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Human Extinction: How it Might Happen?

Updated on March 23, 2012

T-Rex

One day we will take our place alongside T-Rex, as one of Earth's extinct animals.
One day we will take our place alongside T-Rex, as one of Earth's extinct animals. | Source

Introduction

Human extinction, not exactly the nicest thing to imagine is it? It also seems a very strange thing to consider, given the fact that we are the most abundant large mammal on the planet. Today, our population stands at 7 billion and continues to rise. However, as that already bloated figure increases, so greater demand falls on to the natural world to supply with us the resources that make our lives possible. Its already accepted among most scientists that we are in the midst of a mass extinction, that may ultimately end with our own.

We often forget that we are part of the natural fabric of the planet,rather than set apart from it. I often hear talk of man vs. nature, but such talk is damaging because it makes our existence seem like some sort of contest or game. But the game, is simply one we cannot win, purely because nature and man are not separate, we are one and the same. Human extinction is not some far flung fantasy dwelling within the realms of science fiction, it's a very real concept, although predicting when it will happen is more or less impossible. But what we can do is speculate as to how it might come about. Its not a nice thing to do, but I believe that it's necessary purely to teach us humility before nature, and remind ourselves of who we really are, where we came from and where we intend to go from here.

Explaining Climate Change

Climate Change

By this end of this century, it is estimated that the amount of greenhouse gasses being pumped into the atmosphere will be more than double the current amount, a fairly reasonable estimate, when you factor in the incredible growth of countries such as China and India. The result of all those extra emissions will be an increase of two degrees in the average global temperature, meaning that Earth will be at its warmest point in the last 1.5 million years. Two degrees may not sound much, but bear in mind that's the average, certain places such as Antarctica will probably witness a much more marked increase. Already, the frozen southern continent has experienced a three degree rise in the last century. The ice-cap is steadily melting and already, alien plants have invaded, brought in inadvertently by research scientists, mostly on their clothing. The global increase in temperature may usher in an era of global food insecurity, that may contribute to a widespread collapse of social and economic systems. There would be a surge in migration and conflict; people would move away from uninhabitable parts of the world into more desirable areas, inevitably wars over resources will increase. Indeed, you can make a compelling case that many of our modern conflicts are over resources, especially the Middle East, with its vast reserves of oil. Climate change won't end our species completely, but it may devastate us enough to end the modern age and cause a considerable decrease in the population.

Telomeres and Chromosomes

Telomeres are the red caps positioned at both ends of the chromosome.
Telomeres are the red caps positioned at both ends of the chromosome. | Source

The Threat from Within

One of the great mysteries of nature is explaining how species go extinct. 99% of all species that ever lived are now extinct, roughly 4% of them met their end as a result of a mass extinction, this includes the species that have died out in recent times. But what about the other 96%, climate change may play a factor, but can it explain all those billions of extinctions down the ages, its highly doubtful.

Recently, a medical doctor called Reinhard Stindl from the University of Vienna has come up with an intriguing new theory. Before, I explain this theory, let me tell you a little bit about telomeres and their role in our lives. On the end of each of our chromosomes are protective caps called telomeres, these are vital to our well being, without them, the chromosomes become unstable. Each time a cell divides, it never quite copies its telomeres completely. Throughout our lives, the telomeres become shorter and shorter, as the cells continuously multiply. When they become critically short, then age related diseases such as cancer, Alzheimers, heart attacks and strokes increase in likelihood.

The theory then, goes like this; each species has its own evolutionary clock, that ticks through the generations. As each generation passes by, then the telomeres shorten ever so slightly in length, essentially it mirrors the ageing process seen in an individual. Over thousands of generations, the length of telomeres reach a critical length; age related diseases start occurring earlier in life. Eventually, the species experiences a population crash and slides into extinction. This theory has yet to be proven, but it may help explain why previously successful species all of a sudden disappear from the fossil record.

How a Virus Spreads

Is it a Pandemic or Not?

The Scale used by the American Government to determine whether a viral outbreak warrants pandemic status
The Scale used by the American Government to determine whether a viral outbreak warrants pandemic status | Source

Pandemic

Within the last century, humanity has suffered four major flu pandemics along with HIV and Sars. Living in such a crowded environment increases the inevitability of a major pandemic sweeping the world at least once a century. In 1918, the Influenza outbreak caused the deaths of 20 million people worldwide, not only was that more than all the people that lost their lives in World War I, but it also represented around 5% of the world's population at the time. Today, a similar sort of outbreak would have a devastating impact, if 5% of the world's population were to disappear today then that would equate to 350 million people losing their lives, what a terrifying thought.

However, the chances of a virus wiping out everybody is impossible, as it is not in the virus' best interests to wipe out its host completely. A major pandemic, comparable in scale to Influenza would probably cause a setback that may take years or decades to recover from. In the 13th century, a quarter of the European population was wiped out by the Black Death; recovery was slow, indeed it took more than a century for the population to reach its former level. We can make preparations for a pandemic, but in reality we can never prepare fully, because we can't be certain of what nature will do exactly, it remains to be seen.

What Might Happen, the next time a Pandemic Strikes

An Awesome Book and DVD

Earth Abides
Earth Abides

A classic Sci-Fi novel from George R. Stewert that tells of a man that survives a pandemic and builds a new community.

 
Survivors: Complete Seasons One & Two
Survivors: Complete Seasons One & Two

A BBC series that deals with a group of people thrown together in the wake of a pandemic, based on a book by Terry Nation.

 

Terrorism

Today, in the modern world we are more vulnerable to terrorism because it's very easy for a group with sinister intentions to acquire the necessary materials, technology and expertise to make deadly weapons. The most likely cause of an act of terrorism that would result in exceedingly high casualties could probably come from some sort of chemical or biological weapon. If ever a virus such as Anthrax or Smallpox ever got into the wrong hands, then the consequences would be dire. Modern communications and travel would soon turn a local threat into a multi-national threat at least. In our society, there are many values that we treasure, particularly freedom of movement. As a result there is no definite guarantee that an attack could be prevented. However, the threat of extinction at the hands of terrorism is also impossible, unless some mad scientist decided to blow up the Earth or the Sun.

Nuclear War

From the end of World War II right up until the late eighties, the threat of a global nuclear war was very real. In theory, if such a thing were ever to occur then human civilisation could be obliterated, but again the likelihood of total extinction is impossible. In the 21st century, the threat of global nuclear war has more or less vanished, thanks largely to International laws that serve to restrain the use of nuclear weapons. Although it has to be recognised that there are still several potential flashpoints in certain areas of the world, namely the Middle East, India-Pakistan and North Korea. Of all of these, North Korea and Iran are the most worrying, as both are extremely militaristic and volatile. Hopefully the presence of American forces in the Middle East and South Korea should be enough to deter any acts of aggression.

Meteor Impact

When thinking on terms of geologic time, the chances of us dying as a result of a meteor impact is about the same as dying in a plane crash. In order to cause serious damage to human civilisation, the meteor would have to be at least a mile wide. An impact on that sort of scale occurs every million years or so. If we were to be struck by a meteor a mile wide or larger; millions of tons of dust would be thrown up into the atmosphere, blocking out light from the sun for about a week, thus putting enormous pressure on all plant life including the vast fields of crops that we depend on for food. Chunks of rocks ejected into space by the initial impact would soon be sucked back down to Terra Firma by Earth's gravity and cause huge global firestorms upon impact, another by-product of a meteor impact would be severe acid rainfall across the world.

If Earth were ever hit by a meteor the size of the one that swept the dinosaurs away, then that could very well wipe us out too; but anything smaller would of course cause huge destruction, but its effects would be short term, and given our incredible adaptability we'd probably pull through.

A.I. and Robots

This particular factor got me thinking of things like the Matrix, Terminator and I Robot. Personally I find the idea of sentient robots disturbing and wrong. But according to Hans Movorec, a research professor at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute at Pittsburgh; robot controllers double in complexity every couple of years. At this moment in time they are approximately of the same complexity as a fish, but in another fifty years they will have achieved a level of sophistication more or less equal to us. He predicts that by 2050, robots will be able utilise abstract intelligence, be able to learn from us and share our goals and cultural values. He foresees a future already envisaged by Asimov of robots looking after us in our own home, attending to our every need, even going so far to diagnose illnesses and recommend treatment. He also thinks that robots will offer us our best shot of immortality by allowing us to upload our personalities into advanced humanoid robots.

Such thoughts fill me with total dread and fear. I think I'd take extinction rather than having a robot sharing my home with me. To me, this feels like once again man playing God and trying to work outside of nature rather than within it. I wonder what Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park would have to say about this issue, I'd love to hear his thoughts.

A Ticking Timebomb

The Yellowstone Caldera- an eruption last occurred 650,000 years ago. Another is due anytime now.
The Yellowstone Caldera- an eruption last occurred 650,000 years ago. Another is due anytime now. | Source

Super-Volcano

Every 50,000 years or so Earth experiences a super-volcano eruption. When it happens, more than 1000 square miles of land is instantly obliterated by ash and lava flows, outside of this 1000 mile radius, the rest of the land is coated in ash, and the atmosphere gets a big injection of sulphur gases, creating a veil of sulphuric acid around the world, that blocks sunlight for years. The result is that daylight turns into a moonlit night.

The amount of damage to the Earth depends on where it occurs and how long the gas stays in the atmosphere. The most recent eruption was Taupo, New Zealand around 26,000 years ago. The most devastating one ever experienced by humans was the Toba eruption on the island of Sumatra around 74,000 years ago. Due to its proximity to the equator, the sulphur gas was injected into both hemispheres. Global temperatures plummeted, causing freezing conditions to spread as far south as the tropics, it lasted for six years, but it was enough to nearly cause the extinction of humanity, in fact evidence indicates that we may have been reduced to less than 10,000 individuals, perhaps even as low as 1000.

A super-volcano is about 12 times more likely to occur than a meteor impact, with 0.15% probability of one erupting in our lifetime. The places to watch are the volcanoes that have erupted before, such as Toba and Yellowstone (last eruption- 650,000 years ago). But more frighteningly, a super-volcano could burst from somewhere new, such as the Amazonian rainforest.

What do you Think?

Which of these, do you think will be responsible for our extinction?

See results

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    • profile image

      Fappeaxy 4 years ago

      I am curious to find out what blog system you have been utilizing? I'm having some minor security issues with my latest site and I'd like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any recommendations? make your computer run like brand new

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      You're right Hideki, we live in a highly complicated, interconnected, our collapse will resemble the collapse of a domino set, once one piece falls the rest follow. A super volcano could very likely cause that kind of damage.

    • Hideki-ryuga profile image

      Hideki-ryuga 4 years ago

      The most frightening thing is that if a super volcano happens we are less prepared than our ancestors. I watched a documentary about that. It seems that the remainder of human species survived because they were jack of all trades. However, today we aren't like them. We will barely survive in difficult climate. Though, I personally believe our extinction, which is a fact and not a fiction, will be more likely caused by an asteroid.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I think you're right CZ, I think it would have to be something big to take all 7 billion of us out. Even the worst pandemics would leave some survivors, whereas a meteor similar in size to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs would wipe everybody out including probably every large and medium sized animal. Thanks for stopping by.

    • CZCZCZ profile image

      CZCZCZ 4 years ago from Oregon

      Very interesting and well written hub. Was fun to read and ponder some more on which one it will actually be that takes humans out. I still think it will be one of the big ones we have no control over as they are also the most likely to do planet wide damage that just makes the whole place inhospitable for humans for several years. Would be interesting to be around when something like a major comet, super volcano, or other major disaster strikes the earth, would be a wild ride and crazy way to go out. While I think humans may screw themselves out of a great place long before one of these major incidents occur, I don't think it will wipe us off the planet, just eliminate what we consider modern society as we know it.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I hope so too Dancing Water, the problem is that many of us live in a bubble of ignorance and I fear that the majority of us won't become aware of the problems until it's too late. I really hope I'm wrong though. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Dancing Water profile image

      Dancing Water 4 years ago

      Thank you for a vital hub! I so appreciate your doing the research to report on what is occurring at the destructive hands of human beings' collective hubris. Every person on the planet needs to read and listen to the sound of the alarm that you and so many scientists are struggling to sound. I pray that humanity wakes up and does a complete turnaround in its lifestyle. Again, thank you for an excellent, life affirming hub, JKenny!

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      You're absolutely right Emanate Presence, sadly I think we will only become more aware of ourselves, when its too late. Thanks for popping by.

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 4 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      Obviously you wrote a comment-provoking hub! It does well to bring out such a thread, stirring up deeper ideas and feelings.

      I still look at times into utopian visions, and have recently checked briefly two which had similar premises, that human suffering is caused to great extent by the high cost of energy, which is controlled by a handful of monopolies, and the solution is free energy for all, drawn from the ethers (to put it in an over-simplified nutshell.)

      One of these video visions was clearly a hoax, and the other by Foster Gamble with The Thrive Movement, sounds good for the first five minutes of the trailer, but when the movie is seen in its entirety, it places so much emphasis on solving problems with technology and placing blame for problems on the Rockefellers, Rothchilds, military-industrial complex, et al. Placing blame just provokes anger and fear, and technology by itself, like politics, may provide a quick fix but will never be a lasting solution.

      As I see it, the answer lies more in the direction of the Question you asked, JKenny, about the difference between arrogance and confidence. There will only be substantial change when individuals become more fully aware of themselves - their egos and who and what they really are, and take full self-responsibility with a view of the whole.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Glenn, you definitely have a point about viruses. When you think about it, what force would stop them from wiping out their entire host, especially if that host has no natural defences against it. Oh dear! That's alarming, all it takes is one absent-minded scientist or a deranged terrorist and we're in big trouble. Thanks for the comment, you've got me thinking too.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Every species will eventually die off. As you said, 99% of all species have become extinct.

      It's amazing how many opportunities there are to kill off the human race, as you had discussed. I agree that it could happen by any of these methods. And it will eventually happen by one of them.

      You said one thing that I don't agree with -- That viruses will not kill off the entire human race because it would not be in their best interest to destroy their host.

      I have a different theory, that viruses are simply another species on our planet. And each virus will also become extinct. The most obvious way to become extinct is to destroy its host.

      For that matter, the human race will probably become extinct by the same method. We destroy our host. We are already destroying our environment, which is our host.

      You really got me thinking about this. You wrote a very informative and educational hub and I voted up.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      That's true flashmakeit, our species can sometimes be very arrogant, but we have to realise that we are just animals, if we try to battle against nature, then we have no way of winning, because we are a part of nature. Thanks for visiting.

    • flashmakeit profile image

      flashmakeit 5 years ago from usa

      Great article which made me realize and think about the fact that we cannot really control the climate or all the microscopic virus, germs or insects that exist in the world or on another planet that is strong enough to destroy humans.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Yes, you raise an important point vasmenon, its a rather simple equasion isn't it! No water= no life (including us). Thanks for popping by.

    • vasmenon profile image

      vasmenon 5 years ago from India

      Jkenny,you have certainly got us thinking on an area where we did not want to go!!Very well researched article indeed. I did read through most of the comments, but none seem to say much about the importance of WATER. We should remember that civilization started years back on the banks of vast resources of potable water which was used for agriculture. Extreme industrialisation and over exploitation of water is causing potable water resources to diminish, which makes me think that sooner or later man would start fighting for life saving water. And that along with lot many factors that you have mentioned will lead Man to his extinction...that's my view.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      No problem, mecheshier, glad you liked it.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      Love it!!!!! Thank you

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks johnakc, everyone seems obsessed about a zombie attack, but somehow I can't see it happening. I mean, how could you possibly explain zombie like behaviour scientifically. Must admit though, it would be kind of fascinating to envision a real zombie attack. Every time I do, I just keep seeing 'Sean of the Dead.'

    • johnakc profile image

      johnakc 5 years ago from New Delhi

      Great post. You have scared me by unveiling so scary truth.

      And what about the zombies apocalypse.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      scientist always insists Nature fills a niche or has a 'reason' for doing something, allowing a species with the most with the most advantages to dominate....but where are the features that would allow us to dominate....we have our so-called intelligence but in the wild..it will be a different story. Another example is why haven't the dolphins moved out of the oceans...they have been around for millions of years....i don't see evolution happening, in fact its the opposite...ever since the last ice ages there have extinctions of most fauna in N. America and Asia....take the case of the Smilodons...cousins to our Rulers..hehe...

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I'm loving the debate that this hub has sparked. It's nice to know that there are so many people out there who have given this issue some proper rational thought.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Ah right! Its starting to come back to me. I'll have to watch it again sometime. It sounds totally awesome. Yep, there's a few of those deep sea creatures that could haunt your nightmares.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      nope....each successive generation is getting more materialistic and with the population pressures...lets say we wont be relying on our better selves.

    • profile image

      Rodney Barbati 5 years ago

      Our problems stem from our biology, not money. The fact that most/many of us yearn to become rich arises from greed, but greed itself is part of our psychological makeup as humans. It is in the very nature of human beings that greed arises, and it was/is as a survival mechanism. Our biology drives us to want to have more than others, and once we have more, to not share it.

      Bottom line is that we as people are always looking out primarily for ourselves - and that behavior is hard wired into our biology. We can, to some extent, control it, but it is always there, and is a part of every choice we make. Very few people are truly selfless.

      On the other hand, everything we do that is not geared to getting us independent colonies on other planets or simply out in space somewhere is truly counter-productive to the species as a whole. There will be a meteor one day, any day, and if we are not prepared to either deflect it or have uneffected colonies off world somewhere, then that will be it for us.

      If we are where we are today, and see a major impact, then everything we have ever done or could have done will become absolutely meaningless - it will be as if we never even existed, and there is not a thing in the universe that would grieve for us.

      If we survive, then we will be judged worthy to live as a species - if not, we won't. In other words, until we find ourselves at our end, we are worthy to live. And because we have the potential to survive, I feel that we should try to do so - mankind could solve every potential problem facing us if we could come together and work for the benefit of the race rather than the individual.

      In time this may happen - do you not see that the youngest generation is able to accommodate each other much more easily than the older generations? Let's hope we have enough time left for it to happen.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      yes, Sam is in that movie...i checked that pic of that deep sea critter...looks like a near match....very similar behavior toooo...scary

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      apparently the Alien was created by a Hungarian....and he based on a fetus....something along those lines.....in all likelihood we were created by aliens......for one reason only its in our religions and mythology.[we can't use hard science today to prove that but tomorrow who knows, we might.]

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you cottageindustry, appreciate the kind words. Thank you for your visit.

    • profile image

      cottageindustry 5 years ago

      Do you know, people have been preaching the end of times for over two hundred years. If you can find newspapers in the 1930s you'll find the same news. The world is not going to end.

      Now, some countries might just be destroyed due to environmental factors but not the whole world.

      Your hub looks great and I like the way you presented the information!

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you Vegas. Appreciate it!

    • Vegas Elias profile image

      Vegas Elias 5 years ago from Mumbai

      Very interesting and informative hub Kenny. I had to vote you up for this.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Event Horizon? It's been a long time since I've seen it. Can't really remember the plot. That's the one with Sam Neill isn't it?

      I think what would scare me more, is if they ever discovered that we didn't evolve here on Earth and that we were brought here by some ancient alien civilisation. It's pretty far fetched and personally I don't believe it. But its not impossible. Have you ever seen the creature that inspired the Xenomorph Queen? Pretty scary. Here's a link: http://arthropoda.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/did-phr...

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      hi guys....i saw a few minutes of The Thing...it was good...aliens 2 was not bad either..compared to all other movie sequels it was definitely better. How about Event Horizon....that one would give Alien a run for its money.

      i wonder why ...or if Nature has come up with something remotely similar to alien.....that would be a scary thought [maybe there is some fossil out there we haven't discovered, yet !]

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Gloshei, I am really glad that this hub has generated as much attention as it has. It's not the best thing to think about obviously. But we cannot live in ignorance, and sadly we may have to face up to some of these challenges in our lifetimes.

    • Gloshei profile image

      Gloria 5 years ago from France

      Wow JKenny this hub has really got us all thinking, I popped in to read some of the comments they are really interesting and so many different point of view.

      Well done.

      Voted up and across.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I remember seeing the original, and I absolutely loved it. I've heard that the remake was slaughtered by the critics so I've avoided it.

      Its been a while since I've seen Aliens, but I agree that the second film was probably the best in the series thus far. Although, I hope that Prometheus will blow them all out of the water.

    • AaronT profile image

      AaronT 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Game over man! Game over! Bill Paxton is a mad actor =] its part two for me I gotta admit. When the marines finally got involved really upped the ante for me. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't wanna be stuck in a vent with one of those things running around.. Though I think it was the motion detector for me which would've scared me more.. hearing that beep getting louder and faster... An alien that could assimilate certain abilities/forms of its victims... that's one nasty creature. With that being said, what did you guys think of the remake of "The Thing"?

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      me too...i'm looking forward to seeing Prometheus.....it should be really good.....

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      What a coincidence, I was Alien the other day, and I agree its still better than most modern films. Although I am looking forward to Prometheus and the Hobbit.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Cheers Aaron, I like your philosophy. I'll have a couple for you :) May as well.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      yep...we are heading over the cliff of extinction......might as well enjoy ourselves

      by the by....I just watched that classic movie Alien...still way better than the drivel in the theaters now....

    • AaronT profile image

      AaronT 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      hehe would be a fun desire for me I guess. Regardless what happens, I just hope people enjoy and live their lives to fullest... we're all bound to die one day so Drink up my friends, this ones to you! =]

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      no one has yet been able to explain what made us..or rather why did we build ancient cities or learn all the skills of civilization[we leave out the alien stories for now..lol]....

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hmmm! True, that's the frustrating thing about our evolution. Every time a discovery is made, not only does it gives us answers, it also creates a whole load of new questions, some that may never be answered.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      ah,,,,,here's the catch.....there haven't been finds that be proved beyond doubt to be cromags,,,,,,but although they are classified as humans, their overall morphology is different from modern humans, to make things more complicated...cromag traits are reasonably common in indo-european groups, even the adaptation theory looks weak...because current cold climate populations[eskimo and the like] are nowhere near cromag populations.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      You're right Vin, the Cro Magnon's were 100 % Homo Sapiens. I think they got the name based on where they were found, and also for a long time it was believed that they were first behaviourally modern humans ever, on account of the cave paintings. But earlier evidence of modern behaviour has been found in the form of rock art in South Africa and Australia, going back over 70,000 years. The cro-magnons were quite simply the first modern humans to adapt to the European environment.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      and speaking of species......what really is Cro Magnon......according to the scientists...they were 100% human[homo sapiens sapiens]....but they just appeared. they had mostly short forehead opposed to african populations, more robust...must have been an interesting species....but did they evolve from modern humans or are a hybrid because of the neanderthals .....

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Interesting point Aaron, I too think that there is life out in the cosmos, although I find it hard to believe that there are little green men. But you never know, we have a good understanding of how life evolved in the earth. But out there, on other planets, there could be a whole host of weird things adapted to their locality. Plus, our existence proves that the evolution of intelligent life is possible, so you just never know...

    • AaronT profile image

      AaronT 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Just to correct, Probability of other Alien Races, not Invasion. But then who to say there isn't? or Is?

    • AaronT profile image

      AaronT 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I'm surprised no one brought up Alien invasions? For those who believe mankind is the only living thing, look away now.

      Space is massive, and we don't always have the technological advances other "races" may have. I also have a strong feeling we're not the only one. Sheer probability would back me up on this. Who's to say there isn't a planned invasion already in the works just waiting for the right moment to attack? let alone there could be already aliens on earth blending in to study us? If the end of the world does happen, I hope its an invasion. Lest we advance our on technology and expand into space instead of picking on each with nuclear weapons because our planet is getting smaller everyday.

      Assuming the invasion goes well, hopefully by then mankind will have its revolution and learn to work with each other and unite under one flag to fight a common enemy. Fingers crossed on this end *sinister laugh*

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Interesting, you mentioning the basque population, their language is completely unrelated to any other in Europe. I honestly believe that their language is directly descended from a language spoken by the Cro-Magnons.

    • Vin Chauhun profile image

      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      there are so many unanswered questions, we have this situation of neanderthal DNA , there could be many possibilities here, but the really interesting thing is the neanders were rh negative and so is a big chunk of the basque population, no one know whether this happened in a few generations or 10, 15 generation[I am assuming here, the neanders passed it to humans living there at the time]

      I think the theory is called punctuated evolution, sudden changes in a population groups....

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      It's always interesting to speculate on the future isn't it. I've just thought; a major pandemic could create isolated populations again, maybe in a few thousand years, we would start to see those populations evolve along their own separate lines.

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      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      It could be very possible,.... disease,food and water resources could start having an impact. The environment could also create bottlenecks, over two, three hundred years this could create more isolated pockets. I feel genetic engineering is over hyped, we may have human population reduced by to drastic levels before genetic engineering becomes an issue. i say two to three hundred years because the gene pool is too diluted, if 50% off us went for that permanent sleep :)......we would still have the same weak genetics. the down side of this scenario is , if there is reduction in the human race, the "good genes" will also be gone.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Maybe, but I just can't see anything like that happening without genetic engineering. Unless of course we revert back to living as isolated populations, which won't be happening any time soon.

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      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      these new humans would look just like us, but might be better than us in cognitive functions, in endurance and physical traits, inwardly they could be different, eg better resistance to disease, different metabolic rates, maybe say 15% better than us at tasks we do. For 100,000 yrs humans were static, they look the way we look today, then around 45-50,000 years ago, we changed drastically, we had an explosion of creativity, the gradual accumulation of new genes could suddenly see a part of the human race on the edge of a new divergence, much, much stronger, a new better species....:)

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I'm not so sure, Vin. Maybe if Humans living on different continents had remained isolated, but we're all joined up now. I think if another human species were to evolve, then it would probably be of our making, so we could end up engineering the 'creatures' that cause our extinction. Also, we may start to adapt to local environments if we colonise the cosmos, evolving into different species. But its by no means certain.

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      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      i am curious what people would think of this idea, there could arise a sub set of the human species ,maybe some kind of response to the current human species. the human race has such a range of variability it even overlaps with Neanderthals, maybe there is already a differentiation already underway. it could just explode onto the human stage and render us obsolete. Humans could go the way of the Neanderthals....:)

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Leslie, thanks for popping by. Few of us are ready when our time is up, its just a case of mother nature taking its course. Personally, I hope my time comes when I'm old and still relatively healthy.

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      Leslie A. Shields 5 years ago from Georgia

      Well, it is appointed unto man once to die.... no getting around it. Those of us who are alive today are glad that we are and would not know otherwise if we were not alive.

      Thanks for the hub.... but, are you ready?

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Vin, it certainly seems that we're heading that way, hopefully it won't come to pass any time soon.

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      Vin Chauhun 5 years ago from Durban

      degradation of the gene pool and good old fashion human behavior, and our days will be numbered

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      No problem Richawriter. I agree with you on the colonisation issue. At the end of the day, humans generally are a territorial species and will always want to claim some area of the cosmos as their own. Have you ever seen a TV series called Firefly- I think it's pretty accurate forecast of what life will be like once we've left Earth, although I'm not sure about reverting back to the wild west. Thanks for popping by.

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      Richard J ONeill 5 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Great hub!

      I have often thought of our very possible extinction and how it may happen, over the years but recently I have stopped and just got on with things, until this hub that is. :)

      I think people are far too ignorant about just what is happening to our planet, what we are doing to it and the other species that inhabit it. It is sad that we continue to seek short-term satisfaction through material possessions, being beautiful, popular and having our precious T.V. programs to pass the time. Living... that isn't living. It looks to me like most people are living in a self-inflicted blindness because as far as they are concerned (somewhere within them) they are powerless and may as well continue to 'enjoy' life.

      I would give up all of this tomorrow if it meant saving our earth and the life on it, without hesitation. Unfortunately, given that choice, I'm afraid most others wouldn't and they would call me insane, victims of their 'blindness.'

      The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether we were meant to become this advanced. Were we ever supposed to become so advanced? When you look at what our advances and technology is doing to the planet and our race, it seems that the answer must be no.

      But then, perhaps it isn't the technology and advances that have done this. It is those few greedy, hungry power mongers who have done it. Why, when creating new developments did they not say, "Okay, does this harm the planet in any way?" "If yes, let's develop a safer substitute that will benefit us and keep our planet healthy."

      If we hadn't been so greedy, we could be out there exploring other planets and possibly colonising and seeding the moon as well as perhaps Mars. But instead, we grab land and say "This is ours. You stay off it, we found it and we are American, English etc (all the same) so if you wish to use it, pay up!" Unfortunately, the same may happen if we do get up there and colonize. More of the same. Sad. We slap a price tag on everything, no matter whether it will save our species (like space colonization) or not and this will be a huge factor in our extinction. Greed.

      I also think, despite how depraved this may sound, perhaps a massive disaster such as war or a super-volcano which wipes 50-80% of us out is the only way we will finally say "Right, enough is enough. What were we thinking? Let's rebuild and this time, respect the earth and its life. love each other and coalesce as one race, one nation."

      Thanks for provoking me to think, it has been a while! ;)

      Interesting and voted up.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Phil, yep, I think it would take a combination of factors to wipe us out, but the chance of that happening is a lot lower than the probability of having to face just one factor. Thanks for dropping by, and thanks for the follow.

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      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Yes, our future seems to be rather daunting. It could really be any of the scenarios that you propose, and most likely, more than one. Well written hub. Peak Oil won't cause human extinction, but it will certainly expedite the matter.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I agree crazyhorseghost, its happened before, and it will happen again, although predicting exactly when is very tricky. As you say if any the size of a football field or larger were to hit, then I think that would be the end.

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      Thomas Byers 5 years ago from East Coast , United States

      Great well written Hub Page. Voted it up across the board. I think a meteor or asteroid is the most likely to wipe out all or a large part of our planet and it has happened before and will happen again. Look at the meteor crater in Arizona and the one in the Gulf of Mexico.

      A meteor or asteroid could strike quickly and with out warning. Imagine if a football field size asteroid struck a city like New York or Houston.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      A fair point shepheka, and some very interesting info about the decline of birth rates. However, there is still a very good possibility that those wonderful traits we have may contribute to our extinction. History shows us that often while technological advances give us many benefits, they also cause just as many problems.

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      shepheka 5 years ago

      A recent birth rate poll has actually shown that the birth rate has actually dropped all around the globe, with the exception of areas that depend on a high number of children for survival. Here is a very informative article.

      http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2010/03/the-over...

      Secondly, Global warming is at best, a working theory. There is quite a bit of dissention within the scientific community as to the viability of serious global warming. While I will not claim that global warming is not real, I will say that I do believe quite a bit of the “facts” are actually speculations. Eample: While greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere will raise the planets temperature, a higher temperature will also result in a higher percentage of cloud coverage. Because clouds reflect sunlight, a high percentage of cloud coverage will effectively cancel out the temperature raise caused by the greenhouse gases.

      As for the rest of the article, though possible, most of these circumstances are very, very unlikely. While the author is correct to say that humans do not live outside the laws of nature, in comparing our race’s extinction factor with that of, say the dinosaurs, one has to factor in traits that no other animal has ever had: Ingenuity, rationality and self-awareness.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks skinsman82000, appreciate you taking the time to drop by.

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      skinsman82000 5 years ago from Frederick Maryland

      Great article. I think to myself from time to time, with all the threats out there, it truly is a miracle that we're even alive.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks sharewhatuknow, I think out of all of them, the meteor impact would do the most damage. After all, the last time a huge meteor struck the earth every large animal, including the dinosaurs was wiped out. So if another ever came along, then it would game over for us. Thanks for dropping by, appreciate it.

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      sharewhatuknow 5 years ago from Western Washington

      Hi jkenny, great hub.

      My belief is that for the complete annihilation of the human race, it would be a meteor impact.

      I voted your hub up and interesting.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi dc 11, I agree that a large meteor could wipe out humanity, after all the dinosaurs were extinguished by one just six miles wide. Previously, they were widely distributed across the planet just like we are now.

      A pandemic, while I admit it could cause a lot of damage wouldn't kill all of us, there will be always some who are immune and survive. There is a frightening possibility that some mad terrorist could craft a new virus that could possibly wipe us all out. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Kiwi Max, I agree that in some ways we have become more stable as a species. However, last night I was watching a documentary on the rise of China, and apparently there is a worrying increase in nationalism and hatred towards the west among the young. They've already declared war online, by attempting to hack US and British government information. Scary stuff. Thanks for dropping by.

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      dc11 5 years ago from Connecticut

      Honestly the only scenarios that could potentially destroy human life would be a pandemic or meteor impact. The other are all somewhat possible but but we have developed to the point that such desasters are perfectly survivable especially for a species as inteligent as us. But pandemics are frequent reminders of how fragile we really are...the last major disease outbreak (spanish or avien flu) less than a century ago killed nearly 20 million globally, and that was before our modern mass transit systems and exploding populations. A large enough meteor impact could also destroy human life...but as we continue to make incredible new discoveries in medicine, chemistry,engineering, genetics...etc the possibility of creating a space station that is self sustainable is becoming reality, and with modern our ability to identify most if not all large objects aproaching our region of space we would have plenty of time if we where to work together, to at least have a small portion of our species survive...But in the end Pandemic seems to be the most likely culprit in human extinction...

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      Max Zvyagintsev 5 years ago from New Zealand

      I think either terrorism or nuclear war are very likely to be the cause of humanity's extinction.

      Although I think the human race has become "more stable" after the aftermaths of the past wars. We learned from our mistakes.

      A very good hub!

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi DAWNEMARS, Its very difficult to put an actual time-frame on these possible factors, as most of the factors are natural, and predicting things like future climate or whether a volcano will erupt is exceedingly difficult. The Telomere factor is still a theory and may be disproven. What's scarier is that our extinction may come about through something we haven't thought about. Let's hope it doesn't. Thanks for dropping by, really appreciate it

    • DAWNEMARS profile image

      DAWNEMARS 5 years ago from The Edge of a Forest in Europe

      Scary hub, yet beautifully done!

      I wonder if there is an actual time-frame on it actually happening -if we keep on the way we are going. Perhaps there is a probability or risk estimate based on current evidence? I guess then that would be a theory. Worrying stuff yet fascinating.

    • JKenny profile image
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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      That's certainly possible, any disaster strong enough to destroy the global economy and infrastructure would thrust us back into the pre-industrial age at least. If severe enough, the survivors maybe would have to start right from the beginning as hunter gatherers, and re-invent agriculture sometime in the future. Have you ever read 'Earth Abides' by George R. Stewart? It deals with how people would survive and cope in a post apocalyptic world, highly recommended. Thanks for dropping by.

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      Peter Ray 5 years ago from Birmingham UK

      I suggest we would more likely be reduced to medieval civilisation than actually become extinct.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Hippie-Girl. You're probably right, a combination of things would wipe us out. But it would be an extraordinary piece of bad luck if these events occurred at the same time. Thanks for dropping by.

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      Janelle 5 years ago from Oklahoma, USA

      I vote "other." There will always be a contribution of everything to get an end result especially when we are talking about the extinction of humanity. Very interesting article, I like it. Thanks.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Vegas, appreciate you dropping by.

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      Vegas Elias 5 years ago from Mumbai

      Extensive info on the topic.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks ytsenoh, that's a very interesting way to look at humanity. I often hear people speak on certain topics, and I end up thinking 'It's all in your head,' The same goes with buildings e.g. the house I live in- 'Is it really a house, or just a collection of rock, wood, concrete and other material all fastened together. Thanks very much for commenting, really appreciate it.

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      Cathy 5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Wow, this hub blew me away. We should have an applause icon abutting the thumbs up icon. Seriously. You did such an excellent job in constructing this hub and each subject under your main topic tied themselves together to build focus. I look at humans who need to procreate to keep the species in a survival mode and everything else are bits and pieces of fiction, if you will, because they're like the little trees and cars that come with the big Lego pieces. Definitely keep writing. Very fascinating presentation.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Personally, I think one day we will be forced to impose some sort of population control in order to ensure that the environment survives.

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      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      As population keeps rising ...It will happen one day..hope we will control on population..Thanks

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      No problem, Laura. I hope I'm wrong too. You're right about people having to deal with the same questions down the ages. The thing that gives me hope is the sheer resilience of nature in general, how its always managed to bounce back from disasters in the past. Appreciate you dropping by.

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      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Thank you for this hub. I often wonder what the world will be like for my children and grandchildren and hope there is a nice one left for them. I hope you're wrong and that my great, great, great (x1000) grandchildren find themselves wrestling over the same issues! I guess one thing that may be comforting is that people have been wrestling with this questions throughout the ages,

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      You're right Gloshei, the so called differences between us are minimal. We are all the same species, there is potential for us to pull together and sort ourselves out. I just hope we can do it before its too late.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks, Civil War Bob. You're right I am an agnostic, but I went to a Catholic school, so I've heard a lot about the afterlife (mostly the fire and brimstone side). Personally, I hope there is some sort of afterlife. I wouldn't remind reincarnation, just as long as I could chose what to come back as.

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      Gloria 5 years ago from France

      Great hub and so scary, we know it will happen one day but we don't know how. It may be from the forces of nature when you see how the climate has changed drastically over the past 10years, with floods, earthquakes even tsunamies are more frequent if this is the case then there is nothing we can do about it.

      If it through the hatred that is in the world then perhaps with a lot of faith we can do something about it.

      The best thing is to all pull together whatever your colour or creed this effects everyone.

      Voted up

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      Civil War Bob 5 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Excellent Hub, JK...voted up, useful, and interesting. Is it my imagination or is that T-rex at the opening of the hub laughing at us? What amazes me is that not ONE Bible Thumper dropped in on you up to this point in the discussions, so I'll have to take up the slack. The GOOD news is that we're NOT going to extinct ourselves (bad grammar intentional). The BAD news is that God will "in the fullness of time" with fire, not water this time. The REALLY good news is that He's provided for a bail out policy (a bit of a pun, given The Flood reference) for the afterlife; which you as an agnostic might have heard about, yet don't quite buy. Well, enjoy the day!!

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      FoilBoard,

      I take your point, but I think extinction isn't necessarily reserved for the weak. Many previously successful animals have vanished from the fossil record without any clear explanation. There's often a phrase attached to nature 'Survival of the Fittest,' but Darwin never actually said that. Those words were spoken by (surprise, surprise) an economist to justify exploitation of those weak and poor. If nature were simply about the weak dying, then there would no such thing as altruism or empathy, which is present in many species besides our own. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to drop by, appreciate it.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Rusti. I wish we could make peace with other countries too, but as you say its impossible. I also think even if it did happen, and a world government was formed, you'd still have terrorism in some quarters. Anyway, thanks for dropping by.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      No problem, Kebennett. It's certainly food for thought for all of us. Hopefully we'll wake up someday and smell the danger, and avoid extinction.

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      No problem, Nettlemere. Thanks for dropping by. By the way, I checked out the article on the return of the Lynx in the BBC Wildlife magazine. Thoroughly compelling stuff, the sooner it happens, the better.

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      Foil Board Insulations Pty Ltd 5 years ago from Melbourne

      Extinction Impossible? or mad man dreaming?

      With the number of underground government/military facility's in the world as well as the ability to travel in space and survive surely this acts as some kind of safeguard, surely? Not also to mention the Multimillionaires or billionaires in the world that are in control of old money ( family money ) with a vested interest in continuing the bloodline for future generations to come would have looked at the possible outcomes would have made some effort to build something similar to Noah's arc. Ill get to my point, Extinction is only for the poor and the weak.