End of the World and Human Extinction - No Escape
It was an ordinary Saturday night. My family and I were silently watching the news. The footages shown in the television were grim: earthquake in New Zealand, tsunami in Japan, and an impending civil war in Libya and her neighboring countries. It was followed by a short segment showing sentiments of a few civilians who were afraid that the end of the world is at hand. In an interview, a scientist was then asked whether the world is really going to end. Matter-of-factly, he said yes. But this end would still be five billion years from now, when the sun bloats into a red giant and engulfs all the terrestrial planets including our Earth.
My older sister then asked me if I believe in what the scientist said. “Of course,” I replied. Then I comforted her by saying “Pero ayaw kabalaka kay mangamatay naman pud tanan taw before na mahitabo. (But don’t worry because all humans are dead before that happens.)” Upon hearing this she was reasonably distressed, and so she countered “Sa pag-ingon nimo ana mura man pud ka wala mituo nga adunay Ginoo. (The way you say that, it seems like you don’t believe in God.)”
I just laughed off the comment and continued watching the TV. But silently, I reflected on that conversation, and decided that believing in a scientific probability would not have any bearing on my faith as a Catholic. Besides, the final book of the Bible’s New Testament, the Book of Revelation, even talked about the imminent destruction of the world as we know it.
One may say that our technological sophistication could save us. Maybe. But this salvation could very well be the reason for our demise. Corey S. Powell’s Discover (Vol. 21 No. 10 October 2000) article entitled “20 Ways the World Could End” gave a good list of possible scenarios. Natural disasters (asteroid impact, flood-basalt volcanism, global epidemics) and human-triggered disasters (global warming, ecosystem collapse, global war) are equally likely to be the case.
It is inevitable that the planet Earth will be obliterated. It is highly probable that Homo sapiens will be extinct even before this happens. Homo, the genus where we belong, existed on Earth for more than two million years. From then until the present, a lot of “humans” have evolved, and then died out. Currently we are the only surviving species of our genus, and we are already at our 200,000th year. The Neanderthals went into extinction just 25 thousand years ago, ending their 350,000 year existence on Earth. What’s stopping our species from meeting the same fate?
What exactly am I trying to say? Do I want to set a world wide panic? Do I want everyone to lose hope and be in despair? No, that’s not it. We don’t have to be concerned since most likely our extinction will not be in our lifetime (but if we’re lucky, it might just be). But we must not fool ourselves into thinking that we are any different from the 99% of species that are now extinct.
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