Sole Focus

News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish

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Location: Georgia, United States

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Am I the only one who is getting annoyed with all these television programs about the end of the world? A few weeks ago I wrote about the current fascination with all the many ways mankind could become extinct, the ominous predictions concerning December 21st, 2012, and how people are capitalizing on the sensationalism of Armageddon. It’s beginning to wear a bit thin to me.

Throughout history man has been concerned with the possibility of our disappearance from this planet. Whether through religious means or natural phenomena, this is indeed a subject that has intrigued philosophers and caused many a long conversation and debate among scientists. We know for a fact that ninety-nine percent of all the species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. Some of them died off slowly through means of natural selection and some, like the dinosaurs, died violently at the hands of cosmic adversaries like meteors and comets. No matter the means of their destruction, they died and we came afterward. Extinction isn’t over on this planet either. Scientists speculate that over a thousand species of both flora and fauna become extinct each year.

The one thing that gives our kind a leg up on all of our planet-mates is that we are the most intelligent species to ever call Earth home. Nature gave us a big brain so that we could master our world and sit comfortably atop the food chain. For millennia we have retained this coveted spot in the animal kingdom. We are not only capable of hunting and killing even the biggest of prey, we also have made the world our play thing. There are very few frontiers our kind hasn’t searched and, usually, conquered. Everything from flying through the air to traveling into outer space to rudimentary achievements like air conditioning we have to our resume. Man has truly triumphed over almost every obstacle he has confronted.

This isn’t to say that we should become too comfortable with our position as the exalted of the Earth’s inhabitants. There are still many things that could cause us grave consequences should they occur. The two that concern me the most are biologic threats like a virus that evolves into something deadly which we have no immunity to, and the possibility of nuclear war with rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. Our world isn’t big enough to keep this pair of foes from seriously annihilating us. If I were going to worry about our species becoming extinct, it’s these two issues that I would dwell on. For there is little we could do if they befall us.

This past week The History Channel aired a series each night called After Armageddon, in which they explored how people might react to an event that cripples society. I only watched one episode and I must admit that while it was engrossing to imagine a family dodging lawless citizens of a ruined town as they tried to make their way to loved ones in another state, it was also something of an enigma to me as to why people were entranced by this subject. Is it because we all think we’d be the one to survive an extinction event? If it is, that’s just fanciful musing because extinction doesn’t count if someone is left alive. At least not until that someone dies himself.

So where do we go from there? If there were no more people, the earth would slowly erase all traces of our having been here and the animals who remained would again have the entirety of the planet to hunt and call their own. Once upon a time, before man came into being, this was how things were. Animals made their way in the world by triumphing over each other in various ways. It wasn’t until the first humans started to evolve that the earth saw something very intelligent that could learn to master it. Man went through many incarnations before we arrived as well. All of our forerunners, two of which shared the world with us for a few thousand years, all went extinct themselves, leaving us as the only species of human to remain.

So it will be at some point in the future. Our kind is destined to go the way of every other animal that has lived. Nothing is forever. Not even our universe. This isn’t something we need to be concerning ourselves with either. Nature doesn’t pay us any attention. It just goes on as it wends this planet’s way forward in time. When the end for man comes, nothing will stop it. Just like nothing stopped the extinction of the dinosaurs.

I choose not to watch the shows on TV about the end of the world because they are more boring than entertaining and many of them try to tug at your heart too much. I don’t like to think about our extinction either. Hopefully it won’t happen during our lifetimes but the one thing that sets us apart from other species that faced the end is the knowledge that we would likely know what was happening to us as it happened. That’s how smart nature made us. We would know we were dying out.

Kind of makes the whole thing less fascinating, eh?