Sciencehumanevolution

Tue Sep 16, 2014, 11:26 AM

Whither human evolution

Kind of riffing off the Daily Fail misrepresentation and musing on human evolution.

Only an idiot thinks we are immune from the technical process of evolution. We see changes in allele population over time just like any species.

That however doesn't stop us from being in a unique position vis a vis natural selection. The whole point of the theory is that if slightly different random attributes increase the chance of survival and propagation even a tiny bit, the percentage of those attributes will increase over time and eventually dominate, hence the different finch beaks of Darwin fame for example; in fact hence every morphological change in history.

But where are the human attributes that generate these adavantages? In other species, either survival or propagation is often very rare, and tiny changes can make a difference. Humans have incredibly low infant mortality and extremely high chances of reproduction. We artificially create our own environments and deploy medical technology to drastically reduce mortality. What will cause a random variation to dominate the species? Tall and short people both reproduce (the increase in average height is due to nutritional advances not natural selection). Ugly and handsome people. Intelligent and stupid people (Idiocracy makes a real point strangely, but these are cultural factors not natural selection and we are in no danger of seeing intelligence fade away completely due to mores). Naturally resistant and medically treated people both reproduce even in the face of the most virulent pathogens.

Ephemera like color and physiognomy are irrelevant. Despite the parochial whining of Quiverfull loons, the eventual caramelization of humanity means bugger all to the species taxonomically speaking. All races and ethnicities can freely interbreed.

I confess I am at a loss to see how natural selection can effect speciation as long as humans have a reasonably high level of technology. I don't see the inevitable eventual depletion of oil reserves changing that. We have other energy sources that only expense crowds out now. Upheaval? Certainly, but not speciation. Superbugs? Possible I guess but only if the mortality rate is so incredibly close to 100% and so concentrated in OECD countries that it effectively wipes out the control of technology. K-T type events? Possible again but more likely to do a reset to less complex lifeforms rather than push H. sapiens to a different evolutionary niche (and what niche? Ash-breathing temperature resistant scavengers?)

So how and where do you lot think we are likely to go in another few million years?

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Reply Whither human evolution (Original post)
Jaime Espinoza Sep 2014 OP
smalllivingeddy Sep 2014 #1
Argentina Sep 2014 #2

Response to Jaime Espinoza (Original post)

Tue Sep 16, 2014, 02:14 PM

1. to evolve over the next few million years

we have to avoid extinction for the next few hundred years.

That's possible, but I wouldn't bet too much on it.

(Really, of course, I won't bet anything one way or the other--there's no collecting, except by the insurance companies:

"No one will have endurance to collect on their insurance
"Lloyd's of London will be loaded when they go."

Tom Lehrer, We will all go together when we go

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Response to Jaime Espinoza (Original post)

Wed Sep 17, 2014, 12:38 AM

2. Very interesting post. Recommended.

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