News Stories

EASTER SPECIAL: Is Mass Extinction the Opportunity for Global Rebirth?

Easter is historically a festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ after His crucifixion, when, on the third day after His death, He was alleged to have risen again and lived on. Some say that the festival itself predates Christianity and actually has its roots in the worship of Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love, war, fertility, and sexuality, though there is little evidence to support this theory. It is also said to be linked to a pagan festival dedicated to the worship of Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, though solid verification of this fact is also as elusive as the Easter Bunny. One thing that all of the theories appear to have in common is that the festival celebrates the new life, fecundity and rebirth that flourishes in the natural world during the season of Spring.

Death and rebirth is a concept that occurs both literally and metaphorically in every area of our daily lives, however, and not just in the months of Spring. As Mahatma Gandhi once mused: “Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn."

Each different stage in our personal physical and spiritual development could be called a form of rebirth, as we rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of our former selves.

In nature, death and rebirth are an ever-present force driving the cycle of life on this constantly evolving planet. This force affects all forms of life: animals, plants, birds, fish, even bacteria, and not just individuals but sometimes whole species. In fact, extinction is considered to be a common occurrence throughout the earth's past, with over 99% of the species that have ever lived believed to have become extinct.

At certain points in history, however, so-called "mass extinction" events have occurred, periods when huge numbers of species die out simultaneously or within a limited time frame.

The Earth is known to have undergone at least five mass extinction events in its history, the Cretaceous-Tertiary (or K-T) extinction event being the most legendary as it was responsible for the disappearance of the dinosaurs. This event is commonly thought to have been caused by flood basalt eruptions covering large areas with hardened lava and changing the global climate, combined with drastic drops in sea level and topped off by a huge asteroid or comet blasting the seabed near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Other, less well-known but equally as devastating events included the Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction, which had two peak dying times separated by hundreds of thousands of years. Marine life was badly affected, with up to 85 per cent loss of life in the oceans. The event has been attributed to an ice age causing climate change, a drop in sea levels and altered sea-water chemistry.

During the Late Devonian mass extinction over 75 per cent of all species died out; this extinction saw the sea bed become so devoid of oxygen that only bacteria could survive there, and it was thought to have been caused by asteroid impact, climate change and the impact of new plant life altering soil content.

The Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction occurred during the last 18 million years of the Triassic period, and featured two or three extinction phases that combined to form the whole event. Climate change, volcanic eruptions and asteroid impact have also been mooted as possible causes for this episode, which resulted in the disappearance of a wide variety of species including a large amount of marine life. Around half of all life forms existing on earth died out, though oddly the majority of plants seemed to survive.

The most severe mass extinction event of all time, however, occurred at the end of the Permian period when 96 per cent of all species on Earth perished, and all forms of life that have existed since are known to have evolved from the remaining four per cent of surviving species.

Many possible causes for the incredible loss of life have been put forward by scientists, including the usual suspects: asteroid impact, flood basalt eruptions, catastrophic methane release, fluctuations in oxygen or sea levels, or a combination of all of these, though recent evidence has suggested the involvement of a very different and unexpected factor.

The cause of the event is now thought to have come from a relatively innocuous source that spiralled out of control and decimated the planet.

The culprit was a microscopic, methane-producing life form called Methanosarcina that originated in the oceans. As populations of the tiny terror escalated, vast quantities of methane were released into the atmosphere, elevating global temperatures and acidifying the oceans. The environmental changes were severe enough to wipe out almost all of the life on earth, as existing species were unable to adapt quickly enough to the new and inhospitable conditions.
This is the theory put forward after the results of a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which analyzed geological carbon deposits and found a significant boost in levels of carbon-containing gases – either carbon dioxide or methane – at the time of the mass extinction. It was concluded that such high levels of these gases could not have been produced solely by volcanic eruptions.

"A rapid initial injection of carbon dioxide from a volcano would be followed by a gradual decrease," said US scientist Dr Gregory Fournier from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "Instead, we see the opposite: a rapid, continuing increase. That suggests a microbial expansion. The growth of microbial populations is among the few phenomena capable of increasing carbon production exponentially, or even faster."

It can take the influence of very small environmental variations to initiate such a change: a combination of two factors are thought to have encouraged Methanosarcina to proliferate, according to the study. Genetic changes allowed it to become a major producer of methane from accumulations of carbon dioxide in the oceans, and then an explosion of volcanic activity created a an excess of nickel, a vital nutrient that helped to propagate the microbial growth.
A similar situation could now be gradually occurring on Earth, as populations of greenhouse-gas-producing bacteria are being encouraged to grow by increases in global temperatures caused by climate change.

Mankind certainly appears to be sleepwalking towards the demise of his own species, with climate change alone having the potential to wipe out life as we know it and relatively little being done to combat its effects. Our planet is therefore considered to be currently undergoing its sixth mass extinction event, creating the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The problem is that, although extinction is essentially a natural phenomenon, it has previously occurred at a natural rate of about one to five species per year; however scientists estimate that species are now dying out at 1,000 to 10,000 times the average rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. This directly correlates to the development and increase of the human population: this mass extinction event is caused solely by the influence of humanity.

So, is an artificially initiated mass extinction event any different to those caused by naturally occurring phenomena?

History suggests that extinction encourages new life forms to develop, and ensures the resilience of ecosystems. Is an asteroid blast artificial or just an unhappy accident? Man could be considered to be just another species that has briefly gained the ascendancy on Earth, only to be the victim of his own short-lived success.

Whether or not Man manages to survive the effects of his own myopic industrial progression is almost irrelevant; our occupancy of Earth is barely a snapshot in its history and, whilst we may wish to fight for existence, we are no more entitled to survive than any other species that has gone before us. What is almost certain, unless conditions on Earth become totally hostile to all life forms, is that there will be a radiation of new life forms managing to adapt to the changing environmental conditions. The same effect has been observed by scientists researching fossilised remains from each post-extinction era: mass extinctions are invariably followed by periods of adaptive radiation and bio-diversification where previously unknown species suddenly blossom into being.

So, what is the role of mass extinction events in evolution? How has life on our planet been "resurrected" after these catalcysms, and have these events had positive or negative impacts on the evolution of life today?

Extinction is certainly the driving force for innovation in the natural world and it has been a powerful mechanism in encouraging evolutionary diversity, allowing the constant rise and fall of dominant species. It has provided the opportunity for new and varied life-forms to spring into existence and has been a valuable tool to initiate novelty in nature. From the death of those species that have gone before, new and previously unseen life has blossomed.
Even the loss of one species alters the ecosystem it once survived within, though no single species is optimally adapted to its environment; however the fight for survival sorts out those who are better able to adjust to changing circumstances, particularly in mass extinction scenarios.

Those life forms that do manage to adapt rapidly, known as "disaster species", are usually generalists who are displaced by more specialized species over time. Man could be termed a "generalist", though the fragile infrastructure that currently makes up much of the world's human eco-system has rendered many of us ill-equipped for survival outside of its comfortable confines.

As one of the species that may now be facing possible extinction, Man should be using every facet of his adaptability and ingenuity in order to survive.

The difference between this latest extinction event and those that have gone before us is that Man is well aware of the effects of his own actions, and has the option to try and reverse those effects before the damage is irretrievable. But should we try to reverse what now seems almost inevitable, or should we allow the consequences of our own actions to take their natural course, allowing our brief reign on Earth to disappear into the history books like the dinosaurs?

What do you think? In global terms, does Man have any more right to survive than any other species?

Wishing all our subscribers and readers a Happy Easter - hopefully we have given you some food for thought in addition to your chocolate eggs.

So, what is the next incarnation for humanity and all living things on our planet? I feel that ALL life will go down together/as a group if indeed that is in our future. Please let that next incarnation be the GOLDEN AGE of a Christ Consciousness.

Hesiod's Five Ages
The first extant account of the successive ages of humanity comes from the Greek poet Hesiod's Works and Days (lines 109-201). His list is:

Golden Age – The Golden Age is the only age that falls within the rule of Cronus. Molded out of the earth through the hands of Prometheus, these humans were said to live among the gods, and freely mingled with them. Peace and harmony prevailed during this age. Humans did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age but with a youthful appearance and eventually died peacefully. Their spirits live on as "guardians". Plato in Cratylus (397e) recounts the golden race of men who came first. He clarifies that Hesiod did not mean men literally made of gold, but good and noble. He describes these men as daemons upon the earth. Since δαίμονες (daimones) is derived from δαήμονες (daēmones, meaning knowing or wise), they are beneficent, preventing ills, and guardians of mortals.

Silver Age – The Silver Age and every age that follows fall within the rule of Cronus' successor and son, Zeus. Men in the Silver age lived for one hundred years under the dominion of their mothers. They lived only a short time as grown adults, and spent that time in strife with one another. During this Age men refused to worship the gods and Zeus destroyed them for their impiety. After death, humans of this age became "blessed spirits" of the underworld.

Bronze Age – Men of the Bronze Age were hardened and tough, as war was their purpose and passion. Zeus created these humans out of the ash tree. Their armor was forged of bronze, as were their homes, and tools. The men of this Age were undone by their own violent ways and left no named spirits; instead, they dwell in the "dank house of Hades". This Age came to an end with the flood of Deucalion.

Heroic Age – The Heroic Age is the one age that does not correspond with any metal. It is also the only age that improves upon the age it follows. These humans were created from the bones of the earth (stones) through the actions of Deucalion and Pyrrha. In this period men lived with noble demigods and heroes. It was the heroes of this Age who fought at Thebes and Troy. This race of humans died and went to Elysium.

Iron Age – Hesiod finds himself in the Iron Age. During this age humans live an existence of toil and misery. Children dishonor their parents, brother fights with brother and the social contract between guest and host (xenia) is forgotten. During this age might makes right, and bad men use lies to be thought good. At the height of this age, humans no longer feel shame or indignation at wrongdoing; babies will be born with gray hair and the gods will have completely forsaken humanity: "there will be no help against evil."

Ovid's Four Ages
The Roman poet Ovid (1st century BC – 1st century AD) tells a similar myth of Four Ages in Book 1.89–150 of the Metamorphoses. His account is similar to Hesiod's with the exception that he omits the Heroic Age.

Ovid emphasizes the justice and peace that defined the Golden Age. He adds that in this age, men did not yet know the art of navigation and therefore did not explore the larger world.

In the Silver Age, Jupiter introduces the seasons and men consequentially learn the art of agriculture and architecture.

In the Bronze Age, Ovid writes, men were prone to warfare, but not impiety.

Finally, in the Iron Age, men demarcate nations with boundaries; they learn the arts of navigation and mining; they are warlike, greedy and impious. Truth, modesty and loyalty are nowhere to be found.

I call BS on some historical points: 1)"It is also said to be linked to a pagan festival dedicated to the worship of Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, though solid verification of this fact is also as elusive as the Easter Bunny. "
The timing of Easter is directly related to the vernal (spring) equinox which heralds the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Pagan cultures have celebrated the Spring Equinox since many centuries before the time of Christ. The Christian holiday Easter derives its name from the Goddess of the Dawn, a lunar fertility goddess whose Saxon name was Eostre, German name was Ostara, and whose festival was held on the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. While the traditions and symbols have varied from culture to culture the presiding themes are fertility, conception, renewal, breaking of the end-of-winter fast, descent into Hell or the underworld for three days, and the triumph of light over darkness or good over evil.

WHY do Christians always have to think theirs is the first expression of every eternal sacred ceremony? Is it just too demeaning to accept that theirs is but a current incarnation of these time honored celebrations? It screams of hypocrisy.

The most similar story originated in Phrygia one thousand years before the time of Christ. The Phrygians worshiped Cybele a fertility goddess. Like Christ, Cybele's lover Attis, was born of a virgin mother, and was also said to have died and come back to life after three days. Centuries later, about 200 years before the time of Christ, the Romans worshiped Attis with a three day festival, held where St. Peter's in Vatican City is now located, that included eating bread a symbol of the body of Attis. The Romans believed that Attis was born on December 25th, having been conceived during the Spring Equinox, and that when Attis was sacrificed his blood ran down and redeemed the earth. The Ancient Greeks believed that Persephone, daughter of Demeter, was forced to spend each winter in the underworld. During this time Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, would hide away mourning for her daughter, and the world would be infertile. Persephone would return to her mother every year at the Spring Equinox, and the growing season would begin again. There are many other similar stories, all believed to have taken place during the Spring Equinox.

What do you think? In global terms, does Man have any more right to survive than any other species?" Uhh no, those who think so are arrogant indeed. It's this sense of entitlement that has too many people hoarding Billions of dollars to die wealthy while others starve and eke by on the dregs. Greed and avarice will be the downfall of our world. We will destroy this planet in the name of "fourth quarter profits".

I can't deal with religion mainly after watching Zeitgeist on Youtube. I also can't deal with greedy banksters or the inequalities on this planet. I can imagine how this will end - the planet will be 10 degrees warmer in 2050, with enormous masses of hungry poor refugees trying to get a part of the elites wealth, food and water. We can't solve these problems today so to imagine we should do it under more difficult conditions is very unlikely. Maybe democracy, science and a feeling of "we are one global family" can save us, but then we would soon have to change Our way of living. If we destroy the world then we are not really as clever as we think.

Well...Quite the day brightener...

In the spirit of this thought provoking article, the ties to Easter, mass extinction, and the end of man, maybe we should lighten things up a bit...

One word: Hope.

Peace, ya'll.

No one expects the Cosmic Librarian.....

RE Wulfrunian,
The Cosmic Librarians chief weapon is YouTube!
... and a fanatical devotion to lightening..

No, wait The comic Librarian's two weapons are YouTube!, a fanatical devotion to lightening... and Hope...
oh crap, the 3 chief... god I loved Monty Python. never has inanity been so funny.

...And all done from the confines of my comfy chair. :-)

" A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
Proverbs 17:22

We are such tiny delicate creatures among this vast universe that the concept of security is ludicrous, so I intend to seek every moment of joy that I can found while I'm here!

I think the reason we do not live in a universal world full of advanced technological civilizations is that it is a highly challenging step in evolution to develop and use technology in a way that does not result/contribute to an extinction type event in which humanity is thrust back into the stone age. I think humanity always survives such events, but much, if not all, of what passes for civilization these days will not -- regardless of whether one is moving forward or backwards in time.

I thought the humanity haters would have had more of a field day with this one than they did, jumping for joy at the prospect of their hated own species going down in some horriffic way, and being gleefully happy to say so.

Anyway, it is a question to be considered all the same. We aren't more deserving of other species to survive, but what a disgrace if we don't, since we were so endowed with the ability to use our heads and adapt. True stupidity is when those with the brains refuse to use them and embrace deliberate ignorance instead. (In the name of what, does it matter?)

I would like to second the following statements.

We are such tiny delicate creatures among this vast universe that the concept of security is ludicrous, so I intend to seek every moment of joy that I can found while I'm here!

Posted by grapey on 19 Apr 2014 at 14:56

True stupidity is when those with the brains refuse to use them and embrace deliberate ignorance instead. (In the name of what, does it matter?)

Posted by ScorpH on 20 Apr 2014 at 08:08

You really should read The New Testiment. Everything you are upset about and do not understand, Jesus can answer for you. You can say that Jesus was a myth, but the words from whoever he was are more valid today than 2000 years ago. One just needs to read the Word with an open heart and mind. Or perhapse even better yet, go watch it.

Subscribe to Unknowncountry sign up now