Steven Meglitsch

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Will there still be humans on this planet a million years from now?

I keep mulling around in my mind the question of whether or not the human species is evolutionarily viable on the long term. There seem to be a lot of pros and cons, but to me it looks as though the jury is still out.

The secondary questions are:
1. If we are still here in a million years, what will be different about us? What parameters will permit us to succeed.
2. If not, what will lead to our downfall, and what parameters in the human species will have hindered our continued survival?

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    Dec 4 2012: In other words, we need to stop and realize that there are just things that are NOT within our power!! Yes, we should act responsibly, conserve to a point in all ways, be frugal and aware of the "costs" of things, not be wasteful and wanton in our actions and ways of living -- that just makes sense universally!!

    We are NOT the highest on the intelligence scale of beings in this universe, I would bet on that!! And we need to realize how small we actually are, yet how integral a part we have in all things at the same time!! There is a pattern to ALL THINGS.... Just look to sacred geometry, fibonnaci sequence, golden spiral, quantum mechanics, math, music, the phases of the moon, the tides, planting seasons, the miracle of life/birth, the Bible and that is proven!!!

    How different might things be if instead of being bullyish and arrogant and thinking we know it all, we understood, respected and lived within the discipline of those divine patterns??? That is an amazing thought as far as I am concerned and I believe we will (or some of us anyway) finally get it and have the opportunity to do just that!

    But only after the Creator of all finally shows us how little and insignificant we really are when we refuse to give credit where it is due.... and in the midst of it all destroys this planet as we know it HIMSELF and in doing so wipes away Ego and Self and Pride, Jealousy, Lies and Meanspiritedness and Greed, Lust, Rage and Hate away with it!!!! And then as only HE can, recreates this place to sustain us for eternity in everyway we could possible need or want and allows us the chance to enjoy it fully once we can finally truly appreciate and honor it!!

    May sound hokey to some of you, but as I stated before, it is the ONLY THING that makes perfect sense to me (and many others too)! :) So, Steven, a million years from today.... There is a good chance that we will be "here" under those circumstances!! Maybe I'll even see ya there.... :) Hope so!!
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      Dec 4 2012: Thanks for your contribution, Bren,

      I see you find sustenance for your optimism in your religious convictions, and gather that you are Christian. Even through I am an agnostic, I find that conviction which leads us nearer the truth, is beneficial for humankind.

      I am skeptical to viewing religious scriptures as the “word of god” simply because the only thing we know as objective fact is that all religious scriptures were handed down from human to human, and that historically we find both the worst and the best sides of humanity framed in reference to deep faith in one set of scriptures or another.

      What gives me my greatest hope for the future is the tendency for humankind to continually pursue a greater understanding of the Universe and our place within it. What counteracts that optimism is the vast human conservative inertia that inhibits our ability to live in accordance with our expanding understanding.

      As I see it, you will just as often find religious conviction on either side of that equasion.
  • Nov 27 2012: A million years from now... no, definitively the answer is: a rotund NO. Human beings won't be around 300 years from now. If we are a pessimist we can assume self-destruction will occur at some point in the near future, either by an ecological catastrophe or by world war 3, so form a pessimist point of view, there is not even a slight chance we will be here a hundred years from now. If we are optimist, on the other hand, within the next 100 years, human beings will merge with machines and become one, a new species capable of driving its own evolution in such a way, so fast and so effective that 10 generations from now our descendants may be the last living things (notice I use the word "things" instead of "organisms") to have a trace of natural DNA. So form an optimistic point of view, even when the human spirit may be preserved, the human DNA will eventually disappear completely in the next few centuries. So no matter if you assume a pessimistic or an optimistic point of view, humans won't be here 300 years from now.
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      Nov 27 2012: So, George, our future is either self-destruction or cyborg-"evolution." Both have been a popular themes in SF, and give us a couple of reasonable scenarios.

      You are the first to point out that our decendents won't necessarily be Humans (or, alternatively that future Humans will be as different from us as we are from australopithicines). I rather figure that any evolutionary change to come will be biological, because we will have used up our resources before we create the technology to either create cyborgs or control our DNA on a mass scale.

      I mean, we can't even feed everybody today even when we have the resources to do so.
      • Nov 29 2012: I've seen a couple of TED talks, sadly I'm unable to recall the names of the speakers, but one of them is a researcher at the university of Glasgow, he is talking about the possibility of an alternative "synthetic biology" based completely on inorganic elements... there are so many chemical elements with lots of wonderful properties that may empower future synthetic biologists far beyond our current imagination. Now days mainstream researchers are talking about both, artificial (based on organic elements) and synthetic biologies. There's also a lot of research being done in the field of nanotechnology and I don't doubt there are medical researchers trying to find practical applications for all this technologies. Currently these are just ideas being developed, but I can assure you one day, within the next 100 years, someone will find a way to merge natural DNA with synthetic "DNA" and/or nanobots. Once that happens, the future not only of the human being, but the whole biology will be changed.

        You may say: "only wealthy people will get all the benefits of all this research", but I will answer: "yes at first, but we should be confident that very shortly after that an "open source movement" will slowly make them available TO ALL!!!!"... I can assure you, it won't stop there, sooner or latter, nanobots and synthetic biology will also reach pets, crops, and form that point, there's only one step to rewrite the whole biology... and that my friend, will occur between 100 and 300 years from now, that of course if we don't destroy ourselves first."
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      Nov 29 2012: I am familiar with the 2 - 300 year time frame for synthetic evolution. Of course in your last sentence you say it all: "If we don't destroy ourselves first." At a guess, if we don't really screw things up within the next century, we will surely see a lot of new medical advancements, both in robotics and nanotechnology. Controlled evolution/mutation/cyborgization may or may not follow, depending on other things.

      One problem would be that if everybody has the chance, say, for life extension, what do we do about all the new babies being born? The only reason we don't already have an 8 digit population is that people die.
      • Nov 30 2012: Like John Lennon said: "There are no problems, only solutions", guided evolution will allow scientist to blend animal DNA and with plant DNA and make anyone capable to produce its own food out of its own waste, so they won't need to eat or defecate very often, so food won't be a problem, and if it were, I'm confident people of that time will be able to harvest crops form ships orbiting the earth around. Space won't be a problem either, if you cannot grow sideways there is plenty of space upwards. Energy?... the sun will provide more than we can use. Once your technology reaches the point in which you can either (a) scale food production beyond available physical space or (b) make anyone food independent, the size of your population can grow without worrying. Believe me, for any problem human kind may find in the way, there will be at least one person willing to solve it and not minding giving their life on that quest.
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      Dec 4 2012: But, George, I still have problems envisioning a global population of, say, trillions and trillions of humans without us more or less destroying all tre rest of nature on the planet., even if they had become, as you suggest, low resource consumers.
      • Dec 5 2012: I can understand your point, however I think our descendants (which won't be fully humans) will have more reasoning power than us, and surely will find a way to keep population growth under control. Currently death and reproduction drive evolution, but what if you can separate evolution from the reproduction process, if that can be achieved, it may open the door for immortality and would make biological reproduction (as we know it) obsolete, that way population will reach a certain limit, around which it will stabilize. Just imagine this: One of your descendants meets a real nice person of the opposite sex, so they mate... in therms of our current biology the end of the story would be: "she eventually gets pregnant and a new human being is born"... but what if, instead of that, they actually merge into some kind of cocoon which passed some amount of time would yield 2 new adult persons whom would be at the same time parents and children of themselves... too crazy???... may be, but don't forget we are talking about synthetic biology, nanotechnology and guided evolution... this is just a quick solution I think our descendants may figure out, but the possibilities are endless, including taking more traditional measures like birth control, or tax incentives for couples with only one child.
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    Nov 27 2012: I'll let you know. I put a reminder on my calender to make a entry on this site. I will expect a reply.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Nov 27 2012: I had a freind who did that. But his calender didn't go any further than 21st of December 2012...
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    W. Ying

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    Nov 27 2012: I believe:
    If people understand what INVALID happiness is, ”the human species is evolutionarily viable on the long term”.

    The answers to the secondary questions are:
    1. The difference will be that INVALID happiness is a crime then. And NO INVALID happiness will an parameter permits us to succeed.
    2. If not, INVALID happiness will lead to our downfall, and INVALID happiness will be a parameters in the human species hindering our continued survival.

    (For INVALID happiness, see the 1st article, points 1.1-3, at
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      Nov 27 2012: Your point is well taken, Ying. I didn't understand your use of the term invalid happiness at first (perhaps more my fault that yours) I might have called it psudo-happiness, perhaps.

      But if I have understood the "happiness norm" outlined in your papers rightly, either we continue to persue invalid happiness and die out, or learn to persue valid happiness and survive. Which do you think is the most probable scenario, Ying?
  • Nov 26 2012: I very much doubt that the human race will last a million years, especially if this planet remains our only planet.

    "1. If we are still here in a million years, what will be different about us? What parameters will permit us to succeed."

    To survive, we would have to become much more wise. We would have to start planning long term, at least several generations ahead. We would also have to find a way to save the environment from human effects, both intentional and unintentional. Just coming up with a sustainable process for managing our own biological wastes seems to be a big challenge.

    "2. If not, what will lead to our downfall, and what parameters in the human species will have hindered our continued survival?"

    There are several possibilities, but you could view all of them as a lack of our ability to delay gratification. We are, right now, facing issues that require immediate effort and expense to assure our later survival, and we are unwilling to face the simple truth. Also, we are too clever for own good, and value this cleverness much more than wisdom.

    We should be preparing for:

    -- the eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano
    -- pandemic of unknown virus
    -- changing all of our technology to be sustainable
    -- reduce global warming
    -- super powerful technologies that could wipe us out directly, or indirectly by interfering with key environmental factors.

    A complete list might go on for pages.

    For us to survive, a lot of things must go well. We could go extinct if any one of many things goes badly. Long term, I think the odds are not good.
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      Nov 26 2012: Barry, I like your answer. Especially "to become much more wise", which you define (wisely) as long term planning, containing environmental impact etc. I think I would have added something like "increasng our understanding of nature, the natural parameters necessary for the survival of our species and responding to these"

      Personally I see a bitter irony in the fact that whereas many individual human beings seem to posess all of the above wisdom, and that even though we collectively already have most of the necessary technology and knowledge to meet the challenge, we seem to lack the ability to use that wisdom and technology to guarantee our future existence at the collective or species level.

      When we learn to do that, our survival becomes more probable, Even in the face of the astonomical, geological, climatological, and biological threats you mention that might wipe us out in a flash.
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    Lejan .

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    Nov 26 2012: Yes, because I intend to live forever... so far, so good! And in case I make it, I become my self fulfilling prophecy! :o)

    Besides this lame joke, there are just to many unknown variables to answer your question.
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      Nov 26 2012: Of course it's a totally unanswerable question ... that's the point. Take up the challange, listen to your inner voice, and make your best guess!
      It is my contention that each person's answer will reveal a little sliver of the answer to another important question: "Do we really believe in ourselves?"
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        Lejan .

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        Nov 26 2012: I believe in our survival instinct, not our wisdom.

        Assuming the world spins as it does today for the next million years, this is my best guess:

        Within the next 100 years civilization will face the most dramatic changes in the shortest timeframe ever recorded in history - and it happens on global scale.

        The chain of events will start slowly and excellerates from a certain point on exponentially.

        Our food supply will become highly insufficient and exorbitant expensive as fossile fuels are running out. Without fertilizer the soil does not grow enough food, as it has been deadened by industrial farming and need centuries for natural recreation. As 'quick fix' massive deforestation will gain new farm land with to little yield and massive impact on climate change. Europe and the US will reopen their coal mines to 'reanimate' their economies in 'industrial revolution' style. Energy prices ramp up, air pollution and climatic disaster too. The global economy stutters and fails. Wars on resources become often and open and states fall back into agressive and protective entities. Global mass migration for food, water and dry habitat escalates violantly at various borders, whereas inside those countries riots for the same reasons are breaking down any law and order. From there, violence, starvation and epidemic plagues will be in horrible scale to reduce the world population to a new minimum.


        Surviving gangs, fighting clans and other groups of individuals will become new nuclei for the creation of another post-apocalyptic era and to start anew as agrarian societies. The remaining knowledge will be adjusted and the 'forgotten' knowledge re-gained.

        New countries, kingdoms and societies grow. There will be war and peace, rise and fall under a new climate on a 'new' world.

        A million years can have 2000 epochs of 500 years each. Our species will survive, our cultures won't. In any case, a good time for museums ... ;o)
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          Nov 26 2012: Now that was a much more substancial answer! If I get your gist, Lejan, you think that humans will not basically change, but that we will perhaps go through a series of cyclical rises and falls. Civilizations and cultures will rise and fall, but the species ultimately survives. A credible scenario.

          But it occurs to me that if each cycle lasts 500 years or so, wouldn't it be likely that each succesive cycle attains a slightly lower level than the last - after all, each cycle would have deplenished the resources the next cycle will has to build on. After a thousand or so cycles we might end up as a parenthetical species with a smalish niche in the ecosphere

          What about evolution? wouldn't there be some biological developments over the course of a million years?
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        Lejan .

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        Nov 26 2012: Thanks to you I learned the word 'gist' today and if I would have known that this is what you're after, I could have saved at least 1500 characters... ;o)

        Due to the history of my country, I learned, that a 'millennial kingdom' can become as short as 12 years, which was fortunate in the case of the Nazi regime. So if you look back in human history, you will find no 'perhaps' that we 'go through a series of cyclical rises and falls', you will find evidence.

        And we are no exception of this rule, as the nature of this subject is dynamic change.

        To me no 'species' ultimately survives. Some may prolong their existence by adjusting their behaviour - and here our brain comes in pretty handy - or they follow the voice of Darwin to transform into another.

        My 2000/500 example was only guesswork, yet I don't think that a following cycle has to be on a slightly lower level than the one before. Besides fossile fuels which get burned, most resources will only be transformed from one 'form' into another as matter can not be 'destroyed'. To re-use them is a matter of energy only, which can be generated in a sustainable way.

        Nature itself, if it is healthy, is abundant and a paradise of plenty. So a shortage for next generations is no necessity as long they learn not to destroy this foundation and heritage.

        Our place in history will be on the opposite of this spectrum, and this BECAUSE we do not see ourselfs as 'parenthetical' within the whole circle of this biosphere.

        Evolution may occur if there is a benificial need for it or at least no hindrance. It would definitely help if we manage to fall into ruins without using our nuclear arsenal and to leave the atmospheric protection as intact as possible. If we fail on this, evolution may become less random as it used to be and change our species into something different than we know today. So let's hope for the best.
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          Nov 26 2012: You're absolutely right that human history so far has been cyclical to a great extent. And I don't think it a bad guess that our vast civilizations of today disappear in the future. All civilizations rise and fall, it seems. But looking globally at human history over the last, say, 20 - 30,000 years, there is a consistant upward curve from day one until the present. When the Egyptian civilization collapsed, it was because other, newer civilizations around them were doing some things better (like making war). The technologies of the Pharaos were not immiediately lost, (until Julius burned the library at Alexandria). When the Aztecs, the Toltecs, the Mayans, and the Khmers fell they were all seemingly due to a combination of ecological and military challenges as well as internal conditions that blocked them from adapting to new conditions.

          And even if the third Reich failed after just 12 years, the result of it's fall was not that Germany returned to the stone age. Conditions in Germany today (even under today's economic crisis) are better by far than they were when Hitler came to power in 1932.

          So one scenario is that in the economic/ecological crisis that is coming, the seats of power shift, but development (after a temporary setback) goes on.

          The reason I chose a million years for my question was to put away short term details and look at the "big" questions ... do we have a long term chance to make it or not?

          The reason I mention evolution, is that, it might well be that both nations and peoples that survive best in the future might be different from the ones that got us where we are.
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        Lejan .

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        Dec 4 2012: Sorry, I lost track of our conversation and just got reminded.

        Yes ,I agree with what you say besides the '... consistant upward curve from day one until the present.'

        And this not by its final result, as more on the 'consistant' part. Europe dwelled long in its dark ages with little to no further development, suppressed by an anxious and possessive Christian church. For centuries this curve became a line and it took long to bend upwards again.

        The reconstruction of Germany was no matter of choice by the allied forces, as Europe would not have worked economically with a stone age civilisation at its center. The following boom time was subsidised by the US and EU countries, namely the Marshall Plan, as otherwise Germany would not have been able to rise of its ruins as quick as it did and would not be were it is today.

        Another difference there is today is, that no other era before us possessed the technology for a nuclear Armageddon. And since the cold war times even more nations access those weapons. A global war of this magnitude would definitely cut this curve of constant development for our species, and the 'setback' would be near to zero.

        Due to our industrialisation most of 'us' western people are little to not equipped to restart at that point. We have lost so many basic skills of hunting and farming, that many of 'us' who would survive a global nuclear war may not be able to survive the next winter. People of less developed countries will have an advantage here.

        On evolution, better to say its mechanism of mutation the global effect of nuclear radiation would be disasterous to our species.

        And without, and no other source of external 'pressure' a million years does not need to change us much.

        There are species, like the Coelacanth, which did not change significantly over 400 million years.
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    Dec 5 2012: WELL SAID!!!!

    THANK YOU for the pleasure and honor of such a response and conversation as a whole!! I think you are also right in that our views are probably not all that far apart at all!! I appreciate the allowance for this little jaunt off the exact original topic of your thread - even though I might have gotten a tad distracted, I thoroughly enjoyed the rapport!! :)
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    Dec 4 2012: I can certainly respect and appreciate your beliefs as well, Steven! I would not call it "religious" convictions just to clarify, but instead Faith or Spirituality and yes convictions too --- I find that RELIGION tends to twist, presume superior knowledge of and really excludes so much and so many so often!! (To be expected, as they are man-created and managed) And as far as Christianity - I would I guess be forced to apply the label simply because I do believe in the Christian God and Jesus Christ (Holy Trinity), but I really prefer to think of my God as The Creator and to me He represents Pure truth and Love -- Not a dictatorial, demanding and egomaniacal being! :) I don't see my walk as one that requires conforming to a set of strict codes and rules but instead it is a wonderous exploration and discovery - where I think my Creator ultimately only want to Give and bless me and show me how to be exactly who I was meant to be - live my true and highest purpose!! So really, it is not unlike what you described as your greatest hope...... :)

    One further point, if you don't mind.... I believe that all history has been handed down the same way - in part verbally, by written account and letters/missives and other documents if they were applicable or obtainable!! So, It still surprises me that the majority of people who argue against The Bible always seem to use that for their basis.... The Bible actually says... "God is the Living Word" and I am not aware of anywhere that is claims to be the entire chronological history from Creation to the early years A.D.

    I believe it is a representation of what we should know to help us to better understand ourselves, our Creator, the way the world works, the ways we can get off path and further away from Love and what we have in store for us once we embrace Love in it's purest form! A guidebook more than the entire set of encyclopedic history for mankind! ;) Be well and God bless you!!! :)
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      Dec 4 2012: Your point about distinguishing between religion and spirituality is well taken, Bren. Although it's not directly related to the question in this thread, I have a suspicion that we aren't too far apart on the question of what mankind's place in the universe really is, but also that our definitions of terms are very different.

      Just looking at the very big universe we are a part of might seem to make us insignificant, But the big, old Universe does what it does and it seemingly does it everywhere and all the time. Which means that we, as a tiny component of it, somehow reflect the whole. Judging by the kind of consciousness and mentation humans (as well as most organic life forms) have, we appear to be hard wired to walk that tightrope between curiosity and skepticism that allows us to continually ask questions and continually challenge the answers. To me, that is a source of optimism ... if we look hard enough we can find the answers.

      I have come to look at our future as perpetual challenge to either find our place as a sustainable species in the natural universe or being relegated to the fossil record for some new species, perhaps, to ponder.

      I am not scientist myself, but was brought up to look upon the scientific method as an excellent (though not exclusive) framework to ask questions and find appropriate answers. As the universe is such a very big place and our brains are so very small by comparison, each seemingly good answer we find must constantly be open to re-questioning and re-examination, each new round bringing us, hopefully, a little closer to the truth (though perhaps never getting us there)
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    Dec 4 2012: 2. Which is why there is a cycle to everything around us!! Kind of like a sprinkler system on a timer - Your lawn still gets watered even if/when you forget or are too lazy! There are natural filtration systems in place everywhere we look (oceans, sand, fire, wind, rain, volcanic eruptions, etc), natural population controls (wars, aging, food sources, even murder and famine) and growth/re-growth that occurs without any more help from us than our breathing.... That says to me that our Creator fully anticipated our inattention and/or laziness and set everything up on auto-pilot!

    I get so aggravated with people who constantly preach that we are destroying this planet and demand this be done or that in the hopes of slowing down, stopping the process? We would have to purposefully set out to destroy this planet, in my opinion and we are arrogant to think we have that capability short of a nuclear holocaust!!

    100 years ago we "strip mined" a large portion of the United States with Gold Frenzy and were blessed with MILLIONS of ounces of gold, with some more prosperous mines in California operating up through the 1950's - Then the "Gold Rush" ended, or so we thought. Right now some of those same areas have been explored are are capable of producing amounts in the same ranges as in the late 1800's AGAIN! Oil resources in North America FAR surpass any in the Arab countries STILL with many untapped areas that could last us a hundred lifetimes even if we all were driving Chevys with big block motors! We have clear cut much of our timber resources had HUGE fires burn across the states and yet there are no shortage of trees! Even the Exxon Valdez tanker spill many years ago couldn't contaminate our oceans forever and ironically, we still have buffalo even after the "white man" was thought to have killed them all off in an effort to control the native American people, etc... Even the flood of the Bible didn't wipe us or the planet out!!! (to be continued)
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    Dec 4 2012: I assume that your questions apply to habitation of the current space in which we live... geographically, physiologically, etc??

    If indeed you are referring to humans (in our present form) living on Earth (as we know it) a million years from now... Then my answer would be No!

    However, I do happen to believe that the mass, planet, rock (whatever) we live on currently will be in existence then but wholly regenerated, purged and reformed with many familiar characteristics but in a much purer state! Likewise, the inhabitants of that planet (a million years in the future) will be quite similar as well, but cleansed, purified and perfected.... The true utopian society - A New Jerusalem, Heaven, paradise....!

    Yes, I am referring to the Biblical prophecies and promises! :) And aside from the issue of "religion" or Faith - It just makes SENSE!! Here are a few reasons why I think so...

    First of all, the planet Earth - Really a brilliant concept and design, capable of sustaining MANY millions of life forms harmoniously and in such a way that everything is inter-connected. Breathtakingly beautiful, bountiful and it continuously replenishes and regenerates in multitudes of ways. But this is the thing that I believe that so many people discount... It's design was purposely meant to accommodate "life as we know it" TEMPORARILY!! This was not intended as our "final dwelling space"!

    Simply put, I am convinced that our Creator with foreknowledge made the perfect place for us to live while we are yet carnal creatures. Knowing man's propensity for destruction, selfishness, voracious appetite, and limited vision - Earth was intended to sustain us long enough for us to prove once and for all that we cannot manage it alone or we turn into animalistic, war mongering, self-important hedonists bent on our own and each other's destruction!! It was taken into account that we would fail to care for our home responsibly and would rape it for its riches to satisfy our wants
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    Nov 28 2012: It is very hard to predict future. No body can process enough variables to predict an answer.
    Almost all possibilities are mentioned by other posters.
    Although I believe we shall rise again and shall answer for our actions to The Creator.
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    Nov 26 2012: Not a chance. Our DNA is being mutated with every passing generation; eventually it will become non-viable. We are not, nor ever have, evolved. We are devolving, just like everything else in the universe.
    This world is not our home. Our home is with our Creator.

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      Nov 26 2012: And you believe that the Creator wants us to fade away?
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        Nov 26 2012: No. He wants us to know him & live with him forever. It's laid out in the bible, this universe is temporary & will be replaced.
        The earth's rotation is slowing, the magnetic field is waning, even without the DNA problem a million years is not on the cards.

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          Nov 26 2012: Did you coin that term?
          I love it.
          But isn't DEVOLUTION a kind of evolution (a bad one)? I don't know how it works, but I guess non-viable genes are selected, so that each generation is less fit than its predecessor. Certainly this selection cannot be natural, because adaptation is rewarded in nature. So, Divine intervention?

          By the way, your view of life and the universe is the sadest I've ever read.
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        Nov 27 2012: Hi Gerald.
        I don't see how eternity in bliss can be construed as sad.
        Let's face it; we get our three score & ten, then we die. Whether the planet goes on for another million is a tad irrelevant.
        As I understand it we get our parent's mutations plus a couple of hundred new ones, so in the long term they mount up. Some say that there are good mutations which drive evolution. If you want to believe that then you're fine. Personally I don't buy it.
        I have spent a large part of my 60 years trying to figure this out & for what it's worth, I believe the bible is spot on.

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    Nov 26 2012: I dont think so