Human beings today hold the future of this planet, and the life it contains, in our hands. On The Origin of Tomorrow, the final essay in the Science Origin’s series, this message is pointed out quite clearly for readers.
Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of On The Origin of Species, many theories continue to come forward about what the future holds. Many in the scientific world are greeted with an enlightened sense of urgency and the need to understand the possibilities that lie ahead. Human beings have gained a huge influence over our own evolutionary process, more than at any point in evolutionary history. In addition to this, the ability to affect important changes such as climate change, genetic manipulation of other organisms, or the introduction of invasive species, means that humans are creating adjustments to the natural selection of life around us. “The decisions we and our children make are going to have much more influence over the shape of evolution in the foreseeable future than physical events,” is a quote by Andrew Knoll, a Harvard University paleontologist.
The author of On The Origin of Tomorrow, Carl Zimmer, brings attention to the fact that Charles Darwin acknowledged the future by ending On The Origin of Species with this statement: “…endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” His premise was that as long as the evolutionary process exists, then “life” as we know it is ever changing. Though he does not hold the belief that humans can forecast the course of evolution, he does expect that humans can shape this course. This power is held in their hands by their ability to domesticate some species and force others to the brink of extinction, and beyond. Darwin also theorized that our own species would undergo evolutionary changes as a part of natural history. The question remains however, is the pondering of whether human beings will be intelligent enough to actually extend the life of the planet and prolong it’s evolutionary life.