Thursday, November 11, 2010

Will Homo sapiens become the index fossil of Anthropocene?

The moment conscience segregated out of the unconscious, life was born. From that instant life had only one purpose – to survive. But the paradox of life and its survival is that life depended on life itself to survive. In that struggle for survival, both the predator and the prey evolved. Evolution made life more complicated. It created a complex web of food chains. Then came the anomaly of life, Homo sapiens. They evolved to become the most efficient species in fulfilling the motto of survival, but again, at the cost of life itself. Not only did they survive, they grew in numbers and are ruling the world. Using their sophisticated weapon of 'intelligence' they rose rapidly to the top of the food chain, they became the ultimate predator. Alone in the top, they had nothing to fear. Having no other predator to deal with, survival was supposed to become easy. Instead, it became more complicated. As they grew in number they had to fight their own kind for space and food. In that fight, numbers mattered. The more the number of men in a group, the stronger the group was. How to keep these vast number of men together? Where logos failed, mythos took over. The myth of 'identity', be it religion, tribe or totem, kept people together. It made them live together, eat together, pray together and fight together. In that 'intelligent' intra species combat, Homo sapiens became more 'civilised'.With help of their greatest strength 'intelligence', they became the species that now dominate the entire globe. In the Mesozoic the dinosaurs dominated the globe with help of their greatest strength, 'size'. Before they were wiped out, their greatest strength became their biggest weakness. Will human fate be the same? Will Homo sapiens become the index fossil of Anthropocene?

In the last 5000 year clans civilized to tribes, tribes to empires, and empires to nations, but the fight continues. From stones to arrows, from guns to nuclear weapons, civilizations has come a long way. Science and technology began to grow as each clan wanted to out-do the other, each nation wanting to be the super power. The primitive urge of survival is still the dominant instinct in all Homo sapiens. History tells us that many civilizations had flourished in the past, but in the struggle for survival they got lost into the oblivion. Science was born from the want of survival. Science was the fuel that drove the western countries to the top. Science led to industrial revolution and the increase in CO2 emission, and the resulting global warming. Science created weapons of mass destruction. Science is trying to create artificial intelligence that could well take away jobs of people like machines did. Will artificial intelligence take over from us? At the end, will it be science that will be our Frankenstein?

There is another paradox of life and its survival, and probably the biggest one – death itself. From the instinct of survival comes the fancy of eternity, comes the desire to rule the world. But experience had taught Homo sapiens that the fight for survival is a losing battle. All living being dies, and with death comes misery, with death comes fear. Fear leads to the creation of god. A god that rules the world, a god that is eternal, a god that is a reflection of all what the Homo sapiens themselves wants to be, but never could. It is god that will save them, it is god that will end their misery, and it is god that gives them the hope of eternity. With god came religion, different religion lead to the formation of different religious groups. And with different groups came the same old battle for survival. From crusades to jihadi terrorism, religion that was supposed to save people from their misery, lead to brutal religious wars instead. Will it be religion that will bring us to our end?

Or will it be our lust? Our lust for game that made us kill the giant mammals to extinction? Our lust for more food that led to agriculture and animal domestication which took away the habitat of numerous flora and fauna? Our lust for money and power that drove the industries, leading to increased emissions and global warming? Our lust for survival has already brought us to the brink of 6th mass extinction. Is our name also in the list??

Homo sapiens are supposed to be the most advanced species in the world. Yet everything they have achieved, from science to religion, is a result of that same old survival instinct. Looking back at the great stretches of history makes me wonder if we are really the most advanced species. Somewhere in their climb to the top of food chain the balance was lost. The advancement of civilizations has brought about tremendous environmental changes that we now have to deal with. The irony of the battle of survival is that at the end of the battle it is the survival of Homo sapiens (and all other life forms) that has come under threat. Now we talk of saving the earth because that's the only home we have. But the earth does not depend on us, we depend on it. The earth can take care of itself, it is our asses that we need to save. We have just started to realize it.  Is it too late? Individually Homo sapiens have always lost the battle of survival, but are we now loosing it as a species? Can we use the smartness of science to undo our mistakes? Can we use the altruism of religion to delay the inevitable? Or may be, it does not matter. We are just a speck of dust in the whole universe, our fate is probably insignificant. May be, we just be happy that we got a place in the whole universe. As Tagore once wrote:

The sky, adorned with stars and sun
The world, full of so many lives
Within this glorious vast expanse

Here I am, with a place to be, a role to play

I am amazed and wondering,

I see my song find itself here…

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