Sometimes this sense of purpose can help the tainted reputations of creatures otherwise known as "pests." Sure, termites are not so fun when they are in your walls, but they play an important role in ecosystems, recycling dead wood and returning those nutrients to the soil. With this information, a victim of termite damage (such as myself), can sit back and think about how it's just a speck of dust in the cosmic balance of nature. It's not worth wasting my time cursing small insects, especially such industrious--albeit misplaced--ones. Maybe you don't sit around thinking about termites and cosmic scales (although I don't see why you wouldn't), but you get my point, right?
Recently my husband asked me what purpose mosquitos serve, hoping for an explanation similar to the termite one--some redeeming quality that he could hold onto the next time he wanted to curse one for biting him. But it doesn't work that way. Not every living thing will have what we humans consider to be a noble job in the natural world. We like to romanticize certain ecological jobs, but not others. Plants, you guys are cool. You make food. Most bugs, you guys can be annoying when you're out of context (like a cockroach in the sink), but when you recycle waste, we appreciate that. We like roles that in some way can benefit us. But some organisms just do what they do and we can't find any cosmic relief. Mosquitos don't have some wonderful purpose that I could calm my husband with.
I apologize for my horribly-drawn mosquitos.
Twas the best I could do.
The danger is trying to rationalize every living thing's role in nature according to our definition of "good" and "bad." It's not that simple, and most interactions in nature are both: a lion eating a wildebeest is fantastic for the lion who doesn't starve, but not so good for the wildebeest who got disemboweled. The Lion King did a good job explaining that eventually it all evens out--it's the circle of life, dude.
We look at nature with our uniquely human perspective, but we should strive to understand without judgment. Some things just are. We don't want scientists writing papers about how "lions are jerks" and "mosquitos are inconsiderate." How we feel about nature isn't relevant. It is what it is. We can understand without qualifying.
On a related note: One of my favorite memories from college organic chemistry was a professor describing a chemical process that occurs in nature. One student asked, "So how is this important to humans? How can we use this in industry to better our lives?" I thought it was a little off topic and unnecessary, and the professor did too. He flared and said, "Why does it always have to benefit us? Why can't we strive to understand a natural process just to understand? I don't like when people think only in terms of benefits and profits." And that was the end of that!Maybe I should have told my husband that mosquitos, while they bite us, also group together and occasionally save infants from burning buildings. I think that's a fair trade off for the biting. Hm, on second thought, they'd better save infants and kittens.