On his 1,000 mile walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, not long after the Civil War ended, John Muir encountered a man who questioned his motive to study plants, or ‘botanize’ as he often put it.
The man said, “You look like a strong-minded man, and surely you are able to do something better than wander the country and look at weeds and blossoms. These are hard times, and real work is required of every man that is able. Picking up blossoms doesn’t seem to be a man’s work at all in any kind of times.”
John Muir asked, ” You are a believer in the Bible, are you not?” The man replied, “Oh, yes.”
Muir then responded, “Well, you know Solomon was a strong-minded man, and he is generally believed to have been the very wisest man the world ever saw, and yet he considered it was worth while to study plants; not only to go and pick them up as I am doing, but to study them; and you know we are told that he wrote a book about plants, not only of the great cedars of Lebanon, but of little bits of things growing in the cracks of the walls.
“Therefore, you see that Solomon differed very much more from you than from me in this matter. I’ll warrant you he had many a long ramble in the mountains of Judea, and had he been a Yankee he would likely have visited every weed in the land. And again, do you not remember that Christ told his disciples to ‘consider the lilies how they grow,’ and compared their beauty with Solomon in all his glory? Now, whose advice am I to take, yours or Christ’s? Christ says, ‘Consider the lilies.’ You say, ‘Don’t consider them. It isn’t worth while for any strong-minded man.'”
[Passage from A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf by John Muir]
This is one of many reasons I enjoy John Muir’s work and inspires me to be a steward of Earth.
It is indeed a worthy and prudent cause to understand God’s masterful craftsmanship on this Earth. Knowing what’s out there is enjoyment in itself. However, benefits to humanity can be gained by studying flora and fauna, which can be used for healing, relaxation, shelter, or nourishment. Protecting that which we need now, and that which we need for later, seems far wiser than exploiting the world unchecked, unknowing, and unrelenting, without regard for ‘later.’
If we understand what we have, we understand what can be lost. However this world came to be (whether you wish to debate creation/evolution is irrelevant), it seems appropriate to study and care for it.