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Biology 103
2001 First Web Report
On Serendip

Apocalypse Now. Why Not?

Sasha Karlins

People are far too pessimistic about the destruction of life on this planet. The death of an entire species, or even many speies has happened repeatedly throughout the history of Earth. In each case it has seved to give evolution a chance to branch out and experiment with many new things.

Aproximately 2.2 billion years ago there is believed to have been an excess in oxygen in the atmosphere of Earth. This excess led to the death of many species which were developing on the planet at that time. It also led to the evolution of many species which thrived on oxygen. What could have been a tragedy instead caused evolution to explore new and exciting paths.

This event, known as the Oxygen Crisis released highly chemically reactive substance into the atmosphere. This wiped out most lifeforms then in existence. Some organisms learned better how to survive with this new oxygen through a series of genetic mutations. It triggered a wave of evolutionary process. "The Oxygen Crisis increased - by a factor of 20 or so - the ability of organisms to extract energy from food stuffs. Insofar as the Crisis hastened the development of more complex organisms, it was a blessing in disguise." (2)

A similar situation occured at the time of the death of the dinosaurs. The same events that triggered the wiping out of the dominant species of the time, dinosaurs, created a window for the smaller mamals of the time to evoolve more thouroghly. ."The main "driving force" in evolution is a change in the physical environment which disturbs ecosystems and species." (6)

Everytime a catastrophe occurs evolution has taken it as an oppurtunity to explore exciting new options, to come up with new varieties of species. "...a trend that often happens in nature, when some natural tragedy, such as a hurricane, destroys most of an ecosystem. Soon after, one can see the radiation of new life forms to fill the now vacant ecological niches." (6)

We may be able to provide evolution with just such an oppurtunity quite soon. Recent events seem to indicate that many bombings and attacks could take place all around the world in coming weeks and months. "'Today we focus on Afghanistan,' [Bush] added, but 'the battle is broader.' Alluding to the Sept. 11 terror attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and killed more than 5,000 people, Mr. Bush again warned that nations that sponsor or protect 'outlaws and killers of innocents" will "take that lonely path at their own peril.'" (5)

If humans continue to follow the logical progression of the path they are now, they will eventually wipe themselves out. Most will die from bombs, but many could also die from starvation, and cancers. Many people are dying each year from cancers, for example. Ovarian cancer is the fourth highest killiung cancer. "Over the course of a lifetime, one in 55 women will develop the disease. Each year, more than 23,000 cases are diagnosed and more than 14,000 women die of the disease, making it the deadliest gynecological cancer." (1)

So even if we do not entirely wipe oursleves out through war and it's side affects, we can rest assured that much of the population will be wiped out by diseases like cancer in addition to an absurd number of other causes.

Destruction is also necessary to avoid the overpopulation of the planet. "A struggle for existence inevitably follows from the high rate at which all organic beings tend to increase. Every being, which during its natural lifetime produces several eggs or seeds, must suffer destruction during some period of its life, and during some season or occasional year, otherwise, on the principle of geometrical increase, its numbers would quickly become so inordinately great that no country could support the product." (3)

It is impossible for every species on one planet to flourish thouroughly without causing harm to ther species and even to itself. In order for some creatures to exist, some must be destroyed. To promote evolution, many must be destroyed so that there is room for develpment. Destruction also forces evolution to come up with new ideas because otherwise all species would be wiped out, being unequiped to handle the destruction.

There for we should not be distressed at the though of the population of Earth being wiped out, but instead consider what exciting new biological possibilities it will present. As the fellows of Monty Python sang while up on crosses:

"For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin.
Give the audience a grin.
Enjoy it. It's your last chance, anyhow.
Always look on the bright side of death,
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life's a piece of shit,
When you look at it.
Life's a laugh and death's a joke. It's true.
You'll see it's all a show.
Keep 'em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.
Always look on the bright side of life."(4)

WWW Sources

1) Brody, Jane E. The Deadly Whisper of Ovarian Cancer. New York Times. October 2, 2001.

2)Carroll, Paddy. Catastrophes and Evolution. 2001.

3) Darwin, Charles. "The Evolution of the Species.",. 1999.

4)Idle, Eric "Bright Side of Life"

5) Tyler, Patrick E. Bush Warns, 'Taliban Will Pay A Price. New York Times.Oct. 8, 2001.

6) Ussery, Dave. A review "The Triumph of Evolution and The Failure of Creationism" , by Niles Elderidge, (W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, 2000). 2000.

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