Revolutionary Worker #1157, June 30, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
While the extinction of species is in a sense a "fact of life" over vast periods of geological time, it would be wrong to assume that life on earth will necessarily always "bounce back" (even if in altered combinations) after each and every extinction event. The total extinction of all life on this planet at some point is certainly not theoretically inconceivable, whether as a result of cumulative environmental destruction or even nuclear war. And it is definitely conceivable that the physical and biological conditions necessary for human life to continue on this planet could be destroyed by how human beings interact with the environment (even without something like nuclear war). The necessary conditions for human life include not just such things as the appropriate quality of air and water, but also the right quantity and quality of sufficiently diverse habitats and sufficiently diverse species interpenetrating in an overall "mix" within which humans can continue to live.
The continued existence of a physical and biotic "mix" within which we happen to be able to live is not a given or certainty. In the absence of a more rational approach to the interactions of humans with the environment, it is really not all that difficult to imagine that we could create the conditions for our own extinction as a species in the not so distant future. Human beings now have the capacity to drive vast quantities of species beyond the point of no return, and to dislocate and destroy entire habitats-- many of which can never be fully restored or repaired. And we can do all this within a span of just a few centuries, or even decades, if we act with little knowledge or forethought about the consequences of our actions and before we have even had the chance to fully understand just what kind and what degree of diversity and complexity of species and habitats may be essential to preserve some kind of at least minimal equilibrium of life on this planet, as well as our own particular survival and quality of life within that.
All this should make us reflect on the crucial importance of broadly grasping and further deepening (rather than seeking to undermine) the basic principles of evolutionary biology which are and will continue to be at the very core of how to address these questions rationally and scientifically--before it is literally too late. [Return to "The Science of Evolution, Part 1"]
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