Wednesday, May 11, 2011

To What End?

A recent article in the Boston Globe looks at scientists whose field of study is the future and how biology, ecology and cosmic events might play out and how this will impact humans beings. To get right into it, consider this excerpt:

“Our sun formed 4.5 billion years ago, but it’s got 6 billion more before the fuel runs out,” Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, told the audience seated among the busts and weathered books of the institution’s second-story library. “It won’t be humans who witness the sun’s demise: It will be entities as different from us as we are from a bug."

The article explains how an incredibly large percentage of every species that has ever existed on the planet is now extinct. Humans, in terms of time on this planet, have not really been around that long. Given the immense epochs in which species rose to prominence and then eventually faded from the earth, it stands to reason that humans might also suffer this fate.

Many people might retort that human intelligence will allow us to stand the test of time. But are we smart enough to last 6 billion years? When it comes down to it, as much as we have mastered nature, we are still, in most ways, powerless against it.

However, for the sake of argument, let's say humans can last 6 billion years. 6 billion years! It is impossible for a person to truly understand what such a large amount of time means. Will anyone remember you in 100 years? 200 years? 1,000 years? 6 billion?

However, for the sake of argument, let's say even though no one will remember you, in some way you contributed to human development. We can then ask, are we developing in some specific direction, and what is the point of this development? What purpose does it fill? Also, given the size of the universe, how can human development relate to what's happening billions of light years away? Does our development relate to the development of some alien species across the universe? Or, does the entire universe exist merely as a nest for human beings, and all that matters is what happens on Earth, and there are no beings elsewhere? If that's the case, then, as mentioned, it seems doubtful that humans will exist into perpetuity. Which then begs the question, what has any of this mattered?

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