Palaeontology And Futureontology
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Palaeontology is a science that looks at the past to explain the present, but I think that it can help us a great deal in explaining the future, because by knowing how things work in terms of the evolution of species, we may forecast what will happen with life forms in the future.
Doubtlessly, this argument can be used for speculation I the most pseudo-scientific ways imaginable; extravagant ideas with no scientific basis have arisen from truly scientific and well-intended speculation all along human history because people prefer the spectacular to true things, the easy coming ideas to disciplined thought, and fantasy to reality. However, some analysis of the future is always necessary in order to comprehend the consequences of our present acts, and trying to find out what might happen because of our actions is indeed, pretty important most of the time.
This does not mean that we have the right to interfere with natural processes, like the relative decay in the number of mammal species that has been going on since the Oligocene. That is a natural thing and we should not try to interfere, and - by the way - it has nothing to do with human activity, for humans appeared many million years after this decay began.
This use of palaeontology turned upside-down to forecast the evolutionary future of life - 'Futureontology' is a funny name, isn't it? - may help us preserve our planet, stay along the guidelines of natural evolution and even understand the purpose of life, if we develop a better understanding of where is life leading us to. But there is yet another important use for such knowledge, and that is, to care for the legacy that we will leave as a species.
One thing that becomes self-evident from fossil findings is that each species has an average existence of two million years; so, one day we, the humans as we know, will be replaced by another human species. And in the distant future, even humans and primates will likely vanish, only to be replaced by completely different beings. But what is different from all evolutionary events of the past is that we humans have added something: the goal of life seems so far to add value to itself, because each generation reproduces itself and over time that means evolution. So far, only mass and physical characteristics mattered, that is, the number of individuals and their fitness in relation to the environment.
But since nature invented humans and applied intelligence to us, we are able to also make ideas evolve; we are the consciousness of nature, like if it had waken up from a dream. Thus, we are responsible for keeping our planet tidy and working as it should; we are acquiring roles reserved before to nature only, like making species disappear in extinction, or even create new ones. We can alter our environment, bring it to equilibrium or destroy it, much like a natural disaster. This might seem too abstract, after all, there is no real need for our present-day life to care for what happens in sixty million years from now; however, who would like to be remembered by future intelligent beings as a planetary scourge? For if we don not assume our environmental and evolutionary responsibilities, we just might…
So the fact is that we are here and now to add value to life and leave a valuable legacy of knowledge for future generations of our closest descendants, for future civilisations of humans, and even for species yet to emerge.
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