Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Beavers Gone Bad


Whacha gonna do when they come for you, bad beav, bad beav.

From the December 9, 2008 Austrian Times:


Green campaigners called in police after discovering an illegal logging site in a nature reserve – and rounded up a gang of beavers.  Environmentalists found 20 neatly stacked tree trunks and others marked for felling with notches at the beauty-spot at Subkowy in northern Poland.  But police followed a trail left where one tree had been dragged away – and found a beaver dam right in the middle of the river.  A police spokesman said: “The campaigners are feeling pretty stupid. There’s nothing more natural than a beaver.”


Most crimes require the prosecution to prove a culpable mental state.  For example, to prove murder the prosecutor must prove the defendant intended to kill the victim.  On the other hand, to prove criminally negligent homicide, the prosecutor need only prove that the defendant was negligent.


Environmental laws are an exception to this rule and fall under the rubric of “strict liability.”  To obtain a conviction for violation of an environmental law the prosecutor need only prove that the defendant engaged in the proscribed conduct (in this case, felling trees).  His mental state is not relevant. 


Now here’s my question for the materialists.  Should the beavers be arrested and jailed for violating the environmental laws?  It is no answer to say the beavers cannot form the requisite criminal intent.  The crime is, after all, a strict liability crime and their mental state when they felled the trees is not relevant. 

Apparently Mr Dunford does not know beavers or their works! (Cf here. Why would he imply that beavers are UNintelligent? They plainly are, just of limited and programmed in at birth intelligence.) kairosfocus
Do Humans have criminal intent when they hunt deer, dig up ant hills, or kill the rabbits that are eating up their gardens? Norman Doering
The EF does not necessarily point to an intelligence directly as I made on two separate threads in the last couple days. The EF could point to the presence of a life form such as a worm or a plant. Each could have left a trace of its existence and the trace is not the life form itself. Paleontology has pointed to these traces in some of its findings. So paleontologists have used the EF to conclude life forms were present from their traces. One could say that the notches in the trees and the stackings were traces of some life form. So the beaver episode is the EF in action. It is a common human activity. jerry
I found a response to this post from Mike Dunford at Science Blogs. Dunford points out that those who complained assumed they could detect intelligence without looking for motive (or in Barry's words, "intent"). But the Explanatory Filter says nothing to say about intent. If we need intent to make a conclusion in this case, why exclude intent from Intelligent Design? Dunford concludes that the error can be understood in terms of the EF:
Law: No known natural law results in the spontaneous stacking of felled trees. Move on to chance. Chance: The odds of a group of naturally felled trees spontaneously arranging themselves into a neat stack are incredibly small. Move on to design. Design: The felled trees are the result of an Intelligent Designer. There seem to be only two possible conclusions that we can draw from this episode. Either it's possible to correctly apply the explanatory filter, but come out looking like a fool, or the Intelligent Designer just might be a beaver.
Should the beavers be arrested and jailed for violating the environmental laws?
Only if the law applies to beavers. And even then one could argue that the beaver were actually creating a new ecosystem- not destroying one. Joseph
Barry's query forms an eco-humdinger As beavers, by nature, give some greens the finger. I opine that the test (to make a formal arrest) Means the cop'd have to be Peter Singer. Tim
Ward, I'm very worried about the Beaver. -- June Cleaver. tribune7
Arrest the dammed beavers. Speaking of which, I once encountered a dam in New Hampshire that had three perfectly symmetrical tiers cascading up-river. One can only assume that the first two did not stop enough water for their needs. Now, the notion that dam building was hard-wired into beavers by nature is really quite entertaining in itself. Anyone who has seen a dam close up is justified in feeling a little skepticism about the smug materialism on display in the Big Science crowd, the angry materialism of a Dawkins or a Provine. But three tiers? Fail safe? Hard-wired? Tell me again; I seem to be a little dense today. How many years of small and imperceptible beneficial mutations? To go from absolutely nothing to a marvelous something? From no plan to a beaver dam? From chaos to information? It is not those who intuit a logos in beaver logs who should be ashamed. It’s the propagandists of materialism and purveyors of impossible modernist fables. allanius
If all of nature is in competition to survive, why is most of nature symbiotic? bb
Another mark of design? Beavers not only have physical features incredibly well suited to their environment, their dams impact their environment in a way civil planners can learn from. Beavers can help ease drought Impact of Beaver Dams Wider Than Thought Does a beaver say to himself..."drought's a cummin...better get that dam done so th' trees don't die" ? The beaver has a role that is much larger than survival of his species and that I'm sure he doesn't realize; almost like he's designed to fill a niche. bb
If these were eager beavers, would that not indicate forethought? SCheesman
I don't know where Austrian Times reporter took his revelations from, but I checked news in four Polish news sites and none of them mentioned green campaingers. It was Subkowy inhabitant, who, after seeing stacked tree trunks as they were prepared for transport, alarmed the police. tremor
Couldn't the beavers' attorneys argue that their clients were not mentally competent? Wouldn't a mentally impaired person escape punishment even in cases of strict liability? Or does "mental state" include "mental capacity"? russ
from a debate thread I participated in (until I got ran off by the moderator) ME: What about a beaver dam and a human made dam indicate that only the human made dam is intelligently designed? Anything? ID Critic:Neither exists by chance, neither exists by law, both exist as the result of conscious choice towards a purpose by an organic entity. ME: Beaver dams do not display characteristics of information that human intelligent agent created dams do. The tools used for beaver dams are natural. The tools used for intelligently designed dams are purposely manufactured according to pre-planned blueprint plans. ID Critic: Blueprints devised by a natural brain in accordance to what is known about natural laws, written on natural media. ME: Blueprints represent a plan. Nature does not plan. BTW, what message has ever been written by nature and not a mind? *stunned silence* On the afore mentioned evidence, I think we can conclude that the beavers in question are "not guilty" since their tree cutting was not pre-meditated. However, if the strict materialist has convinced himself that there is no fundamental difference between a beaver and a human being, then the materialist is welcome to take all beavers to court. To date, no prosecutions have taken place. Court adjourned. Bantay
Anyone can see that a beaver was chewing down that tree. The cut is clearly the work of a beaver's teeth, not a saw. Are we to believe that people with this little familiarity with the habits of common animals are green campaigners? Re beavers' mental states: I am told that the beaver has an overpowering instinct to fell trees and dam flowing water, and the rest follows. The beaver might plead lack of responsibility because he cannot control this instinct. Or he might plead the common law of necessity because if he did control his instinct, he would likely die. Beavers (at least our local kind, castor canadensis ), don't have another way of living. O'Leary

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