Friday, November 30, 2007

National Post doesn't understand evolution, either

The National Post, which is one of Canada's prime hotbeds of climate change denialism, has an editorial showing that they don't understand evolutionary genetics either.

Toni Vernelli, a dedicated British environmental crusader, may strike some as a deeply devoted champion of her cause. Frankly, she strikes us as more than a little off balance, perhaps even cultish. At 27 (Ms. Vernelli is now 35), she had herself sterilized in order to "protect the planet." Prior to that, she had an abortion rather than bring another consumer/ emitter into the world.

"Having children is selfish," she recently told London's Daily Mail newspaper. "It's all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet. Every person who is born uses more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees and produces more rubbish, more pollution, more greenhouse gases and adds to the problem of over-population."

Toni Vernelli obviously gets the modern understanding of evolutionary genetics. Genes behave in ways that appear to us as selfish.

The National Post, obviously doesn't get it:

We like to think (as most people do) that giving another person life and agreeing to raise them through infancy, childhood and the teenage years into adulthood is the height of selflessness, not selfishness. How much easier to be able to come home from work when you want, not when a child needs picking up from school, or to go out when you want and not have to worry about being home in time to put children to bed and get the babysitter home. No pretending to enjoy animated television or movies. No sitting up nights nursing a scared and feverish little one. No 6:30 a.m. hockey practices. No fights with a ninth-grader over friends, clothes or hair. No worried late nights waiting for a high schooler to return with the car.

Yes, most people think having children is unselfish, because it "ruins" your previous life. Suddenly, you're a full-time child care worker. And having no children seems selfish, because you can do whatever you want, have more disposable income, and far fewer wrinkles than your child-rearing peers.

But from the gene's point of view, having children is exactly the most selfish thing that can possibly be done: pass on your genes to the next generation. That's point of kids. Keep the genes moving. From a gene's point of view, Vernelli is so unselfish her combination of genes are going to go extinct.

The National Post's stupidity continues, and I can't be bothered to pick it all apart. It winds up with:
Finally comes the most indelicate observation of all: If it is selfish of environmentalists to have children because of the damage those offspring would do, isn't it even more selfish for those environmentalists to stay alive themselves when they are consuming every bit as much water, land, fuel and timber, and producing just as much pollution and greenhouse gas? Why sacrifice the lives of their potential children before they have sacrificed their own? Mightn't suicide be the ultimate sacrifice an environmental extremist should make for his or her beloved planet?
Even suicide isn't a solution, nor the ultimate sacrifice for the environment. The bacteria, fungi, insects and worms that devour our bodies are all greenhouse gas emitters. So you can't win, even in premature death.