Copley News Service, (ran State Journal Register, Springfield, IL), September 9, 1990:


          
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         Travis Charbeneau  3421 Hanover Ave., Richmond, VA 23221
            travischarbeneau@gmail.com    Phone: 804 358 0417
                           www.travischarbeneau.com

                  Re-writing the Rules of Evolution
                          Travis Charbeneau
                            slug "evolve"
                              619 words
    PULL QUOTE: "We now find ourselves, as with nuclear war, at yet
another watershed regarding the future of our heritage as -- 
and with -- critters."

    For almost five billion years, life on this planet evolved
according to its own rules of natural selection and "survival of the
fittest." But, starting around 200 years ago, we began re-writing
those rules. Today, evolution plays man's game or it simply doesn't
play. This fantastic development smacks of science fiction. It's
something even our recent ancestors wouldn't have believed possible,
and still so radical a fact that many of us today have a hard time
understanding it.
    Since the dawn of the Industrial Era, but especially in the last
50 years, we have stressed the natural environment to the point where
only the most clever, hardy and "fit" plants and animals can cope. In
another 50 years, those creatures who have somehow managed to survive
man will indeed have proven themselves the "fittest" among Earth's
once-numerous life forms.
    But, simultaneously, industrial man has all but exempted himself
from the natural environmental stresses which originally shaped his
evolution -- and controlled his numbers. Through better medicine,
nutrition, sanitation, etc., not to mention niceties like electric
heaters in winter and air conditioning in summer, we have insured that
even our most inept fellow humans have a good chance of surviving and
procreating almost anywhere on Earth. Little short of an all-out
nuclear war, a universal new plague or an outbreak of common sense can
now put a real brake on human populations.
    Thus, in a mere tick of the evolutionary clock, we have created a
situation where, by the next century, life on Earth could well consist
solely of man and his domesticated, genetically-engineered plant and
animal foodstuffs -- plus his more clever parasites, of course;
cockroaches, viruses, lawyers, etc. We now find ourselves, as with
nuclear war, at yet another watershed regarding the future of our
heritage as -- and with -- critters.
    It is with intense anticipation and great joy, but also with
incalculable sorrow, that we fawn over each successful birth in
captivity of a Panda, Mountain Gorilla or Giant Condor. We know it
is only a matter of some short while before these and so many other
wonderful creatures will be extinct outside of zoos. We know that we
who have with such little effort and forethought caused their demise
must now labor mightily to manage and preserve their genetic code in
the hopes of someday re-introducing them to "the wild," perhaps a
shopping mall outside of Nairobi. Adam only had to name the animals.
We may have to rebuild them from their DNA up. In this sense, we are
not merely playing God. We _are_ God.
    But we still have more in common with the critters. Acid rain,
ozone depletion, the greenhouse effect, loss of rain forests and
wetlands, radioactivity, toxic waste, erosion, over-use of pesticides
and fertilizers, air and water pollution, industrial accidents,
over-hunting, over-fishing -- simple human waste disposal -- may
indeed destroy the less adaptable, "less clever" life forms first. 
But how clever is clever enough?  Are we merely last on our own
evolutionary hit list?
    The Panda must eat bamboo shoots. It can't adapt to anything
else. We clever humans can adapt to anything, even including fast
food. But we are quickly out-foxing ourselves in the "clever"
department. We've already become so clever at war-making that our own
extinction can be managed with push-button convenience, something not
even The Deity has attempted since The Flood. It is with divine irony
that the one critter which is arguably least essential for the
survival of Earth has become the one critter capable of destroying it.
    Are we clever enough to successfully manage evolution?  We will
have the answer to that question very soon. For better or worse, day
by day -- consciously or unconsciously -- we are writing the
rules. Place your order now for the Earth of your choice.