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Biotech Science

Hawking Says Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution 398

Posted by Soulskill
from the already-banned-in-kansas dept.
movesguy sends us to The Daily Galaxy for comments by Stephen Hawking about how humans are evolving in a different way than any species before us. Quoting: "'At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information. I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race,' Hawking said. In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, 'an external transmission phase,' where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. 'But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage,' Hawking says, 'has grown enormously. Some people would use the term evolution only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes.'"
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Hawking Says Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution

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  • by easyTree (1042254) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:19PM (#28577057)

    Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist of some note

    See http://richarddawkins.net/ [richarddawkins.net] and his youtube channel [youtube.com] for many fascinating videos of interviews / debates etc..

  • by russotto (537200) on Friday July 03, 2009 @10:48PM (#28577181) Journal

    We are simply carriers for genese. Evolution is gene centric. Most of your genes are useless to you. Stuff that is stupid at a critter level can make perfect sense at a gene level. Those little bastards are using us, and don't care about us at all, as long as we breed.

    Don't anthropomorphize genes; they don't like it.

    Evolution just needs seperate populations and/or environments. Eventually populations diverge and become more suited to their environments.

    Evolution also needs variation. Mutation is one mechanism which provides that (though not the only one).

  • Re:What's his point? (Score:4, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:02PM (#28577245) Journal

    Well, first of all, humans are still evolving. I understand Hawking's point, but he's understating one aspect of our species to overstate the other.

    I'll take his point, but I'll say none of this just began with literacy. The change in our evolution, if you can call it that, started with culture, and culture started a lot earlier than books, a lot earlier, in fact, than humans. Our closest relatives, the higher primates, show, to one degree or another, those abilities too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @11:36PM (#28577447)

    3. Survival of the fittest.
    It's survival of the breediest, not necessarily of the fittest.

    The term "fittest" is referring to animals that have the highest fitness in an evolutionary sense. Fitness [wikipedia.org] [Wikipedia] is defined as an organism's ability to propagate genes to future generations. Although this definition seems vague on a short time scale, it is general enough to mean that organisms whose genes survive well into the future have high fitness whereas those whose genes don't survive for whatever reason have low fitness. Breeding a lot increases the short-term fitness without any guarantee of the long-term fitness. Of course, an organism that doesn't reproduce at all has a fitness of zero.

    4. Evolution works through mutation.
    Errrrgghh... I disagree with Stephen Hawking. Ok, mutation helps, but you know what? Evolution doesn't need it. Most mutations result in a f*kup, not something useful. Evolution just needs seperate populations and/or environments. Eventually populations diverge and become more suited to their environments.

    What are you talking about? Evolution depends on genetic diversity, which only exists due to mutations. Even though some mutations are detrimental to the host and result in a loss of fitness and others do seemingly nothing at all, there are still (rare and hard-to-observe in your lifetime) mutations that result in greater fitness. At this point, there is already a lot of genetic diversity, but there is always room for more. We never know what the future will bring, but if a new, mutated gene is helpful for some yet unknown climate, it will survive. As far as we can tell, it's happened many times before, and it will probably happen again.

    Mutations happen all the time, be it a transcription error or a problem with genes crossing over [wikipedia.org]. Without these mutations, evolution wouldn't happen at all. There would only be a single species of archae, all of which would have the exact same genetic makeup. Mutations are what create the separate populations you're talking about.

  • by AhtirTano (638534) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:45AM (#28577801)

    So you're saying that the Scientific Method is bunk?

    No, that's not what he said at all.

  • Re:What's his point? (Score:2, Informative)

    by ldcroberts (747178) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @02:20AM (#28578205)
    His argument must be about genetic engineering. Some people might assume it's his view that external knowledge being part of evolution is what's different, but it's not - as anyone with any real contemplation will point out - external transfer of information has been happening in many other species for many millions of years. An example would be the documented case of Blue Tits pecking through milk bottle lids on doorsteps to get at the milk. One bird started it, others copied, new generations of birds observed and copied it. Information was passed down. http://www.britishbirdlovers.co.uk/articles/blue-tits-and-milk-bottle-tops.html [britishbirdlovers.co.uk]
  • by Kaeles (971982) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:29AM (#28578855)
    He said nothing of the sort, he said knowing math and science does not make you more intelligent, it makes you more knowledgeable, theres quite a bit of difference there.
    The IQ test does not, NOT, measure pure intelligence, it assumes that you have working knowledge of language and math.
    So, in short, intelligence has nothing to do with specific types of knowledge, it has to do with how well you can reason and think and observe.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @09:25AM (#28579605)

    Sure, in a small population. It takes much longer if your population is larger, like ours.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:04PM (#28580623)

    Just about the only controversy surrounding Gould is created by Creationists.

    In different words, you should be more concerned with your own "subterranean levels of intellectual honesty".

  • by jnork (1307843) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @02:44PM (#28581797)

    Way, too, many, commas.

    Sorry, I know not everybody cares, but some of us find it harder to read when we're distracted by spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. It's sort of like hearing sour notes in music.

    Feel free to ignore me. I'm just venting.

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