Some people say that the meaning of life is to be happy, to find your significant other, or to be successful in your line of work. I don’t know what the ‘meaning of life’ is for me yet, cliché as it is, and if there is one at all. From a scientists perspective however, the meaning of life is to continue a species and to evolve. The meaning of life is to carry on the amazing strings of DNA within an organism, since, after all, every other procedure a body performs is leading up to reproduction. An animal must feed itself and perform respiratory functions so that its body can mature enough to reproduce and then sustain young of its own. The measure of happiness of an animal in captivity can be measured by it’s reproduction. If it can and it does procreate exceedingly, it’s happy, if it doesn’t it’s depressed. If a natural organism fails to reproduce, or has already completed reproduction, it is completely superfluous from a biological perspective.
Although it has been established that some animals other than humans have sexual intercourse for pleasure (dolphins and bonobos), we remain the only natural species which sustains itself significantly past mating age. It seems that we have evolved past a mere species into a species which exists for pleasure rather than a concrete purpose like our animal counterparts, or some say into beings of laziness. So what’s to say that we won’t evolve into being sterile?
Don’t take that out of context; what I mean is that it’s only logical for species to remain alive if there are excess resources. Humans as a species is very illogical, we do not exist simply to carry on our DNA any longer, we presently exist for our own benefit, and also we continue to procreate (those of us who choose too) past all logic. We have an enormous overpopulation problem on earth, and yet we go against all biological impulses and continue to create more humans to sap our already miniscule resources.
This post isn’t to say that we should have some kind of voluntary human extinction, it’s simply to point out that our species defies all coherent biological conclusions. From a biological point of view, humans are crazy to continue to inhabit their niche so exceedingly by overpopulation. For this reason, it would not be ludicrous, in my view, if we began to evolve higher rates of sterility, or for women to get periods later and have menopause sooner.
As of right now, humans move at such a pace that in our world, the age which girls get their periods at (and can thus become pregnant) is absurd. Girls can get their periods today as early as 10, but usually around the 13-15 year old mark. This is a left over trait of when we were a younger species and various forces were able to take our lives at a younger age, say 30. This young morbidity factor caused females to have to get pregnant and pass on their DNA sooner, but since we live longer and our society is against teenage pregnancy for a number of reasons, this trait is now redundant.
It’s not just sterility though. If we think of the dinosaurs, what killed them? We don’t really know, but we think it was a meteorite. Perhaps an apocalypse of some magnitude is not completely out of the question for our ever-progressing species. Coronal mass ejection (CME), a process similar to a solar flare could be the culprit in this instance. It is the rapid expansion and expelling of large amounts of particles from the sun, some of which, if they reach Earth, have the power to shut down major electrical systems which we depend so heavily upon today and cause mass extinction.
In addition, humans may become effected heavily by a type of disease which we cannot cure or control. Science fiction doesn’t seem so far away when you think of the bubonic plague which has affected us in the past, or the Cordyceps fungus which effects rainforest insects. Insects are probably the most numerous organism in the rainforest and the Cordyceps fungus has found ways to affect them all. The fungus infiltrates insects and drives them to very high places by taking control of their bodies. The fungus then kills the insect and begins to grow out of the insects body. When it is mature, it will release spores to kill numerous other insects of the same species.
This does help the rainforest in a way though, because it helps to make sure that any one insect species does not out-compete the other. This is because each variation of the fungus specializes in just one insect species. The Cordyceps fungus is a parasite, and parasites will target a species that is numerous in order to reproduce through dispersal of it’s spores in greater numbers, meaning it will not wipe out a species entirely, but it will also keep numerous species from getting too overpowering. What’s to say a similar disease will not being to affect humans?
If more humans were to become sterile, or we had some sort of apocalypse or epidemic, the species could redeem itself as a whole, or perhaps become extinct altogether depending on the world-wide biological state.
Although some may argue that it is our biological impulse to reproduce, just like all other animals, we are the only species that I am aware of with such an ability to survive. All organisms want to survive, but humans are able to far surpass other species in this forte, by devising methods to survive diseases and being almost totally invincible to predators, where the human species will be in a few million years remains an enigma.