Something that I have wondered about recently is whether or not religion is influencing people’s views about climate change and global warming. I often read comments along the lines of “we’ve adapted to climate change for thousands of years and will continue to do so”. Now, I don’t really know enough yet to comment particularly about the role religion might be playing. I thought instead I would simply throw out some numbers that might clarify how significant humans are in terms of the history of the planet Earth.
According to the latest Planck results, the universe formed 13.8 billion years ago.
Analysing the decay of Potassium-40 to Argon-40 (Pottassium-40 having a half-life of 1.25 billion years) allows us to determine – amazingly precisely – that the Solar system (and hence the planet Earth) formed 4.56 billion years ago.
Evidence suggests that the cellular life formed on the Earth between 3.9 and 2.5 billion years ago.
The first vertebrates are thought to have formed about 485 million years ago.
Dinosaurs first arrived 225 million years ago and became extinct 65 million year ago (after a major asteroid impact just off the coast of Mexico).
Mammals start to dominate 65 million years ago.
Anatomically modern humans first appear in Africa about 200000 years ago.
So, basically, the universe has existed for 13.8 billion years and the Earth has existed for 4.56 billion years. Life has existed on Earth for 2.5-3.9 billion years. Vertebrates have existed on Earth for about half-a-billion years. Humans have existed for 200000 years. So, humans have been present for 0.004% of the Earth’s existence and for about 0.007% of the time during which life has been present. Is this necessarily significant? I don’t know. What is clear though is that Earth has existed for much longer without humans than it has with humans and the idea that we can adapt to whatever conditions may exist on Earth seems like an extremely risky assumption.