Wednesday 29 September 2010


It's a difficult (but undeniably popular) subject, extinction, with all manner of claims being made about how many species are 'facing extinction' and how many extinctions are happening each year. Consider this - a pretty representative story - and wonder, as I do, what it actually means and how seriously we should take it. Then ponder the implications of this finding, and throw into the mix the fact that all estimates of the number of species on Earth are guesswork - no one really has a clue, and there's probably no way of ever knowing. Every time the more biodiverse and/or less thoroughly explored habitats - rainforest, deep oceans - are examined closely, they yield hundreds, thousands of new species. My suspicion is that we know too little about the natural world to make any kind of authoritative judgments about matters of extinction. The Earth is always bigger and infinitely more complex - and resilient - than we take it for.


  1. Dear Nigeness,

    As a trained Paleontologist, I can tell you that Mass Extinctions are a fact of geologic history--there was a postulated 55 million year periodicity to them; however, that was not, to my mind ever proven. Like global warming, I tend to be strongly suspicious of agenda-driven science and estimates of things we simply cannot know. Why not focus on the knowns--the damage resulting (or not) from the Gulf Oil spill (for example.)


  2. As Mr Riddle points out Extinction is an entirely natural phenomenon.

    So indeed are all Man's acts (no matter how destructive), for we are natural creatures and of Nature a part.

  3. Quite Sir Watkin - it's funny how Homo Sapiens never turns up in these lists of endangered species. Perhaps one day it will, but I rather doubt it...
    Thanks for visiting, Steven - good to have a paleontologist on board - I reckon that's the science to give a chap a bit of perspective.

  4. Should we approve findings that are qualitative or quantitative?
    Is Genocide a natural form of extinction?
    What role should human consciousness play in this matter?