The Western Lines

April 12, 2009

Evolution – Extinction

Filed under: Alex Michael Bonnici,Charles Darwin,Evolution,Extinction — ralphbuttigieg @ 7:01 am

Today on Discovery Enterprise we continue our year long celebration of the life and work of the naturalist Charles Darwin with the third episode of the landmark PBS television series “Evolution” – Extinction.

Far more life forms have existed on Earth than grace the skies, oceans and land masses of our beautiful blue and green planet in our current epoch. Ninety-nine percent of all the creatures that have ever existed have gone extinct. What does fate have in store for the human species? What are our own evolutionary prospects?

As Carl Sagan wrote in his monumental book “Cosmos”:

“The fossil record speaks to us unambiguously of creatures that once were present in enormous numbers and that have now vanished utterly.* Far more species have become extinct in the history of the Earth than exist today; they are the terminated experiments of evolution”.

Natural selection has shaped and sculpted an incredible life form that appears to be able to adapt to life in every conceivable ecological niche. A life form that is on the verge in directing the course of its own evolutionary future and that of the other life forms that share this planet with us. And, that life form is us – Homo sapiens.

We are the pioneers of a whole new form of evolution which is distinctly non-biological. This new realm of evolution is Cultural Evolution. It is this new dominion of evolution that has made us the most dominant life form on this planet and has set us on a trajectory that will one day take us out amongst the stars or lead to our own demise.

Five mass extinctions have occurred since life began on Earth. Are humans causing the next mass extinction? And what does evolutionary theory predict for the world we will leave to our descendants?

We will explore these and further questions in future editions of Discovery-Enterprise.


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