“I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to man’s power of selection. We have seen that man by selection can certainly produce great results, and can adapt organic beings to his own uses, through the accumulation of slight but useful variations, given to him by the hand of Nature. But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is as immeasurably superior to man’s feeble efforts, as the works of nature are to those of art.” —Charles Darwin
Our generation is alive in the middle of a mass extinction event brought about by our own misunderstanding of the Natural world around us and our relationship to it. The vast majority of human beings on this planet have no idea about what it is that’s disappearing, no idea about the expanse of time needed to fill an emptiness left by that which is in fact irreplaceable, and no idea about the immediacy and depth of our culpability.
To truly understand the implications of the extremophile choice hypothesis, we must first open our minds to the reality of timelessness; we must resolve in our own minds the supposed dichotomy of, on the one hand immediacy, and on the other the Living World’s catastrophic progression through Deep Time. Without this realization, the human family and the Nature World of species we take for granted today appear to be one indivisible providence, and we can never understand how the arrival of a technological ‘species’ can yet be ‘of’ Nature, but no longer ‘in’ Nature. Without the realization of timelessness we cannot accept our iconoclastic relation to Nature as a matter of immediate experience, and as demanding of us an existential ‘choice’. And I propose that, as long as we continue to obscure our individuation-from-the-Mother-Tree responsibility behind self-serving scientific, philosophical, and religious appeals to luck, law, or providence, we will continue karmically to erode the integrity of both Humans and Nature.
So, to put this more succinctly, and even more urgently:
Unless we can feel, at a visceral level, our kindred intelligence with an equally but distinctly intelligent World of Coadapted Species, we can never understand the danger that technological evolution, by its very nature, poses to genetic evolution’s much slower creative genius.
Here is how I tried to capture this realization of timelessness with words back in July of 1984:
ONE TIME (Dedicated to Stephen Jay Gould.) In shadows deep the figures sleep That one time lived in sunshine, And hardened sea muds hold the bones That one time tramped the coast-line. In a world that once was here and now, If air less pure and sun less slow, Under pines as high or scrub as low They ranged the marsh and alpine. Milk-fed brood was ston’ly chewed When to our kindred’s confine The lesser feathered dinosaurs Came fleet and hot to blood-dine. Green or gold, and honking bold, They plied the ferns for time untold, And mastered every bump and fold Of a world undone for all time. For now and then there’s ice again Where aye it lay at one time. A mile high, both cold and dry, It stood above the tree-line. And in between the blast and gleam, Behind the hair and breath of steam, The Glacial airs were not a dream To Mammuthus, pre-Lupus, or Man’s kind.. And now overlaid by that fertile glade Where grasses sport with woodbine, Where cattle graze through timeless days From morning mist to milk-time, ‘Neath men who reap the harvests sweet, ‘Neath next-day-dreams and this day’s feet, In darkened seams the rumours sleep That one time lived in sunshine. — Ken Christenson