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Why doesn’t life on earth collapse and end?

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For the past few months I've been pondering this: Why doesn’t life on earth collapse and end?


I mean, if you think of the earth as a self sustaining structure, have you ever considered the odds of it continuing to self sustain? By way of example, compare the biological systems of life on earth to any other reasonably complex structure, like say, Neuschwanstein castle. In fact, let’s just assume that there was a Neuschwanstein castle on a planet devoid of life out there somewhere in the vast universe and it existed in pristine condition exactly 1,000 years ago (which is about 850 years before Germany’s Neuschwanstein castle was built). If you’d gone back to the Neuschwanstein castle planet 100 years after its creation you would have found a few broken windows, mold in the basement and the wood would have started to rot. Checking back 500 years later you wouldn’t have found any windows left, most of the wood would have been rotted away and quite a few of the stones would have fallen or been displaced. After 1,000 years the castle would be little more than a pile of rubble and broken stones. And the hypothetical Neuschwanstein castle is far, far less complex than the intricate codependant biological systems of life on earth. Heck, Neuschwanstein castle is less complex than a flying cockroach.


So my question is, Why doesn’t life on earth collapse and end? A Neuschwanstein castle left alone for a few hundred years would eventually collapse and disintegrate into a pile of rubble. And yet life on earth just seems to keep chugging along. How can this be?








btw, I'm not saying that life on earth is going to end. It's not. I'm asking for the logic of why it doesn't.

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the earth is not self sustaining. the sun feeds the planet. when the sun stops feeding the plants the life on earth will collapse.

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the earth is not self sustaining. the sun feeds the planet. when the sun stops feeding the plants the life on earth will collapse.

Pretty much this right here. The sun fuels this planet with energy, which organisms use to continue to grow & reproduce. An analogy using that castle would be if the castle had a caretaker. The caretaker (the sun) would bring new material to replace things like broken windows or masonry. As long as the caretaker continued to bring material, the castle would stand. Once the caretaker stops, the castle begins to break down, and will eventually collapse.

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the earth is not self sustaining. the sun feeds the planet. when the sun stops feeding the plants the life on earth will collapse.

 

Exactly! The sun going out[/size]or more likely, the earth being enveloped by a layer of clouds that blocks out the sun is just one of about a trillion things that could go wrong.

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the earth is not self sustaining. the sun feeds the planet. when the sun stops feeding the plants the life on earth will collapse.

Pretty much this right here. The sun fuels this planet with energy, which organisms use to continue to grow & reproduce. An analogy using that castle would be if the castle had a caretaker. The caretaker (the sun) would bring new material to replace things like broken windows or masonry. As long as the caretaker continued to bring material, the castle would stand. Once the caretaker stops, the castle begins to break down, and will eventually collapse.

 

The sun as a caretaker. That's a great way of looking at it. So, for every trillion or so Neuschwanstein planets the castles on most of them will atrophy away. But every so often the conditions are just right so that new material is produced to replace things like broken castle windows or masonry. Then it just becomes a matter of being the one lucky planet where everything continues to fall into place. That makes sense.

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Maybe, unless life isn't unique and there's life on trillions of planets. We don't know yet.

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To a certain extent, life is decaying, and eventually will end, but sometimes we can't see things because they're either happening way too slowly or because we mistakenly categorize things as good/bad.

 

 

 

Think of evolution. The basic idea is billions of genetic mutations over an absurdly long period of time resulting in different kinds of life forms. We want to call genetic mutations good or bad mutations, but in reality there's no such thing; they're just mutations. Some are advantageous considering their environment and context, some aren't, and some don't really seem to do much of anything. Despite the neutrality and lack of intent or a destination, we still end up with humans, zebras, microbes, dolphins, falcons and mollusks.

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Not just life, but everything is decaying. Entropy tells us that everything in the universe will eventually break down to its component bits.

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2c57f931f3b7bb313f223d7a1c75ae66.jpeg
For the past few months I've been pondering this: Why doesn’t life on earth collapse and end?
. In fact, let’s just assume that there was a Neuschwanstein castle on a planet devoid of life out there somewhere in the vast universe and it existed in pristine condition exactly 1,000 years ago (which is about 850 years before Germany’s Neuschwanstein castle was built). If you’d gone back to the Neuschwanstein castle planet 100 years after its creation you would have found a few broken windows, mold in the basement and the wood would have started to rot.

 

your planet devoid of life seems to have at least some life on it that is feeding on your castle.

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So if the universe is breaking down all on it's own; why do we get in trouble for trying to help some break down into their constituent elements sooner :D j/k j/k

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So if the universe is breaking down all on it's own; why do we get in trouble for trying to help some break down into their constituent elements sooner :D j/k j/k

I'd like to use the eventual cold death of the universe as an excuse not to pay my taxes, but somehow I don't think that's going to work with the IRS.

 

"Honestly, your Honor, what does it matter if I pay taxes? Eventually all life will cease to exist as galaxies dissolve, stars die out, and even atoms drift apart into near-nothingness as the universe expands infinitely on."

 

"Motion denied. Judgment in favor of the IRS. Clap him in chains!"

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Seriously though....

 

If the world is constantly changing/dying/decaying...etc. and it's not the same as it was a million years ago and it's not going to be the same a million years from now, why do we care if our little tid bit of life changes it faster or differently than it would have changed without us?

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Maybe, unless life isn't unique and there's life on trillions of planets. We don't know yet.

 

sandcastle3.jpg

 

Yeah, that's the thing. There would have to be a lot of planets with life on them. Maybe a trillion. Maybe a googleplex. But no matter what the number is, at any given point in time the vast majority of planets with complex systems of life would break down and fall apart. Only a tiny percentage would maintain a steady state or develop yet more sophisticated forms of life. And the more complex the system, the longer the odds that it would thrive for very long without breaking down.

 

I'm saying that once a planet achieves life it would be overwhelmingly more likely for that life to be snuffed out than to keep on existing. And the more complex that system of life is, the more things there would be to go wrong. Let's consider a sand castle as a complex system instead of a Neuschwanstein castle (which is rather implausible). If we examined the beaches on a billion (10^12) planets for 10,000 years the perfect conditions might exist to create a million (10^6) sand castles like the one above. In almost every case as soon as the sand castle was created it would be washed away. But once in a great while—maybe one in a million of those million sand castles—the conditions would be just right for the sand castle to exist for an extended period of time of a decade or so.

 

What I'm asking is why are we (life on earth) are the lucky sand castle that doesn't immediately get washed away? Why does the incredibly complex system of life on earth keep chugging right along instead of being one of the 999,999 sand castles that gets washed away?

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Seriously though....

 

If the world is constantly changing/dying/decaying...etc. and it's not the same as it was a million years ago and it's not going to be the same a million years from now, why do we care if our little tid bit of life changes it faster or differently than it would have changed without us?

Because we live in it. It'd be swell not to care, to live life without worries or concerns. But we have to eat, find shelter, care for our loved ones, etc. It's generally considered to be better to live than to die, and it's generally considered to live well than to live poorly. So we strive to make our little slice of time as pleasant as possible.

 

If you're talking specifically about Global Warming, and the consequences therein, then we're doing a favor to our descendants by caring about the world today. Nobody alive today is going to experience runaway global warming like we see on Venus, so we could easily say "eh" and not care. But we're altruistic creatures, and we do care about those who will come after us, so we do strive to do better with the environment. Not all of us, obviously, or we wouldn't have companies & countries pumping toxic waste into the environment in the name of profits. But those are bad people.

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What I'm asking is why are we (life on earth) are the lucky sand castle that doesn't immediately get washed away? Why does the incredibly complex system of life on earth keep chugging right along instead of being one of the 999,999 sand castles that gets washed away?

"Doesn't" as you use it implies a state of permanence, and that's not correct. We're somewhere on the timeline of life coming into existence & going extinct on Earth. Existing, as we do, somewhere in this timeline does not mean that it won't die out, it just hasn't yet. It will, if for no other reason than that the Sun will eventually explode and Earth will cease to exist. Presuming Life hasn't ended by then, it will at that point.

 

So it isn't that life "doesn't" get washed away, it's that it "hasn't yet."

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