Where is Earth going?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Dreamwalker, Nov 22, 2004.

  1. Watcher Just another old creaker Registered Senior Member

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    I won't be long-winded. Fortunately several posters already have already expressed the reality of the situation far better than I could.

    Humans have a very, very limited capacity for comprehending their place in the multi-billion-year history of this planet. The idea that we are so fantastically important in the evolutionary flow here on Earth is especially prosaic. It illustrates a basic arrogance; that somehow our species is so powerful that our minute changes to the environment will really make a difference 1 million years from now (which I think everyone on this board understands is but a wink of the eye in geological timescale).

    The truth is that our lifeform is not especially well adapted to a long-term stay on the terra-ball. I think that the mammalian big brain is turning out to be a not-so-desirable trait, and will simply become an evolutionary dead-end.

    From a purely selfish, protectionist point of view, your concern that humans and other organisms may be undergoing some extremely painful near-term adjustments because of human activity is probably true. Where I disagree with you is that these events are somehow "un-natural", or that from a geologic timescale point of view that they are significant. My best guess is that in 1 million years hence (or so) there will be no trace of human civilization on Earth, and that evolution will have continued on its merry way; after all, thousands of species have reached their climax and passed unceremoniously into extinction.

    Isn't it pure arrogance to think that our species will be any different?
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2004
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  3. Gravity Deus Ex Machina Registered Senior Member

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    Yep, we tend to be a bit short sighted. There have been five major mass species extinctions that we know of in earths biological history. Events where in each case ALL of the larger species at the top of the food chain got knocked out. We are now in the middle of a sixth extinction. And species are going exinct in this one at a MUCH *faster* rate than we think happened in the previous events.

    People tend to mostly pay attention to the bigger more visually evident species. But among tropical plants, marine species, small animals -- its looking like many THOUSANDS of species are going extinct each year. And we don't even have a full catalog of all life on earth right now.

    Its not the end of all life, we couldn't do that even if we tried (which its arguable we ARE doing) but it likely heralds the coming end of the current crop of larger animals on the planet, like us. And in a few million years, new major life forms will thrive on the planet.

    From a selfish standpoint, I of course am sad to see this happen. But if we enlarge our perspective to a much larger, and longer view -- this is just what happens. It may well be that our type of intelligence isn't condusive to long term species survival. But hell, we've had a wild ride at least!

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  5. Watcher Just another old creaker Registered Senior Member

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    I have to believe that is a real possibility. After all the big brain allowed us to sort out technology that would enable us to exterminate the entire species in one shot - so it doesn't seem like an especially promising feature to me! Yes it has been a bit of a roller-coaster, hasn't it? I gues in the end that's all you can do anyway, go along for the ride.
     
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  7. Dreamwalker Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    I agree with you Watcher. I do not think that we will stay for a long time, or forever. But I also do not think that we should behave the way we are for the time we spend here.
     
  8. spuriousmonkey Banned Banned

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    That is really the question. Are we destroying 'animal types'. Or is it just species disappearing? If the 'type' remains it could radiate right back (into more specialized species) after the environment stabilizes or with the creation of new niches.

    But of course most money in biology nowadays is not going into the basic biology of classifying life. It goes into molecular biology, genetic engineering, medical research. Why? Because we think that is more important.
     
  9. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

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    Currently, I think the best thing we can do is get off the planet and take as much local life with us as is possible. On this tiny little rock there just isn't enough room for us to streach our legs without breaking something. Spread our species out with a couple of AU between populations and we would no longer have all our eggs in one basket.

    I doubt humanity will stop what we are doing here on Earth... competition is too well carved into our nature. Whoever slows down expansion and consumption will be eaten alive by those who do not. A long term benifit is worthless if it gets you killed in the short term.

    I also doubt humanity or some of the tougher forms of life are going to die... even in a severe extinction level event. The Earth will become the greatest Darwinistic experement I can think of. Things will evolve to tolerate or subsist on what we call pollution... and humanity will be no different. For good or ill, human kind is a geological and evolutionary force.
     
  10. Watcher Just another old creaker Registered Senior Member

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    Do you really view humans a a "tougher" form of life? I think we are pretty fragile, actually. Seems we evolved the big brain to be able to offset our mammalian fragility, but I am not sure that will be a Darwinian winner in the long run. I really don't see anything in the fossil record to suggest that humans are adaptable enough to be able to survive the major climatic changes and catastrophes that have occured throughout the history of the planet. Only insects, some reptiles, bacteria, and viruses have managed to bridge those events.
     
  11. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

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    A human being is pretty fragile. When in significant numbers and endowed with technology, we are very difficult to kill.

    Drop asteroids on us, fill the air with poisons, contaminate our food with radiation, give the earth another ice age. I wouldn't put money on it causing mankind to go extinct. Civilizations will fall, billions will die, but the species will go on.

    Air gradually becomes toxic? I can see buildings being made airtight and filters being made for both enclosures and individuals. Soil becomes useless for agriculture? I can see dozens of square miles of automated glasshouses producing food day and night. I might even see us developing purely synthetic food. Once we get our opportunistic generalist rears off the earth and form breeding populations elsewher, I can't imagine what could kill us all off.
    All major animal phyla formed in or before the Permian. (with the possible exception of birds... I think they were Jurassic) Mammals survived two big extinction level events.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2004
  12. Gravity Deus Ex Machina Registered Senior Member

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    Its fun to think that we can go on forever, but forever is a pretty long time

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    and our time in existance so far is really just a tiny little drop in the bucket of just the earths history alone.

    Every species that outgrows its resources has at the very least mass die-offs, so that most likely is a certainty. As a long time SciFi fan/futurist, I certainly have long dreamt that we'll continue on and even escape our nest at some point. But the odds seem against it. However - I'm going to continue to hope for and cheer us on!
     
  13. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

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    Not every species uses technology or can put colonies on other planets. I don't think mankind will survive forever. I think we will radiate into assorted niches once we go extraplanetary. Some descendant species I hope will live a very long time. Here on Earth, I think our descendants will survive at least until something else evolves or is made to take up our position.

    If nothing catches us early, I am thinking the only thing that will catch all of us is going to be the whole heat-death thingie. And I hope some massivly advanced descendants of ours will find a way to get out of that one.
     
  14. Gravity Deus Ex Machina Registered Senior Member

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    1,007
    Well, based on astronomical predictions - in 3-4 billion years the sun will enter its red giant phase and simply eat earth. But hell, if we were to last that long, and our technology had continued to progress - we should be pretty god-like in our powers by that point! Especially considering that the entire Genus of "Homo" is only a couple of million years old. Hey - that reminds me of a NASA perspective on earth time that I just found for my daughter. Here it is:

     
  15. nero Banned Banned

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    The hunk of rock called Earth, is only a hunk of rock.... and rock feels no pain...
    If you are wondering where living organisms are going....
    well sheep go to heaven and goats go to hell

    when science becomes a religion, the sheep who study it, lose their heads to the clouds...... totally lost in a heaven of agreement..

    LOL, many science outposts have fallen by this method.

    The goats of course, find the way out of the burning paper bag..... LOL
    and don't the sheep hate it.

    quote
    >> If an average of 500 words per page is assumed then the entire book would contain 1,500,000 (1.5 million) words. Each word would represent 10,000 years of cosmic history. The last word of the last page would represent all of recorded human history.
    Surely, humanity is a newcomer to the planet! >>>


    Nah, Humans are only flowers of the super-organism I call LIFE.

    No big deal, but you must ask whether there is a full stop after that last word on that last page

    Because that is the story... the default option is extinction of the parent and seeding anew......for LIFE to regerminate and grow vegetative anew, then blossom,........ at this point technology is employed in all its glory, to enable seed production and dispersal.

    What is your choice, an annual LIFE super-organism
    or a perennial LIFE super-organism

    Are you a SHEEP or a GOAT ???


    I know what I will have

    How about you ?
     
  16. Gravity Deus Ex Machina Registered Senior Member

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  17. ScRaMbLe Chaos Inc. Registered Senior Member

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    WTF?

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    Well... are you going to answer the man, Gravity?.. are you a SHEEP or a GOAT?

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  18. Gravity Deus Ex Machina Registered Senior Member

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    Neither, I'm a Marmot.
     
  19. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

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    Rattus Rattus Norvegicus over here.
     
  20. X-Bishop (B)eginning (E)nd Registered Senior Member

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    humanity will become consumed in its ignorance and destroy itself...

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  21. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

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    Ignorance is the default state of the universe. Things are learned only through hundreds of years of trial and error and lost through the death of an old man who fails to tell his children before his time comes. One can not expect anything more of a culture, be it human or alien.

    The good thing is that it is -very- hard to kill off a species scattered through the diameter of a solar system. We just need to get to that point and we are home free.
     
  22. Dreamwalker Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Clockwood is right, an amobea is very ignorant, even more so than a fish I surmise, still that did not kill them off. No, other factors are our problem.
     
  23. Gravity Deus Ex Machina Registered Senior Member

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    Yep - that is quite clear. And I wish we would focus on that as a species -- but hell, who has time when we are so busy needing to kill each other off because of which imaginary being(s) the other does or does not believe in?!

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