Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans?

Discussion in 'Earth Mysteries: The Land' started by Kingsize Wombat, Apr 16, 2018.

  1. Kingsize Wombat

    Kingsize Wombat Abominable Snowman

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    The normally quite sober "The Atlantic" reports on an Academic paper called
    The Silurian Hypothesis: Would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?

    The answer is not as clear cut as you might think.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/are-we-earths-only-civilization/557180/
     
  2. maximus otter

    maximus otter Recovering policeman

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    You don't have the "Need to Know"
    Cynically I'm seeing some crossover/cross-fertilisation here: 56M years ago there was a sudden increase in the Earth's temperature known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). "During the PETM, the planet’s average temperature climbed as high as 15 degrees Fahrenheit above what we experience today."

    As temperature rises today can only be caused by human use of fossil fuels ( :rolleyes: ), it would be great for Warmistas if we could reify the idea of an ancient civilisation that destroyed itself by climate change caused by - ta-dah! - the use of fossil fuels!

    :dhorse:

    Can anyone say "desperation"?

    maximus otter
     
  3. Kingsize Wombat

    Kingsize Wombat Abominable Snowman

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    Ahem, that whole discussion was the catalyst for this study!

    Not so much "desperation" as rigorous scientific thinking.
     
  4. maximus otter

    maximus otter Recovering policeman

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    You don't have the "Need to Know"
    Sorry, I'm obviously pre-coffee as I'm not understanding your reply.

    maximus otter
     
  5. Kingsize Wombat

    Kingsize Wombat Abominable Snowman

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    Ok, the point of this analysis was to see if we could rule out that a previous, non-human civilization caused global warming in the distant past.

    The result was that we can't - though it is highly unlikely to have happened that way.
     
  6. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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    I have to disagree with this characterization of the paper's thrust.

    It doesn't appear to me the authors were specifically striving to rule out anything. Instead, they were opening up discussion of what evidence might allow us to 'rule in' the existence of an earlier industrial civilization.

    Climatic changes - particularly those involving abrupt temperature changes - were explicitly cited as the class of events most likely to be similar to Anthropocene outcomes, and the events mentioned were treated as examples.

    I don't see where the authors ever claimed a strong correspondence between industrial civilization extinction and climate change resulting from industrial operations.

    I only see them illustrating the sort of large-scale geological evidence that would have to exist to give us any chance of stumbling upon it, while choosing to frame this illustration in a context currently familiar to us - i.e., climatic disruption from large-scale energy utilization.
     
  7. AlchoPwn

    AlchoPwn Ephemeral Spectre

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    Rather than Dr Who, perhaps we should be more concerned about the H.P. Lovecraft angle. What if the civilization wasn't even remotely like our own because the sentients involved weren't remotely human in either form or mindset?
    :parapet: Is Yithian going to pop his head over the parapet, or would that blow his cover?

    From an archaeological perspective, it would be very hard to detect traces of such a civilization. For example, when we look at the evidence that modern structures leave when left un-maintained, they decay at an alarmingly fast rate. Yes, even the plastics, when subjected to intense sunlight and the potential of geological pressure will probably not retain their form for more than a few thousand years. Then there is the question of whether we would even detect the evidence of such a civilization if it were in front of us, rather than assuming it was a "natural formation from pre-existing conditions".

    As to the use of fossil fuels posited by Maximus Otter, again, we probably couldn't tell that there had been fossil fuel use. We know about big die-offs such as the KT boundary event from the worldwide evidence in the sedimentary layers, but more minute traces would be hard to find. For example. traces would be present in the layers of the ice pack, but that melts periodically. What is interesting there, for the Climate Change deniers is the rate of the evidence of carbon accumulation for such events in the past was far more gradual than the current spike, which starts in the early 19th Century and keeps going up and up until the present time, just like the global average temperatures over the same period, where records were kept.

    In fact, we need not assume that a civilization actually used technologies like our own at all. While they are plausible, as we have invented them, hence other sentients could feasibly also invent them, they are not the exhaustive answer to the same technical problems we face. In many ways, human technology has always been a reaction of human incapacity, rather than human ability. Had we been a -physically stronger and more durable species, our rate of technical development may have been greatly reduced due to lack of necessity. For example, a species of woolly mammoths with opposable thumbs are unlikely to develop cloth or spears, as they have thick natural coats and don't eat meat (which begs the question of why they would develop said opposable thumbs).

    Arguably beavers and many insects and even a few birds develop their own technology of habitation construction, which begs the question of at what point do we regard another species as having a definable civilization anyhow? :thought:
     
  8. Kingsize Wombat

    Kingsize Wombat Abominable Snowman

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    Well, I'm not going to disagree with you there, I was merely shooting for a one-sentence answer.
     
  9. Kingsize Wombat

    Kingsize Wombat Abominable Snowman

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    That is - for me - the biggest question. I think there is a very good argument to me made that termites have a kind of civilization. As per Wikipedia:

    Termites build structures, have a hierarchy, communicate and certainly try to dominate their environment.
     
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  10. Quake42

    Quake42 Warrior Princess

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    Fascinating stuff. I think we might already have a thread on dinosaur civilisations - perhaps they should be merged?
     
  11. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...

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  12. Yossarian

    Yossarian Junior Acolyte

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    I think the point of the paper wasn't so much, "is there evidence of a pre-human civilisation?", as a means to ask the question, "what evidence will we leave behind?" - i.e. how permanent will our impact on the world be, and the "was there a civilisation before us?" element is more there as a means to frame that argument. I may be wrong, though.

    That said, the points on insects, birds, etc. I find very interesting - I'm a firm believer that we don't fully understand what "intelligence" is, when it comes to identifying it in animals, so it may well be that we don't know what "civilisation" is either. A strong argument could perhaps be made for recognising the social structures or hierarchies of some animals as "civilisation", rather than just seeing it as something inherently human.

    I'm reminded of the old Douglas Adam quote about dolphins...
     

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