Nature

Who do you think we are?

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“Our mastery over the forces of nature has led to a rapid growth of population, and a vast accumulation of wealth; but these have brought with them such an amount of poverty and crime, and have fostered the growth of so much sordid feeling and so many fierce passions, that it may well be questioned, whether the mental and moral status of our population has not on the average been lowered, and whether the evil has not overbalanced the good.”

Alfred Russel Wallace


That was more than 150 years ago. Alfred Russel Wallace was born 194 years ago and became a leading scientist, who independently proposed a theory of natural selection, which prompted Charles Darwin to publish his own theory.

I wonder what instilled his negative view on the evolution of human society. It is also remarkable to read his historic assessment of our proliferation and its effect on our ethics. What would he think if he were around today? Did his voice go unheard?

On another note, it is also Elvis Presley’s birthday today.

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5 thoughts on “Who do you think we are?

  1. I think he would be horrified to learn how low many populations have sunk in recent times. On the other hand, I have also read and seen remarkable courage and compassion of others.

    Was the owl shot made near your home?

    • I am just astonished what he wrote 150 years ago. I think it very well describes today’s state of affairs.
      Snow owl image was taken nearby, although it was a rescued, captive bird. They can be found in this area, depending on food supply.

  2. I have long agreed with Wallace on these points. I live now in a community of about 50 to 70 people. We don’t even have a police officer, nor do we need one. Nor is there the kind of posturing here that is epidemic in larger communities… “posturing”: the need to play music loud enough for all to hear; to dress a certain way to outdo others in a fashion competition; to constantly rate your own and others’ looks, etc. Among a small group of people, it is generally sufficient to seal an agreement with a handshake. In larger societies, it’s impossible to create a book of codification thick enough to anticipate and forestall the various ways in which people conceive to cheat each other.
    I seriously doubt Wallace would be the least bit troubled to learn that, while the earth’s population continues to grow to unmanageable levels, the population in a few places has declined. The population in England at his death in 1913 was about 34 million people. It is now about 66 million and growing. Based on his writings, it is nearly certain that he Would be concerned with the loss of biodiversity 7.3 million humans have brought about.

    • Thank you for your comments.

      1-Alaska is one of those places, where the population decreases. I guess natural beauty does not make up for prosperity and convenience.

      2-Maybe it’s the anonymity of big cities that drives the posturing? I live in a community of about 3000 folks. An interesting place that struggles with commerce, conservation, drugs, and tradition. Our book of conduct is growing, which means we are loosing that common sense, handshake approach.

  3. Great quote. I believe Wallace would be amazed at our wonderful accomplishments, but also dismayed that so many societal shortcomings of his day remain. Love the snow owl image. Oh, and “thank ya, thank ya very much”.

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