It may not be absurd hyperbole—indeed, it may not even be an overstatement—to assert that the most crucial location in space and time (apart from the big bang itself) could be here and now.
Martin Rees, Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in this Century—On Earth and Beyond, New York, 2003, pp. 7–8
Our universe sprouted from an initial event, the ‘big bang’ or ‘fireball’. It expanded and cooled; the intricate pattern of stars and galaxies we see around us emerged thousands of millions of years later; on at least one planet around at least one star, atoms have assembled into creatures complex enough to ponder how they evolved.
Martin Rees, Before the Beginning: Our Universe and Others, London, 1997, p. 1
The stupendous time spans of the evolutionary past are not part of common culture–except among some creationists and fundamentalists. But most educated people, even if they are fully aware that our emergence took billions of years, somehow think we humans are the culmination of the evolutionary tree. That is not so. Our Sun is less than half way through its life. It is slowly brightening, but Earth will remain habitable for another billion years. However, even in that cosmic perspective—extending far into the future as well as into the past—the twenty-first century may be a defining moment. It is the first in our planet’s history where one species—ours—has Earth’s future in its hands and could jeopardise not only itself but also life’s immense potential.
Martin Rees, ‘Foreword’, in Nick Bostrom and Milan M. Ćirković (eds.), Global Catastrophic Risks, Oxford, 2008, p. xi
The first aquatic creatures crawled onto dry land in the Silurian era, more than three hundred million years ago. They may have been unprepossessing brutes, but had they been clobbered, the evolution of land-based fauna would have been jeopardised. Likewise, the post-human potential is so immense that not even the most misanthropic amongst us would countenance its being foreclosed by human actions.
Martin Rees, Our Final Hour: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in this Century—On Earth and Beyond, New York, 2003, p. 183