Accelerating Evolution

We know, since the human genome can now be mapped, that Homo sapien sapien has remnants (fragments) of DNA from species of Homo which have since become extinct. I’ve also read that, because of the advances in science and medicine, human evolution is speeding up.

How do you think the new species will evolve? Will we have larger brains with a better capacity for thinking? Or we simply rid ourselves of the vestiges of the other species we carry with us?

I don’t think you can “speed up” human evolution. We are, if anything, devolving across the board.

We might interface with machines. It will center around communication, art, music, and mass media.

I wish we were properly spliced with animals but so far that is a forbidden sort of thing.

Allot of our evolution will be forbidden, i think, in the future.
People will want to retain whatever equality they have to try to keep the peace.

Machine integration creates a singularity–the resulting entity would no longer be recognized as human, it would be categorically distinct.

According to studies from 2007 published in several science magazines, human evolution has increased rapidly in the last 10,000 years due to both an increase in population and the birth of agriculture. The increase in population also increased the number of mutations within the gene pool, while the birth of agriculture introduced the need for adaptations needed to extract nutrients contained in the ‘new’ sources agriculture provided–both from grains and from domesticated animals. It was back then that blue eyes started to appear.

The function of most of the DNA ‘snippets’ are still unknown, but they are there. It’s also interesting, to me, that many of these changes appear differently in different areas–so, rather than becoming a more homogeneous society, the world’s societies are becoming more differentiated.

By the way, when I talk about evolution ‘accelerating,’ I don’t mean that it’s going on faster than a speeding bullet to us; it still takes multiple generations. Also BTW, the studies showed that agriculture led to a decrease in brain power and an increase in tooth decay. :neutral_face:

PS, I wrote this in response to MiaC’s first post. I’m publishing it now to advance my thoughts rather than to simply respond to his.

Devolution is not a biological term, and the theory of evolution is not hierarchical.

Yet another study shows that the increase in highly intelligent individuals mating with each other corresponds noticeably with rates of autism (though it is, in my opinion, more likely a result of the later pregnancy).

My point was not that evolutionary processes are not seeing greater activity, but that this activity seems to be negative. I should have specified my use of the terms.

Sorry, Math, I don’t see what that has to do with the topic.

I don’t know how old you are, but were you born with the snippet of Homo DNA that gave you wisdom teeth? Do you have teeth with strong enamel? Do you have blue eyes, light hair and light skin or brown eyes, dark hair and dark skin? Do you have an appendix? These are all genetically controlled traits.

To me, the Darwinian theory of the ‘survival of the fittest,’ as usually understood, doesn’t take into account the survival of the fittest to adapt to an ever-changing environment. This adaptation was slow, at first, because the gene pool was relatively small, and environmental changes were relatively slow, but it ultimately brought about the extinction of species of Homo. As the contributions of other species of Homo to our DNA no longer contributes to the Homo sapien line, in terms of making it better able to adapt to its environment, it’s dropped.

Given an increased gene pool, there will be more people without the various mutations that once led to the ability to adapt. Our environment is also changing at a much faster rate than it did 30-40 thousand years ago. This also demands quicker adaptation in order to survive.

Will our biological evolutionary systems be able to meet the demands of the environment we’re creating? Or will Homo Sapien sapien eventually become as extinct as Homo Neaderthalus?

My response was to this:

“How do you think the new species will evolve? Will we have larger brains with a better capacity for thinking? Or we simply rid ourselves of the vestiges of the other species we carry with us?”

“What I think” is that evolution, natural selection (“survival of the fittest” is not exactly Darwinian as he he never once specifies that term in the entirety of Origin) is cliched as a social meme, connoting progress, a “more advanced being”; conversely, I posit that our increased reliance on technology reduces the need for organic complexity, that homo futurus will exhibit reversion.

The study I referred to was intended to illustrate the presence of reversion as a potentially dominant evolutionary trend among modern man, even when breeding the highly intelligent. I apologize if that appeared to be, or (contrary to my intent) is not in fact on topic.

You are absolutely right that it is not a biological term, as reversion is still an evolutionary process–however, evolution is most definitely hierarchical; See Darwin’s diagram for Divergence Theory below (present in my copy of Origin of the Species):
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Darwin_divergence.jpg

First of, awesome topic. Nicely written and researched. I’m loving what I’m learning.

What else can you tell us about this sped-up evolution? Do you know about any trends being noticed?

The next step in human evolution is accepting a scientific understanding of reality in common and acting as a species organism.

Our daughter was born without wisdom teeth, but with the hard tooth enamel that keeps her from dental caries, given normal dental hygiene. Wisdom teeth were needed for cracking open the hard shells that protected nutrients–bone that held the protein-rich marrow, nut shells that protected the fat-rich seed. tree limbs to reach cellulose for sugar and fiber. We don’t need heavy, muscular jaw complete with large grinding molars, so we’re getting rid of them and replacing them with smaller jaws and larger brain cases. Agriculture introduced softer grains with more sugar–the best way to adapt to that seems to be retaining hard tooth enamel, so the gene that provides that seems to be increasingly dominant over the softer-enamel gene.

We’re increasing our population (gene pool) and the rate of environmental change–I think both are evident. Will our biological processes of adaptation–evolution–be able to keep up with those changes or will children be born with DNA factors different from, but related to, our DNA? If so, how will the ‘new’ DNA be adapted to respond to the changing environment? Since both of those adaptation factors–a wider gene pool and a changing environment are different for various world societies, are we moving toward a more homogenous or a more fragmented human society.

For references, I suggest the internet. Start with the thread topic and go from there. My interpretations are mine, based on what I’ve read.

Understood. I only hope that there is a geneticist somewhere that is registered in ILP and can further expand on these questions. Maybe I will do some of my own research.

Indeed you raise some interesting points, but I remain skeptical as to how much is “positive”.

For instance, what of (resulting from these very advances in medicine) the increase in transfer and propagation of hereditary ailments? Diabetes, HIV, heart disease, etc. all have a greater likelihood of being passed on, of proliferating, precisely because the carrier will almost always survive long enough to reproduce. The inevitable result is prominent in most domestic canines.

There really isn’t any ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ in evolution–there’s only experimentation–nature and evolution applying the scientific method, as it were. If something ‘works,’ and increases adaptation to the environment, thereby advancing a genera, it’s kept. If it’s proven (empirically?) to not be needed, then it loses its value and it’s ultimately reformed or discarded. Do humans need the massive canine teeth of the sabre-toothed tiger? No, so we never got that gene. Do modern feline species need them? They’ve already been whittled down in size just because they don’t. As an aside; I’ve read that the large predatory cats–lions, tigers, etc. will be extinct in the wild within the next 20 years. Why? Because their natural prey is also disappearing–a change in their environment for which they don’t have the time to adapt.

Is extinction an evolutionary process? Sure. Is global warming a natural process? Yep! Have either of these natural processes been accelerated by man? I don’t know.

If, in your mind, I’ve now ‘vetted’ myself sufficiently to have started this thread, let’s get back to my original question–What will the next ( assuming he is adaptive) genus of Homo Sapien be like? Will he be able to live (again?) in a polluted atmosphere? Will he be able to eat fish from polluted water? Will he adapt quickly enough to become resistant to the chemically produced grains and meat that are the only things offered to him?

I’m not trying to get on a band-wagon for or against any sort of life style. I’m simply asking the question.

The advances in medicine are of concern–that’s why research into them is so important–in order to discover the causes and whether or not they should be cured and ‘wiped out’ before they proliferate. Disease isn’t always a bad thing, if the body can adapt and build up its own immunity against them. There was an earlier thread about just this subject. Will modern medicine wipe out certain diseases, thereby stunting the growth of natural immunities? Could this be called an ‘acceleration’ of evolution?

Humans still get colds and the flu–viruses that adapt and mutate much faster than man can. But isn’t man able, over time, to build up natural immunities that wouldn’t be built up if the diseases were ‘conquered?’ We really don’t know. Nor do we know what other diseases in the future might be lessened given a natural immunity to viruses.

It’s pretty much of a sticky wicket, isn’t it? But it is, imo, something to think of very carefully.

You have in mine, but I think you mean the next genus of Hominina.

I think to get a better idea of how natural selection works, you should reformulate this as “Has every single link in the gradual chain that leads to the massive canine teeth of the sabre-tooth tiger been manufactured by gene-splicing/mutation and been useful enough compared to alternate manufactu(rations? help me out here) in the struggle to survive and reproduce? No, so we never got that gene.”

So my question is, what imaginable mutations and reshufflings of genes could be selected by current human evolutionary pressures? Where would they lead?

I like all of those ideas, none had ever occured to me. But, again, is there an imaginable gradual chain that could lead to those things, where every link has to justify itself outside of the logic of the chain?

I think one of my questions is, “Is evolution progressive?” I think the answer is sometimes, yes. But evolution can also lead to hazards in human living. The mutation that led to sickle-cell anemia, for example, keeps people with that mutation resistant to malaria, but it can also lead to disease. Some mutations really serve little purpose, such as the one that led to blue eyes, fair skin, and light hair, all of which have to do with various levels of melatonin in the body. Some are distinctly adverse in that they lead to genetic disorders. Some don’t appear at all, because they happen in ‘trash’ DNA.

There are myriads of things that cause genetic mutations and adaptation to the environment can be, but is not always, a factor. The K-T mass extinction, which wiped out the dinosaurs, provided a vast new environment for mammals, then tiny, shrewlike animals with hair, the ability to reproduce through live birth, and lactation, which rushed into the empty niches created by the extinction. There was an explosion of evolution in all sorts of plant and animal kingdoms. So, mass extinction played a part. While the K-T extinction is usually thought of as having been created by the impact between a comet and the earth, are we creating a mass extinction event of our own with the changes we’re making to our environment?

Global warming is a fact. The question is whether or not humanity has contributed to the acceleration of a natural cycle.
Are we contributing to the extinction of plants and animals because of our use of fossil fuels, deforestation, poaching, the ‘advancements’ in technology and medicine that lead to a longer human life span and greater populations, etc.?
Is that leading to an accelerated extinction of predatory animals?
Is the foretold extinction of predatory animals beneficial to Homo sapiens sapiens?

I have so many questions and so little time to learn the answers. :question:

Pezer, that’s my question.

Are you asking if there’s a causality to evolution rather than a randomness; i.e., (in broad terms,) "Does the universe have a direction–a “will”–as was asked in another thread? Is there empirical evidence that can show such a direction?

I can only say this. From what I’ve read, mutations don’t occur in human reproductive systems. Genetic mutations can occur in the off-spring, but that has nothing to do with the reproductive system.

I am continuing to learn as I listen to my
daughter talk about her masters Biology
stuff. Did you know that most of our genetic
material is non-functional sequences?
And a large portion is old viral sequences that
do nothing but replicate when the cell does?

If anything is causing mutation- intentionally and intelligently,
IMO- it is viruses.
And this would be a function
of increased population, as well.

john