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Disability or Evolution

Ever heard of Penguin Feather-loss disorder? No, me neither until I read this…
"A new condition is causing many penguin chicks to lose their feathers, with some victims dying as a result of the mysterious problem, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The condition, called "feather-loss disorder," appears to have emerged recently and is now affecting penguin colonies on both sides of the South Atlantic."


Those studying the Penguins are calling the "condition" Feather-loss "disorder", so it's clear that the close up observers of the little flappers are regarding the feather loss as a problem, a malady and hey, y'know I'm no scientist, they're the experts and so they're probably right but it set me thinking...

What if it's not a malady; are we perhaps seeing evolution in action here?

  • Penguins without feathers stay out in the sun to stay warm. - I think the action to stay warm can be considered a primary driver, wouldn't you say? So...
  • this group of penguins WILL either die, from exposure/UV, or survive.
  • What do Penguins do if they survive both the roasting in the sun and the freezing out of it? - They'll do what any other slightly-chilly hot-blooded Penguin does in springtime (or whenever it is for Pengoes) They’ll breed.
  • With? Yes, other Penguins but isn't it likely to be with other featherless Penguins? The feathered Penguins would turn their beaks up at the 'freaks', eh? Fearing the "malady of the featherless" would befall them or any offspring? Not consciously, obviously, and I doubt they'd think it in English, but they'd instinctively find them less attractive.
  • Stands to reason, for me at least, that the union of two featherless would produce some offspring with a greater ability to survive without feathers.
  • Wouldn't that bring about a newly adapted featherless Penguin, the next thriving evolution of their species, in only a few generations?

Now, I don't know, because even those looking closely don't know, whether this is a malady or not. Or, if it is such, what maybe causing it, oil, other pollutants, climate change or what have you but what we do know is that Penguin populations have been falling. So could this featherless “condition” be an environmentally triggered genomic variation? The Penguin Genome responding to the current conditions?
Feathers are good to keep you warm...
but now we have climate change / global warming?
Feathers are a serious problem if you get them covered in oil...
And there's a lot of oil in the ocean, not just from spills but also from flushing ballast tanks and of course, major drilling disasters.

The question here is to do with human interactions with the natural world. Not merely our disastrous interactions like oil spills, nuclear meltdowns and war but also our philanthropic, compassionate ones.
If 'we' were to choose to intervene, at what point in the monitoring of these Penguins' 'malady', should we? (And no, I'm not talking about a thousands of grannies diligently knitting a similar quantity of tiny polo-neck sweaters.) We have gene therapy techniques now, if we intervene to prevent or induce change, how will we know we are not inhibiting a species evolution?

As evolutionary paths are only visible in hindsight, can we ever know the full effect of any intervention? Or worse, might we incorrectly conclude that our intervention to ‘help the cute birds’ to "stay as they are" was the 'right' choice, when, because of our actions, the line of evolution did not change, so how could we know that a different evolutionary path did not lay before the Penguins; a better, more 'right for them' path?
I think the only answer is, we could not know.

And, if that's the case for this instance with the Magellan Penguins, what does it mean for gene therapy in humans?
If a child is born with what we consider to be a malady, we may intervene with gene therapy to 'correct' the ‘problem’ but the question is, when is a malady not a malady?
Is there not a point where correcting the 'problem' means 'normalising' humanity?
Making it so kids with the ‘malady’ can 'fit in' to our limited, primitive, narrow-minded view of what we are? Many people would still prefer there to be no gay humans or black humans or come to the ginger humans.

Might we, because of this limited view, which is enforced by the scriptures, be stifling our evolution?
Rather than try to rush to normalise should we not wait and see, find out if evolutionary mechanisms are at work?
Mutations in the genome are what give us the ability to survive. If a plague swept the earth, those with the immunity in their genome would survive it. If we’ve normalised everybody, the plague would wipe out the entire human race. Those people with extra fingers or spina bifida or even just big ears, may have the genome to survive that to which you and I may succumb.

Should we not just accept these variations as humanity's 'reserve tank' so to speak? (I hope that's not offensive.)
I mean, I have absolutely no idea what environmental circumstance would have occurred where those genetically predisposed to arthritis would fair better than those without but say there was one. The human race's survival would be due entirely to genes that constructed those people which society all too often considers 'defective', and even sneers at.

Humanity's current civilisation is built on the backs of all our ancestors, every human alive today has earned there place, and all are potentially vital to our continuing survival and evolutionary possibilities.

What would you choose?
Normalization, so everyone we see doesn't 'offend', eventually leading to extinction via pandemic?
Live and let live, and some part of humanity 'always' survives?

I think it's high time we enlarged our view of 'normal'; it should be a descriptor for what actually exists,
all the wide and various expressions of our humanity,
ALL that we ACTUALLY are
and not some highbrow dream of what we would like to be or what is prescribed in a any theist doctrine.

P.S. I Hope the Penguins make it. Go Penguins! Woo!

More on them here. Also, if you want to donate go here.

This is one of the Too Many Questions
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