Is it our fault?

Thoughts from Steven: When are Extinctions “Our Fault?”

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I just saw an interesting article on the internet. It is titled “This Priceless Dodo Skeleton Took 40 Years to Assemble” by Bryan Menequs on There is not much to the story, most of it is described in the title. A collector worked for 40 years to collected enough bones from various dodos to construct a skeleton that is about 95% complete. Now the skeleton is up for auction. According to the article, Mauritius, the island where the dodos used to live, has banned the exportation of dodo remains, so another skeleton to appear on auction is an unlikely occurrence making it very valuable.

However, the skeleton and the auction are not what caught my eye. Instead, it was the opening line: “The dodo has been extinct for about 350 years, and it’s entirely our fault—so why not own a memento of man’s destructive tendencies in the form of a three-foot tall bird skeleton.” Everybody knows the story of the dodo, how it lived in isolation until humans arrived, they found them to be easy prey and a good food source to boot, so they were hunted to extinction. That is part of the reason why I thought the opening line of the article was interesting: what was the purpose in emphasizing that the dodo’s extinction is “entirely out fault” and that it represents “a memento of man’s destructive tendencies?”

I don’t really know. The author didn’t spend enough time to explain his thoughts on the matter. However, it did get me to thinking, am I responsible for the extinction of the dodo? After all, the article says that the extinction of the dodo is “entirely our fault” (emphasis added).

On the one hand, I would say that I am not responsible for the extinction of the dodo. After all, that occurred 350 years ago, yet I have only been on earth for 34 years. I can not possibly be responsible for the death of dodos: they were already gone by the time I was born. The author may have meant that humans are responsible, but his wording made it seem very personal. I think that this is an error that humans make a lot: they personalize wrongdoings. Someone did something wrong, and because that person falls in the same category as other people, the whole group is responsible.

While I think that I am not personally responsible for the extinction of dodos, I think it is possible that humans are responsible for all extinctions. Consider this: there was no death and disease prior to Adam’s sin. If Adam is responsible for bringing death and destruction into the world, then he is responsible for bringing the means of extinction into the world. Moreover, God put the earth under Adam’s charge. When he rebelled against God, God cursed not only Adam and the human race, he cursed the earth as well. The consequences of Adam’s sin extended to those under his authority, so in a sense, extinctions are a reminder of the cursed world that we live in and how they are our fault, even if we are not personally responsible for killing the last dodos. To make one last comparison with the article, extinctions are less “a memento of man’s destructive tendencies” and more a testament of man’s rebellion against God.

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