Monday, August 07, 2006

Demise of the species

I'm just reading an oldish book (1991) entitled Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? by David Raup. Something has struck me about it, people worry incesantly about evolution because they don't think new species arise without the intervention of God (Intelligent Design or continuous creation). Hence, whilst some allow for new sub-species, they don't allow for new species or at least new genera. But that's only part of the problem. Where are the theologies of extinction? Is God profligate in creating and then destroying so many creatures with meteorites, climate change, vulcanism and so on?

Perhaps if creation is given freedom to do "its own thing" then not only is new life the resulting wonder, so is lost life! Likewise, if it is really directionless, random walking in ecological nice phase space, are we not just merely an accident but one destined to disappear?

A couple of quick thoughts.

1. Not all biologists would see what humans are as being totally random in that intelligence is an ecological niche (or perhaps an anatomical niche???) there to be filled, and we fill it (along with many other species if it comes to that).
2. Whilst not above nature and the natural forcings that give rise to extinction, we are conscious of what we do and what is done to us. We are agents of extinction but able to choose not to be (perhaps with an eye towards James Lovelock who blurs things like human pollution and natural pollution - like oxygen is for anerobes). Likewise, we can consciously act to avoiding extinction - though often appear to go the other way with things like MAD not totally behind us (think North Korea, Iran & Israel & nukes).

It is a problem I'd love to think about more - add it to the list of theologies to develop.

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