Dominion (Magill Book Reviews)
Scientists have warned that humans must change their attitudes toward nature or there will be horrible consequences for the planet. The earth is facing the prospect of a mass extinction caused by the destruction of the habitat of other species by a single species, homo sapiens—humans. Niles Eldredge, a paleontologist, echoes this warning in the form of questions about the future of the human species. What is the future of the human species? Will that future be determined by social evolution or biological evolution?
Eldredge paints a rather unpleasant picture of the human species. After the invention of agriculture some 10,000 or 11,000 years ago, humans insisted on dominance over the rest of the natural world. It is the only species to have moved outside the local ecosystem.
Humans differ from other species in another very important way. For other species, the only reason for sexual behavior is reproduction. For humans, sexual intercourse and reproduction are distinct activities. Sex is the probable underlying cause for the self-absorption of humans; they have an immense preoccupation with members of their own species and little concern for the rest of the inhabitants of the earth. All this adds up to a species which naturally is self-centered and destructive of other species.
Nevertheless, there is hope. Through cultural evolution, homo sapiens can appreciate that it must voluntarily limit its biological impact upon the rest of...
(The entire section is 281 words.)
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Dominion (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
The earth is facing the prospect of a mass extinction of most of the species on earth. Unlike previous mass extinctions caused by “natural” events, such as the crash of a huge meteor into the earth, this one can be prevented. It is precipitated by the destruction of the habitat of other species by a single species, homo sapiens—humans. Scientists have adopted various strategies to persuade Americans that humans have to change their ways or there will be horrible consequences for the planet and all who live upon it. It is difficult, however, for most people to understand the relationship between the well-being of their grandchildren and the extinction of a species of insect in the Brazilian rain forest that scientists may not even have had the opportunity even to name.
A paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, author Niles Eldredge is the co-discoverer with Stephen Jay Gould of the theory of punctuated equilibria, a theory that changed how paleontologists looked at evolution. In Dominion: Can Nature and Culture Co-exist?, Eldredge has a new twist. He does not directly call upon his readers to support environmental legislation, make donations to a fund to preserve land in South America, or change their consumer habits. His strategy is to approach the issue more indirectly by posing it in the form of questions about the future of the human species. What is the future of the human species? Will that future...
(The entire section is 1804 words.)