Burt Guttman, a professor of biology emeritus at The Evergreen State College, is a member of The Olympianís Board of Contributors. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Once upon a time, when humanity was relatively young, people thought they could do anything they pleased to the Earth, the air and the water. OK, our continuing irrigation has made this oncerich farmland so salty that our crops wont grow here anymore, but, heck, well just move on to some other place. Yes, this water tastes bad and might be making us sick, but well find some other water. And since there were relatively few people, their total impact upon the Earth was negligible.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was recently seen assuring his supporters of his anti-abortion stance with the standard line: it’s a “biological fact” that the fertilized egg is alive and that life begins at the moment of conception.
The democratic spirit embodies the principle that all people have equal rights – to justice, to protection under the law, to the pursuit of happiness, and so on. But this principle makes some people think there’s equality in everything and that all ideas are just a matter of opinion, so Joe Blow’s ideas are just as good as Jefferson’s or Einstein’s. Some students, for example, have asserted their “right” to spell words any way they please. In ethics and morality, this becomes the attitude that there are no objective standards for behavior, so – as one of my colleagues put it – “Mother Teresa does her thing and Hitler does his thing, and it’s all cool.”
Deep in conversation, cellphone pressed to her ear, the lady walks along staring at the ground ahead of her, oblivious to her surroundings. A common sight these days, you say. Yes, but this lady is walking in one of the most beautiful wildlife refuges in North America. She has no interest, however, in the gorgeous plants and birds around her. She lives in a modern electronic world.