The Banana Man’s dilemma

Nobody seems more obsessed by diet than our anti-materialistic, otherworldly, New Age spiritual types. But if the material world is merely illusion, an honest guru should be as content with Budweiser and bratwurst as with raw carrot juice, tofu and seaweed slime.
~Edward Abbey

So there once was a man named Ray Comfort. He was a big fan of some “God” guy, and decided that the banana was proof of God’s existence.

To Ray Comfort’s dismay, the video was mocked, most famously by the apparently-now-banned-from-Youtube Nick Gisburne, because, well, using a banana to prove God’s existence is rather stupid, and, as Nick Gisburne pointed out, Ray “The Banana Man” Comfort failed to do his homework.

The dessert banana was not created by God at all. Even if God existed, he still did not make the dessert banana. Humans did. The poor dessert banana is effectively seedless and propagates by shoots. It’s the result of hundreds of years of “artificial” selection.

The same is true for probably every food in the grocery store. Apples, oranges, plums…hell, broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and several other leafy green vegetables are all just cultivars of the same species (Brassica oleracea). We’ve domesticated and bred cattle to have superior meat quality and more docile personalities (think of how many places use “Angus,” a popular breed of cattle, to indicate that their beef is better).

This isn’t evil. It’s isn’t some horrible “artificial” thing that only humans do. It’s completely natural. When predators act upon prey and vice versa it’s often referred to as an “evolutionary arms race.” Species change because of their interactions, directly or indirectly, with other species. That’s the biotic side of natural selection. We’re not somehow immune from that. And it’s not just the domesticates that change. Look at the behavior of white-tailed deer, for example. Even in the space of a few square miles they can change from a shy, cautious creature to one that will readily approach your vehicle. All it takes is a change in the behavior of the humans near them. In turn, the more cautious deer keep farther from the roads, leaving those areas less heavily browsed than they are in the presence of more acclimated deer. Human handouts sustain larger populations of deer, which in turn browse more heavily on the local forage and may drive out populations of other species. In the case of preferred species, it’s often a form of mutualism…we protect the cattle from predators and disease and in turn we eat them for food. Their species has come to populate most of the globe because of their association with man. It may not be beneficial for the individual, but for the species it was very advantageous.

Life before the rise of man wasn’t a paradise, nor was it a hell. It was different than the world we know today. Bananas, strawberries, tomatoes, all of these and more were very different plants. We altered our world, for better or for worse, just as other species alter theirs, for better or for worse. The indigenous peoples of Earth altered their habitats as surely, although maybe not as extremely, as good ‘ol Whitey is changing his. There is little, if any, “unspoiled” wilderness.

We’re a part of the circle of life. It can be argued that our actions, no matter how “artificial,” are in fact completely natural. I often hear it said by environmentalists that most people consider themselves exempt from natural law. We’re not. But by labeling our actions as “artificial,” these same environmentalists are looking at humanity as exactly that…something other than a participating member of Planet Earth. We have done nothing more than act upon our natural instincts and use those things that have been made available to us. We’re not borrowing alien technologies and materials…everything we know and use came from home. Any other species, given the same intellect and resources, would do the same. Speciesism is as natural to us as breathing.

So remind me again…where is the line where natural becomes artificial?


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