A little while ago an intellectual weekly started an argument among the intellectuals about whether man has improved the earth he lives on; whether nature as a whole was better for the presence of man. Nobody seemed to notice that this is assuming that the end of man is to grow more grass or improve the breed of rattlesnakes, apart from any theory about the origin or object of these things. A man may serve God and be good to mankind for that reason; or a man may serve mankind and be good to other things to preserve the standard of mankind; but it is very hard to prove exactly how far he is bound to make the jungle thicker or encourage very tall giraffes. Here again the common sense of mankind, even working unconsciously, has always stated the matter the other way round....Man is not bound to regard a man as something created for the good of a palm-tree. Nor is he bound to ansewr the question, with any burden on his conscience: "If there were no men, would there be more palm-trees?"
November 25, 2010
From Chesterton's Generally Speaking, about how moderns confuse means and ends: