The most important thing in interpreting life on Earth is that life is not a conglomeration of unrelated stories. Life is a single story, composed and intertwined in endless ways. Mass extinctions on Earth could happen soon if we continue to treat the environment as we do now.
“We have many generalizations and few theories in biology,” wrote François Jacob, a French Free Force officer, physician, molecular biologist, and Nobel laureate, in his excellent book The Logic of Life decades ago. And he continued, “One of the few theories a biologist can rely on is the theory of evolution.”
Just as money is usually the first thing to think about in politics to understand what is happening, in biology, when explaining every phenomenon, one must first think about what the theory of evolution can say. Writers still write about the world around the people and us in it today, as they wrote about it in the early 19th century, as if there had never been Darwin, or 1859, or the Origin of Species. They write about life as a patchwork of unrelated stories: today, something about the almighty flower; tomorrow, something about a cute bear and an evil wolf; and in the meantime, a little more about the economic damage caused by the killing of bees.
The Wrong Perception Always Causes Wrong Conclusions
Another, not much less important finding is that the creatures in the world are neither kind nor evil, nor lovely, nor useful, nor harmful. This is how they may seem to us humans, and this perception often influences catastrophically wrong conclusions and wrong human behavior. That little part of the world we live in and the even smaller snippet of that world we perceive is undoubtedly infinitely beautiful in our eyes. Just like in the eyes of a sparrow, there is probably nothing more beautiful than a large-smelling horse fig. But this is not the true image of the world. If we want to describe him in one word, he is best described as ruthless. This is how Charles Darwin described it in a letter to his friend Joseph Hooker more than 150 years ago: “What a book the devil’s chaplain can write about the cumbersome, wasteful, lowly and terribly cruel work of nature!”
Punishment for Failure: The Mass Extinctions on Earth
Environmentalists ’dreams of a paradise we are losing are just a dream. Earth was never a paradise for anyone, not even humans, but human life through evolution was a purely ordinary battle for survival in a ruthless environment. Evolution recognizes no mitigating circumstances and knows only one punishment for failure: a species’ death. This is evidenced by kilometers of thick layers of fossils. Just below the ground are also fossils of our cousins, who failed. The latter fossils are only a few tens of thousands of years old.
So why preserve this world if it is so hostile to man? There are many answers to this question, most of them openly or covertly answering that it is because it is useful for a person in one way or another. However, perhaps only because it is beautiful. Of course, not everyone is convinced that it needs to be maintained, far from it! Some believe that it would be best to exterminate all enemies and live happily and contentedly in a friendly world. The human voice is especially averse to bacteria. Most of them are convinced that environmentalists are exaggerating their concern for the environment and that preserving organisms on Earth is just another whim of idlers “who love animals more than people.”
Who to Trust?
Everyone should form their own beliefs based on the facts. However, the facts are as simple as possible: because life on Earth is the result of evolution, as a whole, it is a precisely tuned system of well-adapted organisms. This system only works as a whole. However, we are far from understanding the whole, not even how the individual biological subsystems were formed and why they are as they are. We cannot preserve only beautiful or useful work simply because we do not know what balance between organisms will be established when there are no more extinct ones.
No one knows, and no one even dares, to predict what tomorrow’s world will be like without species that are dying before our eyes. Only one thing is certain: it will be different from today. When the environment changes slowly, the species have time to adapt gradually, and the total number of species hardly changes. They are all in a slowly changing balance, and such is the normal course of evolution.
The Mass Extinctions on Earth Appear When There Is Too Much of a Challenge for Most Species
However, when the environment changes very quickly or when many species suddenly become extinct, which means nothing more than that the environment has changed rapidly for the remaining species, this is too much of a challenge for most species. That’s when the chains of ecosystems break, and the species begin to die en masse. Many times in history, mass extinction has decimated life on Earth. Without exception, all mass extinctions have been linked to climate change, no matter what caused it. Today’s species extinction has the dimension of extinction 65 million years ago, anchored in human consciousness as the decline of dinosaurs.
The Mass Extinctions on Earth Is Also the Opportunity for New Species
Mass extinction is a unique opportunity for new species. A little earlier, all the niches in nature were occupied, but now suddenly, there is so much room for new species! Those who – perhaps pushed into a corner today – live as mammals lived for millions of years in the shadow of dinosaurs and then, soon after their extinction, ruled the world of large animals. Or for new ones that are constantly emerging; however, they don’t have a chance to exist in today’s world. For some of them, man will be food; for others, food will be human food; for others, man will be only side damage in the life cycle; for others, it will be …
How many problems can be caused by a single flu virus, single ragweed, or a May beetle on a single meadow? It is not hard to imagine what a hostile world man would find himself in when millions of present species become extinct.
One World, One Attempt!
The only thing we know today is to keep the world as it is and hope it is not too late. Edward O. Wilson, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote in his environmental Bible named Diversity of Life, “One World, One Attempt!” If he fails, there will be no make-up exam for our species. The world we live in is really hostile to us, but that’s the way it is, and that’s all we have. It is ours, and we are adapted to it. If species extinction continues, the world will no longer be ours, and it will be even more hostile than it is today.
The Mass Extinctions on Earth Can Happen Soon
Obviously, then, the ultimate problem of our world is the mass extinction of species due to environmental destruction. No money and no progress will restore our grandchildren’s living environment that the Earth gives us for free today. What an irony: now that progress has taken us so far that for the first time in history, all people could be fed up, and machines work for us, and we would finally enjoy paradise, this undeserved paradise is dying before our eyes through our fault, because of our greed, conceit, and babyishness.
If people knew more about the theory of evolution and the evolution of life on Earth, they would better understand the world around them and therefore make more competent decisions on important topics, from vaccination to the use of household disinfectants, from bee kills to swine flu and COVID-19, from gene manipulation to climate change. However, if we understood evolution and thought evolutionarily, we would certainly change our attitude towards many things, including history, economics, sociology, and above all, the environment. Although not always explained from the point of view of evolution, every phenomenon from the living world can be observed. And people are obviously part of the living world; at least, we probably all agree on that, even in these times of crisis. Evolution is everywhere; we live and die with it; we have to notice it.
The Media Plays an Important Role in Understanding
By far, the media can make the most of knowing and understanding evolution. By constantly mentioning and explaining. Also, this website. Contributions to the environment and biology are an ideal opportunity. School is not enough. What children mechanically learn about evolution in it, they forget already during the holidays, as well as most other things. Also, evolution in our school is safely tucked away in a drawer; God forbid that it should be carelessly mentioned in any other way than in precisely defined biology classes.
Life on Earth is the most glorious and complex phenomenon we know of. Environment and life are inextricably intertwined; species adapt to the environment and change it at the same time. Our species tried its luck on two legs millions of years ago, and it succeeded. Even so good that during the ascent, she literally ate or pushed out anything that crossed her path. She did all this with a natural right to survive, just like all other species.
The Mind Is Just a Fragile Epidermis
One of the basic principles of evolution is that it works without purpose and without mind. But if evolution is already mindless, it has endowed us humans with reason. We no longer live on the brink of survival, and we also understand the world around us and our role in it; we have even come so far as to invent ethics and morality. It is, therefore, our duty to limit ourselves and thus preserve the biodiversity that evolution has been building for billions of years. This diversity is the heritage of life on Earth. Our planet is not our property but the property of all life on Earth. For the first time in history, it happens that one species has life in its hands, and ethics and morals oblige us not to reshape it more than we are entitled to by natural law.
This writing is not an attempt to downplay the crisis that plagues us today. We will only solve this crisis by fundamentally changing the rule of money and greed. Not so much because of the causes we hear every day, but primarily because cannibalistic capitalism with unbridled growth as a wicked formation is also destroying my planet.
It Won’t Go Without Evolution
How to do it is a different story, but it won’t go without evolution. We, the people, will have to write it. Because man is the result of evolution, it is not an indescribable sheet but a thick, densely inscribed book in which evolution has written its story for thousands of millions of years. These millions of years of accumulated experience are our true heritage, not pension funds or stocks. The mind gets involved in the story right at the end and is just a fragile epidermis. The mind is a powerful tool, but sometimes it is also an unnecessary burden. The brain helps survive in the long run, but man must live today and now. There are many life circumstances when there is no time to think, but the right action needs to be taken. As is well known: a rabbit that thinks too long before fleeing from a fox does not live long! If a man acted merely as a two-legged mind, as economists and politicians believe, he would have long ago lost the battle with rivals for survival.
We Are Predictably Irrational
Therefore, a man in countless life trials at first glance seems irrational, as described by Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational. Namely, evolution cannot work by inventing a new component, if necessary, as an engineer does. He can only use the old design and upgrade and supplement it or gradually change its purpose. As Darwin once wrote: “Nature is a non-expert that uses and adapts old wheels and rollers over and over again!” Therefore, reason is inseparably and deeply intertwined with emotions and instincts. And so, rational decision-making, despite man’s best intentions, is not always reasonable.
This realization is a great insult to human complacency, but it is right to be aware of it.
Human social behavior is also much more a result of human nature than cultural heritage. No culture that is contrary to human biological heritage lasts long. The sense of justice, cooperation, equality, and morality are not abstract concepts invented by philosophers but are implanted deep in human nature and cannot be suppressed or stifled by any social convention. All the rulers who were unaware of this ended miserably.
So whoever thinks that we will solve the great problems of a modern society successfully without knowing evolution, especially man’s evolution, has not the slightest hope of success.