Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Earth's Finest -- Writer's Poke #412



Try to think in terms of millions of years. I dare you. People simply aren’t made to think in such quantities. A million times around the Sun? What does that even mean? 

Jellyfish are the ultimate Earthlings. After all, they’ve been on this planet longer than just about anything. We know that jellyfish were around 500 million years ago (!). Homo sapiens? Maybe 100,000 years. Even fish, which we sometimes imagine started the whole evolution thing when they developed stubby little legs and crawled out onto dry land, gasping for breath, have only been around for 370 million years. 

But how have the jellies managed to do it? We think that big brains matter, that they are the secret to our planetary dominance. Jellies don’t think. They never developed the brains. If you’ve ever been to an aquarium, you probably noticed that they don’t seem to do much of anything. They simply exist, pulsating through the water, without any discernible purpose. 

And yet in a doom and gloom future, when the oceans are otherwise lifeless and empty, jellies will exist. They can exist in the most polluted conditions, the most acidic of circumstances. Global warming? They’ll just be getting warmed up, so to speak. 

Scientists theorize that the planet has gone through five mass extinction events in the last 440 million years. Some suggest we might be on the verge of a sixth. Odds are the jellies will survive; will we?

Are human beings superior to jelly fish, or does such a question even make sense?

“Those who admire the massive, rigid bone structures of dinosaurs should remember that jellyfish still enjoy their very secure ecological niche.” – Beau Shiel

2 comments:

  1. I really like the way you started by saying that humans are not made to think in terms of millions of years. But then you say that we "know" that jellyfish were around 500 million years ago. Really? How do you or I really "know" any such thing? I can accept that there are those who know that there is evidence that they interpret to mean that there were creatures much like what we know as jellyfish on earth 500 millions of years ago. But do we really know that the evidence is true (or false)?

    Now, based on what you are saying, may I ask, "Does it really matter whether or not we continue to exist as a mortal race on this old "oblate spheroid"?

    I am not asking for any discussion. I am seeking to deepen the thought.

    I am not critical of the question or of the discussion thus far, but I see other questions that beg to be asked. Science may not ask them. Philosophy, it seems to me, must.

    ReplyDelete
  2. BTW, yes, the question does deserve to be asked. A simple answer, I think, is, "Yes, a jellyfish is superior to a human for the 'niche' it fills in the tapestry of life on earth."

    ReplyDelete