, I pointed out that WW1 (and WW2) led to a marked reduction in the number of mediocre men in Europe who were willing or able to support the ideology of race-based colonialism. FYI- I am not implying that remainder of population in those countries experienced enlightenment and became liberal after 1945. It just so happened that the survivors finally realized they were just disposable tools who did not benefit from sustaining and working for the ideology in question which hen lost it critical mass of followers.

Also said something about discussing the effect of WW2 on continued viability of ideologies such as German Nazism, Japanese Nationalism and associated belief systems such as Eugenics. Well.. I am going to do that now. But before we go there, let us talk about how all or any of this relates to the world we live in right now. So let us start by asking ourselves with a few questions about why things in the world around us are the way they are.

Why did all the non-violent movements which began in response to the global financial crisis of 2008 (Occupy Wallstreet etc) not translate into anything beyond spicy memes and memorable slogans? Why have large public demonstrations against extra-judicial murder of black men by police in USA not reduced their incidence? Why does the debt load of students attending universities in USA keep on climbing every single year to even more ridiculous levels? Why do costs of mediocre healthcare in USA keep on rising every year?

Why do elected officials, bureaucrats and the ‘system’ in general act is if they can get way with anything they want? Why do working conditions for the average person keep on getting worse with each passing year? Why do large corporations feel so confident in their ability to abuse their customers without any real consequences? Why does the militarization of “law enforcement” apparatus in USA continue unabated? Why do petty bureaucrats, alt-right supporters and SJWs think they can harass and abuse others at will?

The very simplistic answer to those questions is that all those people, groups and entities firmly believe that they can get away with whatever they want because they will no repercussions or accountability for their actions. A significantly longer answer starts with acknowledging something that most people are unwilling to, namely that you cannot convert assholes, parasites and viruses into someone who is not noxious. People who build their existence around being an asshole, parasite, virus or an ardent supporter of noxious ideologies are never going to have an epiphany or willing give up being abusers.

Nazism did not decline into insignificance and become disreputable because its supporters saw the light of reason. Nazism became a disreputable and insignificant ideology because most of its ardent supporters were killed on the eastern front in WW2 or died in soviet ‘labor’ camps after WW2. Oh.. and most women in the eastern part of Germany were raped by Russian soldiers after WW2. To put it another way, even marginal supporters of Nazism had to pay a very heavy price for their previous support of that ideology.

Lets just say that it took a lot of effort to make sure that Nazism became a highly disreputable and marginal ideology. And you know something else.. there was realistically no other way to reach that endpoint. Do you really think that ardent believers in Nazism would have changed their ways if they had just been exposed to another viewpoint, received a better education, read more books or witnessed non-violent demonstrations against that ideology? Do you think they would have changed their viewpoints if they had interacted with more Jews or Russians?

The point I am trying to make is that supporters of ideologies which attract members through the promise of a license to inflict pain and death on innocent people cannot be reasoned or bargained with. The ultra-nationalists who flourished in Japan between 1919-1945 did have genuine grievances with international system of that era. They were also correct about Japan being short-changed after WW1. The Nazis too rose to public popularity based on genuine grievances such the highly unfair nature of Versailles treaty and the Great Depression which started in 1929.

But that does not excuse what Nazis did to millions of Eastern Europeans and Jews or Japanese did to millions more in China and Korea. But more importantly, a large part of the mass appeal of both ideologies was that they provided an opportunity and excuse for mediocre CONservative men in both countries to torture and kill millions in other countries. Let us not pretend that the vast majority of ardent supporters of Nazism and Japanese nationalism actually cared about the ideology they allegedly believed in, other than as justification for torture and murder.

Ideology, you see, is simply a self-justification for behavior. You cannot, therefore, destroy a noxious ideology by exposing its internal contradictions, hilarious irrationality and general emptiness. Ardent supporters of noxious ideologies use them as mental crutches to justify what they want to do while still being able to claim to themselves that they are “good”, “moral” and “law-abiding” persons. Noxious ideologies can only be destroyed once most of their ardent supporters are dead and the rest discredited as losers in conflicts.

In the next part, I will write more on how the mental crutch provided by ideologies such as Nazism and Japanese nationalism allowed its supporters to perform truly horrible acts in the 20th century. I will also compare that to how belief in race-based colonialism was used by mediocre CONservative men from European countries to justify equally horrific acts in the 19th century.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts on the Best Way to Destroy Pathological Ideologies: 2

July 21, 2018 11 comments

In the previous post of this series, I made a point that two of most widespread and noxious ideologies of 20th century (race-based colonialism and nationalism) became functionally extinct in Europe largely because most of their “footsoldiers” died in a series of armed conflicts during first half of that century. To put it more bluntly- tens of millions of mediocre white (and Japanese) men, who would have otherwise been staunch supporters and defenders of both ideologies, got killed or physically and mentally fucked up by wars between 1914 and 1945.

You might also recall that I said something about why the mindset of those killed, maimed or mentally scarred had a large influence on the course of global history after 1945. So what was the mindset and worldview of these mediocre white men who became functionally extinct in Europe after 1945? A good place to start is the world in which they grew up. To make a long story short, the vast majority of these mediocre and reactionary men came from either an agricultural or working class background. This does not mean that they were all retarded.. just that they came from an environment where thinking objectively was not encouraged.

But that, by itself, is not enough to understand the unusually high prevalence of reactionary CONservatism among this group. For that, one has to first appreciate how a series of large socio-economic changes in late 19th century Europe affected an already CONservative rural agricultural class. Large-scale industrialization of Europe, contrary to what some of you might believe, did not start till 1860s. Even more importantly, certain ideas such as standardized compulsory basic schooling and nationalism did not become a big thing till the 1880s. You will see why those two things matter, later in the post.

Those dates are, however, important because the era between 1850 and 1900 was the true peak of European colonialism. After 1900, differences in relative abilities between colonizers and colonized started decreasing to the point where Europeans had to flee from even their last African colonies by mid-1960s. To put it another way, it was possible for a large number of the mediocre white men born between.. say.. 1850 and 1900 to actually believe that they were the “chosen people”. These simpletons also believed that staunchly supporting and serving their hyper-greedy national elite (who were happy to indulge racism of lower classes) was a winning strategy.

And for a few decades, it all seemed to work. But the world around does not stand still, and some now powerful countries which did not have large colonial possessions started resenting others which had entered the colonialism game many decades before them. The older models of governance in many of these countries were also not scaling well to the era of industrialization and resultant socio-economic changes. Development of weapon and logistics-related technology since the last large intra-European wars was, however, the biggest wild card.

While every large European power at that time was arming and rearming itself to the teeth, they all pretended that long drawn out wars were not feasible. Luckily, for the rest of humanity, it was feasible and all major powers experienced millions of ‘untimely’ deaths among men of prime working age and many millions more were made invalid for life. And we have not even started talking about associated civilian deaths and all those millions who died during 1918-1919 because of the great influenza pandemic that followed WW1.

While most belligerent countries lost between 2-5% of their population due to WW1, those losses was heavily concentrated among men of ages between 18-35. I have seen some studies which show that, in some countries like France and Germany, almost 50% of men in that age group were either dead or disabled by early 1919. Entire villages and towns in UK lost most of their young men, and entire cohorts of men who went to public school and oxbridge in UK were no longer alive by end of WW1. And we have not even touched on the massive demographic effects of the Russian civil war between 1917-1922.

Some might see it as a tragedy.. I prefer to see the partial extinction of a whole category of reactionary and CONservative minded men in and immediately after WW1 in a more positive light. Let us face it.. WW1 did remove a ton of mediocre and reactionary men who happened to be big supporters and cheerleaders of race-based colonialism from the reproductive pool. The aftermath of WW1 also exposed how full of shit the elites of those countries were. To make a long story short, the government of most countries involved in WW1 went to considerable lengths to avoid paying proper pensions and compensation to relatives of the dead and disabled.

The point I am trying to make is that WW1 resulted in death of a large percentage of most ardent supporters of race-based colonialism and disillusioned others who escaped with just a permanent disability or poverty. Did I mention that nationalism boosted by then new universal primary education was the ‘opium’ of these masses. While a reduction in support of race-based colonialism is not immediately obvious, the number of men who entered colonial services of European countries (or supported politicians who championed the ‘old ways’) took a terminal dive after WW1. Of course, it would take WW2 to finish the all that good work started by WW1.

In the next post of this series, I will talk about how WW2 put the proverbial headstone on grave of race-based colonialism and destroyed public support for militant nationalism and associated ideologies.

What do you think? Comments?