The second is a biological and scientific answer suggesting that it is a natural process of biological development: an unmitigated process that will continue, mutate, change and develop. “Man” may not be on this planet forever, or may not remain in a dominant position (as put forward by the ‘Ascendency of Species theory and the Ecological Succession Inevitability), but the biological process will continue relentlessly and encompass whichever species that remain or evolve. The third, of course, is answered by the many diverse religious formats in their various exclusive ways.
The Biological régime envelopes all life forms – be it animal, insect or vegetable. The Religious disciplines, by and large, do not consider animal or insect life into the equation of life’s ultimate mission. It is mostly accepted that animals, fish, insects, etc. have an inferior function and their purpose, other than populating the planet, is mainly subjugated to the aiding of mankind in multifarious ways. Axiomatically though, animals, insects, etc could survive and profligate unhindered without humans on this earth; humankind, on the other hand, would not be able to survive without the aid of insects, animals, etc.
In prime position on the list, therefore, is vegetation in its many varied forms – on land or water, without which the planet would be a dust bowl devoid of life. Vegetation could very prolifically survive without animals, insects and humans. The next rung belongs to insects and animals that could abundantly survive in a green world devoid of man. And at the bottom of the heap stands the human race that could not survive without insects, animals and vegetation.
Man allots to himself the highest honor in the ladder of life as ‘beings’ that are capable of sustained thought, advanced problem solving skills, and possessing a highly evolved conscience. The other life forms function with inherited instinct, learned habits, short term thinking and elementary problem solving skills along with primal conscience. To what degree of sophistication these skills are inherent in other life forms is speculation and a more accurate future assessment would give us the picture.
The emerging point to note here is that all the exclusive talent that we humans very proudly ‘beat the drum’ about is quite distinctly possessed by other life forms as well albeit in an elementary form. How long, in evolutionary terms, will it take a species to achieve the mental sophistication of ‘humans’ is again a speculative exercise. Some would doubt that it is even pertinent; suggesting thereby that intellect of other species will never match ‘human’ perceptions. Contrastingly, cognizance must be extended to the fact that once a biological process is initiated, its advancement is inevitable as long as the external environment subsists; what level this progress will achieve is anybody’s guess but the ‘Progress’ factor is indisputable and is an inherent evolutionary schema of ‘life’.
Returning to the reflective question of ‘Man’s’ episodic standing in the quantum of time and evolution, only two aspects qualify investigation. The Biological (backed with precise and exact rigid science) and the Religious: mythical and ‘close to the heart’ held strong beliefs.
An unequal balancing if there ever was one.
Science and biology quite clearly indicate the path to the future with the cold finger of evolution and extinction. Extinction is the very real face of evolution. To address one facet of evolution i.e. the Modern man, we shall take into account some of the earlier forms of Hominids that are now extinct. Hesperopithecus hominidae, Ramapithecus, the Piltdown man (500,000 years ago), Nebraska man, Australopithecus africanus, Homo habilis, Peking man, Neanderthal man, Mitochondrial eve (just 6500 years ago), and eventually Modern man. The writing is clearly on the wall for Modern man to give way to the next evolutionary super being.
Religion holds out hope for the believers: hope of immortality of the ethereal ‘soul’. Nevertheless, religion is of very recent origin (3000+ years) and pertains to Modern man only.
Evolution and Change are formidable and relentless forces throughout the cosmos and nothing can hold them back. Species are exiting our planet at a rapid pace – some counts put it at thirty a day (Lord Robert May, FRS). Modern man, his customs and beliefs are all subservient to the rage of evolution and transformation. In the final reckoning Modern man could well be the next casualty and his extinction will drag religion and all his customs along with it.
Taking a Stab at the Next Dominant Species
Human valediction could leave life on Earth devoid of a dominant species. This would be in line with evolution – Dinosaurs roamed and ruled the Earth sixty five million years ago – there was a yawning gap of sixty three million years before species Hominid made an appearance. Could ‘Apes’ achieve ascendancy after Man’s exit? Unlikely, for whatever removes human-kind will eliminate apes as well…be it external factors such as pollution, radiation, or environmental insufficiency or simply the running out of time (longevity) of the race, and apes have been around before Modern Man made a debut and so will bid an earlier adieu.
It is likely that the next intelligent and dominant species would evolve from insects or bacteria; and also likely that it would be a hundred million years for the species to complete an evolutionary cycle to finally emerge ‘dominant’. By then the Earth may not be habitable as it could be engulfed by a dying Sun which would turn into a giant red planet many times its present size as it expands to gather hydrogen and before it implodes to become a Super-nova.
There are, of course, other options – in fact a myriad options but my favourite is:
Over millenniums the Human race will continue to create more and more sophisticated robots that would be part human and part machine. The human ethos would be intimately and intricately engendered into the soul of the new Human-Being to produce a species capable of tolerating and enduring extreme conditions. I say species for it shall have the ability to reproduce itself should the necessity arise.
I further envisage a species that has an ephemeral patina of our present structure. A form that is light and can float and fly and which would spend most of its time aloft. It could possess a spiritual essence that would be fuelled by cosmic energy: heat, light, magnetism, and radiation from far-away galaxies. This sensational-paranormal-vitality would continuously evolve and probably attain a capacity to travel by the ‘Thought Process’ covering cosmic space in less time than the ‘blink of an eye’. Modern Man already has a fairly advanced thought process; a facility that assists memory travel when he can mentally visit those places he has been to or picture places he has not been to but heard of. A few hundred thousand years could fine hone this talent to facilitate conscious travel to virgin areas beyond time zones.
It could at this stage transform to a Reflective Energy form which could gradually fuse with the Cosmic Vitality and be as immortal as the Cosmic itself.
Our present status and form for the next many thousands of generations, I’m afraid to submit, is going to be as incitement to process the evolutionary furnace of the ultimate man; as Dinosaurs and Early Man were fodder to our present evolutionary parturition.