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mooeypoo

Are we interrupting with our own evolution?

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Okay, perhaps I understood things wrong, but I have a phylosophical question regarding evolution.

 

It started with me and a friend discussing evolution and world population, and we ended up discussing the reprecussions of human advancements on our evolutionary process. Mainly, the genetic view.

Now, I'm not talking about morality here - it is obvious that the moral issue is quite charged, and may give a different answer than the physical and phylosophical answer.

 

We ended up discusscing this issue:

 

One of the main ways evolutionary processes - as I understand it - is the inevitable creation of mutations; we don't have to discuss "radical" mutations (like a child with 3 hands), it is enough to only include genetic mutations or genetic imperfections.

 

Those mutations don't survive in nature (hence the "survival of the fittest). In fact, the fact that these don't survive allow the better characteristics in an entire race to advance and evolve..

 

However, as far as I understood, those mutations - if not too debilitating - can start a new "phase" in evolution - like shifting it in a relatively different direction.

 

The question we were discussing then was -- As a human race, we are changing our natural evolution, basically, by either preventing those "mutations" from being born or existing, OR by not letting other "mutations" from being fitted to nature - either "selected" or, in fact, create an evolutionary change.

 

Again: I am not talking about morality for now. Morally, it is OBVIOUS that killing the weak is wrong. I am trying to understand the evolutionary biological/phylosophical aspect.

 

What do you think?

 

Are we going to end up not fitting to our environment for changing it so radically without allowing our race to slowly fit it by preventing anything that isn't similar to our own biological existance (hence mutations) from developing?

 

~moo

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To be honest, that is exactly how I see it too.

We are getting to the point where we can see the foetus and look for any inheritied diseases and IIRC, actually prevent them. For all we know, that baby could have fought it in later life and become stronger than it - becoming the 'fittest'.

I reckon if we continue what we are doing now, by keeping everyone 'normal', we will stay like this for a long time. Which is a bad thing i might add.

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I fear you have started with slightly wrong definitions of evolution.

First, evolution can be defined as a change in allele frequency in a population. Or a bit simpler, a change of the gene pool over time. There is no direction in this change per se (or at least one cannot infer it). There only has to be a change which is then described as an evolutionary event.

Now, mutations are one of the mechanisms which can lead to evolution. So in theory every mutation changes the gene pool a bit. However, most are lost or at least do not spread and therefore do not contribute to any lasting effects on the gene pool. Mutations alone however are in general considered randomised and by their very nature cannot give evolution any direction (or as you put it, "start a new phase").

 

So if we got mutations as the only mechanism, the only way evolution might happen is by a rapid accumulation of mutations. Now another factor comes in: natural selection. You assumed that

Those mutations don't survive in nature (hence the "survival of the fittest). In fact, the fact that these don't survive allow the better characteristics in an entire race to advance and evolve..

However, as I pointed out above, a change in the gene pool is evolution already. The only thing that selection adds is a direction. By no means does it mean that the gene pool might get "better" somehow. It only means that it forces the gene pool to adapt to these selective pressures.

So in selective sweeps and also random events mutations will either get lost or persist in the gene pool (loss of already established alleles in a gene pool is evolution, too btw) and thus contribute to evolution.

The frequency (or likelihood) of a certain mutation (or allele in general) to get established in the gene pool is a function of its frequency (how often does this mutation occur in the population?) and its effect on the fitness of the individuum (increasing/dcreasing/being neutral to reproduction chances).

 

Now that being said do humans prevent mutations?

NO of course not. Mutations are a mechanisms that happen all the time, we have no way of preventing it. So the human gene pool is and will continue to be subjected to mutation events.

However some mtuations that are detrimental can now be diagnosed. Now if we assume that all foeti with this detrimental alleles are aborted, do we stop evolution? Of course not. We simply add a selective pressure on the certain alleles.

Everything we do just changes selective pressures, but we do not and can not eliminate them completely. There are always some individuals with a higher fitness (higher reproductive chances) that are based on genetic elements. Sexual selection for instance will always work. A change in life condition can also dramatically change selective pressure. For instance let's assume that a thousand years ago being atheletic was a prerequisite to reproduce. Nowadays assume that it is less so. Therefore alleles contributing to an atheletic build will have less impact on fitness and the frequency of it could in theory decline. This too is evolution.

In contrast nowadays literacy is very important. So if we assume that there are alleles that prevent literacy (assuming there is such an extreme form of dyslexia that has a genetic basis), they might have been abundand thousands of years ago (few selection against it) but nowadays it is likely that the frequency is lower, due to the higher selective pressure.

 

And lastly I want to point out that humans are adapted to the given environement (and yes also the ability to change the environment is and adaptation) otherwise we will have died out already.

 

So what I wanted to say with this long post (for which I now have no time to check for spelling errors atm, my apologies) is that while human societies do change selective pressures, there is no way that evolution per se can be stopped.

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You can never stop evolution, unless of course you kill everybody.

 

I myself am a bit of an evolutionary enigma. I have a bone condition that would have kept me from reaching maturity back in Neanderthal times, but I can see that I have other capacities that keep me from being the "weak."

 

The ultimate answer to this question, and you don't have to worry about killing anybody mooeypoo, is answered by a woman's right to choose. Basically, if I wasn't worth having future version, I wouldn't ever get laid.

 

Everyone gives women a lot of hassle for being "gold diggers" (about money or status) but really, what else do they have to go on to make their important decisions?

 

We won't not fit our environment, because it will always be there, and while most of our lives are wasted in buildings, we still have to have a certain ability of making it outside or we'd die. Natural selection still works.

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As a human race, we are changing our natural evolution, basically, by either preventing those "mutations" from being born or existing

Ethics asside, this is just the same as if these "Mutations" were sever enough to stop a feotus from being brought to term. So this process has alread been happening, it is just that we are now able to apply our own evolutionary pressure at this stage of development.

 

This does change the "natural" (and if you realy want to split hairs, as we are part of nature anything we do is still natural) evolution of humans, but so would a change in environemtn (like an ice age or a greenhouse effect - or moving to a new region). So in the grand sceme of thing it is not that big of an "Unnatural" gange in our evolution.

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This was the topic of an episode of "The Outer Limits".

A Scientist proposed that because of the nature of human society humans are surviving and breeding that wouldn't in the wild. So he claimed that ingerous mutations were compunding in our gene pool, making each generation weaker and more dependant on the last.

So of course they went strait to the cheesey sci-fi plot where he genetically engineered himself into a caveman, in an attempt to combine his evolved brain with the Neanderthals physical prowess.

He ends up being kept in a cage for reasearch.

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Also, we need to take into account that in nature the environment changes a lot slower than what we seem to be changing it ourselves, and therefore allows the organisms to evolve in "time" to fit the environment..

 

for instance, different types of human beings have evolved differently due to their location on earth, the ecosystem at these locations, atmosphere pressure, heat, radiation from the sun and so on.

 

But what we are doing now, is changing our ENVIRONMENT in an extremely rapid measure -- ozon layer dissapearing, smoke in the air, polution, cutting the trees, cars, even shoes and medicine and drugs and watching television and having our heads exposed to radiation from microwaves, cellular phones and antennas. Everything is changing so rapidly, we are not allowing ourselves to evolve properly in order to FIT that changing invironment.

 

Is it possible that within the upcoming time the human race will just CEASE to be able to function in such an environment? Is it possible the rise in mutation at birth on places where ozon layer is thinner, or the rise in genetic deseases is higher in big cities is an indication of the human race's attempt to fit its environment? and if so, is it possible that by us STOPPING this attempt (hence, preventing mutations and such) we are actually dooming our own race to be selected OUT of the equasion as one that cannot fit to its environment soon?

 

~moo

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does it realy matter?

 

I mean its not like its gonna kill the human race. Animals will continue to evolve, realy as far as i see it we dont realy have a reason to evolve. And nothing bad can possibly come to the human race from not evolving. If our enviroment drasticaly changes all of a sudden, we jsut make tool to adapt to it. We dont need to evolve

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The timescales involved since the cultural revolution have allowed for only a handful of mutated genes to sweep through the population. It took 6 million years for hominids to evolve into modern humans, while modern human culture has only existed for 100,000.

 

If you ask me, humans are 'evolving' substantially faster via technology than we are through biology. Nanotechnology will give us the ability to completely reconstruct our bodies at the molecular level. I expect my biological systems, with limited longevity and not tuned to operation in modern human society, to be displaced with nanotechnologically-installed equivalents which perform leaps and bounds better.

 

Kurzweil talks about a number of theorized replacement systems. One of these is a replacement circulatory system which doesn't need a central pump and thus a central point of failure, but instead distributes the process of blood circulation throughout the entire system.

 

When we talk about retooling the body's internal operation, that's when we really begin talking about transhumanity.

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I mean its not like its gonna kill the human race. Animals will continue to evolve, realy as far as i see it we dont realy have a reason to evolve. And nothing bad can possibly come to the human race from not evolving. If our enviroment drasticaly changes all of a sudden, we jsut make tool to adapt to it. We dont need to evolve
The way i see it that's just slapping ductape on the wears and tears. Eventually we'll just be patching the patches, and that can't go on for too long before things start to break down. The changes to the planet that we cause are so drastic, and concentrated into such a small span, and are layered one atop the other constantly within the lifespans of single human generations. While we'll always evolve, we're not adapting towards physical natural pressures, so we're becoming dangerously dependent on our tech (in my opinion). Combine that with the sheer pace of the changes we're causing, a pace that seems to me to make human evolution a non-issue. As I see it, (considering species are already dying off at the rate of a mass extinction) if we continue the way we are we've got the potential for a major ecological collapse in the near future (several centuries) and technology isn't gonna save us from the pressures of the impending 11 billion people when society collapses and everything reaches third-world levels. Especially if we evolve towards a reliance on our wonderous gizmos and gadgets and gadgety lifestyles.

 

But then again, I'm rather cynical about this stuff. I'm of the opinion that the only permanent solutions can come from learning to not rely so much on tech to bail us out and try to reach a more "primitive" equilibrium with the world. Evolution is a non-issue by this point, all that matters is ecological stewardship and responsibility for the world that's left to take care of wihtout making it any worse. Of course, with the human population being what it is, and with humans being what we are, neither'll ever happen, so why should I bother thinking about it at all anyway? Bah.

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As I see it, (considering species are already dying off at the rate of a mass extinction) if we continue the way we are we've got the potential for a major ecological collapse in the near future (several centuries) and technology isn't gonna save us from the pressures of the impending 11 billion people when society collapses and everything reaches third-world levels.

 

As for me, I'll continue to look upon technology as the universal panacea :D

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As for me, I'll continue to look upon technology as the universal panacea :D
We'll see who's right when your ancestors are assimilated by their kitchen appliances while mine live a non-metallic life in wooden huts subsisting off of pinecones and squirrels :P

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AzurePhoenix is travelling backwards through time, just like Merlin the Magician. Her ANCESTORS will live where?

 

Personally I think the question of current human evolution is of academic interest only. Genetics as a practical technology is advancing so fast that we will soon be able to choose the genomes of our offspring. Future humans will be genetic 'supers'.

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Her ANCESTORS will live where?
Heh... I forgot that my entire point was that there wouldn't BE anymore substantial nature, so where'd my ancestors find the pinecones and squirrels? I 'spose we could find a nice feral sewer system or collapsed/buried district to inhabit and live off of mold and rats.

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If you think about it...

 

Our self-conciousness and intelligence are the direct products of evolution. So if we are tampering with the so-called "natural" progression of life on this planet via said intelligence, wouldn't that still just be a direct product of evolution?

 

Just a thought.

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What we are doing is removing some of the selective pressures on us. The human race is actually not very genetically diverse (afaik: ther is more genetic diverity in africa than there is in the rest of the population of earth).

 

In periods of low selective pressure, the genomes of organisms are able to explore more "Gene Space" as the organisms with suboptimal genes are able to survive. This is actually a positive thing (in the long run - i'm not talking indivduals here).

 

As the gene pool of humanity expands, due to this lower selective pressure, we will explore different genetic posabilities. When selective pressures do increase again, this expansion of the potential genetic coverage of the human genome will give some a better survival advantage, these will continue on.

 

There might even be new spiecies of humans, all of which might not be nessesarily what we would call "Human" (ie: genetically compatable with us today).

 

So I do not see this lack of selective pressure a bad thing to be happening to humans, but it is actually (in the long run) a very good thing as it will give us more advantages and better chances to survive any catastrophy (natural or man made - for example: deseases).

 

Humans went through a gentic "Bottle Neck" where there might have been only a few thousand individuals (we would have been classed as an endangered species) this still has repecussions today in that Humans have a low geneic diversity.

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Heh... I forgot that my entire point was that there wouldn't BE[/i'] anymore substantial nature, so where'd my ancestors find the pinecones and squirrels? I 'spose we could find a nice feral sewer system or collapsed/buried district to inhabit and live off of mold and rats.

Not if you live in a state park! I'm sure you could work something out with the state, and a few lawyers.

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Ok, so how is "tech" unnatural? I've always wondered if humans are really on a course to recreate themselves. You can see the foundation of the human brain and the individual processes in the microprocessors we've invented. And to understand evolution as much as we seem to already, I can only imagine how a couple hundred years of research and study will advance us.

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I think what is most dangerous in the development is not what we DO with the development as much as how FAST we change our invironment..

 

Evolution takes time, and if we don't give ourselves (and our environment) time to adjust to massive changes, we might be causing worse damage than we can imagine.

 

 

Don't you agree?

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Ok, so how is "tech" unnatural?

Technology itself isn't realy unnatural, it is just a result of tool use. Monkeys do that. The only thing unatural about technology is the way we use it.

We take up a lot of reasources for our technological society, and produce waste that does not break down easily.

I tend to think (somewhat philisophicaly) that the ultimate goal of our technological development should be to "naturalize" it. That is make everything part of the same type of self recycling, self sustaining, self advancing, systems we see in nature. However this is not a step that can occure over night, nor is it something we should jump to do too quickly, after all in nature, change usualy happens slowly.

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