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If we don’t even know the present, how do we dare to predict the future?


A few days ago, I attended a meeting in Denver where almost 200 people were there to listen to several presentations from different perspectives about the end of the world. I am always amazed by people who are absolutely sure they know what is going to happen, how and when. But if we don’t even know the present, how come we dare to predict the future?

What do I mean by “We don’t even know the present”? According to a recent study published by Dalhousie University, in Canada, in spite of more than 250 years of modern science efforts, we have been able to at best catalogue only 15 percent of all the species living on our planet.

According to Dr. Boris Worm, a biologist at Dalhousie University and co-author of the study, scientists have been able to catalogue only "those things that are easy to find, that are conspicuous, that are relatively large."

Worm and his colleagues analyzed the ecology of earth to calculate how many species can potentially live here. Using what they describe as “complex statistics,” Worm and the other scientists concluded that there are 8.7 million of species on earth. (Others say there are anywhere from 3 million to 100 million species). Of those species, scientists have catalogued only 1.2 million.

So,  if we barely know what other living beings are, like us, inhabiting this cosmic rock almost lost in a forgotten corner of the galaxy, how can we even dare to anticipate what is going to happen at a planetary scale?

I know that sometimes you don’t need to know all the details about the present to accurately predict the future. If you see fire in a building, you can’t safely assume that, unless that fire is extinguished, the building will be consumed. And you can make that prediction without knowing who or what started the fire.

Thinking along those lines, because we know that every cycle around us eventually ends, from the dinosaurs to the Roman Empire to our own lives, we can then assume on day our own cycle will end, be it our life, or our country, or even our planet.

However, another different thing is to say that there is an already established sequence of events leading us to the end of world, and, even more, saying that sequence is already known. Such an act of intellectual arrogances is very close to be unethical.

Even worst, that obsession for the future (not to build it, but to anticipate it) usually leads to neglect the present. Going back to our example, if a building is burning, our obligation is to rescue people, not to do nothing because we already know what is about to happen.

A key element of the adventure of being human is the fact that we do not knowing what the future may hold for us. The more time we spend on idle speculations, the less time we dedicate to help those who need our help in the present.

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