|MadSci Network: Evolution|
Of course we do. Evolution is just "change over time" there is really no "direction" to it. Is a dog any more evolved than a cat? One is not "better" than the other, just different. What direction or directions we go in is a big question. If we all got together as a species and decided that we wanted to go in one direction (I don't see that happening very soon), then we could very quickly go there. If we decided we wanted taller humans, we could only allow tall people to have children, and we could either kill off all short people or just not allow them to have kids. We currently consider such things to be very unethical and immoral, and I hope we continue to do so. The best hope for mankind overall is in diversity, not in trying to move in one specific direction. Insects are arguably one of the most successful types of animals on the planet. They have become many different species now through diversification. Humans are still all one species and we will probably remain a single species for at least the next 100,000 years or so, but we have diversified in other ways besides genetics, to be very differnt types of people. This is called social evolution. Todays' auto mechanics did not evolve from yestrdays' blacksmiths by genetics. The evolution came through transfer of information not in our genes, but in our books and other teachings. This social evolution is Lamarkian. One generation can learn lots of new things and pass all that aquired knowledge on to the next generation. We can even correct old mistakes, such as "knowing" that the earth is flat. If short people tend to marry short people so on, we might tend to become different species of short and tall. But humans are more complex than that. The saying that "opposites attract" is often true. The different races of humans might have become seperate species if they had remained seperated for another 100,000 years or so, but humans now travel the world over very quickly, and this will likely prevent this type of speciation. Likewise, many socieies have tried to influence the direction of human evolution by having "classes" of people and not allowing the "lower class" people to marry "upper class" people. However, this is not really the way nature works overall. If a disease comes along (a new virus or bacteria, or perhaps a toxic chemical) the inbreeding in the smaller class (whether it be upper or lower) will tend to make that class less diverse and more likely to be wiped out. This is why plant genticists are concerned about monocultures of super rice or corn. It grows great now, but could be wiped out by a single insect or fungus. So my overall view is that humans are and will continue to diversify. From one type of computer programmer 20 years ago we now have hundreds of differnt kinds, some specializing in computer graphics, others in database design, others in robotic programming. Some use Macs, others UNIX, others Windows95. From on type of warrior 1,000 years ago we now have jet pilots, atomic bomb makers, tank drivers etc... We are no longer needing to wait for random changes in our genes to allow us to make such changes. We are in control to some degree, of our social evolution. We can teach the son of a car mechanic to be a computer programmer. An ant can't turn into a bee so easily. With regard to the polution of the earth, this is a problem. So is overpopulation. But we are very clever animals and we will probably find a way to solve our current problems. 30 years ago people predicted that the earth could not provide enough food for humans in the year 2000 if we continued to reporduce. We have not yet slowed our rate of reproduction, but we did not run out of food, we found better ways to grow it and distribute it. Humans do face huge problems in the near future (like the next 100 years), but we will probably solve most of them. We change so fast now that new technology does not even spread around the world before it is outdated. Computer networks will hopefully allow technology to spread faster. Shipping electrons is much cheaper than shipping books, once the wire is in place (and the wire is cheaper than a road). In fact, with satelite communications the wire in no longer needed. Brian
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