MadSci Network: Evolution

Re: Do humans have the ability to evolve further?

Date: Thu Jun 4 16:03:56 1998
Posted By: Brian Foley, Post-doc/Fellow Molecular Genetics
Area of science: Evolution
ID: 896144928.Ev

	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
	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.


Current Queue | Current Queue for Evolution | Evolution archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Evolution.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-1998. All rights reserved.