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Should endangered species be saved? Life Sciences Coursework (Coursework Sample)


A controversy surrounding endangered species!
This article by Prof Alex Pyron appeared in a Nov 2017 Washington Post. It argues that "extinction is the engine of evolution" and that humans shouldn't bother to save anything that's not of value to them.
Have a read and then think about your reactions. Are you convinced by Pyron's argument?
If you didn't agree with Pyron, then you would definitely be interested in this critique of the piece written by a biologist at UNC:
[note the very handy TL:DR:]
Edit: the TL:DR is that
a) I thought the author cherrypicked the ecological literature and downplayed what we know about the loss of biodiversity and the complex/negative effects of human actions;
b) if the argument is that we should think about biodiversity over timescales of millions of years, humans don't matter anyways;
c) if we do care about humans, utility values of biodiversity are an acceptable focus of conservation. But it would be misguided to think that we have a perfect understanding of how ecosystems work or a perfect ability to forecast our impacts. For reasons of uncertainty, sampling effects and option value argue that we preserve as much diversity as we can;
d) Non-economic utility values (aesthetic, cultural values) are a good argument for conservation too. Most of us want to leave our children a beautiful planet that is full of life.
Does that convince you that Pyron was wrong?
A similar piece by Stewart Brand argues slightly differently that extinction itself is a less than useful concept:
Write a disscussion for your own thoughts. i have attached two of my classmates' work, you can see how this discussion work looks like (dont copy!)


1)I think all three articles are useful for a variety of perspectives on such a controversial and complicated issue. I would take more offense to Pyron's piece than the others due to its lack of value and appreciation for the natural world. He makes some astute points, mentioning that it is nature's dictation of what thrives and what dies off. Of course, we have impacted nature's role. Throughout the mass extinctions that have taken place, explosions of new species arrived on planet earth. However, this was over a long period of time. I believe that he does have a point in terms of letting nature run its course. And I do feel that there is something very god-like about intervening even if we feel it is our responsibility to fix our mistakes. Maybe it is best to leave what we have done and not cause further damage?  He also assumes that through extinction and the new arrival of species, that "the world will be none the poorer for it," (Pyron). That in itself is a huge assumption. Just like the fungi and tree relationships that we learned about recently, there are so many invisible actors that are key to the environment. We are discovering these novel players all the time, even though some feel that we know everything. Obviously, if we lost honeybees, that would have a direct human impact. This species would be more valued for saving according to Pyron due to its usefulness. But who are we to decide what the environment needs more or less of? This prevalent anthropogenic viewpoint in Pyron's piece is troublesome; I would agree with Gabriella. Tucker critiques this saying, "ignoring more philosophical arguments about the intrinsic value of all species, the arguments presented are problematic and incomplete, and the potential cost could be huge,” (Tucker). Somewhat similar to Pyron, Brand mentions that if the threatened species is a subspecies for example, and not a keystone, "its extinction might be inconsequential," (Brand). Now let's just assume that we know for a fact that there is no invisible role here. Biologically that species may not be necessary to the environment, but is wildlife just about utility? This lens focuses on the necessity to save certain species over others. I do think that the economic question behind this (what are people willing to spend money on?) is a driving force here. We may care about saving species and believe they have an intrinsic value, but will the "average Joe" care about an unknown amphibian species going extinct? Sadly, I do feel that the utility of organisms will determine the outcome ultimately. Maybe that is a dismal way to look at it, but a lot of people will not have the desire to save species unless it directly benefits their lifestyle habits. 


2)I think that endangered species should be saved because endangered ecosystems should be saved.  I am not convinced by Pyron’s article in the slightest.  As humans we come from nature, it’s the human ego speaking when we think we are separate from nature.  We depend on the ecosystems around us for food, water and shelter much like the other species in the ecosystems.  Due to this it is incorrect to think that “the only reason we should conserve biodiversity is for ourselves” (Pyron).  That’s the human ego talking.  Biodiversity is important to the ecosystems we are surrounded by.  In fact, we lack complete knowledge of how our ecosystems work therefore we shouldn’t let any species die off in case they are a keystone species.  The great extinctions of the past have all been mostly due to natural forces while the current ‘crisis’ is due to humans so it’s only right to reverse the damage that has been caused by our species.  Otherwise we’re greatly diminishing the potential of the domino effect that not only affects the future of our species, but the future of the Earth as a whole.  Additionally as brought to view by the second article/blog-post, one of Pyron’s points is invalidated because he picked over a source for a quote that suited his argument completely ignoring that the source states that even if biodiversity hasn’t been affected much at a local level, yet it has greatly at a global level which directly contradicts his point.  This proves that the article failed to view the grand scope of the issue.  On a final note the third article was quite compelling with the thought that “labelling a healthy species as ‘least concern’ is like labelling every healthy person ‘not dead yet’” (Brand, Andersen).  This does emphasize the point that we should be paying more attention to ecosystem health rather than species health.  Due to there being subspecies for select species, it may be more beneficial to nurse ecosystems back to health rather than species as individuals.  


Should we be labeling this current era of mass species endangerment as something other than an extinction due to it’s anthropogenic causes in contrast with the natural causes of past extinctions?  If so, what should this era be referred to as?



Should endangered species be saved?
Institutional Affiliation
Should endangered species be saved?
I think endangered species should be saved. So, I can't entirely agree with Pyron’s argument that there is no such thing as endangered species since sooner or later, all species will go extinct. This argument is delusional since it promotes the idea that the conservation efforts are fruitless. Many animals have been prevented from going extinct due to conservation. We shouldn't conserve the environment for ourselves rather for the sake of maintaining the Biodiversity we found on earth. The goal is we preserve the Biodiversity in nature to ensure future generations live in the beautiful earth. I differ with Pyron’s view that “The world is no better or worse infer the absence of saber-toothed tigers and dodo birds…” that shouldn’t be the case (Pyron, 2017). We shouldn’t allow species to go extinct because they don’t offer any intrinsic value to us.

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