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Evolution and Medicine


Callipygous
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Callipygous,

 

According to evolutionary theory, individuals in a society are weeded out if they possess an atribute that makes them less likely to survive and reproduce. When we (humans) use medicine, I believe we are weakening the human race by stopping evolution from taking place. If we didnt use medicine then people with inhibiting conditions would gradually die out. if we didnt make glasses then we wouldnt have very many people with really bad eyes because if you cant see you cant get by in our daily world. is the human race permenantly halting its own progress?

Check back on the human race in about 5000 years ;)

 

are we forcing ourselves to remain imperfect forever?

Imperfect? Certainly you mean best adapted to our environment.

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the feeling your question reveals an unspoken assumption that it is unethical to halt the evolution of our species. If this is true, then I'd be interested to hear how you defend such a view (outside of "is-implies-ought" morality, of course).

 

will other races eventually overcome us since we are the only ones who use medicine?

Many animals are capable of regenerating limbs without medicine, have natural immunity to diseases that would kill us, and are unthreatened by eating food that has been pumped full of anti-biotics. Does that mean they have already overcome us? No, not at all.

 

As soon as you figure out what qualities make one species "greater" than another, then I dont think your question, no matter how sincerely you may want an answer, is meaningful to ask.

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According to evolutionary theory' date=' individuals in a society are weeded out if they possess an atribute that makes them less likely to survive and reproduce. When we (humans) use medicine, I believe we are weakening the human race by stopping evolution from taking place. If we didnt use medicine then people with inhibiting conditions would gradually die out. if we didnt make glasses then we wouldnt have very many people with really bad eyes because if you cant see you cant get by in our daily world. is the human race permenantly halting its own progress? are we forcing ourselves to remain imperfect forever? will other races eventually overcome us since we are the only ones who use medicine?

 

any thoughts/opinions/insights welcome.[/quote']

Evolution, like all theories of science, simply describes things. If some creature possessed a physical weakness that removed it from the mating game, evolution would describe that. If that creature compensated for its physical weakness by, oh, I don't know...using its brain to build technology and so forth...evolution would describe that as well.

 

But the theory isn't telling us that one outcome is more desirable than the other, which you seem to be suggesting. This depends upon your own values. If you, for whatever reason, value accelerated selection and keeping the human genepool narrow, you'd advocate eugenics on humans. If you, like me, view selection as nature's business and not man's, you'd keep the genepool broad so when nature does finally decide to play the selection game, we'll be better prepared to deal with whatever curveball she throws our way. Both of these positions are value judgements that are not intrinsic to the theory of evolution, which does not "condone" either or anything else.

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According to evolutionary theory' date=' individuals in a society are weeded out if they possess an atribute that makes them less likely to survive and reproduce. When we (humans) use medicine, I believe we are weakening the human race by stopping evolution from taking place. If we didnt use medicine then people with inhibiting conditions would gradually die out. if we didnt make glasses then we wouldnt have very many people with really bad eyes because if you cant see you cant get by in our daily world. is the human race permenantly halting its own progress? are we forcing ourselves to remain imperfect forever? will other races eventually overcome us since we are the only ones who use medicine?

 

any thoughts/opinions/insights welcome.[/quote']

 

Sounds like something Hitler would say.

 

Say you were on a football team. Say one of your players injures a foot. What are you going to do? Dump him from the team or invest some resources to rehabilitate him so he can continue to play? Which one benefits the team most in the long run?

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AL

Evolution, like all theories of science, simply describes things.

 

thats not right. theories aren't merely descriptive, they lend meaning to phenomena that wld otherwise seem arbitrary. science isn't just a catalogue of facts.

 

in a real sense, such things as survival are 'good', at least for the survivor. if you want to kno a bit more about 'value', read robert persig. if you want to know about 'meaning', & why teleology is not a flaw in scientific arguments, read daniel dennett.

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Sayonara³

One might well consider that a population with the ability to produce and distribute antibiotics is more evolutionarily fit than an equivalent population without that ability. They are, after all, more likely to survive to a reproductive age on average.

 

yup

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AL

 

 

thats not right. theories aren't merely descriptive' date=' they lend meaning to phenomena that wld otherwise seem arbitrary. science isn't just a catalogue of facts.

 

in a real sense, such things as survival are 'good', at least for the survivor. if you want to kno a bit more about 'value', read robert persig. if you want to know about 'meaning', & why teleology is not a flaw in scientific arguments, read daniel dennett.[/quote']

You can use scientific statements to back your value positions, but that is not science, nor is it an endorsement from science. If you value safety over excitement, you'd refrain from skydiving. If you think the risk is worth the thrill, you'd skydive. The theory of gravity doesn't care either way, but if you go splat in a skydiving accident, gravity would certainly describe a portion of the splat process.

 

I don't know specifically what you mean by teleology being valid for scientific arguments and I'm not familiar with Dennet, but I've seen teleology being used inappropriately for science (specifically, having read William Dembski and Michael Behe). There are instances where teleology may be important to a science, such as behavioral psychology, but other sciences have little to no place for it.

 

Anyway, this discussion is getting sidetracked. Does evolutionary theory itself endorse any ethical stance? I say no, though once you have a set of values (e.g. "I like physically strong people"), you can certainly argue from the theory (e.g. "We should use selection to weed out physically weak people").

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As soon as you figure out what qualities make one species "greater" than another' date=' then I dont think your question, no matter how sincerely you may want an answer, is meaningful to ask.[/quote']

How about the fact that the lighter a person skin is, the more vunerable they are too skin cancer. So then those people who have darker skin will have a "greater" survival rate then others who have to rely on sun screens.

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You can use scientific statements to back your value positions,

i wld say its the other way round. science makes sense of experience, which is organised by values: hot-cold, red-green & so on.

 

i agree what you say about teleology, it is most applicable to evolutionary arguments. what i mean by it is a statement such as 'a bird has wings so it can fly'. logically this is incorrect. it can fly becos it has wings. the problem is, if you dont admit teleological explanations in evolutionary arguments, you cant admit functional explanations, & you wind up with what you originally claimed science to be, a catalogue of facts.

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i wld say its the other way round. science makes sense of experience, which is organised by values: hot-cold, red-green & so on.

That's not really what I mean by values. I'm referring specifically to normative values, such as "the water in the pool is cold, so we should not jump in," rather than quantitative values such as "the water in the pool is cold -- it's 5 degrees C." The latter is a descriptive statement, the former is what I mean by a value statement. Normativism as opposed to positivism, which is the crux of the issue here. Does evolution support human eugenics? No, evolution is a description. It's up to you how to interpret those descriptions, but your normative interpretation as to what we ought to do in response to the information is not science. It's more a form of ethics really.

 

i agree what you say about teleology, it is most applicable to evolutionary arguments. what i mean by it is a statement such as 'a bird has wings so it can fly'. logically this is incorrect. it can fly becos it has wings. the problem is, if you dont admit teleological explanations in evolutionary arguments, you cant admit functional explanations, & you wind up with what you originally claimed science to be, a catalogue of facts.

Well as I said earlier, teleology may have a place in science, but one must tread carefully. Certainly if a new creature evolves wings, it may want to try and find a use for it, so in that sense, there is a goal for that creature's behavior. I said earlier that teleology has a place in behavioral sciences. But that is markedly different from saying a bird evolved wings for the purpose of flying -- that's a serious misapplication of teleology. Unless you can prove that nature can think the way humans and some animals can, it is not reasonable to assume nature has a goal in mind when evolving creatures.

 

Anyway, this teleology discussion appears to be off-topic or else I seemed to have lost sight of what this has to do with this thread and justifying eugenics with evolution so this is my last post on the matter. If you really want to say something further, you can pm me.

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It's up to you how to interpret those descriptions, but your normative interpretation as to what we ought to do in response to the information is not science. It's more a form of ethics really.

 

im not convinced by this distinction. normative values of water temperature are 'good' becos they fall within the quantitative range that supports life. have you read robert persig?

 

a bird evolved wings for the purpose of flying -- that's a serious misapplication of teleology. Unless you can prove that nature can think the way humans and some animals can, it is not reasonable to assume nature has a goal in mind when evolving creatures.

 

thats my point. it makes no sense, but it is a crucial form of explanation. functional anatomy can't be studied without teleology, & without it, evolutionary science reduces to cladistics. in an important sense, nature does have a goal in mind, just as an evolutionary algorithm has an optimum solution that theoretically exists but is unknown.

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According to evolutionary theory' date=' individuals in a society are weeded out if they possess an atribute that makes them less likely to survive and reproduce. When we (humans) use medicine, I believe we are weakening the human race by stopping evolution from taking place. If we didnt use medicine then people with inhibiting conditions would gradually die out. if we didnt make glasses then we wouldnt have very many people with really bad eyes because if you cant see you cant get by in our daily world. is the human race permenantly halting its own progress? are we forcing ourselves to remain imperfect forever? will other races eventually overcome us since we are the only ones who use medicine?

 

any thoughts/opinions/insights welcome.[/quote']

 

Well, what would cosmology/astrophysics be like if Stephen Hawking (who's still alive) had died earlier because he did not recieve treatment for his disease? Where would game theory be if John Nash went down the road that many schizophrenics walk---drug addiction or suicide? Sure, other people will probably have come up with their theories some time in the future, but don't you think that it is wonderful that these men had overcome their illnesses and proved that they are still brilliant, despite their genetic "deficiencies"? I, for one, do. :)

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