In the epilogue of Andrew H. Koll's book Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution of Life on Earth he makes a brief but convincing philosophical argument for the human stewardship of our planet's future. Knoll argues that despite religious faith we cannot afford to ignore scientific evidence. At on point he states "Coperinus and Darwin profoundly altered the human sense of self. We do not live at the center of the universe and we cannot claim the privileges of special creation." The idea behind this staement is to rid man of the conviction that we hold a special place in the universe. While I share the conviction behind his thought I don't necessarily agree with the above statement for two specific reasons.
Andrew H. Koll's book heroically takes on the task of recouting the reader the story of life from it's birth up until the Cambrian explosion. Knoll's writing is at times rather technical but it's goal is superbly achieved. In a relative blink of an eye we are lead through billions of years of Evolution and, above all, Knoll impresses upon the reader the fact that the long winding thread our human existence is full of innumerable fraying. To think that we are the culmination of this extrordinary evolutionary tale is extremely humbling and cannot make one feel anything other than special. The scientific research that demonstrates our lineage from simple prokaryotic organisims to beings in search of the very same prokaryotic life forms on other planets is a testament to our special nature in the universe. The chance of life of our similar intelligence existing on other planets in extremely slight and the expansion of the universe makes communication with such life practically impossible, which brings me to my next point.
Considering the nature of the relative universe and it's beginning one can successfully argue that we do find ourselves at it's very centre. Einstein taught us that light in a vaccuum travels at a constant speed in any given direction and combined with Edwin Hubble's observation that the galaxies are moving away from us at a uniform rate we can reason that we are actually at the centre of the universe. The mapping of the Cosmic Microwave Background by the Planck spacecraft has confirmed the conclusion that within a parameter of thousandths of a degree the universe is uniform in all directions placing us at it's centre. What exists beyond the universe is a hypothesis full of mathematic conjecture, but the structure and nature of our known universe is coming into focus and we seem to find ourselves in the middle of its observable existence.
Without reverting to the strong anthropic philosophical argument these two observations themselves give me a sense of my special place in the universe and on our planet. This feeling motivates me to reflect upon the actions and ideas of today and the responsibility we have to our planet. This is what Knoll wants to impress upon his readers in his epilogue and to denote our special place in the history of life only enforces his last sentence "Let us have the grace and humility to choose well".