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Is Evolution Over In Humans? 761

Posted by timothy
from the fait-accompli dept.
BrianGa writes: "Is evolution over? Are current humans the final version? This article presents a number of interesting theories, including the theory that 'Our species has reached its biological pinnacle and is no longer capable of changing.' Professor Steve Jones believes this, in part, because 'human populations are now being constantly mixed, again producing a blending that blocks evolutionary change.'"
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Is Evolution Over In Humans?

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  • Odd, I thought it was blending, and the subsequent mixing of genes (variation) that was the basis of evolution.

    • Re:Blending (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Odd, I thought it was blending, and the subsequent mixing of genes (variation) that was the basis of evolution.

      You also need a "survival of the fittest" rule, that's what we lost in our modern society.

      Machines will take over pretty soon. Get over it.
      • the fittest (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2002 @06:40AM (#2945569)
        Evolution is alive, and it favors:

        1. horny
        2. too stupid to use birth control
        3. likes to get drunk at parties
        4. lazy (no job) -- more time to reproduce
        5. likely to rape, or not resist rape
        6. can't see consequences of actions
        7. too passive, fearful, or religous to abort
        8. physically attractive
        9. those who can convince someone into bed

        Social programs ensure that the offspring
        survive. Bimbos and jocks will multiply,
        while nerds and career-addicts will die out.
        • Re:the fittest (Score:3, Interesting)

          by lightfoot jim (441918)
          Actually, you could make a case based on this that the human race is reproducing in such ways as to cause a genetic split. The "horny/stupid/jock" gene pool will increase in size much faster, but those that put off reproduction in favor of education, career, what have you will tend to reproduce with others who do the same. This second group will experience effects of late in life reproduction such as a postponed age of menarche (making the off spring even less likely to become jocks or cheerleader types) and a longer lifespan. Similarly, the "horny/stupid/jock" group will have earlier onset of puberty and aging. In the end though, this would depend on thousands of years of a society with a social structure similar to our own which I am too timid to predict one way or the other.

          • Wired Magazine had a pretty good article here [wired.com] describing what happens in areas densely intellectual (Silicon Valley). When 2 nerds (hackers, scientists, etc.) who already have autistic tendencies (they wouldn't be nerds otherwise) get together and reproduce, their offspring has big chances of being autistic to a higher degree. IMHO, not a good evolutionary trend.

            /max
      • Re:Blending (Score:5, Funny)

        by Max von H. (19283) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @08:26AM (#2945740) Homepage
        You also need a "survival of the fittest" rule

        I'd say they got it wrong due to poor spelling, since it's more like "survival of the fattest" from what I've seen in certain areas of the USA...

        /max
      • Re:Blending (Score:4, Interesting)

        by weave (48069) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @08:37AM (#2945752) Journal
        Being fit to survive is not as important these days as being smart. Our next big steps in advancement will require intelligence, not brawn.

        But this is also a problem. Educated and intelligent people have few children. Stupid people breed like mad. They not only pass along stupid in their genes, their environment sucks (no decent home fostering of learning so the kids have double strikes against them).

    • Re:Blending (Score:2, Informative)

      Yes, you're right but what I think the guy was talking about is that also,

      you tend to see the most extreme specialization in places where populations are cut off.

      Ie, take the galapogos (spelling?) islands where Darwin first got his ideas. He noticed how specialized the birds of these islands had become, in comparison to their main-land brethen. The idea being that given a population that is isolated, certain charactistics can be more easily selected for , instead of having to try to select it out of much bigger population. Of course, the problem with this guy's (the article) opinions is that it does smak of segregation and other asty thoughts, but he should be given a fair consideration

      Thanks all!
      • Re:Blending (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Metrol (147060) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @08:09AM (#2945717) Homepage
        Of course, the problem with this guy's (the article) opinions is that it does smak of segregation and other asty thoughts, but he should be given a fair consideration

        To be perfectly fair, I don't believe he stated his opinions on whether evolutionary theory not applying to western civilization was good or bad. He may have opinions on this, but they weren't in the article. All that was in there was an observation that Darwin's basic rules don't seem to apply any longer due to a variety of reasons.

        I may not agree with the conclusions personally, but I can't assign anything more sinister than a difference of opinion to the notion that evolution has effectively been turned off.
    • Re:Blending (Score:3, Informative)

      by znu (31198)
      Evolution doesn't really take place in individuals. It takes place in populations. In small, isolated populations, beneficial mutations can spread quickly through the gene pool. In large populations, they tend to get lost in the noise.
  • by Iffy Bonzoolie (1621) <iffy.xarble@org> on Sunday February 03, 2002 @04:52AM (#2945337) Journal
    I think with modern medicine, only *really* bad gene combinations get selected out. The only way for humans to really evolve is through genetic engineering. It's the natural progression of evolution! It is our density!

    -If
  • Memetic evolution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jmerelo (216716)
    Biological evolution is probably over; after all, we are quite well adapted to our environment; there might be some genetic drift, but it won't be noticed in a couple million years.

    However, humankind is being used as a vehicle for memetic evolution [vub.ac.be]; ideas evolve, reproduce, and flow from one mind to another; and it does not seem like this is going to stop. Ever.
    • There are many examples of how we are not perfectly adapted to our environment. We have changed it so much in the past 400 years that there is no way our genetics could have changed that much. The easiest example is diet. Humans crave fats and sugars because those sources of food used to be difficult to find and very valuable. Now they are plentiful, but we still crave them. This can be regulated by our brains just fine, but given a lot of time, our genetics would fall back in line too.

      And. The fossil record shows that we've been evolving at a breakneck pace up until now. Eventually our population will stop expanding so fast, and selection will start again in earnest.
  • by Ieshan (409693) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nahsei)> on Sunday February 03, 2002 @04:57AM (#2945346) Homepage Journal
    That I've ever heard of.

    Variation is the subject for Human Change and Progression. Why doesn't "Professor" Jones look at something like, say, Malaria in relation to Sickle-Cell genes, or other diseases or climates and how they effect populations?

    Since the entire world doesn't operate on a level where we can completely control our environment, there's no way to be sure if evolution is truly over. Then again, in Biology and Psychology classes, it HAS been noted that we are the only species on the planet that currently effects its own evolutionary change.

    I just hope we can all come to the better conclusion that evolution isn't nearly over. We're still a changing species - but we're looking at ourselves in a relatively small time window. Modern society in comparison to evolution is a silly idea. The window isn't large enough to fit 'evolution' in.
    • this really isn't that silly of an article.
      Its not unimaginable that the 3rd world of today, in a century or so, will have the same benefits of medical technology that developed countries have today. It starts with simple things--cheap glasses mean you don't die if your eyesight is very poor, thats one less test of fitness for passing on your genes. If we slowly but surely remove all tests of fitness (even infertility!) then there is no particular direction the species is going, which would be the same as the end of evolution.
      The only sort of thing that will return us to an evolutionary path is something that reintroduces live-or-die tests of genetic fitness. This would be something like a natural disaster of extinction level proportions, or some global plague with a bit more bite than AIDs (ebola?). Some people have mentioned possible evolution in isolated space colonies, call me a pessimist, but i think something like the 2 possibilities i mentioned are more likely...
      • thats one less test of fitness for passing on your genes. If we slowly but surely remove all tests of fitness (even infertility!) then there is no particular direction the species is going, which would be the same as the end of evolution

        There never was a "particular direction the species was going"--we are here because it is the vector sum of the set [{all the random and often stupid things our ancestors did} minus {the things that were uber-dumb enough to earn them a darwin award}] . There isn't any "grand plan" to it at all.

        So while we may not be selecting for "can see without artificial lenses", every technology we add creates myriad opportunities to toast yourself in new and interesting ways, and we are selecting for things like "smart enough not to bungey jump with a cord that's longer than the drop" (yes, several people used to think this was a good idea, but the number of them in the gene pool is declining).

        We're like fish who have moved into a cave (or onto land)--just because the selective pressures have changed does not mean they've stopped.

        -- MarkusQ

    • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @05:35AM (#2945449) Homepage
      &LT AOL &GT Me too! &LT /AOL &GT

      I read the article a few hours before it was posted here.

      It's a load of crap. Things have certainly changed, and many things that used to kill people no longer do, so evolution no longer selects on that basis. But Humans still reproduce mixing genes. Some people still have more children than others. Humans are still subject to evolution. It's just that there are different pressures than there used to be.

      Human technology has chaged our envirnment radically. We live in heated homes. We work in offices. We die in car crashes. Eat processed food. Etc etc etc. If we assume that we don't start genetically engineering ourselves, this would eventually result in some signifigant (but unpredictable) changes to the human race.

      One disturbing trend is an inverse relationship between wealth(social success) and number of children. Sucessful families with 1.2 children (below the replacement level, their genes are effectively selected against). Poverty level people having 3.6 children (geneticaly sucessfull).

      We are effectively selecting against being sucessfull. Wierd.

      -
      • "One disturbing trend is an inverse relationship between wealth(social success) and number of children. Sucessful families with 1.2 children (below the replacement level, their genes are effectively selected against). Poverty level people having 3.6 children (geneticaly sucessfull).
        We are effectively selecting against being sucessfull. Wierd."

        Obviously, "Mother Nature" disagrees with your assessment that money equates with success. I wonder who will win the argument?
      • by Kirruth (544020) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @09:11AM (#2945812) Homepage
        Sucessful families with 1.2 children (below the replacement level, their genes are effectively selected against). Poverty level people having 3.6 children (geneticaly sucessfull).

        This was noticed by scientists in the 19th century, who postulated that in time, the world would be taken over by morons. My belief is that this actually happened, but we are now too stupid to realise.

      • by MarkusQ (450076) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @09:39AM (#2945870) Journal
        One disturbing trend is an inverse relationship between wealth(social success) and number of children. Successful families with 1.2 children (below the replacement level, their genes are effectively selected against). Poverty level people having 3.6 children (genetically).

        This actually argues for the statement that evolution is still in progress. (BTW, I think the article that started all this is as silly as saying "gravity doesn't apply to us now that we have rockets.")

        The thing to note is that optimal reproduction is having as many offspring as you can afford to rear into your ecological niche. Flies can lay lots of eggs, because raising a baby fly is very, very cheap. Lions have orders of magnitude fewer cubs because raising baby lions (who must be defended, fed, taught to hunt, etc.) is a prolonged and time consuming enterprise. (Just try it some time if you doubt this.)

        So the observed birth ratios are perfectly consistent with the notion that there is a lot more competition to be "wealthy" and "successful" than there is to be "poor"--and as a consequence, it takes disproportionately more effort to raise a successful child that to raise a luser.

        Not only have we not "escaped evolution" we haven't even escaped this simple definition of "optimal" family size; Bill Gates could certainly afford to follow the "fly" strategy produce an army of tens of thousands ill educated brats that would assure his success in the gene pool, but instead (as we all do, on average) he follows the logic of optimal family size and chooses the "lion" strategy. Likewise, I had my first child at 40. I could have started at eighteen at had dozens of "I can count to twenty 'cause I ain't go no shoes!" kids, but I preferred to raise one that will be more likely to someday explain the zeta function [wolfram.com].

        -- MarkusQ

        • BTW, I think the article that started all this is as silly as saying "gravity doesn't apply to us now that we have rockets."

          I think what he meant was that all the forces of nature that are normally extremely prohbitive to a species' abiltities, inability to fly or swim deeply or see at night or whatever, no longer apply to us. If we need an ability, we don't have to breed for it for thousands of years, probably sacrificing some other useful ability. We just put some engineers to work on it. In a real sense, gravity no longer applies to us because ignoring it has become an almost trivial application of our technology. As unenhanced individuals, sure it still affects us; you jump up, you come back down. But as a species, we can now cross oceans, mountains, deserts, and reach all levels of elevation from the "deepest inner mine to the Outer Limits" (haha!).

      • Social Darwinism (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Tony (765)
        Sorry-- social darwinism was proved wrong long ago. The idea that our social "success" equates with biological "success" is the one of the most arrogant bastardisations of science in the last two hundred years, right up with the idea that blacks are inferior to whites. (Oddly enough, the two ideas are linked-- that was social darwinism before there was darwinism, and the arguments used to "prove" that were similar the the ones you just used to "prove" poor people are somehow inferior to rich people.)

        Just because someone is poor does not make them genetically stupid, or genetically less-likely to survive.

        Remember, biological success has to do with living long enough to breed a replacement population. It doesn't have anything to do with the size of your paycheck. The more times you pass on your genes, the more successful those genes are.
    • here here,

      utter biological arrogance

      I've heard trhe argument before and it's utter toss.

      For a start the environment is in constant flux. Our existence in evolutionary time is less than the blink of an eye, We'll be dead and gone by before the universe knos we're here!
    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@keirstea d . o rg> on Sunday February 03, 2002 @12:57PM (#2946535) Homepage

      The problem with modern society is that evolution has no CHANCE to take its course. Let's use your Sickle-Cell gene as an example. In any other species on the planet, Sickle-Cell genes would be gradually phased out of the population, as people with them died at an earlier age, and thus having less offspring than those that don't. The same rings true for basiclly all genetic diseases; the reason evolution takes care of them IN THE FIRST PLACE is beacause they kill the animals with the defects off.

      The same rings true for animals born with advantagous mutations. They have a greater chance of survival, and thus, for producing offspring. Over generations, the breed with the mutations is so much more likely to survive than those that won't, that it eventually takes over, and the inferior breed dies off.

      Human's don't follow this trend any more. People with genetic diseases are given drug treatments and so forth to prolong their lives as long as possible, often far beyond what they would achieve otherwise. And they definitly mate as well, thus passing the defective gene along.

      Without the threat of extinction, evolution falls apart. When a species becomes as dominant over its environment as humans have, how can its environment have any impact on it? It is totally illogical.

      I think that, unless we move in with some other alien species and start cross-mating, physical evolution by humans has indeed come to an end. As for cultural evolution, that is a never ending process that has nothing to do with external environmental factors.

      • Let's use your Sickle-Cell gene as an example

        Okay. Sickle cell anemia is an advantageous mutation if you live in an area with lots of malaria (large portions of Africa), but only in its partially expressed form. This is a good reason why people from Africa tend to have the gene. Malaria kills most of the people without it and those who have it fully expressed die within short order.

  • Unmentioned.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Weezul (52464)
    There are all the usuall suspects with respect to future evolution, i.e. memes, ideas, social, AIs, and genetic engenering, but there is one possibility directly related to this article which was missed:.It takes a *long* time to travel to other stars (or even mars). We could see some real unplanned biological evolution as we create settlements on other worlds, unless we just replace ourselves with AIs first.
  • Pinnacle? Pinnacle my ass!

    I'm still waiting for my mutant xmen powers to vest themselves.

    Damn it... what a gyp!

    :)
  • Modern society has eliminated any chance for evolution. If we assume "success" in the typical Western money/power situation, you want to only have one or two children so as not to dilute your accumulated wealth. Money is determined by propagation of capital and not by the number of children.

    If, however, you're at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, the more hands on the farm / bodies in the factory, the more money comes your way. If we throw in saftey nets that prevent weeding out those who are not "successful" and give more money for more dependents, the gene pool must either branch or become diluted with "unsuccessful" traits.

    This sounds horrid - I know. I'm not arguing for a eugenics program. I think that there should be a society wide curb on reproduction, thus freeing up resources (this has to be done slowly as not to over-grey the population) to make everyone "sucessful."
    • This doesn't have much effect of evolution, because people at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder aren't necessarily genetically inferior. Economic success depends on many factors that have nothing to do with genetically determined traits: what area of the world you're born in, how rich your parents are, what opportunities just randomly crop up, etc.
  • Richard Dawkins excellent book, The Blind Watchmaker [amazon.com], he makes the point that Evolution is like flying a plane (or like fighting a War, for that matter): Weeks of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

    In other words, Evolution is one of those things which appears to be doing nothing for a while, then suddenly there are events that cause a sudden radical evolutionary change to occur; such as a deadly disease, the changing of a forest in to a desert, and what not. If we had, for example, a thermonuclear world war, you can bet that this war would be followed by a sudden intense period of evolution.

    In The Mote in God's Eye [amazon.com], there is a conversation where the characters make a similiar argument to what the linked article makes--with inventions like glasses, wheel chairs, and other devices, people who would have not been able to survive in previous generations to breed can now pass on their genetic code.

    Finally, I find the way they mentioned interracial breeding and its possible effects on evolution. I will say this much: When I travel to foreign countries (I am from the US), I find the girls there a lot more friendly than I find girls in the US. For geeks seeking to, errr, propergate their genetic code, and not finding girls willing to chare genertic code with them, going to a foreign country and gettting to know the girls there is an excellent avenue for finding a mate so that they can carry their genes on to the next generation.

    Translated in to English, I am saying that geeks to can more esily get laid by going off to foreign lands and mingling with the girls there. Learning their foreign language helps, too, but is probably not a requirment, since English is currently the "world language".

    - Sam

    • Richard Dawkins['] excellent book

      Hate to interrupt, but I must say that this line is somewhat of a tautology - Richard Dawkins' books are written with such an attention to making the concepts 'easy to understand' that, through, most especially, the anthropermofication of several processes such as evolution, turns developmental biology into more of a mysticysm than an increasingly well-understood natural process; as 'science books', they are quite misleading in their tone, even though most of what the argument is based on is 'Good Science(tm)'.

  • hmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991)
    A while after Darwin came up with the idea of natural selection, he came up with a related theory, that of sexual selection. Human beings usually choose their mates based on certain traits, and this probably won't stop anytime soon.

    These traits don't necessarily have to have any survival value outside mate selection; the best example would probably be peacocks, where the females choose males based on the impressiveness of their tail display. The bigger and more colorful the display, the more attractive a peacock is to a prospective female, but outside of that the tails do nothing but call attention to predators.

    Same thing with humans; attractive traits (genetically determined attractive traits of course) will have a better chance of being propagated. This is probably more common than it's been through a lot of human history, where mate selection was done by the families rather than the couple themselves.

    Besides which, I can think of several other ways human beings will evolve. How late in life a woman becomes infertile; the longer the period of fertility, the more likely she'll be to pass on the genetic trait for it. Resistance to pollutants; if you have better resistance to cancer-causing factors, you can pass that along to your offspring, while those with lesser resistance are more likely to be removed from the gene pool.
  • Since this century already seems to be the bad-anime-cliche century, I am assuming that sometime around the year of 2015, humanity will go through a forced evoloution planned by an old German man, and involving angels, genetic engineering, nuclear explosions and gigantic biorobots dropping out of 500 foot wide stealth bombers.

  • How many of us would be around if it weren't for modern technology/medicine? Personally, I'm blind as a bat without my glasses, have plastic teeth as my real ones never came in and I was born with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. If we were still under the evolutionary pressures that were normal for most of our specie's history, I'd be toast.

    Look around sometime and notice how many people are wearing glasses or contacts. I'd bet that as little as 200 years ago the numbers were less than 10% of what we have now. I always picture this as the distribution of eyesight in the population widening as the evolutionary pressure to keep eyesight good is taken away. I.e., you don't die any more if you need glasses.

    Whether this means we've stopped evolving or not is a bit of a semantic game. Even the word "devolving" is a loaded term, as it implies that there is some upward path that evolution is following. Sharks have been stable for millions of years and haven't really evolved in that time. However, this doesn't mean that evolution has stopped for them. They've just reached a "local minimum" in the evolutionary fitness phase space. You can bet that if something drastic changed they would start changing again right away.

    I'll stop rambling after one more thought. As Richard Dawkins has said so well and so often, evolution is a subtle process and it's very easy to make the mistake of anthropomorphizing it into something with a goal. It seems to me that that's what the authors of this article have done.

    Either that or they've just stated the obvious.

    Brant
    • Look around sometime and notice how many people are wearing glasses or contacts. I'd bet that as little as 200 years ago the numbers were less than 10% of what we have now

      I don't think it's the fact that we see more people wearing glasses. It's the fact that our ability to detect flaws in eyesight have increased, and the fact that the people who need glasses have easier access to them.

    • Look around sometime and notice how many people are wearing glasses or contacts. I'd bet that as little as 200 years ago the numbers were less than 10% of what we have now.

      Most of vision problems are acquired in school, where children have to read lots of books, often in bad lighting conditions. Human eyes are not designed for reading, they were meant to look far. But in modern society your only chance to still have good eyesight by the graduation date is to read as little as possible, and run on streets as much as possible (i.e. being a "bad boy", as opposed to "honorary student"). This is fairly easy to spot - most scientists have bad eyesight, most lumberjacks have perfect vision.

      In other words, requirements of the modern society are outright unhealthy, unnatural and cause all sorts of deevolution. Humans are the only species that "evolve the environment" around them instead of adapting to existing one. If this continues, we will have the society of half-alive, mostly immobile and absolutely sick people, kept alive only with wonders of technology. Maybe eventually humans will evolve themselves into cyborgs. I would vote for that any day.

  • I know it's hard to imagine evolutionary time, where things require a few hundred thousand years to be relevant, but really this assertion that we have stopped evolving is so much crap.

    Modern medicine and sanitation are pretty much developments of the last two thousand years (the Romans had pretty elaborate sewer and aqueduct systems), while speedy air and land travel has only been around for a hundred years. These really only register as a blip on the scale of evolutionary time. During this blip, we are doing well and reunited as a species (reproductively speaking). This by itself is not significant enough to alter our rate of evolution. Subpopulations of many species go through these cycles and are still "actively evolving". More significantly, the incredible technological changes we are generating in such short order will have an unpredictable impact on the environment around us and thus our own survival. We may think that our lives are becoming more stable, but this does not come without alteration to the world around us.

    While it may seem that we are conquering nature, we are doing nothing less than ensuring the struggle of nature continues.
  • Humans could change over thousands or millions of years to be to be smallpox resistant... Or we could apply our own intelligence to wipe out smallpox with vaccines. The former is clearly evolution. Is the latter? Is species improvment still evolution when changes directed by the evolved intelligence dominate the random mutations?

    For a while I was worried that humans were defeating evolution. Diseases like diabetes can't be cured, but we can treat them, thereby increasing the number of kids born to people with diabetes. The natural selection against childhood diabetes is defeated. On the other hand, we may one day cure diabetes with gene therapy. Maybe that is how humans will evolve in the future.
  • Evolution is dynamic process, where those most adapted to the environment tend to have more offrspirng than those less adapted. I'm sad to see that many people (including most journalists) still seem to think about evolution as a linear process, where a species becomes more and more adapted striving for perfection.

    Has our environment changed? Well, humans are still adapted to live on the savannah. We are adapted to socially depend on a large extended family.

    In genetic time, humans recently started farming, and even more recently started living in citites. We are subjected to an entire new environment: the indoors. We are living very close to lots of strangers. Still, we react to modern life as hunters/gatherers. Think of stress, road rage, people being burned out by 30.

    Evolution works on all living organisms all the time. Maybe other factors are more important than genetics, in determining the number of offspring a human has. It is easier to imagine that those less (genetically) adapted tend to have fewer children. Those burned out from work by the time they're 30 probably have less energy for having a family than those who have the genetics (and social life) to cope with stress.

    And for a good read about evolution that clears up a lot of popular misunderstandings about what evolution is and isn't I can really recommend Richard Dawkins.
  • by mattr (78516) <mattr@teleb[ ].com ['ody' in gap]> on Sunday February 03, 2002 @05:25AM (#2945424) Homepage Journal
    I read the article just becase I don't like to reply without giving the benefit of the doubt.. but in this case it was a waste of time.

    QUOTE: 'Things have simply stopped getting better, or worse, for our species.'
    Then the Atomic Scientists [bullatomsci.org] wouldn't have a Doomsday Clock. And we wouldn't be worried about destroying our coastal cities with rising tides.

    The article is only saved by Stringer who says the obvious, that 'Evolution goes on all the time. You don't have to intervene. It is just that it is highly unpredictable.'

    I'd say that any mind that thinks evolution is over, is destined to become roadkill due to 'evolutionary' causes.

    In our near future we have the prospect of mutations spreading which fight against aids, tropical diseases spreading north, and resistance to biowarefare or radiation. Somewhere along the way we will likely have changes in populations due to great artificial genes which can be passed on. Robotics and other technologies will enhance humans at some pace or another, there seems little doubt of that or you can read Hans Moravec if you are still unsure about that. We will have plenty of stresses on our populations and our genes, no worries about that. Homo Sap's going to have to advance a heck of a lot more for that.

    The problem with a guy like Jones is that when people start to base strategies or policies on such delusions, we all lose out. Do you think we are losing no great artistic or scientific minds in the African tragedy of AIDS? Does it really matter if the makeup of populations change by one outliving the other, or being more procreative, or eating better, or what if they just ethnically cleanse, water war, bomb, poison, or otherwise do each other in? And are we all so homogenous now? I'd rather not consider myself as the least common denominator.

    I think the battles of evolution require a lot of creative thinking to elucidate if you are thinking about your own time, and even then all bets are off. If anything evolution will accelerate as we become able to modify/improve our genes more quickly than the natural rate. And lots more people in the world will gain the means to exterminate those with genes they dislike. Finally, Natural Selection is always in operation. You can't turn it off just because increased mobility makes it difficult to measure.

    Evolution is sort of like a saying of Buckaroo Banzai's: Just remember, wherever you go, there you are.
  • (Deus) Human beings may not evolve any longer. Human's incidence of cancer is by far lower than other animal. There is a theory that human being is already a neoteny, and never evolve more. If it is true, what a stupid animal they became. They forgot the force which operate themselves, and they are only satisfying their desire. Don't you think they are worthless? Human being is only so much. But, You don't have to remain such a miserable human being. Now, human beings only created the exit.

    (Lain) What is it?

    (Deus) Network. It's wired, Lain.

    (Lain) Who are you?

    (Deus) I'm God.
  • The real problem here is a lack of natural selection. Stupid people just don't get eaten by predators, because we invent means to defend them (and for them to defend themselves).

    As such, I advocate a campaign of thinning the herd every once in a while.
  • by IntelliTubbie (29947) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @05:30AM (#2945435)
    According to Darwin himself, natural selection only occurs when there is a "struggle for existence." If there is a scarcity of resources (or other obstacle) that makes it impossible for every member of a species to survive, those with certain "fitter" genetic traits will have a distinct advantage. On the other hand, if nearly every member can survive and reproduce as it is, there is no reason for those traits to be favored.

    Humans are not presently in a "struggle for existence" -- most people can survive and procreate without much trouble, irrespective of their genetics. (Those who do struggle mostly do so because of political, social, and economic factors, not genetic disadvantages.) However, this could change quite quickly if some massively disruptive event (drought, famine, epidemic, intergalactic war, etc.) were to make it difficult for humans to survive without superior genetics.

    In fact, Stephen Jay Gould's theory of Punctuated Equilibrium suggests that most species evolve this way: long periods of stasis, occasionally "punctuated" by rapid change over a small number of generations.

    Cheers,
    IT
    • Humans may not be in a struggle for existence right now (at least in the developed world), but this doesn't mean evolution has stopped. Evolution is going towards genes that favour a large amount of children.

      There used to be a large cost of having more children, because you'd need to find enough food to keep them alive. This has changed since society will provide for the children even if the parents themselves can't.

    • I'm not sure whether or not this is a troll. If so it was a damn good one!

      If you honestly believe human beings aren't "struggling for existence" I invite you to crawl out of your easy chair and visit any third-world country out there for a month. Then let's see you come back and spout off that nonsense.
  • Does he really say this?
    'Just consider Aids, and then look at chimpanzees,' says Jones. 'You find they all carry a version of HIV but are unaffected by it.

    'But a few thousand years ago, when the first chimps became infected, things would have been very different. Millions of chimps probably died as the virus spread through them, and only a small number, which possessed genes that conferred immunity, survived to become the ancestors of all chimps today.

    'Something very similar could soon happen to humans. In a thousand years, Africa will be populated only by the descendants of those few individuals who are currently immune to the Aids virus. They will carry the virus but will be unaffected by it. So yes, there will be change there all right - but only where the forces of evolution are not being suppressed.'

    Does he suppose this, or is there evidence to support to his statement "In a thousand years, Africa will be populated only by the descendants of those few individuals who are currently immune to the Aids virus". If it's true, isn't this kinda a big f*ing deal? It means of Africa's (2 billion?) population will die.

    I took a look around. Here's some evidence for the statement google turned up: an (extremist?) article from Earth Policy Institute [worldwatch.org].

  • Who cares if we're not evolving? For the most part, we've moved past evolution. Evolution cures diseases in a population over hundreds of years. Humanity has cured many of the diseases that it has set its sights on in less than a tenth of the time. The same goes for physical abilities. The fastest mammal on Earth isn't the cheetah, it's the human, which rides in cars at much faster speeds and rides in planes at even faster speeds than that. The same goes for the most physically powerful. Large felines may have sharp claws, but we have nuclear weaponry. An armadillo has a thick hide, but we have kevlar, ceramic, and now artificial spider silk. Humanity has moved past evolution and into something new and unique. This is something that all of those scientists fail to realize. We've evolved to the point where we are, in many ways, the masters of our destinies.
  • William S Burroughs once said, "Evolution did not come to a reverent halt with homo sapiens." He believed that the human species as is was doomed, and that to survive at all we needed to get into space. His vision of space-faring was different from the popular one - he imagined that humans would undergo radical biological alterations, to become creatures more adapted to the environment of space travel.

    This is a pretty common theme in science fiction, from Brave New World forward (perhaps even before) - specialized "models" of human for specific tasks.

    Frank Herbert (e.g. in Destination Void) imagined that space travel would first be done by clones. Herbert's future got around the knotty personal identity issues with clones by simply declaring them non-human. Clones were literally chunks of flesh owned by humans or corporations, and there were few restrictions on how they were treated. (Note that Herbert was not at all advocating this attitude, just speculating that it might become dominant.) So the first space travellers were clones, but only because they were disposable.

    I agree with Burroughs (and so many others) that we need to get off this rock if we're to have any long-term future. The biologic alteration route is an interesting one - purposeful evolution. This is an exciting time to be alive.
  • It IS over (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kayak (230663)
    While I haven't actually read the article, I've thought about this question before and I too believe human evolution is over. Or to be more precise, evolution for the better is over.

    The mechanism of evolution, natural selection, no longer work on the human population. You no longer have to count on good genes to ensure lots of offsprings. In fact, there is a universal phenomenum where the likely number of offsprings you have is inversely proportional to your level of education.

    The more successful you are, the less offsprings you'll have! That is working completely against evolution.

    From a more physical point of view, with modern medicine, you can have otherwise crippling hereditary problems and still live to adulthood and have children. This works against evolution too.

    Before people start flaming me, I just want to say that I'm not suggesting we should let people with treatable genetic diseases die instead, or that we should not allow them to have offsprings! I'm merely stating that these things work against evolution and that is why I believe human evolution is over.

    Take myself for example. I was brought into this world by c-section. There was no way my mother who weighed under 100 lbs before she got pregnant could have delivered a 10-lb baby naturally. Thanks to modern medicine, my mother and I survived. My mother had my sister 4 years later, also with assistance (vacuum). Now the chances that I'll give my wife a big baby maybe higher than normal. There, an example of a bad physical trait that survived due to technology.
  • Hell any pea brained idiot can think up of improvements to the human race, it is just that mother nature works in a least common denominator type of method and quite frankly, hell, we defiantly ARE the LEAST common denominator!

    on a more serious note though, I could use a few more fingers, some additional types of appendages would be nice (I am thinking think tentacles for picking up screws when working around inside of computer cases).

    Better eyesite, tetra vision is possible on females, no reason why we can't be upgraded to see ultra violent and infrared. Besides the annoyance that TV remote controls would cause with the infrared thing that is.

    I did a presentation in my Genetics Class about the possibility of artificially created human evolution. Conclusion, GENETIC ENGINEERING RULES!

    Four legs would be nifty at times too, though I guess two IS the best over all trade off.

    A better digestive system, yumm!

    More intelligence. A lot more. Perfect memory also. And no neurosis. Well no serious ones at least, minor neurii (misspelling on purpose there folks) are good for a society at times. :)

    Oh yah and before I forget, NEURAL JACKS! (duh!)

    I doubt that mothernature would naturaly come up with those. :)
  • This is not only total nonsense, it is state sponsored racism.

    Take this for example ....
    In addition, human populations are now being constantly mixed, again producing a blending that blocks evolutionary change. This increased mixing can be gauged by calculating the number of miles between a person's birthplace and his or her partner's, then between their parents' birthplaces, and finally, between their grandparents'.

    In virtually every case, you will find that the number of miles drops dramatically the more that you head back into the past. Now people are going to universities and colleges where they meet and marry people from other continents. A generation ago, men and women rarely mated with anyone from a different town or city. Hence, the blending of our genes which will soon produce a uniformly brown-skinned population. Apart from that, there will be little change in the species.


    Not only is this totally racist and white supremist horseshit, it is completely wrong.
    Whatever qualification Prof. Steve Jones holds, he should probably take down his degree and wipe his arse with it, as it has turned out that is all it's good for.

    Evolution works by trying combinations. When one particular combination hits exactly right for the current conditions at the current moment in time the result is a sudden and exponential success.

    For example, let's imagine, that a certain blend of genes, from mixing certain groups of people who individually have strong immunity to different types of disease, produces children with an immune system that is 1-3 orders of magnitude stronger than anyone else.

    These children will almost never get sick. Their brain development will be on average, much better, because they are never weakened by childhood diseases.

    As they get older, they never visit conventional doctors, work harder and longer than the rest of the population without succumbing to the hundreds of different bacteria and virii that puts the rest of the population out of productive work 1-4 weeks of the year.

    They will be less of a drain on society, as people in modern society are a much greater burden on the public purse at the end of their life (in Western Socialist countries, up to 50% of public health care is spent on the last 5 years of people's lives).

    They will be productive for longer, creating wealth to a much greater age.

    And with all this greater health, and wealth, and energy, they will produce A LOT MORE CHILDREN than the average person.

    Modern medicine knows no cure for the COMMON COLD!! How many more diseases are we completely at a loss to stop right now?? Can you imagine a cold strain escaping from Shanghai, or Calcutta?

    The people living in those cities are the survivors. Every year simple diseases kill people in the developing world. The local population builds a resistance. The disease mutates and kills again. The local population builds more resistance. And so on and so forth.

    Westerners, living in their sterile and hygenic conditions, eating denatured food full of salt, fat and sugar, won't have any resistance to these viscious new cold strains.

    This is an evolutionary event just waiting to happen.
    • I didn't see any hint of white supremist talk and you only see racism if the whole idea offends you. I can just about guarntee that white will not be the color of a blended race: brown, yellow, or black maybe, but not white. Yea, I'm white and know there are far too few of us to dominate in the long run. I have a couple of friends who are in inter-racial marrages and, guess what, the kids aren't white or even light skinned. With our sensitivity to sun and inclination to skin cancer, we're really in a pretty weak position geniticly, anyway.

      • My dad was half indian, half English. My mum
        was English. Me and my brother are both white,
        (although we tan really while).
      • I concur. (For the AOLers in the audience, that means "Me too!") There wasn't a hint of racism. Once upon a time I saw a TV show in which some researcher had taken worldwide demographics and built a composite image of what a uniformly blended population would be. It was actually predominantly Asian. Personally, I think it makes little difference.


        I do disagree about lighter skin being genetically weak. It seems to have been selected for in latitudes with weaker sunlight. Actually, I'd say neither is weak (or strong). Light skin is advantageous in some circumstances, dark skin in others. Why some people are so hung up on it is a thornier question.

    • This post is so full of false claims, I just have to interfere:

      A)
      In addition, human populations are now being constantly mixed, again producing a blending that blocks evolutionary change. This increased mixing can be gauged by calculating the number of miles between a person's birthplace and his or her partner's, then between their parents' birthplaces, and finally, between their grandparents'.

      In virtually every case, you will find that the number of miles drops dramatically the more that you head back into the past. Now people are going to universities and colleges where they meet and marry people from other continents. A generation ago, men and women rarely mated with anyone from a different town or city. Hence, the blending of our genes which will soon produce a uniformly brown-skinned population. Apart from that, there will be little change in the species.


      Not only is this totally racist and white supremist horseshit, it is completely wrong. Whatever qualification Prof. Steve Jones holds, he should probably take down his degree and wipe his arse with it, as it has turned out that is all it's good for.

      It is beyond me how you find anything racist in this. Allow me to clarify: Something isn't racist just because it deals with racial issues - it must also discriminate. Stating the obvious facts that people mix more today than they used to, and that this will create a more homogenous world population is in no way racist.

      B)
      Evolution works by trying combinations. When one particular combination hits exactly right for the current conditions at the current moment in time the result is a sudden and exponential success.
      Correct - but not enough. In addition to a lucky combination of genes, there is one more requirement for any evolutionary effect: selection. The point of the article is *not* that there is less chance of lucky combinations of genes - the point is that these fortunate new humans have no advantage to everybody else. Therefore the race as a whole will only benefit extremely marginally from this contribution to the gene-pool. And for every beneficial mutation, there's a thousand harmful. But without any selection each of these thousands of disadvantaged individuals will contribute as much to the next generation as the single lucky one. This adds up to a general degeneration.

      Selection is not completely forgotten in the post though:

      And with all this greater health, and wealth, and energy, they will produce A LOT MORE CHILDREN than the average person
      No, no, no. As is widely known - and described in an earlier post - succes does *not* result in more kids. Quite the opposite actually. Those who don't win the nobel-prize or run a multi-billion company tend to produce more offspring instead, put bruntly. So we actually have a selection towards the lower end of the spectre.

      Next up: Common colds second wind:

      C)
      Modern medicine knows no cure for the COMMON COLD!! How many more diseases are we completely at a loss to stop right now?? Can you imagine a cold strain escaping from Shanghai, or Calcutta?


      The people living in those cities are the survivors. Every year simple diseases kill people in the developing world. The local population builds a resistance. The disease mutates and kills again. The local population builds more resistance. And so on and so forth.

      Westerners, living in their sterile and hygenic conditions, eating denatured food full of salt, fat and sugar, won't have any resistance to these viscious new cold strains.

      This is an evolutionary event just waiting to happen.
      Let me get this straight: In Shanghai or Calcutta, a vicious variation of the common cold is contained completely from the rest of the world, and if it ever leaks out 99% of us are doomed because we have weakened resistances?

      I suppose it's just dumb luck that none of the thousands of europeans and americans who visit these places every year, haven't caught this deadly flu yet? Of course not. When we go abroad, we get a stomach ache, because the local set of diseases are so unfamiliar to what we're used to, but thats it. The concept of any part of the world being isolated in respect to diseases is ludicrous. There are plenty of scary bio-hazardous scenarios to ponder about - but this is definitely not one of them.
    • Whatever qualification Prof. Steve Jones holds, he should probably take down his degree and wipe his arse with it, as it has turned out that is all it's good for.

      Yet another example of someone on /. shouting down the efforts of someone they disagree with with an infantile remark.

      For your information Professor Steve Jones is arguably the world's top geneticist. He's spent practically his entire career on the subject and is perhaps to genetics what Albert Einstein is to
      relativity.

      To say that his opinions are highly respected in the scientific community is an understatement - you'd have more luck finding a kid that hates candy than you would a serious scientist that was as dismissive of Prof. Jones's arguments as you appear to be.

      Perhaps you have a professional interest in genetics yourself? A doctorate then? A degree perhaps? No, I didn't think so.

      Yours seems to be a typical knee-jerk reaction. "Hey, I don't understand/like the idea of what this guy is saying so I'll bash/ridicule him." Very mature.

      Perhaps, just perhaps, Prof. Jones, being a sensible scientist - the kind that looks at all avenues and approaches, accepting of all ideas and dismissive of none - looks at all the arguments before reaching his conclusions, whatever they may be.

      Who knows, perhaps he looked at all the evidence - even the stuff you've put forward - before commiting his ideas to the scrutiny of the scientific community via a paper or a journal.

      Perhaps he's right. Perhaps he's wrong. Scientists aren't always as arrogant as you seem to be - they don't claim to have all the answers but they damn well try to look for some.

      It seems to me that Prof. Jones isn't defining some set-in-stone law here. He's only putting forward a theory.

      Perhaps you'd be more confortable if scientist's didn't theorise? If Newton hadn't thought about gravity, Darwin about evolution or Einstein about the speed of light?

      Science (and mankind in general) is progressed as much by taking an idea, working with it and finding out that it's wrong, coming up with a new idea that matches new emperical data, working with that, etc, as it is by someone pulling the right answers out of a hat first time.

      Prof. Jones might be wrong. He might be right. Or, he might be somewhere in between. But if we take your approach to science we'll never find out.
  • Face it, the human race is too high tech for evolution. We can no longer evolve naturally (allthough I am not ruling out evolution through genetic engineering or other such means) because we are able to remedy nearly all of our faults.

    You see, if a fish was born in the ocean with a negative genetic defect, there is nothing to save it. It will soon be killed by a predator. We all know Darwin's Theory, so I'll move on. What differentiates us from that fish (or rather, species of fish), is we have been able to learn about, and treat, most any problem that affects our race. When a baby is sick or born with a disorder (assuming proper healthcare is available), we are able to do quite a bit to help her. We have created various medicines and treatments for most and disease. Even people with mental retardation can live a fairly normal life because care is available to them. If an ape was born mentally retarded, most likely it would die within a short period of time because it simply can't take care of itself. Since we as humans can overcome these obstacles, no longer does the "survival of the fittest" axiom apply.

    Our gene codebase will still contain errors, and now there is virtually no natural way to wipe them out. And because of the immense population, a positive genetic defect (say, one that would make us 10x smarter) would take centuries, if not millennia to propagate.

    Sure we will all be different in most respects, but radical changes are no longer possible. Also, as sick as it sounds to us Americans (well, most Americans), incest is a primary method of diversifying and strenghtening the gene pool. Dog breeders take advantage of this, but most of the world does not (including me). So basically, our natural evolution has run out, and it is up to us to continue it through science. It might be hard for some people to swallow, but genetic engineering and gene replacement is probably the only way to keep our species evolving.

    These are just my thoughs, and I'm sure I may be wrong about something. Any comments? I sure would like to hear what others have to think.
  • Evolution envolves billions of years, and the evolution theory still needs to explain _how_ do the evolution is done (cf Lamarck vs Darwin or another). It would be mandatory to find out how it works prior to yell "it stopped! it stopped!"

    By the way the article itself finishes discreting its main thesis :

    'Evolution goes on all the time. You don't have to intervene. It is just that it is highly unpredictable. For example, brain size has decreased over the past 10,000 years
  • Sex Appeal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KidSock (150684) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @06:01AM (#2945503)

    Sex appeal is the only force left with respect to the evolution of human beings. We're far too smart to be influenced by anything less barring a catastrophic environmental change.
  • Rubbish. This is utterly rubbish. Sure, we're not growing a third arm within the lifetime of this person, but evolution is most certainly occuring. It just takes a long time and it's something we would never notice without historical data.

    I will tell you one interesting fact though - we have this old house - built around 1829 and the handrails around the landing with the stairs are really low. People back then were generally smaller. There's one thing I can think of.

    Now, I asked this question once of someone too. But his answer was just the opposite. He thought we were evolving faster than normal because we could better our own environment to that point ourselves. Medicine, more or less our discoveries, are prolonging our "natural" course of life and life-events right now. That that has changed.
  • I was under the impression that it was the commonly held theory among anthropologists et al. that the advent of civilisation in a species would bring about the halting of evolution for said species, as the society acts to defend all members thereof, not just the 'fittest' (note how eugenics is regarded as a most disgusting topic for many/most, for example). Or is this something that I'm just completely wrong on? :-)
  • by Gaccm (80209) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @06:05AM (#2945513)
    You need all of these things for evolution (defined as changing frequencies of alleles) to stop:
    (an allele is one varient of a gene, like some people have the blue eye allele, some have brown eye allele, while almost all of us have the genes for eye).

    1. random mating (i.e. people will randoming mate with any other person)
    2. constant sized society (no one leaves or enter, everytime someone is born, someone dies)
    3. large society (a group of 50 people, even isolated, will still evolve, while a group of 5000, if the rest of these condistions are met, wont)
    4. No selective pressure (favoring one type of allele vs. another)

    These were all learned in a basic biology class, btw.
  • Impatient (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TMacPhail (519256)
    The scientists who suggest this are just being impatient and have forgoten the basic fact that evolution takes a long time. It seems that what they set out to do was view visible changes that can be called evolution and then found none. In order to make their work seem justified they decided to come to the conclusion that evolution has stopped and they are no longer failures for not finding anything but heroes for discovering this "fact".
  • I feel compelled to put my $1.99+TAX in on this. We have reached an evolutionary slow down in humans, especially in first world countries. There are a couple reasons.

    One is hospitals. Instead of people dying from ailments that used to be life threatening, now they are living to have children. Things that would have been eliminated by genetics are being passed on.

    Another factor is technology. How many of my fellow /.'ers wear glasses? *sheepishly raises hand* Quite a few, eh? Now just imagine if there was no technology to correct bad vision. Nature would select against those with poor eyesight and eventually new generations wouldn't have so many eyesight woes.

    The last factor I can think of right now would be welfare programs. Some (some being the operative word) of the people receiving aid may have undesirable genetic traits that put them in the position they are in (mental instability, drug problems, etc).

    Once again, just my $2.79+TAX.
  • After all with the way we are destroying this planet and each other we will not have time to evolve.
  • Look at the height records, for example. Humans today tend to be much taller than their fifteenth century counterparts. Even taller than just the 1950s generation, in fact.

    On Wednesday I became a father for the first time. It's a great feeling to have our new daughter Sarah, but to keep on topic with this thread as a process I have to say that birth is rubbish. Anything that causes that much pain for the mother is just plain wrong, and humans could do with a fair amount of evolving to try and get that bit right.

    For those who don't know, the reason that childbirth is even worse in humans than for most other creatures is that our brains have out evolved our bodies. A human baby essentially comes out of the womb a year too early - it is incapable of doing anything for itself, whereas if you look at the young of many other creatures they're up and walking in about in a few hours.

    The reason ours arrive early is because any later and the head would be unable to fit through the pelvic area. The head is so large in order to contain our brain, which is freakishly large compared to the rest of nature (Yes - even in RIAA employees).

    The upshot? Our bodies can no longer cope with the enlarged brain, and so we have to deliver early. Now, some really useful evolution would be if we could evolve to cope better with this. I imagine that eventually we will.

    Of course, an interesting counter-argument would be that we already have evolved to cope better - we evolved to the level where we devised painkillers...

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • Wouldn't a constant blending and mixing create new genetic mutations which would eventually due to dominant and common alleles lead to new species and sub-species? I think that claiming that we have reached our 'evolutional pinacle' is also kind of an elitist thing to say... It's almost like your saying your better than everybody else, and that you are the creation of millions of years of evolution and that nothing is above you...
    Odd, in the end you'll still end up being worm food...
    The author also says that if you want to see a utopia, look around, this is it... The idea of a utopian society is one that's perfect. Saying that we have reached a utopia based on species isn't that great an idea. A utopida is multi-faceted. My idea of a utopia is different than yours. Personally I would feel very very scared in a utopia, a place where everyone shared the same ideas as me. It might be nice for a while, but it would get old REAL fast... Humans thrive on conflict... We need it...
    The article also states that humans should have logically constantly become larger and stronger, however this is not logical. Think about it, if you go from being a hunter-gather to being a farmer and start and agri-society where you grow your food and raise your meat then you don't need the same muscles you used to. Eventually those muscles begin to deteriorate over generations and they become useless.... They become non-existent, or non-functional...
    This author seems to factor that evolution is only created through 'selective breeding'. I guess he has not accepted the fact that even though humans don't ALL mate for life, that many do, and that people do look for certain TRAITS or should I say SELECTIVE traits that they find important in their 'mates'. These traits that someone looks for tend to be instilled in ones offspring, hence that offspring looks for similar traits in their spouse... A selective breeding process...
    I think that we are not at all at a standstill in evolution, no, as long as the physical enviroment that we live in continues to evolve, and as well as the social enviroment continues to change, the human race will continue to evolve... Perhaps not at an incredibly fast rate, and surely not enough that a single person would notice in their lifetime, but certainly, we will continue to evolve, even if it is eventually into something that is more vulnerable to one form of death then another...
  • First I would be dishonerd if I did not state at this point that I am numb from the fremented liqueds of at least 3 differant plant matters.

    Second evolution in humans is going backwords. Not just standing still.

    In nature those with the strongest traits toward survivel bread an move on. In humans it is now ver y differant as will be seen in my followintg argument.

    How many of you wear glasses?

    How many of you have bread with a person who does not cut the evolutionary mustard, ie some one on prozac. How many of you have traits that you feel are not a benifit to mankind long turm like a slow matabilism or some other imbalance in the body or mine?

    There are many. And the mumbers only get higher our side of the geek comunity where people bread almost indascrimanitly with people who are _the_weakest_link_.

    The human body is known to contain 3000 to 5000 ganetic disorders and illnesses. The adverage indavidual holds the genes for about 3 of them. Most of these are not known to the holder and they will bread with someone else who holds the same ill gene. The child of such a union will be positive for and manifest the illness. Will this stop them from breading? No. I have seen people breading with all sorts of undisirable types with blatant genetic errors only to produce progany that are even more unequiped to contribute to the forward movement of the human gene pool.

    Submitted with out spell checking or homonym checking for the reason stated at top and in conjunction with using a broweser that does not suport an external editor, ie links.
  • by SmittyTheBold (14066) <[deth_bunny] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Sunday February 03, 2002 @07:31AM (#2945635) Homepage Journal
    Really, it is apparent we haven't just ceased to evolve, we are now de-evolving. Our own medicine will make us frail, and be our downfall.

    Things that kept the gene pool pure in the past are no longer problems. A man with a low sperm count and a woman who would be considered infertile thirty years ago are now able to have quituplets. A child who manifests cancer at the age of eight can receive treatment, then pass on his genes later in life.

    Our own medicine - which we like to think makes us strong - is making us weak. The process of natural selection can no longer take place. We have, to a certain extent, defeated death.

    But death has a surprise for us. It's still there, stronger than ever. It's just biding its time.
    • Very true.

      However, we can progress if we really understand the underlying issues, and fix them by gene therapy, or manual selection of fertilized eggs. I predict this will become a normal procedure in this century.
    • by xigxag (167441) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @02:56PM (#2946972)
      There is no such thing as "de-evolving."

      The whole point of the theory of evolution is that it describes an inevitable one-way process, like entropy. Due to random errors in DNA replication, mutations are produced all the time. Some of those mutations are more suited for the environment they are in, some of them are less suited. The mutations which are more suited tend to out-produce the others (natural selection), and over time, evolution occurs. The genius of Darwin was in recognizing that the ones who survive, by definition, are the fittest, and vice-versa.

      Are selective processes still at work today? Yes, of course. So what if 20-20 vision is no longer a fitness trait? It used to be that having gills made us more fit for our environment, some hundreds of millions of years ago. Now it's not longer to our advantage to have gills, nor to have perfect vision. Our environment continues to change, and so must we. Perhaps we now live in an environment where it is more important to be able to play dirty pool than to be able to swim in a dirty pool. Maybe we're evolving into a nation of smooth-talking baby-daddies. More seriously, there are other elements in our changing environment that people are evolving in concert with. It seems increasingly common for people to develop diseases like asthma and bizarre autoimmune disorders which may be related to synthetic chemicals in our environment. Those unfortunates who can't live in a plastic, super-medicated society are dying out -- but the rest of us are evolving into Homo Artificialis, if you will.
      Also, a disease like AIDS which is cutting great swaths of death through the developing world will inevitably lead to populations which are largely resistant to its modus operandi. (In fact, some Europeans already are immune to HIV, a genetic gift conferred upon them by surviving the Black Death, scientists surmise.)

      The evolution happening now may not seem "higher" on some kind of eugenic scale, but nature works in its own way. Alligators survive but the dinosaurs are long gone. And we all know that after every mammal has perished, bacteria will still remain, deep within the crevices of the Earth, adapting.
    • You make the erroneous assumption - common in the 19th Century and among Christian findamentalists - that evolution is progressive and "going somewhere." This is an essential fallacy. Evolutionary processes are immediate, effecting birth rates among the carriers of traits effected by any of many selective processes. Evolution does not progress and the successful breeders in one generation may be the failures in a another genration as fitness landscapes alter through time. The giant panda is a good example of a species isolated on a fitness peak from which it is unlikely to move without becoming extinct. The presence of these "weaknesses" that you say modern medicine is causing means that selective effects have a broader canvas and more traits with which to work. Far from becoming "weak" this fact increases potential human evolutionary adaptibility.
  • While I don't agree that Evolution has stopped for us, it has certainly slowed down. But it might be rather interesting to see what happens if, one day, Humanity starts leaving Earth and inhabiting other planets. Only then might evolution return in a bigger style, since then human beings will be more or less separated into different groups again and have to live under rather different circumstances. (kinda reminds me of White Mars by Brian Aldiss)
  • From the article:


    Similar processes led to the evolution of mankind, but this has now
    stopped because virtually everybody's genes are making it to the next generation, not only those who are best adapted to their environment


    Horsefeathers. Even if very few people succumb to disease these days, that doesn't mean that everybody's genes make it to the next generation. The fact is that some people have traits that make them more likely to successfully reproduce, while other people's traits make them less likely to (hi, Slashdotters ;^)). Thus human evolution continues, albeit not as rapidly.


    On the plus side, this means that the future will likely have fewer geeks, and more promiscuous women.... ;^)

  • by akellens (513392)
    I think people will always be in some sort of evolution.
    `
    Maybe the next step of evolution is the fact that we alter ourselves to get to a level of higher fitness. (autopoeisis or what's it called?).

    Or with other words: "Oh no! The borg are coming" :)
  • More Crap (Score:2, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110)
    First of I'd like to say that the human design defies evolution entirely.

    Evolution does not produce creatures like humans in the first place. They are always perfected to inhabit a particular environment. However, humans are designed such that they are just as adept swinging from trees as they are walking on the ground. Humans can be carnivores or herbivores, predator ar prey, etc. In fact, we have the eyes of a predator, but no claws or other weapon to take advantage of those instincts.

    I could think of a million more examples of our contradictory design, as can you as well.

    All this doesn't even mention the fact that there has never been a single bit of evidence in favor of evolution, and there is acutally enough solid evidence to shoot down the theory. But in current fasion, the worldd is getting dumber and more cattle-like all the time, so very few individuals think of the obvious, and here we are with stagnating ideas, and societies of people all living in the world they've created in their own minds.
  • by Graymalkin (13732) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @09:06AM (#2945803)
    While I think there is some point to the article I think the conclusions reached by Prof. Jones are a bit off. The whole survival of the fittest concept comes from an uncivilized and untamed natural world. You survived because you ran fast or had poisonous fangs or defensive quills or the ability to hunt in groups. Civilization puts an end to much of the struggle of the human condition (as the article mentions by quoting Peter Ward). You don't need to run fast or be strong in order to eat. With developments in medicine you don't need to be particularly strong in order to survive illness, genetic or otherwise. I'd even say modern people have more immunities than all of our forebearers combined. I think in many ways we have stopped developing as a species. Maybe in a million years we'll have fewer toes and longer fingers (our fingers will tend towards dexterity and we don't need the number of toes we have to walk upright as we do) but we are pretty stagnant.

    The conclusion doctor Jones comes up with is we are the best result of natural selection. That is complete crap. We've got far too many genetic problems to be considered the best result of natural selection. Pick any detrimental attribute you can think of and picture a hunter gatherer with that trait. Do you think he'd survive long enough to have kids? It is highly doubtful. All of us four eyed slashdotters would be a mid-afternoon snack if it weren't for a civilized society. Concluding we've reached evolutionary stagnation because there are less adolecent and pre-adolecent deaths in London is pretty dumb. Our kids haven't become any better since 1890, we just no longer put them in factories and actually have cures for childhood diseases besides heavy prayer sessions and burning incense. Monkeys carrying HIV and not being affected by it is a similarly bad conclusion drawn from a dumb case. Chimpanzees don't have an anti-HIV gene, they have enough genetic descrepancy not to be affect by the HUMAN imunodeficiency virus. Humans in Africa in a thousand years won't have a anti-HIV gene any more than Chimpanzees have one today. Anyone left alive in Africa will be those who learned from the mistakes of the peers and practiced safe sex even if their religion or tradition forbode it.

    I think this also brings into question: where do biologists learn math? If you look at statistics or studies done by any number of biologists you see REALLY fuzzy conclusions based on some really fuzzy logic and even fuzzier math. To put it into slashdot perspective, imagine somebody does benchmarking of Linux and Windows. They run web server tests using Linux 2.0 on a single processor serving 100 client machines connected to the server with a second hand D-Link hub serving out dynamically generated pages while comparing it to a Windows2k Advanced Server box with four processors connected to 25 client machines connected to the server by a cost-equals-the-GNP-of-a-small-nation router using gold plated Cat-5 cabling serving static web pages. The Windows computer beats the shit out of the Linux system (like...Netcraft) and it is concluded that Windows is superior in every way to Linux. Slashdotters would blow a collective gasket. That is the accuracy with which most biological studies are conducted. If you think I'm full of shit, you can pass a sugar pill through clinical trials and sell it as a anti-anything pill.
  • When you look at slashdot editors....
  • Evolution has not stopped. Certainly the enviornment, or fitness plane, that human's inhabit has changed, and changed radically, but this merely changes the constraints that determine who dies and who lives.

    For example. Modern science now allows women with unnaturally narrow hips to survive child birth (Cesaerian Section). This allows a new set of genetic material to be passed down through the generations - perhaps there are some other beneficial adaptations that are associated with narrow hips.

    There are many other examples. Just because modern science allows some new sets of genes to replicate themselves - does not mean evolution has stopped - merely that different selective pressures can now come into play.

    Think about it. Evolution (sorry to anthropomorphize here) is now free to play with a lot more vairables than it had before. For example. Since we can deliver almost any baby now, will there be a trend towards bigger babies, since the added drain on resources will no longer hurt the mother's chances of survival - even a 16lbs could be delivered via C section. Will bigger babies have a head start - start talking early, have bigger brains?

    There are myriad other examples of this line of thinking.

    Evolution CAN'T stop.

    -josh
  • I think one of the key points in our own "evolution" was the awareness of evolution as constant change, and more importantly the ability for us to consciously choose what features we wanted to encourage or discourage.

    This is a double-edged sword, as evolution now is no longer the realm of instinct, but of consciuous decision, but at the same time its effect is diluted, by the ability to "mimic" what is seen as desirable, evolutionary or otherwise. For instance, an evolutionary instinct to encourage males mating with blond-haired, blue-eyed large-breasted women is diluted in a practical sense by hair dye, coloured contacts and silicon implants.

    People who alter themselves to fit our instinct are promoting "false" or "substandard" genes, which in turn means less[1] people for the next generation with desirable features.

    Fross

    [1] or, at least on average the same, which would be an evolutionary step of zero :)
  • by p3d0 (42270) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @09:59AM (#2945928)
    Evolution is due to things that kill us before we reproduce, so we're all evolving into better drivers [cdc.gov].
  • by Lethyos (408045) on Sunday February 03, 2002 @02:22PM (#2946860) Journal
    My theory is that human beings have evolved to a point where our purpose is to create new technologies. It is through these technologies that we then evolve by ways of integration and extention of our abilities. Let me elaborate.

    Human existence has been saturated with invention. We invent technologies for the purpose of accomplishing various tasks (as some other animals have evolved to do). From the very first drum to the human genome project, we have been dedicated to creating things to enhance our lives.

    As technology increases, we will slowly integrate it more and more with ourselves. We've already begun to witness this trend. Computers, once placed in huge rooms are now held in our back pockets. Now we're looking towards wearable computers and systems that act as personal assistants. Our media looks to a future where technology is actually a part of a human being. Brain jacks? Cybernetic enhancements? These things are shown with cons, obviously, but also with pros (brain augmentation in GitS, mass storage in Johny Mnemonic, instantenous learning in the Matrix, etc...).

    In light of this, I would not say that human evolution has ceased. On the contrary, I would say it is rapidly increasing. We've been slowly abandoning biological evolution in favor of something that we can control and manipulate. We have been evolving through our technology and this pace will only increase. Probably in a manor very similar to Clarke's vision in the 2001-3001 series (eventually evolving our minds away from physical bodies) and probably not unlike the Borg (note we already replace human parts with mechanical parts - hips, hearts...). I remember even a story posted on /. about 2 years ago of a psychologist who believed we would eventually become fully mental beings, placing our bodies in containers that only supported life functions as a back up.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Disagreements?

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