Field of Science

We may be evolving, but I don't give a shit

Paul Ehrlich, professor of population studies at Stanford, puts words on something that I often have thought (Seed, Oct. 7th, 2008). While I study evolutionary biology, and am interested in our evolutionary past, I don't really have a great interest in speculating about our evolutionary future. Partly because there are too many (known) unknowns, and, as Ehrlich says it,
"The fate of our civilization, and maybe our species may be determined by the next five generations. So I don't really give a shit what's happening to our genetic evolution."
He explains that the environment is changing too fast for evolution to be able to save us. Basically, if humans can't cope with the rapid climate change, and other human induced changes to our environment, then evolution won't be able to save us either.
The global climate is changing too violently for DNA to respond by fiddling around with heat regulation and hair thickness; forests everywhere are being clear-cut too quickly for their inhabitants to adjust, and so food chains are coming undone; the collapse of global fisheries has been identified as an imminent calamity; and a nuclear disaster would constitute a catastrophe many orders of magnitude larger than what nature could readily absorb. If any of these nightmare scenarios comes to pass, Ehrlich fears, evolution will be unable to help us. It may be operating faster than we thought, but it's not that fast. Problems like smog and acid rain seem almost quaint, and even to be longed for.
In my opinion, the main lesson from evolutionary biology about our future is that changes in the environment kills. Species go extinct all the time as they buckle under habitat destruction. It's a cruel fact of life, and we can only hope that we are smart enough to take care of the calamity that we have caused by multiplying ourselves, as we were commanded.

In that vein, please click to save our rainforests. You are helping to protect 11.4 square feet of rainforest.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS