The future of evolution

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Fri Jul 07 2000 - 07:27:47 MDT

>Trends in Ecology & Evolution Vol. 15, No. 8, August 2000
>The future of evolution
>Salit Kark and Tim M. Blackburn
>"it is interesting that a time lag of several million years often occurs
>following mass extinction events before the diversity of the surviving biota
>recovers (Douglas Erwin, The Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC, USA).
>During this period, some of the species that survived the extinction
>gradually decline to extinction, so representing 'dead clades walking'
>(Jablonski). Thus, the current human-induced extinction event might have
>consequences lasting for many thousands of human generations"

Many hot-shot biologists got together to think about the future of
evolution, but I have to say "they just don't get it." On time-scales
of millions of years, autonomous biological evolution is *over*, unless
our descendants badly want to preserve it, or unless they disappear.

If humans do not disappear but continue to grow, then we will make
the rest of biology what we want it to be, or destroy it if its in the
way (and maybe even if its not). Some of that non-human biology may be
"wildlife preserves", but most likely within a vastly reduced region.
The idea of biology only moderately "adjusting" to humans, as in
previous extinction events, is, for better or worse, complete fantasy.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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