DURHAM, NC—When observing the health of an ecosystem, researchers look for an indicator species, any organism that, for whatever reason, is just a little more fragile than the rest.
“We can observe an environment’s condition by investigating the state of its weakest link,” says Rachel Cardaughter, a professor of ecology at the Nicholas School for the Environment. “In the case of Duke University, we’ve turned our attention to the study of philosophy majors.”
As canaries in the coal mine, students of philosophy seem to be nearing their final chirp. Cardaughter describes the warning signs: “There’s a number of signals that point to a bleak reality. Central campus’s Platonic Cave is completely empty, toga sales are down in the Duke Store, and professors report they haven’t heard a student use the word ‘epistemological’ in years.”
Recent changes at Duke have led to strange behaviors among the dwindling population. When the Gussy’s food truck schedule switched from weekly to biweekly, an existential crisis ensued. When asked for comment by our news team, a distraught philosophy major replied “I think not,” before winking out of existence.
Cardaughter’s research attributes the phenomenon to a defect in the group’s survival instinct. “Philosophy was founded by a man who thought hemlock tea would make a good nightcap. Passing on their genes has never been a priority.”
In an effort to remedy the problem, ecologists are discussing breeding programs. However, Cardaughter is skeptical. “This is not a population known for its reproductive abilities. Whatever the mating rituals of philosophy majors are, they’re sure to be much more meta than physical.”