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So Far, So Good

March 08, 1992

Re Jack Miles' Endpapers ("Call Him Ishmael," Feb. 2), I must at least acknowledge that he doesn't hide his bias and incompetence.

The most obvious demonstration of this is his approving quote of Les Kaufman and Ken Mallory's claim that "within our lifetime more species will disappear than have disappeared since the birth of the planet." The simple fact is that 99+% of all species were dead and vanished long before the first human ever drew breath. We possibly could set some records for the highest number or percentage to vanish within a set period, but the given claim is sufficient to establish Miles as a nut or simply ignorant.

More directly, on Daniel Quinn's book "Ishmael," Miles says "(hunting-and-gathering) man exterminates nothing," a statement that shows a profound ignorance of the history of hunter-gatherers. Such people wiped out tremendous numbers of species in the past, and are doing the same today. In fact, one theory on why we turned to agriculture is that the hunter-gatherers had exterminated their prime food sources.

Miles seems to share the idea of humans as the snake in the Garden of Eden: "Our species refused to live in its ecological niche," a point that ignores that "intent" of every species to expand beyond its niche (to the extent we can say niches actually exist and are not just a human way of classifying things).

Miles likes the joke about the man who, falling from the 100th floor, thinks at the 10th floor, "So far, so good." But in fact, mankind has "fallen" from the 10th floor, and is now at the 100th floor. The econuts have been predicting our imminent and terrible landing for generations and we keep on flying.

So far, so good, indeed.

DAVID CARL ARGALL, LA PUENTE

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