It struck me, while reading Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” that we humans are really here by the skin of our teeth. Our ancestors have dodged every single extinction event going for millions of years. They bided their time in holes, up trees, and avoided being eaten, until we became the predominant species. For those who advocate Intelligent Design for our existence, this writer would have to counter with Intelligent Extinction. Someone, something, somewhere in the universe has favoured directed extinction so that we could be here today –and gone tomorrow.
Think about it. There are creatures that once lived who survived tens of millions of years as a species only to be wiped out by meteor impacts, volcanic cataclysms, violent climate change, etc., which favoured the creation and perpetuation of a furry mammal that would one day evolve and dominate the Earth. There were species with more or less the same characteristics as their close neighbours, but where one type died out and the other lived. There are so many inconsistencies in extinctions that one can’t help but think that something wanted humans to evolve.
Did the other species fail in some way? Were they not wanted anymore? All the ancient water creatures, plants, all the reptiles, dinosaurs, and past mammals seemed to have served their purpose and produced the right environment for the next species to dominate until we humans arrived. Intelligent Extinction is of course an anthropocentric and scientific view on how humans got here. So, did extinctions happen because we humans were meant to be?
We may be the shortest lived of the major species that have ever lived, but we have demonstrated our superiority in civilisation over longevity. The Earth could wipe us out in an instant and any future extraterrestrial visitors would never know of our presence after a few millennia. In our pursuit to live life to the fullest, we could be causing our own extinction. Indeed, some environmentalists believe that the Sixth Great Extinction is happening now, possibly caused by humans, but happening on a scale that we cannot see clearly. However, what kind of world would we leave behind and what would come next?
Maybe the Earth is looking for the right animal to inhabit it and thus is its own intelligent designer. Then there is no need for an external or supernatural source for life. The Earth is its own source of life and knows what it prefers. When an Earthly or cosmic event shatters the prevailing ecosystem, the Earth helps design a new environment for new species to evolve. Likewise, the new species help the Earth to thrive. Evolution through natural selection is strong enough on its own, but it helps that the Earth is with you and not against you. But if a species reaches the tipping point of destroying enough of the biosphere then Earth will retaliate with an extinction event. This does not denote intelligence on Earth’s behalf, just the fact that Earth is a reactionary system and sensitive to changes made by its inhabitants.
Most of this is part of the Gaia Hypothesis laid out by James Lovelock, but Intelligent Extinction would go further and say that Earth, as a natural system, wants to reach a state of equilibrium; whether chaotic or not. And just as the Universe tends toward entropy so does the Earth; thus it will search for the right organism to attain that state. But if that organism does not provide the right requirements or goes too far then Earth will reciprocate and find an organism that will. Hence us humans; we are a chaotic species by nature. Right now in this time, we are right for Earth’s needs. But is climate change tipping things too far? We have extended the normal interglacial, balancing a warm Earth with glacial caps, unique in Earth’s history. We are using non-replenishing resources and killing off many species which are necessary for land and sea stewarding. We are the intelligent species, yet may be causing our own extinction.
This is the true Intelligent Extinction. Earth hasn’t hit back hard, yet. The cosmos has not sent down hurling meteors or solar flares to destroy us. It is we Homo sapiens, the wise man, causing the self-inflicting wounds. We won’t be here forever. We are readying the Earth for the next organism to succeed us. It could take a thousand years or millions of years, but it will happen. Intelligent Extinction is inevitable.