The Earth and Humanity
When all is said and done (and I’m already wondering if I haven’t already said as much as I can on the subject) I’m wondering if the biggest obstacle to any concerted effort to save the planet from the effects of global warming, or from any other threat to the long-term survival of the human race, remains the seeming insignificance, at least when measured on a cosmic time-scale, of humanity’s existence.
Consider to begin with, the age of the Earth compared to that of the Universe. The latest estimates seem to hover around the figure of 13.7 billion years from the initial “Big Bang” to the present. Our sun, only one among billions upon billions of similar stars, is believed to have begun its life approximately five billion years ago, with its planets, including Earth, about 4.5 billion years ago. In other words, our home in this vast Universe might be seen merely as an “afterthought” in the Creator’s mind, something that God cooked up to alleviate boredom after apparently eight or so billion years of watching celestial fireworks. (Actually, astrophysicists tell us the earlier generations of stars were too poor element-wise to provide the more complex building blocks needed to generate life. What was needed were later generations of stars containing more complex elements such as carbon, and other “heavy metals”.)
Second, we need to consider that it took nearly three billion years of evolution just to move beyond the stage of simple single-celled organisms. Creatures like the now long-deceased dinosaurs, the first birds, and even the apparently insignificant proto-mammals only showed up at the beginning of the Tertiary period, starting about 80 million years ago. Again, God seems to which we are descended, only appeared a several million years ago, and that homo sapiens, or humans as have been in no hurry.
Finally, we have to consider that the first hominids, from we now think of ourselves, date back to less than a hundred thousand years ago —or in terms of the often-used twelve hour clock face scale, just a minute or so before noontime.
However, this suggests another simile, because with the Sun believed to be half-way through its estimated ten-billion year life span, we might say humanity is faced with a “High Noon” shoot-out situation, where once false move will result in its sudden demise. Either we get it right now, or for us there will soon be no future.
That is not to say that there might not be other similar situations elsewhere in the Universe. In fact, from a theological perspective, assuming that the Creator knows what he is about and intended intelligent life to occur elsewhere as well, I’m convinced that we humans are hardly God’s only so far successful experiment. However, if that is the case, then I’m also inclined to think it is all the more possible that divine providence is not going to intervene to save us from ourselves if we ignore all the warnings and do ourselves in. God would not be so stupid, I think, as to have put, as the old saying goes, “all his eggs in one basket.”
While it might be said that “cosmology is the ecology of the ultimate” and that until we understand this, we have not seen, as the old saying goes, “the forest for the trees.” Nevertheless, I think it has become clear by now that in the meantime, how long humanity survives is going to be left largely up to us.
R W Kropf (August 8, 2007) 07-08-08.html