Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Swiftly changing ecology

Extent of areas surveyed for biodiversity.  Colors presumably reflect the
type of environment.  Image source.
Nearly everyone can agree that human beings have some sort of influence on their environment.  There is, of course, great controversy over how much influence we have and whether it is good or bad, particularly in regards to climate change.  Rather than opening that can of worms, I draw your attention to a study on biodiversity that was published in Science nearly a month ago.

It is generally assumed, particularly in the scientific community, that the spread of human civilization effects a decline in biodiversity (that is, the diversity of life).  In an attempt to measure that decline, a team of scientists analyzed data from hundreds of long-term monitoring studies from all parts of the globe.  Much to their surprise, they found that there was no overall decline.  In fact, a majority of the sites showed an increase in the number of species!  As a whole, the world had maintained approximately the same number of species despite the influence of humans.  What surprised the scientists even more, though, was the rate of change of which species were present at each location.  Species were shifting from place to place at rates that far exceeded expectations.  The authors of the study concluded that such an unexpected and rapid change is most likely a result of human activity, including our influence on the climate and our tendency to bring plants and animals with us as we move.

There is no doubt that humans have some influence on the range of species.  We have made dogs, chickens, coconuts, and wheat far more global than the originally were.  However, I can't help but wonder how much the scientists' evolutionary assumptions contributed to their surprise.  In an evolutionary view, biodiversity shifts take place on the scale of hundreds of thousands of years, not decades.  No wonder they found this "rapid" change to be alarming.  Creationists, on the other hand, should not be surprised by this.  The worldwide ecosystem was restarted in Noah's Flood about 4400 years ago, so we would expect it to still be balancing itself out.  Creationists do not see our biosphere as naturally stable like evolutionists do, because we do not think it has persisted on its own for millions of years.  It is still recovering from the great catastrophe.

Does this mean that creationists can ignore the influence of humans on nature?  Certainly not!  In fact, I would argue the opposite.  We are stewards of a world that has been cursed and destroyed as a result of our own actions.  Evolutionists have reason to believe that nature is stable and will continue just fine on its own; we do not.  We do not live in the world God created, but in its ruins.  We must strive to tend to what is left of Creation until the Master returns.  Of course, this should not take precedence over caring for His people.

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