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There is only a single species named Homo sapiens and our near relatives have all died out or been absorbed into our current DNA. There are presently documented and described living 1,740,330 species, but that number doesn’t include the multitudes of tiny living things. If every possible living thing was documented the number might reach a hundred million 100,000,000, and it is estimated that 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth have gone extinct. The estimates are very loose, but that means approximately a billion unique species of life have existed on our planet, and that means successful species which would not include what are called monsters. That is reproducing entities that were a single individual or a weird family that shortly died out.

To get an concrete idea what a billion means, take three standard meter sticks which has a thousand millimeters marked on them, and set them at right angles to each other forming a three dimensional cube. That is a thousand times a thousand times a thousand which equals a billion. That is a solid one meter cube about the size of a table formed of these little cubes. A billion becomes a mentally comprehensible number, and it gives an idea of how our single species, about the size of a period ( . ), compares to the totality of life. There have been about 100 billion humans who have lived, or enough of the billion 1 meter cubes to stretch the length of a football field. The total number of living mammals is 5,490, which is contained in a 6 mm line across the surface of our 1 meter cube. The number of living insects is closer to one million and their unique species would totally cover one surface of the cube, and the total number of individuals of each of these tiny species is probably vastly larger than we humans. The numbers are very general, and the one cell creatures would be the greatest number. It is multitudes of species times multitudes of individuals times multitudes of reproductive cycles. The total number of beings who have lived on Earth is large. But the point is that our species, and our individual life is a very tiny portion of what we call life. When we ask our philosophical naive question, “What is the meaning of life?” we should immediately bring up our minuscule part in the game of life.

The question, “Do humans have evolutionary advantages over insects?” becomes a bit quirky, because we must carefully define our terms underlying our arrogance to claiming any type of superiority, or advantage that our personal qualities confer. We are presently dominant in the sense that we are consuming mineral energy at a prodigious and and unsustainable rate, and that gives us great leverage, but in the over four billion years that life has been resident here on Earth, our hundred year oil and gas splurge will leave only a narrow band in the geological strata. Then what? What will our human life energy be when we must live again, creating food by farming by the sweat of our brow, or by hunting wild nature for food? 

A hundred million years from now it is very likely there will still be multitudes of insect species, but for humans, as we presently know them, to be alive seems doubtful. Humans have spread all over the world, but with the exception of the South Pole insects are already there. And, they are in infinity of other places that humans wouldn’t consider going. Go to the most desolate place you can think of and pick up a rock, and likely as not you will find an insect to greet you. Probably a beetle.

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