Edward O. Wilson’s Book “The Future of Life”

June 6th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized

I just read an interesting excerpt from Edward O Wilson’s book ‘The Future of Life’ over at James Media:

Environmentalism is something more central and vastly more important. Its essence has been defined by science in the following way. Earth, unlike the other solar planets, is not in physical equilibrium. It depends on its living shell to create the special conditions on which life is sustainable. The soil, water, and atmosphere of its surface have evolved over hundreds of millions of years to their present condition by the activity of the biosphere, a stupendously complex layer of living creatures whose activities are locked together in precise but tenuous global cycles of energy and transformed organic matter. The biosphere creates our special world anew every day, every minute, and holds it in a unique, shimmering physical disequilibrium. On that disequilibrium the human species is in total thrall. When we alter the biosphere in any direction, we move the environment away from the delicate dance of biology. When we destroy ecosystems and extinguish species, we degrade the greatest heritage this planet has to offer and thereby threaten our own existence.

I agree with this on many levels, but Wilson and many other environmentalists are missing a much larger picture and more holistic perspective- The human species with all our technology and pollution is a part of nature.

Wilson then goes on to say,

We must forget our urge to colonize space, to expand technologically. We must get back to nature.

Dr. Wilson is working within a false dichotomy. We are a part of nature, and nature is a part of us. We are inextricably one and the same. Our inexorable drive to expand and explore is what life itself has always done. Life has never once settled into complete homeostasis. There has always been a small segment of it mutating, evolving, growing, expanding, filling new niches, creating new habitats. Without intelligence the biopshere will eventually die in a billion years from the Suns lethal radiation output. But evolved intelligent life expanding beyond the womb planet does have a chance of living indefinitely. Intelligent life, like us, have the ability to expand life off the womb planet and out into the cosmos, enabling it to escape the eventual heat death of it’s parent star. In the meantime, the biosphere is plugging along nicely, despite our civilization. Yes, we are seeing massive species extinction. This is not the first time, but at least the fifth time this has happened, and the biosphere has survived all of them.

I’m with people like Timothy LearyRobery Anton Wilson Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan on this one. I think whats really happening is the Biosphere (aka Gaia) is giving birth, and we are part of this birth. The children of the biosphere are about to leave the womb planet and spread out into the universe. And this isn’t just plain old life, but intelligent life, complex life, beyond anything a mere bacterium or even domesticated primates like ourselves can imagine at the moment.

There was an old debate raging in the circles of the transhumanists circles a few years – Gaians vs Extropians. Like then, and now these two philosophies are not mutually exclusive. We are seeing the beginnings of biotechnics, regnerative technologies, clean energy and tools of radical abundance like nanotechnology, that will enable the human species to continue evolving while simultaneously repairing and regenerating mother earth.


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