The seeding of Earth — an experiment that went horribly wrong
What follows is a transcript of the report issued by the Milky Way Exoplanet Seeding Programme. This report contains the results of our efforts to seed life on two exoplanets called Earth and Mars, approximately 4.5 light-years (Earth units) from our star system, Alpha Centauri. Their star system, known as the Solar System, comprises a number of exoplanets orbiting a second-rate star known as Sol.
We begin this report with Planet Earth, which we, the Milky Way Exoplanet Seeding Programme, seeded with cellular organisms two billion (Earth) years ago.
After many millions of years of geological and tectonic development, great changes are now observable in the diversity of life, from aquatic to amphibious to reptilian to primate; and the diversity of vegetable and plant varieties including a myriad insect and fungal forms.
This report, however, deals only with primate anthropoid animals. These creatures evolved by a natural selection process into the genus Homo, known latterly as Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo naledi and, currently, the main subject of this report: Homo sapiens. (Sapiens means “wise”, but as will be seen, this is a misnomer).
Similar to other primate groupings, this species formed tribes. At various stages, they dispersed themselves across the face of the planet into areas that were suitable for hunting, fishing and fruit gathering and had a reliable water supply. The climate in the selected areas was not too hot, not too cold. Tribes occasionally settled in close proximity to one another, but there was no instinctive rivalry between them as long as there was a reasonable supply for all of what had drawn them together.
Vocalisation had to evolve regionally into protolanguage in order to communicate amongst themselves.
Emergence of language
A developmental breakthrough occurred when it became evident that speech was merely symbolic for meaning. A grunted, “Where water?”, for example, was soon understood to refer to a physical object by the interrogatory tone used and accompanied by body gestures. As long as tribes did not threaten each others’ way of life, all prospered.
Tribes expanded their numbers by settling in areas of their choosing, and in many cases turned their nomadic lifestyle into a settled one. The spread of communities was now defined by geological or ocean boundaries. The inhabitants had inherited the concept of a hierarchical system of self-government from the earliest days, based on eldership.
Certain males and females (the genders that predominated) seemed to excel at tasks and were venerated for their natural endowments and leadership qualities. To distinguish them, they bore the title “chief”. Since brain development had progressed beyond day-to-day needs, thinking and innovation became commonplace.
This served many generations adequately, but there was no stopping the brain’s development. With applied use, new functions began appearing in the cerebrum, and soon most, but not all, adults found they could harness the power of reason and discrimination. Discussions went beyond “the best crop” and “time to plant” and now incorporated insubstantial ideas and concepts.
Some of these good folks who inadvertently (at first) found an attraction in hallucinogenic and narcotic plants, began to experience visions and dreams that appeared to explain the forces of nature by which they were surrounded and influenced. As the use of these natural drugs was not practised widely, the “users” soon congregated in society as special functionaries. Particular titles were invented for those showing mystical and unconventional behavioural traits, like “priests”.
Since, by “self-proclamation”, priests filled certain niches in society, they were exempt from manual labour and members of society provided their basic needs. The priestly clique prospered by disseminating superstitious beliefs and thus cultivated a mystical hold over the common folk. This hold was eventually cemented by the use of special buildings, rituals, beliefs, observances, dress, totems and so-called holy languages and books — hence the birth of “religions”.
Emergence of politics
In a similar fashion, those folk with superior reasoning skills began to make decisions for the management of the tribe. They too were given a particular title: “politicians”, whose field of influence became known as “politics”.
Similar to the privileges and benefits accorded to the priestly classes, politicians formed social groups or “parties” according to the political dictates of the day.
And so the tribes grew and flourished by the advancement from primitive speech to sophisticated grammatical languages. In the new system of specialisation of duties, nations were born. They identified themselves as “sovereign countries” and soon various cultures, habits and languages proliferated across the globe.
Population numbers expanded as a result of more efficient food production and disease control. The number of autonomous nations had also been growing, resulting in heightened competition for resources. This was further aggravated by political and religious ideologies that differed between nations and were often the cause of rancour between them.
Although there was no shortage of foodstuffs (in general), civil wars and uncivil wars, political or religious, became endemic for the possession of territory, hearts and minds, and resources. This resulted in millions of human casualties, great personal suffering, population displacement and political reconfiguration, not to mention the immense scale of the needless destruction of property and infrastructure.
A bizarre tendency had been dominating the political order as some individuals developed an exalted sense of their own worth. A breed of Homo evolved, inter alia, who called themselves “psychologists”, and they filled certain niches in society. The political exaltation was named by the psychologists as “ego”, a simple term for what was to become a widespread aberration of the mind and behaviour. Hierarchical rankings assumed greater importance since it became clear that higher positions in the rankings received enhanced benefits in the community, such as wealth, status, land and privileges.
Obsequious pandering and flattery became popular in the political milieu. An enhanced sense of ego now proliferated among many tribal members. The bizarreness of this complaint was the fact that the psychologists knew the malady indicated a spurious condition of assumed self-importance, while the sufferer was oblivious to the fictitious nature of the malady under which he or she laboured.
Origins of capitalism
The prime motivation in life was no longer basic survival — rather, it became the amassing of wealth. This was wealth not intended for the neighbourly good or practical improvement of general living conditions for disadvantaged fellow citizens. It became “wealth for its own sake”, often partnered with an egotistical status derived from societal power.
Naturally, the enlarged reasoning faculties of the Homo brain led to the artificial raising of living standards for most of the population which, as a result, accelerated population growth. So numerous had the H. sapiens species become, that leaders found it difficult, or were unwilling, to educate and house them all. Social strata developed and soon, instead of the early relatively blissful egalitarian lives of the tribes, malicious schisms appeared in society where individuals unwilling or incapable of contributing to the common weal, were separated, even persecuted.
At other times and in some parts of the planet, the concept of “leadership” declined into a particular system where a single family adopted this role, often by force. A “priest” was employed to sanctify this new political dispensation, which became known as “monarchy” or “royalty”. It became entrenched, self-serving and, regardless of their mental qualities, descendants now bore the title of “king” and “queen”.
The schisms between rich and poor grew even greater.
To stabilise the regime for perpetuity, laws, statutes and regulations were developed to ensure loyalty to the “crown” (a peculiar totem of ostentatious superiority that entailed the placing of a golden hoop on the crown of the head). The penalties promulgated to enforce subservience to the crown, (the non-observance of which was known as treason) were, to begin with, harsh in the extreme.
Punishments comprised “hanging, drawing and quartering”, torture, beheading, burning at a stake and being boiled alive in oil. Subsequent centuries saw such crass inhumanities replaced with execution by hanging, electrocution and toxic injection, as well as life-long captivity, as practised by so-called enlightened states.
Great dissatisfaction arose in the community and in many of the more enlightened countries the public accepted a milder political dispensation where politicians enjoyed a limited period in “office”— but not always. There remained hankerings for power in individuals who desired the status of “royalty” without a public election and who became known as despots or tyrants. With the human ego at work, other systems of governance arose: democracy (rule by a majority of people); plutocracy (rule by the wealthy); oligarchy (rule by a few); theocracy (rule by priests); autocracy (rule by a despot); and technocracy (rule by resource technocrats).
Homo’s giant brain has diversified into many directions: philosophy, literature, art, science, construction, economics, medicine, public health, social welfare, education and sanitation to name but a few. Most important are the technical advances in communication via geostationary satellites, sea and air transportation and computer technology, which includes the development of robotic workers in factories.
However, a gulf exists presently (21st-century Earth time), separating cyber-technocrats with political interests as well as commercial capitalism from the “ordinary” populace.
Beginning of the end
Some examples of Homo’s more reprehensible activities: commercial interests in the packaging industry have produced a non-biodegradable substance called “plastic” (due to its inherent property of plasticity). It is cheap, ubiquitous and almost indestructible, resulting in vast quantities of discarded plastic polluting landfills, rivers and oceans. The latter is especially detrimental to marine organisms.
Commercial interests in the transportation and energy generation industries are exploiting coal and oil reserves as fuels, resulting in unhealthy air contamination with carboniferous atmospheric pollutants causing an alteration of natural climate behaviour.
Commercial interests in the farm-animal husbandry industry are daily sacrificing the lives of hundreds of thousands of farm animals at the altar of Homo’s insatiable and primitive lust for the consumption of animal flesh.
There is poaching of wildlife species such as elephants (for their ivory), pangolins (for their scales) and rhinoceroses (for their horns), and many species have almost been driven to extinction in the pursuit of “trophy hunting”.
However, there have been sporadic instances of dedicated altruistic behaviour and practice in medical and scientific circles, but beyond this, few examples exist.
It can be briefly noted that populations (with some exceptions) have not developed the humane benefits of a moral conscience. Lying, stealing, jealousy, envy, criminality, corruption, greed, bribery, salacious behaviour, racial discrimination, rape and other brutalities, infanticide and cruelty to animals, perjury and subornation, selfishness and general anti-social behaviour are all commonplace.
While we seeded all life forms and triggered the evolutionary process, it can be asked whether the many other animal species, besides H. sapiens, are similarly afflicted. In short, no. Nothing beyond their natural survival behaviour, which encompasses territoriality and competition for food and procreation opportunities. None of these behaviours is malicious and seldom results in death to a competitor.
There exists a poor prognosis for Homo sapiens’ continued survival.
Once becoming extinct (there are, in fact, currently the advance signals of an impending extinction event known locally as the Anthropocene), there is yet the possibility of life continuing. The committee has decided that Homo sapiens is an unregenerate and irredeemable species best left to extinction and complete removal from the universe.
Estimated time to final extinction of genus Homo sapiens: 200 Earth years (2222).
The seeding of Mars
We seeded Mars (an exoplanet orbiting Sol) with cellular organisms four billion years before Earth was seeded. Here follows a condensed summary of our report concerning conditions on Mars at 21st-century Earth time:
Devoid of arable land. Devoid of water. Devoid of atmosphere. Devoid of organic life. Official findings: an abject failure and unlikely that reseeding will be undertaken. DM/ ML
Corrie Verbaan is a retired structural engineer living in Durban. He studied philosophy when younger and is a member of the Shakespeare Society of South Africa. An aficionado of the Greek classics, he most closely aligns himself with the Stoics.
In case you missed it, also read Rebooting the mind: Using our brain is complex
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