Sauropods seem to have . Until relatively recently, animals as agents of ecosystem change and maintenance was a marginal idea. But today, is thought to be a seminal geophysical event in the Cambrian, and those huge sauropods probably had an ecosystem impact like what elephants have today in Africa. Elephants today break up woods as they feed, as they knock over trees and uproot them. That damage transforms the biome and provides opportunities for other kinds of herbivores and their predators. Elephants also and are considered , which have an outsized impact on their environment. Today, there is a “” to the overkill hypothesis regarding megafauna extinctions soon after humans appeared; such people minimize the impact of humans (their position has an inherent conflict of interest, as those ) and attribute the extinction of elephants of the Western Hemisphere (, ) to climate change and resulting changes in vegetation. If the current situation with African elephants is relevant, it is likelier that those vegetation changes were a of elephant extinction, not a cause. Elephant extinctions would have affected many other kinds of plants and animals, and could have precipitated . Similarly, those huge sauropods would not just have nibbled at vegetation and been relatively harmless browsers, but their vast bulk would have been ideal for pushing over trees to get at their foliage and other devastations of trees in particular, which would have dramatically impacted biomes. Giant dinosaurs probably had keystone species impacts on their environments, particularly the vegetation. Dinosaurs were not the only huge organisms in those days. The appeared in the Jurassic, and would have been immune to dinosaur browsing when they grew large enough. Below is an artist's conception of a typical Jurassic landscape (just as an allosaur and stegosaur are about to cordially interact). (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Another energy-related activity probably appeared on a large scale during the reign of dinosaurs: . Although territoriality , , , , and today, it is most common among birds and mammals. Territoriality is primarily about preserving an animal’s energy base from competition, and it is usually a behavior oriented toward others of the same species, which would eat the same food resources and mate with the same potential partners. Just as what scientists call , territorial behavior may go all the way back to the . But the social behaviors apparent in dinosaurs probably also meant territorial behavior, and probably on a scale never experienced before on Earth. Even the suspected display function of implies territorial behavior. All are territorial, and human political units such as are little more than ape territoriality writ large, as peoples protect their energy and mating bases. In light of the (with its apotheosis in the peacock, although, as usual, ), and the phenomenon perhaps goes , along with the discovery of dinosaurian mass nesting sites, herd behaviors, and the like, many scientists believe that .
In very real terms, economic production relies on work performed, and the is what economic work is rooted in. Moving an automobile or airplane requires work. Moving water requires work, as does running a household appliance or computer. Electricity can power a machine or a light. Energy consumption work to be performed, and that is why . Neoclassical economists, with their supply and demand curves and other social/monetary constructs generally disregard that relationship, as they abandoned the real world for social theories, which is why . Those all-too-rare economists challenging neoclassical economics from a scientific perspective focus on energy above all else, and the labor and technological capital ( capital, not the accounting claim on it that capitalists have) that use that energy to turn material resources into useful products and services. They focus on the real economy and actual human benefit, in what I call the anthropocentric economy.
The racist ideology that Hitler’s regime promoted was only a of what other imperial aspirants already had, and and he modeled his genocidal plans for Eastern Europe after what the . Hitler’s ideological crime was using racist ideology to make chosen people inferior. All such ideologies appealed to people’s egos as they elevated their and, with their superiority then self-evident, they could commit their awesome crimes with clear consciences, free of .
Many assumptions of neoclassical economics have been convincingly falsified by the physical, biological, and social sciences. Some of those assumptions are that people are independently minded rational actors who do not look to what others do (i.e., humans are not herd animals), that the economy can be divorced from the ecosystem that supports it, that money can substitute for , and that economic production can be described without referencing physical work. Neoclassical economics ignores the fact that entropy saps the efficiency of any system, economic or otherwise. Unlike a genuine science, almost no branches of today’s economics, particularly neoclassical economics, base their theories on hypotheses that can be tested and . Today’s mainstream economics resembles a faith more than a science.
What heads that list may well be the primary trait that led to UP’s dominance of Earth: their mastery of language. Although social communication via sound may have and perhaps even earlier, and had , and Neanderthals had , scientists strongly suspect that the mastery of language that today’s humans display probably allowed humans to rapidly develop their technology and culture. It was humanity’s first Internet: a way to communicate ideas and information in a way previously unfeasible and even unimaginable, at a level of sophistication that no other land animal ever achieved. That invention provided the opportunity for sharing complex ideas, which created positive feedback loops that allowed for quicker cultural and technological advances. That is not fanciful speculation; linguistics, the study of brain abnormalities, and genetics testing has converged on what seems the most plausible hypothesis today, although in these areas the controversies can be fierce.
As scientific investigations deal with the human line, the issues increasingly become more complex and difficult to untangle and assess. This is largely because of human consciousness, which is a wild card, something that if not different in kind, is vastly different in degree, at least for land animals; . Designing falsifiable hypotheses for testing human behavior and consciousness has provided challenges not seen in other sciences, and experiments performed on our primate cousins have also become more humane. Dissecting chimp brains while they are still alive is as ethically unacceptable today as doing it to humans. Even today, data on the effects of cold and altitude on humans was primarily gleaned from . Today’s scientists who study human consciousness and its relationship to physical reality have been limited by ethics and what is perhaps the primary limitation: in studying human consciousness, scientists are studying themselves. The ideal of objective examination of the material world is hampered by , and an objective examination of human consciousness, by , may well be an impossible goal.
Some scientists treat every proboscidean extinction as a unique mystery, unrelated to other proboscidean extinctions, and climate and resulting vegetation changes are hypothesized as agents of extinction (or other causes invoked), when the most probable cause stares at them each morning in the mirror. The devil in the details, but regarding the megafauna extinctions, some specialists cannot seem to discern a very clear pattern. Scientists, because they are human, have an inherent conflict of interest when attributing such catastrophes to non-human causes. During the remainder of this essay, it will become evident that there is a human penchant for absolving one’s in-group of responsibility for catastrophes and crimes committed against the out-group, and , scientists, and other professionals regularly engage in such interest-conflicted acts, whether they were defending their species, race, gender, nation, class, ideology, ethnicity, or profession. That in-group/out-group difference in treatment has a long history and probably goes back to the beginnings of territorial social animals.
To briefly revisit , to that speculation above, scientists ideally want persuasive evidence that humans drove and to extinction. They want Acheulean or later technological artifacts associated with kills of those species. All that scientists have found for so far are some teeth and jawbones. Although such deductive reasoning is sound, the fossil and artifactual record is so thin that such evidence will probably never be adduced, even if it was a common event 150-100 kya. survived for nine million years and disappeared around when more lethal humans arrived, and a , soon after anatomically modern humans arrived in the vicinity. Is that a coincidence? There is genetic evidence that behaviorally modern humans interbred with , , and perhaps , and they all went extinct soon after those behaviorally modern humans arrived. That they interbred put to bed the hypotheses that they went extinct before arrived on the scene. If they went extinct after behaviorally modern humans arrived, as the genetic evidence clearly tells us, the implications are obvious, and any extinction hypothesis that invokes climate change or some other natural catastrophe has some high hurdles to overcome. Those events were probably early salvos of the .
What human-agency skeptics have ignored or argued around are unique features of the megafauna that went extinct the humans that preyed on them, while they examined minutia. ever before humans arrived. As , African elephants help create the biomes they live in, as terraforming agents. They were far from idle browsers and grazers, but had outsized impacts on the vegetation, soils, and geological features such as water holes. Dinosaurs may have had similar biome impacts, and it was probably a feature of that large herbivore guild. Scientists have been finding plenty of evidence that vegetation changes that human-agency skeptics attribute to climate change may well be largely the of the guild’s disappearance, not a cause. Researchers in Africa have also discovered that changes wrought by elephants created biomes dependent on elephant management. When elephants disappeared, so did the biomes that they created, which is why smaller species could also disappear when the large herbivore guild vanished. Although Australia was the only non-Antarctic continent without proboscideans 50 kya, and its guilds were comprised of somewhat smaller animals, probably reflecting inherent differences between placental and marsupial mammals, Australia's large herbivores probably had similar biome impacts.