The mechanism behind a
Background Extinction

    The definition of the term background extinction

    When trying to determine how species disappeared in the past we run up against the term background
    extinction. A quick check at the Wikipedia shows that few paleontologists have ever paid attention to this
    vital term. The article talks about the RATE of extinctions and doesn't define the term at all. You are better
    off Googling the definition, but not really that much better. You find something like...

    "Background extinction refers to the normal extinction rate. These are species that go
    extinct simply because not all life can be sustained on Earth and some species simply
    because they cannot survive."

    A species dies in a background extinction because it cannot survive? That's deep! This guy must've worked
    all year on that definition. It just goes to show that what we are lacking the most in mainstream 'science'
    are definitions. Rational Science is about explaining causes (Physics) and reasons (Philosophy). In order to
    communicate a theory the first task of a genuine scientist is to get his vocabulary straight. Crisp definitions
    make for unambiguous explanations.

    Unfortunately, college grads and professionals have never learned how to define words scientifically and
    from generation to generation teach each other that this is a waste of time anyway. The popular argument
    among contemporary 'scientists' is that whoever insists on crisp definitions is 'doing semantics' and not
    'science'. The worldly wisdom has spread that the demeaning task of defining terms is a job for English
    majors and librarians. How dare you ask him for a definition of HIS terms? "Look it up in the dict!"

    Other sites do only slightly better

    "Background Extinction: The ongoing extinction of individual species due to environmental
    or ecological factors such as climate change, disease, loss of habitat, or competitive
    disadvantage in relation to other species.

    And then the site talks about the rate again.

    So let's settle this annoying 'rate' issue once and for all. A background extinction has nothing to do with
    rates. It is mathematicians who talk about rates. Scientists want to understand causes and mechanisms.
    The foregoing 'definition' lists the usual suspects -- climate change, disease, loss of habitat, or competitive
    disadvantage -- and this already raises a flag. Are the causes part of the definition? Or are the people
    who concocted this definition stealthily shoving their religion down your throat? Why are these vague and
    unjustified causes included in the definition if not to subtly persuade you to accept their theory as a matter
    of fact? Where did the authors get the ridiculous idea that background extinctions are caused by climate
    change or by competition, anyway?

    Therefore, let's begin by defining the term background extinction scientifically (objectively, opinionated-less,
    rationally) so that we are all on the same page...

    \background extinction: the disappearance of one species

    Now that we know what the term means and what the subject matter is we can start brainstorming causes
    and analyzing mechanisms. We want to understand how it is that a single species becomes extinct all by

    The usual suspects

    Ever since Georges Couvier discovered that species have been disappearing,many enthusiasts have given
    extinction a shot. Most of the efforts in the last 200 years have been dedicated to deciphering the fascinating
    mass extinctions. Those mentioning background extinctions gloss over the causes with a broad paint brush
    and begin talking about rates. That's how they ended up with the adjective 'background'. There has never
    been a detailed analysis of how ONE species disappears all alone among all others.

    The usual suspects are mentioned in passing: climate change, disease, loss of habitat, and competitive
    disadvantage. Some tell you candidly in your face that the species evolved. These superficial and vague
    'explanations' have much to do with what we see around us today and hear in the news and little to do with
    the actual mechanisms behind extinctions. Specifically, the masses and the 'experts' have been led to believe
    that Man is the cause of all background extinctions. Man is the worst disease that plants and animals ever

    1. We pollute the environment with our cars and sprays and trigger climate change.
    Ergo, species are dying because we are changing their environment. We have proof
    of this in the thinning of the ozone layer and the melting of the ice caps. Let's form
    an NGO, start writing letters to our congressmen, and get them to do something
    about it.

    2. We slash and burn the jungles and forests. Ergo, we are destroying Eden. We are
    depriving God's wild creatures of their natural habitats. Let's form an NGO, call our
    congressmen and get them to do something about it.

    3. We hunt and poach and trap and fish. But we do it for fun or for money. We don't
    need to live like cavemen. We don't need fur trappers to make mink coats for the
    rich and famous. Get with it! Hunting and gathering is over! We are killing the poor
    beasts of the field for no reason at all. Ergo, we are overhunting. Let's form a lobby
    against the Rifle Association and call our congressman.

    4. We are cannibals. We eat animals. In fact, we are so cynical that we raise cattle
    and then betray and slaughter the unsuspecting pets so that we don't have to go out
    and hunt them. Let's become vegetarians and vegans and stop raising chickens in
    cages and stuffing them with antibiotics. And KFC be damned!

    5. We are too many and becoming more. When will we stop? Let's educate the poor
    women of the world. Or better yet. Let's sterilize them without their knowledge.

    6. Let's thank God for homosexuals and transsexuals and asexuals. If they reproduced
    where would we be?

    People confuse POLITICS with Science! They have been so influenced by contemporary media which in
    turn worships the authority of the mathematical 'physicists'. Therefore, the theories are actually a set of
    prescriptions for how to conserve the environment. The fanatic crusaders of conservationism and environ-
    mentalism want to convince you of what must be done to preserve a pristine garden for our grandchildren
    rather than investigate and analyze the causes of extinction. They offer cures for our overcrowded world
    and urge you to join their crusades rather than rationalize how a species could possibly have vanished.
    Environmentalists, conservationists, animal lovers, vegetarians, and vegans are fixed on the future and
    have no interest in elucidating the past.

    Of course, with such preconditioning and misleading 'scientific' environment, it is easy to peddle the snake
    oil that climate change and competition caused the disappearance of species throughout the history of life
    on Earth. Everyone just nods. They look around and say "You're right! Look at what we're doing to our
    world. We should tell the poor people of Africa to stop having children. We should educate their women.
    We should plant trees and make our world green again."

    (Huh? I thought the conference was about background extinctions... )

    The discussion fires up the biases of people and leads them along tangents that have nothing to do with
    extinction. People end up discussing politics and action items. They end up urging each other to save the
    planet and form political action groups. They never resolve why the Woolly Mammoth is not around today.

    Here we're not going to do politics. We're not going to tell you what to believe in or what to do to change
    the world around you. There's no militancy, no action item, no crusade or political holy grail. We're not
    going to try to convince you of anything. What we are going to do is state that the only issue an extinction
    theorist has to solve is SELECTIVITY. He who has not explained selectivity has not discovered the cause
    or causes of extinction. It's just that simple! Any attempt at introducing many agents and mechanisms, one
    tailored to each species, is simply a cop-out: a way the theorist found to elude the mandatory requirement
    pf selectivity. If the theorist uses a knife to kill the T-Rex, a spear to kill the mosasaur, and an arrow to kill
    the pterodactyls... well... anyone can do extinction like that! The trick is to do it with ONE agent and ONE

    How Mother Nature selects whom she's going to kill

    How does Mommy Dearest select her victims? Why would she whittle out Neanderthal and leave us alive?
    Why take out Woolly and leave the elephant? Why eliminate Smilodon and leave the lion? Did she hate
    these creatures? Is this a personal vendetta? Something she's got against them?

    There is a single way to absolutely ensure that something affects a single species and that is to propose
    an INTRINSIC agent or mechanism. Whatever kills a single species and spares all others has to do with
    something internal going on in that species. It can NOT come from the outside. Let's state this as a

    The Principle of Background Extinctions

    Only an intrinsic agent or mechanism can produce the extinction of one species.

    All we have to do now is brainstorm intrinsic agents and mechanisms and we're done. Piece of cake!

    Intrinsic agents and mechanisms

    What are the agents and mechanisms that are the exclusive province of a species? What are we talking
    about when we say that only intrinsic agents and mechanisms can do away with a species?

    Perhaps a clarification of the word 'species' helps us put the subject into focus. The word species has
    been debated extensively and, as always in Mathemagix, there is as yet no consensus and never will be
    regarding a scientific definition. The reason for this is that people protect their personal religions. If a
    definition threatens that religion, the offended party does not 'agree' to the definition and leaves the room.
    If the offended party is a member of the establishment, the other guy gets censored and ridiculed. That's
    how 'science' is done these days.

    In Rational Science it is quite easy to define terms and mandatory. You simply define them objectively and
    rationally. If the other guy cannot defend his definition it is whittled out. HE can now leave the room in
    disgrace and take his religion with him. We're done.

    I will use the word species to refer to interbreeding. If the animals in question can have fertile offspring
    naturally (in the wild), they are of the same species. The amount of time that the two specimens under
    consideration have been apart is insufficient for their genes to have diverged beyond the ability to
    procreate healthy litters that can propagate the race. For instance, lions and tigers can procreate under
    controlled conditions. They certainly would not procreate in the wild. However, their offspring are almost
    always sterile. These two species of cats have diverged so much genetically, they have grown in different
    environments for so long, that they are barely compatible. Therefore, even if they look pretty much the
    same and have very similar physiology, for all practical purposes lions and tigers are two different species.

    Conversely, Dobermans and Poodles and Pit Bulls, despite having such different morphology, are of the
    same species. A Poodle has no trouble having children with a Pit Bull (as long as the Pit Bull doesn't eat
    him first). The reason is that they are genetically very similar. And the reason for this is that not enough
    time and isolation has passed between them to create such irreconcilable differences. Lions and tigers
    apparently diverged six million years ago and evolved in different environments. They lost touch with each
    other. Conversely, dogs evolved from wolves and that happened just a few thousand years ago. We've
    been breeding new 'races' of dogs ever since.

    We have now identified a couple of intrinsic mechanisms and agents to which we add a couple more...

    1. One of them is time, the time a given species has been on Earth. This history pertains
       strictly to the species. Is it the same for a species to have been developing for millions
       of years as one that has just been spawned by Mother Nature a thousand years ago?
       Does a species live forever? Does it get old?

    2. Another agent is food: the food a species eats, especially toward the end of its existence
       when it has become exceedingly specialized.

    3. Still another one is genetic drift. Doesn't a species suffer loss of genetic diversity after
       thousands of years of experiencing population bottlenecks and intermarriage? Doesn't
       the Founder Effect apply to all living species?

    4. And a final one we should look at is density-dependent birth rates.

    No species of plant or animal is immune to these invisible constraints, not even Man. If we are to find the
    causes of a background extinction we have to look no further than these.
To comment on any of the pages in this website go to:

Rational Scientific Method   

|   Cam  |  Ord  | Sil |    Dev   |    Car    |    Per |    Tri    |    Jur   |       Cre      | Pal |Neo|
The History of Life on Earth


Nila and Bill      


Mathematical Physics      
Rope Hypothesis    
Ye Olde You Stupid Relativist

Causes of a Background Extinction



Genetic Diversity   

Carrying Capacity

Neanderthal: a case study of a background extinction

Recent extinctions: how the 'experts' made Man the cause of all background extinctions