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Author Topic: Are we still evolving?  (Read 13686 times)

Offline Ultima

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Are we still evolving?
« on: 19/05/2004 12:41:41 »
If organisms evolve to adapt to their environment, what hope is there for us in the future since we adapt the environment to suite usÖ Furthermore with the onset of genetic engineering we might royally screw up our chances of having a natural progression through evolution.

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Offline neilep

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #1 on: 19/05/2004 13:39:08 »
That's a good one Matt....

I think the more we become integrated with our society there will be a number of ways that we may evolve.....either we'll lose the use of certain limbs due to atrophy because everything will have the capability of being done from your favourite chair, ie: communicate, order dinner, conduct a business meeting, interact with the world....etc etc...but I personally think that is unlikely....after all, I think we'll all still have the basic need to get up and make babies, go on holiday , have sex (with real people) etc etc

I think we'll evolve by integrating systems into our very selves.....for instance communications equipment, little nano bots to cure our ills....we'll all become cyborgs !!....

I know there will be quite a few intersting opinions on this one so lets wait and see what others have to say.

Neil




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Offline qpan

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #2 on: 20/05/2004 00:19:53 »
To be honest, the human race has stopped evolving and started devolving. The only way that creatures can evolve is through survival of the fittest, and now that medical technology has advanced so far, not only the fittest survive - in fact, the chance of actually being killed is almost completely random and hardly dependant on how well adapted to the environment at all.

However, we don't really have much need to evolve on this planet any more anyway, as we are already the dominant species. If we evolved to become even more well adapted to this planet, we would probably end up wiping out all the species on this planet.

If we move to a planet such as mars in the future though, our descendants will evolve to become better adapted to that planet's conditions (as in a different environment different traits will probably be better suited than on this planet). That way, the human race will evolve, but i think that we are on an evolutionary dead end on this planet, until of course the dolphins evolve to become cleverer than us...

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Offline roberth

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #3 on: 20/05/2004 00:31:44 »
But isn't the "onset of genetic engineering" part of our evolutionary process? Who says we only evolve through natural progression? By eliminating the weaknesses in our genes we are cutting out the middle man by not having to worry too much about survival of the fittest and the emotions that accompany genetically deficient members of our species.
Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily agree with with genetic engineering, but it will produce benefits to many members of the community.
 

Offline qpan

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #4 on: 20/05/2004 00:36:43 »
No- genetic engineering evolves us in the way we think best- nature's method, while slower, ensures that correct choices are made - do you really think we know whats best for our evolutionary future?

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Offline roberth

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #5 on: 20/05/2004 00:45:56 »
No! Like I said, I don't necessarily agree with genetic engineering. I prefer the natural method. It's worked OK so far.
 

Offline Ultima

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #6 on: 20/05/2004 01:38:35 »
The best idea Iíve seen for genetic engineering is to introduce an extra "fake" chromosome that passes on to your children but could be removed from further generations by removing it from an egg when required. Even better is that information could be stored on it like your family tree, gives a whole new meaning to genealogy.

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Offline qpan

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #7 on: 20/05/2004 03:08:08 »
well, i think genetic engineering would kinda take the fun out of life. If you knew how intelligent you should be from your engineered genes, what you should acheieve, etc, then, who's life are you living? Your own or the person who manufactured your genes?

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Online chris

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #8 on: 20/05/2004 08:52:08 »
We are almost certainly still evolving. However, the selection pressures that drive our evolution have changed.

For instance :

Historically, conditions of poor food favoured people who stored energy very efficiently, and could tolerate unpredictable meals.

Now, in an age of energy excess, we selecting against these traits in favour of people that can better handle regular excessive food intake.

To give an example, we are now doing battle with an epidemic of HIV, a 'new' virus that has only been around in humans for up to 100 years. Most people infected with this virus will ultimately die (at least until an effective cure is discovered). However, a few individuals will be resistant to infection, or remain chronically infected but never become ill (so called non-progressors). We're already seeing these people appearing in places where AIDS is prevalent - in Gambia and in New York !

Chris

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Offline qpan

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #9 on: 20/05/2004 11:19:22 »
Well, yep- i agree with you there chris people who are naturally immune to any virus/disease will "bring evolution forwards" if they reproduce and have offspring (group population rise) while the rest of the local population are dying from the disease (general population decline).

However, while evolution occurs all the time just through reproductive cycles of species, there are most certainly two directions in which evolution can go - the so called "forwards" direction, where the species gain specialised skills/traits depending on where they live and the "backwards" direction where not only the number of people with those specialised traits decrease, but people with random traits emerge due to the wonders of science. For example, natural selection used to pick out the humans who were strongest, had the best eyesight etc (else they would perish or die due to not being able to hunt). This meant that the general trend was stronger offspring with better eyesite. However, nowadays, due to the fact that we no longer need to hunt and that you don't need to be strong to have a successful life, there is no longer a general trend due to no natural selection - the offsping's traits will vary randomly with genetic variation rather than be biased due to natural selection. I'm sure people will argue with me, but i count being extremely short sighted a disadvantage and "backwards" evolution (i.e. evolution no longer filters out a trait that would otherwise be a definate drawback).

You can also argue the opposite to your HIV scenario, Chris. Due to the advent of antibiotics, most bacterial infections are certainly not life threatening. This means that people who are more resilient to bacterial infections do not receive any advantage when if comes to reproducing, as everyone else is also just as likely to survive. However, this is certainly a disadvantage - when bugs arise that are not affected antibiotics, large amounts of the population will be highly susceptible.

(***Please note- i am not some kind of Nazi- i am not argueing that we should be not allow reproduction except to aid "forwards" evolution - that would be eugenics all over again. I am merely making a point that because nowadays not everything is life threatening and very little natural selection occurs, evolution may not be as beneficial and may be a lot more trivial than several thousand years ago.***)

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Offline Dan B

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #10 on: 20/05/2004 16:37:09 »
Natural selection and evolution are no-longer directly interdependant in humans. So I think using natural selection as a method of human evolution is now irrelavent. This of course means that evolution no longer necessarily moves in a positive or negative direction.
 

Offline qpan

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #11 on: 20/05/2004 20:23:31 »
quote:
Originally posted by Dan B

Natural selection and evolution are no-longer directly interdependant in humans. So I think using natural selection as a method of human evolution is now irrelavent. This of course means that evolution no longer necessarily moves in a positive or negative direction.



I disagree. Evolution can still move positively or negatively. One example of negative evolution is hereditary cancer. In the past, people with genes which caused cancer were less likely to survive and pass on their genes to future generations. However, now, cancer can be cured some of the time, allowing these harmful genes to be passed on. These genes in essence are making the humans genetically weaker and can therefore be classed as negative evolution.

Similar cases can also be argued for many other of the hereditary diseases.

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« Last Edit: 20/05/2004 20:24:23 by qpan »
 

Online chris

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #12 on: 21/05/2004 01:16:02 »
The important thing is not to assume that evolution always makes things 'better' in your eyes. Evolution (natural selection) is the process by which species become optimised to the environment over time and successive generations.

Moles cannot see very well because they chose life underground where there is no light. The loss of vision was a small price to pay for the relative safety provided by living out of reach of predators. But you might argue that loss of vision is a bad thing.

You are right that more people are alive today than would have been historically, so our gene pool is broadening, but that may not be such a terrible thing.

Occasionally, clouds contain genetic silver linings and some traits, at first glance maladaptive, turn out to be beneficial under certain circumstances. Take sickle cell anaemia as an example. A bad trait, but in malarious countries a great asset. Ditto glucose-6-phosphate deficiency. Or cystic fibrosis, haemochromotosis or factor-V Leiden.

As we adapt to our changing world other traits will come to the fore as we face novel challenges from various angles.

There is, in my mind, no trace of doubt that humans are continuously evolving. It's merely that the goal posts have moved.

Chris

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Offline tweener

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #13 on: 21/05/2004 03:58:38 »
I don't know much (read ANYTHING) about the theory of evolution, but I was under the impression that evolution only really works in relatively small isolated populations.  Now that humans have completely saturated the world the evolutionary process is completely diluted. Isn't it?  Everyone gets to find a mate and it is basically unheard of to mate with a close relative.

Also, natural selection only works against a defective organism having offspring.  Because of this, any diseases that usually show up after about 30 or 35 don't really count in the evolution argument, because they don't affect the offspring that have already been born, especially since nowdays children don't die just because their parents die.

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Offline OldMan

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #14 on: 21/05/2004 04:16:52 »
I think any more rapid evolution we'd be likely to see would probably only occur if there was a large scale catastrophy  or such like. Say an ice age, disease outbreak or meteor impact, something along those lines.

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #15 on: 22/05/2004 06:02:09 »
Evolution has nothing to do with isolated communities. That's merely how independent (non-interfertile) species come about. Evolution is the process by which environmental pressures lead to the selection of specific traits (genotypes) within a population, so that a beneficial trait becomes more common.

Take skin cancer as an example. With the thinning ozone layer, greater UV levels at ground level and a population with a penchant for a tan, more people are potentially at risk of skin cancer. Those at the least risk are individuals with the darkest skins (containing the most melanin). No matter how large the population, in hot countries this selective pressure will always be present and will favour darker skins over lighter skins. But in cold countries, where sun exposure is much lower, having a dark skin may be disadvantageous - sunlight exposure produces the precursor of vitamin D in the skin and those with dark skins living in cold grey climes (like the UK) are at increased risk of bone problems related to vitamin D deficiency.

There is therefore a selective pressure favouring darker skinned people in hot places and lighter skinned people in cold places. And hence we arrive at the distribution of colours we see today.

The other point you make John is that people are mixing their genes so widely these days as to rule out in-breeding. This is certainly untrue, largely thanks to our old friend religion. There are many examples of well-known and well studied genetic diseases that crop up in people of certain religions, such as Islam, because individuals from that faith insist on marrying their cousins and other close relatives. Other groups include the Amish, and Jewish faiths.

Chris

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Offline neilep

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #16 on: 22/05/2004 12:47:26 »
quote:
Originally posted by chris

The other point you make John is that people are mixing their genes so widely these days as to rule out in-breeding. This is certainly untrue, largely thanks to our old friend religion. There are many examples of well-known and well studied genetic diseases that crop up in people of certain religions, such as Islam, because individuals from that faith insist on marrying their cousins and other close relatives. Other groups include the Amish, and Jewish faiths.

Chris

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It's probably worth noting that this only applies to the Ultra Orthodox section of these religious faiths, which probably then also applies to all Orthodox doctrines of any faith !!......though you are very right of course Chris. However being a Jew myself (by birth only ,i'm certainly not a practicing Jew of any sort and Wifey is a lovely non Jew !!)....even amongst the orthodox of Jews that I know I have never come across such close interbreeding principles ie: marrying cousins and close relatives....however, I presume what you do mean Chris does apply to the ultra ultra Orthodox (as in any faith or any other close knit community)...I just wanted to make the point that it is not a general guideline to marry a family member in the 99% of the Jewish community, and your comment only applies to a small minority)


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Offline tweener

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #17 on: 22/05/2004 17:36:20 »
Thanks for the explanation Chris, that really helps.  

I think (being the eternal pessimist) that I agree with qpan that humans are probably devolving because medical science and political correctness make it possible for anyone to find a mate, no matter how defective their genes are.  There's plenty of evidence and maybe a little hope here: http://www.darwinawards.com

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Offline neilep

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #18 on: 22/05/2004 22:54:20 »
Well I just found something in my fridge that is well evolved !!!..it's even developed it's own intelligence !!:D:D

Yayy..it's saturday night and I'm the only idiot here !!..I'm sooooooooooooo sad !![:o)]



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Offline tweener

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #19 on: 23/05/2004 02:33:52 »
It's Saturday night here now (Sunday wee hours for you Neil) and I'm here.

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Offline neilep

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #20 on: 23/05/2004 04:03:53 »
...well, just gone 4am here...and I'm still buzzing, even though it's very light now....still....found this excellent webcam, with real time live streaming abd really good sound....that's assuming you like looking at a busy street ....Saturday night there and it's quite manic http://www.liveduvalstreet.com/index.htm   if you have broadban it works extremely well

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Offline tweener

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #21 on: 23/05/2004 04:53:20 »
Cool!  Isn't that you Neil standing there in the street with the black shirt on?

I wonder if that girl scratching her armpit knows she's on international internet?


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« Last Edit: 23/05/2004 04:54:32 by tweener »
 

Offline neilep

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #22 on: 23/05/2004 15:57:41 »
Yep, that's me John....I get around !!:) (oh the joy of cloning !)....I actually heard someone on the phone for a few minutes, he conducted his phone call right in front of the camera....apparantly he had Cajun chicken and his wife had BBQ fish, though the service was a bit slow.......fascinating !!!!!;)



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Offline OmnipotentOne

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #23 on: 07/06/2004 21:25:00 »
If everything is given to us, then how can he possible adapt?  I believe we might be at the end of our evolution chain.  We might be the end result of a simple single cellular organism taken as far as possible.  My minds a little rusty, but evolution occurs when a mutation gives one party the best chances over another, making it better suited for the enviroment.....I never could pay attention in BIO my teacher was horrible.
 

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #24 on: 09/06/2004 03:32:10 »
The answer is in your question. "If everything is given to us" - we are now witnessing an epidemic of obesity and secondary diabetes owing to an over-abundance of calories. But what is surprising to many scientists and doctors is that people can exist in such a calorie-rich environment and not get fat. Indeed we are going to see a genetic 'about-turn' in which traditionally advantageous genes programming us to store energy wherever possible are replaced by genes better suited to coping with caloric excess.

We are certainly not at the end of our evolution...

Chris

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Re: Are we still evolving?
« Reply #24 on: 09/06/2004 03:32:10 »

 

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