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King: World will end soon enough if we don’t act

POSTED: May 31, 2011 1:00 a.m.

Our world will end, if we don't act May 21, the end of the world according to Howard Camping, came and went, and we're all still here. Of course, doomsday still may be lurking around the corner waiting for us. In fact, I can make a pretty good case that it is — if anybody will listen. But I don't have Preacher Camping's personal charisma.

Man is a religious animal. Humanity's longing for the spiritual may not be proof of God's existence as some claim, but it cannot be lightly tossed aside. I can no more accept a literal interpretation of the Bible than I can accept atheism, but I give a certain kind of credence to those who feel we are at the end of time.

Time is relative. According to science, it doesn't even exist. It‘s part of a space-time continuum. As for the end of time ... well, it's the old death and taxes thing. We can't escape it.

I'm pretty well at peace with my own mortality. I am not at peace with the death of our planet, and that's what I see in the future if we don't understand our limits. We cannot continue to exploit the earth's resources, fight each other over the spoils and not expect to pay a horrendous price.

Why were so many people convinced that Jesus would return on May 21 to save the faithful just because some fundamentalist preacher said so? Meanwhile, others pay no attention to the biologists who warn us of impending doom in the form of mass extinction.

The earth has experienced mass extinctions before. To the best of our knowledge, they began when there was a radical change in the environment and the earth's plants and animals couldn't adapt fast enough to prevent a massive die-off. How fast and to what degree our climate is changing today is a matter of debate, but we do know that species are going extinct at a greater rate than any time in recorded history.

This is not happening because of gay marriage or abortion, but because mankind, through greed and arrogance, is raping the earth. We pollute the air with our cars and smokestacks, the seas with oil rigs and industrial garbage. We are even polluting space with man-made orbital junk.

Still, there's hope. Mankind is the most adaptable species the earth has ever known. We have the capacity to meet this crisis and prevail, but only if we agree that the problem is real and that it's urgent, and only if we all work together to meet it.

This is not likely to happen unless humanity sees it as a spiritual problem. It is not technical. It's behavioral. If you are grounded in the Bible, look at it this way: Eden was never in Heaven. It was here on earth. We threw it away once; we must not do it again.

Two things stand in our way. The first is religion itself. We cannot serve God as long as we fight over who and what God is. Whether God is seen as a heavenly father or some amorphous intelligence operating throughout the universe makes no difference if we destroy life on earth.

The second thing standing in our way is politics. Politics is about winners and losers, and about money and power. Once a problem becomes political, it will never be solved because too many people have a vested interest in not solving it.

E.O. Wilson is a world-renowned biologist. He, more than any author I know, captures the grandeur and magnificence of the natural world in written word. His latest book, "The Creation," is written in the form of a letter to a Southern pastor. Subtitled "An Appeal To Save Life on Earth," it asks religion and science to form an alliance with one another for the protection of creation.

The book is short and easy to read. I recommend it to one and all.

Joan King is a Sautee resident whose columns appear biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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