Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Platonic Ideal of a Polar Bear

Reporting that a polar bear / grizzly cross has been discovered, the Telegraph tells us that global warming is bad news for the polar bear.

In fact, faced with so-far unproven evidence that one grizzly has mated with one polar bear, expert Dr Andrew Derocher says,

"I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically."

I'm sorry?

Is there a way in which the polar bear community is looking at the grizzly community thinking, "if we're not careful we'll all be grizzlies"? No. It's humans that do that sometimes. But if a human expressed that fear, it would be called racism.

What happened is that a grizzly met a polar bear of an alternative gender, sweet bear-love ensued, and the union was blessed. That the fruit of that union was subsequently shot by a hunter who was a member of North America's First Nations is a dilemma that requires a doctorate in Progressive Attitudes to resolve.

If the good doctor is concerned about individual bears rather than bearkind as a whole, then he should worry that a bear has been shot.  If he is concerned for the future of polar bear genes, he should be grateful that this kind of mating is occurring. Because only by hitching a ride on grizzly bear genes will polar bear genes survive in the world that is apparently before us.

If the doctor is worried about polar bears as a concept - as a whole - then he needs to investigate his assumptions. Why is the concept of "polar bear" important? Is it a Platonic Ideal, to which all earthly polar bears are merely approximations? If so - is this a scientific concept? Doesn't strike me as one.

Strikes me the doctor's comment:

“I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically"

is pretty much blaming an innocent. Did grizzlies cause this? What the doctor should be saying is,

“I hate to say it, but the world is warming and EVERYBODY IS GOING TO DROWN.”

You can blame that on human beings, if you think global warming is human-caused. If you think it's natural, you can blame it on God. Or, if an AGW-denying atheist, on solar cycles or Catholics or it's one of those things.

But you can't blame the grizzlies.  It was an Arctic evening. The Northern Lights were shining. And there - pale of complexion and black of nose - was a polar bear. They just did what came naturally. The grizzlies are innocent.


  1. This is where moral relativism gets us

  2. I blame it on the boogie

  3. Successful matings between different species are not unknown but thought to be uncommon; in cases where this occurs normally the offspring are sterile. However there seems to be definite evidence (I'm not a geneticist as you've probably gathered) that modern homo sapiens has somehow incorporated Neanderthal genes. So perhaps interspecies mating is more common than has been thought and consequently genetic mixing also.

    Linnaeus must be revolving in his grave!


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