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“Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience”

June 29, 2013
Broom is the likely occupant of East Bay public land now shaded by non-native trees that will be destroyed the FEMA projects.  Share alike.

Broom is the likely occupant of East Bay public land now shaded by non-native trees that will be destroyed by the FEMA projects. Share Alike.

Invasion Biology:  Critique of a Pseudoscience is a book by David Theodorpoulos. (1)  He explains in the preface of the book, how he arrived at the conclusion that invasion biology is a pseudoscience and why he felt compelled to explain that conclusion in his book.

Theodoropoulos was from an early age a lover of nature and he always spent much of his time outdoors, observing nature.  He recalls noticing decades before writing his book that some plant species—such as broom—tended to occupy disturbed ground such as roadsides.  He was also aware that introduced species of plants were contributing to biological diversity.  Putting those two observations together, he concluded that plants that are introduced and dispersed by the activities of man are integrating into ecosystems and increasing biodiversity.

As the hysteria about “alien invasions” began to mount in the 1990s, Theodoropoulos could not reconcile this anxiety with his observations of nature.  He read the studies that supported invasion biology and found their scientific methods and their conclusions unsatisfactory.  He concluded that the fear of introduced plants was motivated by “psychological factors” that are not supported by scientific evidence. 

As he shared his observations with others, he was subjected to abusive attacks by proponents of invasion biology, which ultimately compelled him to write his book to defend his opinion of invasion biology.  He explains why he wrote his book:

“During the past decade ‘invader’ fears have reached a fevered pitch, with  a constant barrage from the media fanning the flames, and a huge volume of literature has been published, produced by scientists with a self-interest in promoting this ideology.  Corporate and bureaucratic interests have intruded, pushing their agendas of profit and control.  Finally, the use of invader fears to justify total human control of the natural world has shown that the ideology has reached a dangerous place.”   (emphasis added)

David Theodorpoulos will be speaking in the East Bay on Sunday, July 14, 2013.  Here is the announcement of this event by its sponsor East Bay Pesticide Alert:

INVASION BIOLOGY

OR INTEGRATION BIOLOGY?

Who is behind the deforestation and pesticiding of the East Bay Hills, from Richmond to Hayward?


**Slideshow with narration, followed by discussion**

DAVID THEODOROPOULOS

Conservation Biologist and Author:

Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience

+ Update from Save Mt. Sutro Forest


SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2013, 6:30PM (doors open 6PM)

Historic Hall, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists

1924 Cedar (one block east of MLK, Jr. Way)


Hear about Invasion Biology from a different perspective of non-native species, based on Evolutionary Biology, and find out about the native plant restoration movement’s connection to the pesticide industry.

**Please refrain from using scented products prior to attending **Wheelchair accessible

Co-sponsored by East Bay Pesticide Alert (dontspraycalifornia.org) (see wildfire pages) & Social Justice Committee BFUU (bfuu.org)

***********************

We have read Mr. Theodoropoulos’ book and we have heard him speak.  We can highly recommend both his book and his talk as informative and interesting.   We can also recommend the speaker about the Sutro Forest in San Francisco.  If you are not aware of how widespread the destruction of non-native plants and trees is, you will want to hear about the plans to destroy over 30,000 trees on Mount Sutro in San Francisco.  Please come to learn about the destructive consequences of projects that are attempting to convert our diverse landscape into native plant advocates’ fantasy of what it looked like 250 years ago.

Update:  A video of this presentation is now available here.

***********************

(1)    Avvar Books, 2003

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2013 11:59 am

    Thank you for posting this. Mr. Theodoropoulos’ has provided us with a framework to help mend the destructive tendencies of the so called native movement that uses the same toxic technologies of agriculture and see through their false ideologies.

  2. June 29, 2013 12:01 pm

    Interesting… I remember 15 years ago telling my friend that part of the great experiment on this planet is mixing up the giant soup of all the planet’s species to see what comes out of it.

    I cautioned my friend that I dare not share this view with people because they’d scoff and my friend replied that yes, that’s an advanced view that many would disapprove of. But maybe after all these years good people like David are going to bring this notion into acceptability?

    And granted, species that take over and create a mono-culture of themselves does lead to a decline in biodiversity that absolutely a cause for alarm. Niche species that require habitat undisturbed by humans are going extinct at the fastest rate ever documented!

    At the same time as long as this activity of introduced non-native species is allowed on private property there is significant protection for it to continue and it begs the question: How many species in the east bay are now dependent on thousands of different species people establish and maintain in their gardens?

    And of course birds and bugs are going to do better than terrestrial species because of all the fences, but I think the most important thing is we need to look at the land and how we can increase biodiversity as it exists now, rather than recreating what we want it to exist in our nativist fantasies.

    Especially in this time of unprecedented heatwaves, we need lush rich well-watered vegetation of all kinds (unless it’s becomes an out of control mono-crop which is more a sign of neglect rather than a sign of the plants doing significant harm) to protect and heal our trampled land.

    And ironically the private property rights that once destroyed the ecosystem is now protecting the evolution of a brand new ecosystem. 🙂

  3. mycophile permalink
    June 29, 2013 1:00 pm

    There are too many angles on this to comment on them all
    And yet, without considering all angles, no view on this subject can be anything but over-simplified.

    It is just, or even more, arrogant to assume that an analysis via Reductionistic Evolutionary Biology produces conclusions of any greater veracity than via Intuitive Provencialism.

    “Wholistic” science is the far better analysis mode, although it must always be kept in mind that conclusions arrived at via it at any moment cannot be assumed to be anymore cut in stone than those arrived at by any other method.

    “Wholistic Science” is something more like what “Naturalists” used to practice. Any scientist that has not spent considerable time doing what Theodore Rosak called getting into “Gnosticism” (putting their hands in the dirt, and not just to create Reductionist experiments and/or collect laboratory samples) is missing huge portions of the picture.

    One specific comment: I have no doubt that pesticide economic interests are supporting the folks who advocate for a massive defoliation scheme that would use pesticides. While the folks who are proposing such a scheme are, in my view, highly mis-guided and/or ignorant, and, as a result, are dangerous to not only humans and human society but to the web of life as we know it on this planet, the mere fact that a convergence of interests exists does not translate into proof that the purposeful acceleration of The Procession of Ecotypes by human-aided species migration is wise. Just look at the myriad consequences of the active commandeering of niches by the human species in regions where it formerly was a minor or non-existent species.

    In other words, just because those holding an opposite view as oneself have glaring faults in their reasoning does not mean that one’s own view does not equally suffer, nor that it must be “right.” More likely is that neither view is the more spot-on, and that an entirely different paradigm is in order from which to discern a saner approach.

    Deanne Rimmerman got it right in that she described that we are engaged in a great experiment. To assume any approach has greater sure efficacy than another is nothing but human arrogance. That said, however, which approach is the least suspect — the one millions of years old or the one 10,000 years old? In my view, both the “eradicate all non-natives” and the “preserve all non-natives” suffer from the same one-size-fits-all myopia.

    But, as far as the idea that embrace of either “native” or “non-native” vegetation can and will be significant mitigation of the consequences of the out-of-control human ‘growth” model and Climate Change? — What Fools these Puny Mortals Be. I need to see a much different argument for embracing any particular species of vegetation than that, or arguments such as “the species mix we have now in the existing non-native vegetation would be lost if we were to lose that vegetation.”

    Let’s be real. Humans advocate for what they find aesthetically pleasing and for what supports the life-styles to which they have become accustomed. To pretend that they make choices based on “good science” is poppycock. Science is simply the modern version of Scripture — selectively used and interpreted to justify selfish motives.

  4. June 29, 2013 2:41 pm

    Wow, what a comment.

    Excellent thoughts Mycophile.

    I think your mention of “Wholistic” is spot on. And it’s very much the same as what Gregory Cajete’s “Native Science” teaches: http://www.amazon.com/Native-Science-Natural-Laws-Interdependence/dp/1574160419

    What westerners call objective scientific observation is not objective at all. It’s a subjective product of the cultural bias and teachings the scientist grew up in and learned from and no amount of calibration can ever make a person perfectly objective.

    Native Americans for tens of thousands of years have taught science to their children in a much different way.

    Their science is not based on the fool’s errand of being “objective,” rather, their way is based on the “subjective” bias that actively seeks the best possible relations to all our relations.

    Native Science teaches that our best observations are calibrated not by how objective our ego tells us we are being but by how much we listen to our heart and understand its relationship with the land and our family of species we share the land with.

    Native Science doesn’t seek knowledge for its own sake, Native Science seeks knowledge to find right relationship with the and and all its creatures. And we never stop learning how to be more caring and loving… 🙂 Some of the nativist on the other hand haven’t even begun to show that they’re truly caring and loving…

  5. vinh permalink
    July 11, 2013 9:48 pm

    hello,

    will this talk be recorded and available for download? i don’t live in the bay area, but this topic sounds fascinating, and i’d like to hear what david has to say. thanks.

    Webmaster: Here is a link to a presentation that David made in March 2011 to an Enviromental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT4Zczx_bik. If his presentation on July 14th is recorded, I will let you know.

    • Vinh permalink
      July 21, 2013 4:41 pm

      i guess the talk on the 14th was not recorded? what a pity. the youtube video of the talk back in 2011 is excellent.

      Webmaster: It was recorded, but it’s not available yet. I’ll post it when it’s available. Thanks for your interest.

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