Scientific Reconciliation of Decimation

To: "Philip A. Veerman" <>
Subject: Scientific Reconciliation of Decimation
From: knightl <>
Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 21:26:50 +1000
Philip's historical exegesis of the term decimate is not at odds with a quantum perspective on population dynamics. The point Philip makes is that decimation involves the removal of a segment of a population [cf a salami slice] at a time. This is exactly what feral predators do to
wildlife populations.  They knock off discrete fractions of prey
populations, and hence engage on serial decimation. If for example, an introduced predator decimates a population on an annual basis [ie
reduces the population by 10% per year - assuming that births and
deaths otherwise occur as normal], then the prey population might be
reduced below 50% within 10 years.

Regards, Laurie.

On Thursday, November 6, 2003, at 05:39  PM, Philip A. Veerman wrote:

I understood the origin of "Decimate" to be that the threat to
decimate was used against slaves or prisoners of war, to keep them
obeying orders. I am not an authority on that information but it makes perfect sense and helps to explain how the word should be used. Slaves would be lined up and every tenth one would be killed. There would be no use killing all the slaves, as then who would do the work? Killing 90% of them would be almost as stupid and messy. More importantly, it would be of little value to the captors, as a deterrent for
recalcitrant slaves. If slaves only had a 10% chance of living, why
would they bother obeying orders. However killing or threatening to
kill 10% of them (hence the DEC in the word), provided they all knew about it, would tend to keep them in line, so to speak. Not very nice welfare towards slaves, however that didn't matter. I am sure that the word is of an old origin and therefore is unlikely to have been
invented to deal with esoteric thoughts on wild animal populations.
My point is, what is the point of having a word with a defined use, if people (not "persons") are going to use it to mean something quite opposite? If a word is well-known to be misused, then it is best not to use it. If you mean cull, kill, devastate or annihilate, then use that word instead.
Reid's suggestion below may be correct but would make it even more
Let us get back to business.

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