(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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 earth. If not, then Eldredge predicts a bleak future not only for the other species of the earth, but for humans, too.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCII, October 1, 1995, p. 240.

Los Angeles Times. November 17, 1995, p. E10.

The New York Times Book Review. C, November 19, 1995, p. 46.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLII, August 21, 1995, p. 55.