In the November 2001 issue of Scientific American W. Wayt Gibbs writes an article discussing the urgency of species extinction in the world today, called “On the Termination of Species”. The perspective in the article remains divided. First, the author shares the view of the Society of Conservation Biology. At their annual meeting information claiming that the extinction rate had dramatically increased to 1000 times, compared to the rate of the pre-humankind period, was brought forward. What this would mean is that the world is in the precipice of the sixth wave of mass extinction and the cause for alarm is based on the inability to advise politicians and the general public about the issue’s urgency.
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However, the former president of the society P. Dee Boersma has rather skeptic attitude. As it appears, the entire field is in an ethical bind, debating whether to take pre-emptive and preventive action for this concern or allow natural evolution run its course through the modern world. While seventy percent of scientists believe that the world is experiencing a mass extinction of nearly fifty percent of the world’s species, the opposition is just as fortified.
Bjorn Lomborg, Statistician and Political Scientist, claims that the numbers and hard evidence simply do not match the reason to worry. In fact, most of his perspective on the argument simply waters down the fervent struggle of the other seventy percent. The debate from both sides is based on the Background Rate, which is a way of determining how quickly species have naturally gone extinct in the years passed.
With this in mind, Paleontologist David M. Raup says that both sides have made grave assumptions that mathematically fail to add up. These failures are assuming that all types of species are equally capable of survival, , being represented in the fossil record and finally that determining an average lifespan of all species’ types would be an incredibly inaccurate measurement. Making corrections to their past errors, Baum determines that the rate of increase in extinction over the past 200 years is merely 120 times greater – less dramatic but nonetheless uncomfortable.
Moving forward, the article represents the current large debate in the field: what should be done. Should scientists spend resources protecting those endangered species or should they turn their focus to the environmental hotspots that have not yet been tainted by a human? Considering that, regardless which side one is representing, a great species “bottleneck” is in the near future for everyone. How do scientists ensure that the greatest biological diversity of species passes through that bottleneck? Considering that this article is over ten years old today, I would beg the question what the updated views are regarding this debate. Since time is inherently speeding up, does that mean that the results of prevention or correction are already being measured? How do we measure the results?
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