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Are humans still evolving? 
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Post Are humans still evolving?
I had thought the answer to the question above was "No, human evolution was complete 50 to 60 thousand years ago. " There seemed to be little chance that we could be any more successful in filling our environmental niche than we had become to that point. We were already adapted. In addition, we did not let nature determine which of us were the fittest to survive, as we would take care of those less able to get along. Hitchens, though, in God Is Not Great, raises the possiblility that "the human brain is a work in progress," (p. 95) and that our entire genome may still be undergoing shaping through natural selection. He seems to be a pretty reliable guide, but I wonder if he's not reaching a little here. Populations will change in certain ways, but can this alone be called evolution through natural selection?


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Fri Mar 20, 2009 4:56 pm
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What about the engineering of cyborgs (humans that have their capabilities expanded with high technology) or humans given artificial genetic enhancements? Does learning count as evolution?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saxX-Z6w3p4[/youtube]

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Fri Mar 20, 2009 5:20 pm
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To say we are no longer evolving is to say that our DNA has no mutations between generations. The real question is whether or not there is any reason for some people to be more likely to pass along their genes than others. Jared Diamond, for example, gives the example of the density of the European within the last couple of millennia, and how much of the population has been selected for resistance to plagues. This is a pragmatic take, since those people who had no resistance to the plague died in the millions, leaving behind those who were resistant(and of course the non-resistant exceptions that were lucky enough to not contract it.)

In our current society, even people who in past ages wouldn't have survived are kept around by societal life support. The educated businessman who has one or two children later in life may soon be replaced by the urban welfare recipient who has a half dozen kids!

I've joked around with the idea that many wild animals in North America are selected for their ability to cross the road. Birds may be selected for their ability to see clean windows. :laugh:



Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:29 pm
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I would say definitely yes, we are still evolving. You need to be able to look at this on several timeframes, and also examine the question of how cultural evolution relates to genetic evolution.

For example the internet has rapidly evolved and mutated under selective pressure, and my view is that the mechanism here, and for all technology, is directly analogous to genetic mutation. Things that work succeed and expand, while things that don't work fail and decline.

The problem of what human physical attributes are adaptive to our planet is much more complex. In the short term, medical science has made narrow hips adaptive for women, as many women live through childbirth who would have died one hundred years ago. As well, welfare for the poor has resulted in poor people having bigger families than rich people, so any genes more common among rich people are on the decline in proportional terms. I don't know if rich people have any genetic attributes that are more frequent than the population average. This would be an interesting question, although straying into dangerous bell curve territory.

Perhaps Hitchens' idea of the brain as a work in progress will mean that when we move into a new age of a global civilization, intelligence will once again become adaptive as an enabling factor for genetic transmission?



Sat Mar 21, 2009 2:05 am
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Quite a few times, over several years, we have visited a place in Wales, near here, called Machynlleth - where there is a Centre for Alternative Technology:-

http://www.cat.org.uk/index.tmpl?refer=index&init=1

There is a graph and chart thingy there, showing the development of the planet, minerals, plants, animals etc. On that time line, humans have existed for a tiny fraction of the time of development. Although, we have had a disproportionate effect...... Now, I am not good with graphs, sort of dislexic when it comes to translating them into facts, but even I could understand this.

I am quite sure that we are still evolving. It is what we are going to evolve into that concerns me. Of course, it cannot only be the rich and privilidged whose genes continue, nor can it be the strongest and fittest, nor can it be the most intelligent, well, at least I hope not. When I'm feeling optimistic, I believe it will be 'kind' people whose genes will be the most successful. And kind people exist in all of the afforsaid categories.

I suppose I am refering to the evolution of the human spirit, rather than the change and development of the body....although, looking at mine, perhaps I should hope for a little development in that direction also. :smile:

,


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Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:12 am
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Are people born evolved or can we evolve throughout our lives?

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Sat Mar 21, 2009 11:02 am
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My theory is that just as we are born babies and mature into human adults in the microcosm, so our spirits mature and grow over our lifetimes, in the macrocosm. But, 'tis only a theory......and it helps to keep me hopeful. ;-)


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Penelope wrote:
My theory is that just as we are born babies and mature into human adults in the microcosm, so our spirits mature and grow over our lifetimes, in the macrocosm. But, 'tis only a theory......and it helps to keep me hopeful. ;-)

I wondered if, just perhaps, Christipher Hitchens was indulging in some hopefulness, too, when he seemed to look forward to continued human physical evolution. It's worth noting that we all appear to view evolution as a progressive thing, whereas I suppose that our evolution, if it occurred, could be regressive as well. That would be a subjective call.

We all seem to have an in-built idea that the human race is progressing spiritually or intellectually as we march on. That, I think, has nothing to do with Darwinian natural selection. Is progress even really happening? I feel that it is, but I can't prove it. Then if we look at apocalyptic environmental scenarios, perhaps it doesn't make much sense to speculate about how enlightened we are becoming. The only enlightenment that would matter is whether we are able to become different humans in order to pass on a planet worth having.


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Sat Mar 21, 2009 4:09 pm
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Dwill:

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I wondered if, just perhaps, Christipher Hitchens was indulging in some hopefulness, too, when he seemed to look forward to continued human physical evolution. It's worth noting that we all appear to view evolution as a progressive thing, whereas I suppose that our evolution, if it occurred, could be regressive as well. That would be a subjective call.


As far as physical evolution goes, we are hopeful because we do live longer, in the developed world at least, and we have made great strides forward in the treatment of disease and the aging process. Looking at nature, evolution does not appear to regress, although some species seem to reach a certain phase and then become extinct, but I don't think they regress.

DWill:

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We all seem to have an in-built idea that the human race is progressing spiritually or intellectually as we march on. That, I think, has nothing to do with Darwinian natural selection. Is progress even really happening? I feel that it is, but I can't prove it.


I think there is some evidence DWill, that we are progressing spiritually, because we don't now have public hangings/burnings where everyone goes along to watch. We do make attempts to reach some concensus of opinion on morals and ethics, especially now when it is easier to communicate with one another. Painfully slow progress, I grant you, but I think it is evidence of progress.

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The only enlightenment that would matter is whether we are able to become different humans in order to pass on a planet worth having.


We are aware now of Climate Change, and of Global Warming, and our scientists are able to discuss its causes and remedies. We don't know whether the cause is CO2, in that our scientists don't seem to agree on whether that is the major cause. But we are all aware, and most people are doing their best to live a more environmentally sound lifestyle.

Maybe we will be too late and maybe we will become extinct, but then, we are all inevitably becoming 'personally' extinct, in that we all die, we live with that idea and the majority of us don't become uncaring and hedonistic. We do our best, for the most part, to live honourable and harmless (if not helpful) lives, why? Because it is the only thing worth doing. In spite of everything....suffering, pain, injustice, more and more awareness of how insignificant we are....yet we still have a sense of honour (for the most part) and we do our best, still. And that to me is evolution of the spirit. It is a painfully slow process......but I think that it is evidence of something great about the human race. :oops:

Sorry, end of sermon. :oops: :oops: :oops:


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Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:04 pm
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DWill wrote:
We all seem to have an in-built idea that the human race is progressing spiritually or intellectually as we march on. That, I think, has nothing to do with Darwinian natural selection. Is progress even really happening? I feel that it is, but I can't prove it. Then if we look at apocalyptic environmental scenarios, perhaps it doesn't make much sense to speculate about how enlightened we are becoming. The only enlightenment that would matter is whether we are able to become different humans in order to pass on a planet worth having.
Natural selection is about organisms adapting to their environment through descent with modification. That is precisely what happens with intellectual progress. We gradually understand our environment better, and thereby become more adapted to it. However, there is also a countervailing force in human spiritual life, that mass delusion is pushing homo sapien towards extinction. The battle between the adaptive force of knowledge and the maladaptive force of false belief is how I understand the battle of Armageddon. Jesus Christ can be enlisted to the forces of light and truth by seeing the Sermon on the Mount as a Darwinian text, with the concept of blessedness - of the poor, the pure, the peacemakers, the merciful, those who mourn - a recognition of which people are most important for us, as Bill put it, 'to become different humans in order to pass on a planet worth having.'



Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:24 pm
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RT: "The battle between the adaptive force of knowledge and the maladaptive force of false belief is how I understand the battle of Armageddon."

We have evolved the tendency for false belief. Since there is no filter in our brain about what is true and what is false, we must excessively believe; it is safer to believe in danger than to not believe, therefore such belief is of survival value. Our traits have served us well and we're now kings of the planet, but we need to wage war against the beneficial-turned-detrimental trait of excessive belief.

We've come a long way. Much of the superstition and witchery that plagued our ancestors has been quelled(though never eliminated!) Less rational Gods have been replaced with memetically powerful and more rational gods. On a smaller scale, there are millions of silly beliefs that manifest from the detrimental trait of excessive belief. Visual patterns with supposed meaning, wives tales, misconceptions, UFO's and Sasquatches, Loch nessies and japanese spirits. Many are held only by fringe groups, but quite a few are ubiquitous. "Cold water boils faster than warm water" is one I heard last week. It has a slight memetic quality, since physics can be spooky at times, and since hot water actually can freeze faster than cold water in the right conditions. Silly though, it's all silly. The only way to fight this silliness is to under-believe. It's called being skeptical, and it's a virtue!



Sat Mar 21, 2009 8:46 pm
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Ah yes the evolution of choice. An important cultural evolution.

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Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:59 pm
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grim:

I just wanted to explain and apologise to you. I am looking at your age under your avatar at the side of the screen. I could have sworn that at one time, it said you were 23.

I am mortified that I threatened to box your ears. I thought you were much younger than my youngest son you see. Age shouldn't make any difference to the way we speak to one another, neither should gender, but it does. I feel quite embarrassed.

However, I do think it is a good example of how we develop and believe in good manners. Good manners are important as they 'oil the wheels' of everyday life, but not at the expense of being honest and truthful with one another. So, I think, with our tendency to believe in myth and legend, to tell ourselves stories, which 'oil the wheels' and help us to make sense of it and also to 'cope'. I think we are hard-wired to seek for meaning......in spite of, or maybe because of scientific advancement.


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Sun Mar 22, 2009 4:58 am
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Penelope wrote:
grim: I could have sworn that at one time, it said you were 23.
Grim also explored many nationalities under the flag option. Perhaps age is equally flexible. :neutral:



Sun Mar 22, 2009 6:09 am
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Hmmmm.....what constitutes dishonesty in interweb terms?

I suppose it doesn't matter, although it does make it difficult to have a debate on heart-searching topics if one of the contributors is elusive.

I suppose we must assume that posters are being honest, and when we find they're not, make allowances.

Well, it isn't the first time I've felt very silly.......and I don't suppose it will be the last.

Of course you do all realise that I'm not really an elderley British housewife. I'm really the Dalai Lama!! :cool:


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Sun Mar 22, 2009 6:45 am
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