I am sometimes allowed to go to dinner parties.
And at a recent dinner party, I found that a few of my opinions ebbed unhappily against fashionable wisdom:-
No, international law doesn't really exist, if it is not enforceable.
No, "denialism" is not actually a helpful term for encouraging public engagement in respect of climate change.
However, some of my opinions bobbed happily with the conventional flow:
Yes, Blair distorted both international law and intelligence so as to invade Iraq.
Yes, human rights are universal and should be enforceable.
But it took a quiet scientist to raise a topic of genuine controversy.
It would appear that there are some who urge that pandas should be "allowed" to die out.
Chris Packham is the pundit most associated with this view, and his contention is:
"The panda is possibly one of the grossest wastes of conservation money in the last half century."
The money spent on saving the panda, this argument goes, could and should be spent elsewhere.
The dinner party went quiet, for a moment.
My immediate thought was:-
But pandas are cute.
I then thought:-
No, unleashing "survival of the fittest" in respect of these cute pandas is just as callous as Lady Thatcher saying that one could not buck the market.
And then I realised that this - intellectually - was a very tough call.
For there is a clash between, on one hand, the elevated but very human notions of conservation and aesthetics; and, on the other, the harsh and unforgiving approaches of cost-benefit analyses and evolutionary biology.
It is not an easy issue to resolve.
But should pandas really be left to die out?
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