Evolution Continues

easter islandAs I was discussing the state of the world with one of my liberal friends the other day, a scary thought occurred to me, namely, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the human species as it presently exists.

We all know — well, those of us who accept evolution know — that species typically become extinct as a result of failure to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Homo sapiens may be the first species not only to have caused its own destruction but to have had the power to see it coming — and failed to heed the warning signs.

Of course, climate change is the most dramatic evidence of this trend. And while we will probably adapt to increments of ten, perhaps twenty degrees around the world, despite the enormous disruption to the food supply and the global economic and political systems, will the species survive changes of fifty or one hundred degrees? Who is to say this catastrophic scenario will not occur, as we continue to burn coal and oil to maintain the status quo, knowing all the while that doing so will eventually destroy the status quo?


Human beings like to think of themselves as members of the smartest species that ever roamed the earth. If this is true, it doesn’t speak well of the other species. At least in the United States, we are currently witnessing a full-scale attack on logical debate, critical thinking, acceptance of facts as the raw material from which decisions should be made, and the values set forth in the Constitution but constantly ignored by the very people who claim to cherish that document. Hypocrisy runs rampant and apparently undiagnosed among those whose left brains do not communicate with their right brains; how else to explain the simultaneous drumbeat for tax cuts for the rich AND deficit reduction? “General welfare” is derided as “big government” by those who fail to see the relationship between greed on the part of those who already have enough and poverty on the part of those who have never had enough.

No, if intelligence is a virtue and a prerequisite for survival of the species over the next thousand years or so, I’m not very optimistic.

Nobody reading these words will be alive to see the demise of the human race. The process is far too gradual. But we are heading down the path toward our eventual destruction unless the wise somehow wrest power from the wealthy. I fear, however, that the tipping point has already been passed. Our institutions themselves, for the most part, exist to protect the status quo (or worse). When, in history, did the ruling class voluntarily give up power and accede to the notion that common people also deserve a break? When, except for a few years in the late 1700s, did Americans ever think the future was just as important as the present?

Contrarians could legitimately argue that the United States is an anomaly, that in fact most developed countries (Denmark, England, Canada, Sweden — you know the list) are much further along the path to permanent civilization. While this is true (take the general availability of health care as just one of many possible examples), the United States, mostly by virtue of its geographic size, its population, and its natural resources, unfortunately has a disproportionate influence on the rest of the world.

Ron WolffIf you want proof, stay tuned to see whether “the greatest deliberative body in the world,” aka the United States Senate, approves a treaty that will reduce the global nuclear arsenal and make the world a safer place — or whether it will be held hostage to the politics of destruction made possible by the 40-vote filibuster and a few opinionated reactionaries.

I just hope that homo sapiens II, which will invariably come along in another couple of million years, will be more successful than homo sapiens I.

Ron Wolff

Ronald Wolff publishes the blog Musings from Claremont, where this article first appeared. Republished with permission.


  1. Bob says

    “Contrarians could legitimately argue that the United States is an anomaly, that in fact most developed countries (Denmark, England, Canada, Sweden — you know the list) are much further along the path to permanent civilization.”

    Have you talked to a European lately? Or read anything in The Economist (a nice, international, non-American, rag)?

    Europe’s socialism-based troubles are more sensitive to trouble with their economies than ours are (yet). Without an economy to fund the governments, government-backed security blankets disappear.

  2. bpwilbur says

    Evolution in a broad sense can be applied as adaptation by the modification of addition, subtraction, or reorganization. As we are not losing or gaining materials with enough regularity to concern ourselves, we must focus on reorganization in the immediate.

    It seems deceptively simple that life would propagate itself with no greater purpose than simply to do so as a function of its chemical processes. However, life has shown itself to evolve to make use of any and all ambient resources, whatever they may be, and some beings make use of the same resources in different ways. Consider the act of breathing versus the act of flying: Both actions manipulate the physical and chemical properties of gases but in very different ways.

    Light and gravity are also interdependent variables and resources. What about thought and its offspring, rationality. Both are resources that can be harvested and whose applications are incontrovertibly useful. Both are just as easily perverted through gross subjective justifications and skillful manipulation of our instincts and belief systems by government, religion, business, culture, etc.

    Thought as we know it may or may not be specific to the human race. This is inconsequential though, as we focus more on our relatively unique expression stemming from an inclination to assemble tools, be they physical or conceptual – a hammer versus the concept of classification. Considering an incalculably vast and dynamically lethal universe, through our nature we must eventually establish methods either to leave or move the planet in case of an emergency. Even considering said cosmos – full of natural, indiscriminate, and unknown threats – we still must first address the natural/terrestrial issues that plague us that we might survive to address the extraterrestrial ones. War, poverty, inequality, corruption: tendencies that satisfy few immediate conveniences at the cost of our total future.

    Perhaps self-destruction is an impulse that should be entertained, that it might save and shape the lives of things to come in the future. But which of any of us that is not terminally depressed would willingly elect to remove ourselves from the gene pool? We must adapt, or all of our self-aggrandizing will make us look like damn fools to the next space-bound global organism. Ultimately, all life on this planet shares common ancestry. One species being able to develop ways to stimulate the expansion of possibilities for all life would seem to inherit a responsibility to do so.

    Then again, it is only my opinion that this is where we have failed most critically. Do with it what you will.

  3. says

    Hey Ryder, I do see the big picture! We (a very few or our descendants) blast off from ‘this rock’ – to where? to do what??

    To be sure, outside of earth, there’s no place in the solar system that’s anywhere as friendly to human life (let alone the life of fellow creatures we care about) and as accessible to all needed resources for life as is, today, the middle of the East Antarctica ice sheet!

    So you’re telling us not to worry, because anyhow all of our super-intelligent commotion today just might be lucky enough to allow a few of our descendants (the very luckiest) to live in someplace not to much more unfriendly than the middle of East Antarctica?

    Or maybe your intended message is more upbeat: because we’re super-super-intelligent and in case the intersteller ships might be targeted just right and all their cryogenics work properly for thousands of years, a few of our descendants may get to start up the whole business all over again of polluting and destroying a liveable planet or two!

    Or maybe the message is simpler. Precisely because the greediest among us are obviously so wonderful and superior, neither they nor we have any obligation to demonstrate any long-term collective intelligence toward the benefit of future generations.

    • Ryder says

      The first creature to crawl from the seas would have been criticized by you…

      “the sea is far more habitable! You are leaving…. But to what?”

      Of course leaving the seas to live on land was a big step. Time for another.

      You think too small.

      People like you blamed the greed of the wealthy when clean nuclear power was offered… Long haired protesters chaining themselves to fences to stop construction. Now these same people and their children are crying about the carbon emissions we were stuck with when nuclear development was stopped in it’s tracks… And worse, complain about the wars for oil… Also a consequence of failing to go to a nuclear electric society.

      In other words, excellent clean alternatives were offered… And rejected by you because you claimed to have some “collective intelligence” on the issue (and if not you, your cosmic bunk mates). Carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil (and the wars that result), are all we got for your previous exercise of enlightenment.

      But I see you chaining yourself to the fences again….

  4. Truth and Justice says

    Possible Answers for Humanity:

    True Democracy. Republicanism seems part of the problem. People no longer have a sense of Responsibility, but a sense of Entitlement. In a True Democracy, all of the People are Sovereign. If things go to $#!%, we would always know who is responsible. Decision Making would be done by the whole of Society, rather than just the Wealthy and the Bureaucrats.

    Direct Sales from Local Manufacturing to the Local Citizens. Factories would be directly connected to the Communities and Peoples that they provide goods for.

    End all Monopolies and limit Oligopolies. We must have a limit to how big of an Impact that One, Two, Three, Four, or Five Huge Players, in any given Sector of the Macroeconomy. I am not a Capitalist, but if you were to have a Just and Fair System, Rugged, Heartless, Individualistic Capitalism is simply Evil, and the various Markets, Must Be Regulated, in order to prevent, let us say, another US Government/BP/Haliburton/Transocean Oil Spill, which still has not been contained, and this drilling of the Weak Crust of the Earth in the Mississippi Canyon of the Gulf of Mexico, may have sufficiently Weakened the Crust to cause Subduction on the Plates, also BP created a New Life Form which may kill all Living Things in the World, which is partly why the US Government has made it illegal to independently test the Waters and Shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

    End the consideration by the Courts of Corporations being considered People. Even though I am the President of a Corporation, there is no way that my company should have the Same Rights of a Person. Where is Personal Responsibility, Republicans, for Business Behaviour which Pollutes the Earth and Exploits all of Life and your Employees. Also, end the Off-shore Tax Loop Hole. I am amazed that in the 2 years that the So-called Democrats had nearly complete power, this Tax Loop Hole is still in the Tax Code.

    Make it a Felony for any Bureaucrat or Representative, Senator, Judge, or President, to not behave for the good of all of their constituants.

    Institute the Time Dollar: An Hour of Labor will Equal a Medium of Exchange, or some other Just Consideration of how to Create a Non-Usurous Currency. End the Tyranny of the Central Banks.

    Either Free and Open Trade for All or let us all return to Protectionism. The US Opens Most of its Markets, yet, we have to pay considerable Tariffs to South Korea, Japan, France, and China. Why is it that they have an Upper-hand over the US. Either Open and Free Trade for All or end the GATT and NAFTA. The so-called Free Trade Policy of the US has only weakened the Working Class of the US, and made the 1% so much Wealthier than ever before in History.

    Finally: Mutual Aid Pacts Between Businesses. We have to liberate ourselves, since it is obvious that the US Government does not care about anyone other than the Bureaucrats and the 1%. They are Parasites and Traitors to Our Country.

  5. Ryder says

    Global Warming of 10-20 degrees?

    Look, the high end numbers are only in the single digits… And these climate swings have been going on, literally, since the dawn of the earth.

    The big “concern” is flooding, which is a bastardization of the term. A “flood” that takes 100 years to materialize is really just a slow transformation of the coastline… Call it an evolution.

    Venice Italy has been experiencing rising waters at rates far higher than any global warming scenario. Where is the catastrophe again? Last I checked, Venice was still a romantic hot spot and favorite destination.

    Do you really lament the destruction of whole cities? Does it really rise to the leven of panic that humans love to adopt (the sky is always falling… It seems). Detroit was destroyed as surely as any global warming scenario might do the job… It’s essentially bombed out of existence… Gutted, barely enhabitable. Nobody even really noticed.

    It’s a shame to see a city be destroyed… And Detroit was destroyed in 50 years… Not one or two hundred. And nobody really cares. The sensible people left long ago. No big deal.

    Not extreme enough?

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked off the map, literally, over 60 years ago… But you can go there today and… Well… No big deal there either.

    People adapting to nuclear catastrophe in 50 years should tell you or anyone that adapting to tiny costal transformations over the span of 100 or more years is just not that big a deal.

    Besides, what’s the worry? I thought oil wasn’t a renewable resource? Let it run out, and stop your worrying.

    Our destiny is to advance to the point where we can leave this rock… And take life out to the stars… We’re going to burn some oil and split some atoms in the process.

    Try to see the bigger picture.

  6. says

    It is not just warming that will lead to the human demise but oxygen levels. Should oxygen levels reduce by just a couple of percentages then all mammals will not be able to survive. Birds however need much less oxygen and will be just fine.
    It is difficult to imagine how a species that has so much self regard for it’s own intelligence can be so monumentally stupid and self destructive, but there we have it.
    Can’t imagine why anyone has kids today seeing the future for their children, but then again it just plays into our willful disregard of our own own self destructiveness.

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