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A maggot

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Thought of Michel de Montaigne ( "Man is quite insane. He wouldn't know how to create a maggot, and he creates gods by the dozen") the other day when I read about some crazies who want to dump urea into the oceans to solve global warming.

I occasionally, and very diffidently, comment on the malign and disastrous effect that the religious mind set is having on the ecology of this tiny planet a long way from the centre of the universe. Here is another subtle warning.

If you believe that the world was "created" - the galaxies, stars, planets, and the Earth and everything on it - then you have no sense of the complex processes that led to where we are in 2007, 15 billion years after it all began.

And if you lack that understanding, if, for example, you have been taught by astonishingly ignorant people that living species were created, and not evolved, then your sense of how we might deal with the coming environmental catastrophe is grossly impaired.

And if you think that some "superhuman" force made species and put them in place in the garden of eden, then you won't be surprised when people set about creating new organisms in test tubes, or genetically modifying other living organisms with bits of stray DNA. After all if a superhuman did it once it must be possible for a human do do it again. But these organisms are the end result of several billion years of the most detailed and refined selection process, a process that has made each organism adapted to its environment, and every part of each organism finely related to every other part. Evolution puts together intricately complex organisms into extremely complex ecosystems over very long periods indeed, and if you think you can ape that process in 6 days in a laboratory then you are as dangerous as that imaginary friend in the sky who is said to have done it first.

Bad enough with genetic modification and artificial species of bacteria, but there are people playing with ecosystems as if they were so many pieces in a nativity play. Here someone tipping urea or iron into the oceans to stimulate plankton growth, there someone "thinning" and burning forests to improve them, over here some loonies who want to put giant mirrors or shades or dust into the sky, and over here someone who thinks it is their job to cull species like deer to restore balance as they understand it from exposure to Fox news.

Does the phrase "with friends like these who needs enemies" come to mind? It should. Over-confident idiots are meddling with natural processes that they not only don't understand but wouldn't know how to achieve if they did. And the rest of us can only watch in horror as not only scientists and evangelicals get together to share views on the future of the planet, but some scientists adopt religious viewpoints in order to dominate the natural world and recreate it in man's image.

Look guys, first show us the maggot you have created, then you can have a go at the planet. Wait, on second thoughts, that's not such a good idea .

I'm with Thomas Huxley, who said "If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?", on The Watermelon Blog.