Humanity 's future : evolution, stagnation or extinction?

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Rigil Kent (April 12, 2009, 13:18:32 PM):
Will humans look a lot different in 2 million years? A popular view is that we will become less muscular, less hairy and less toothy, but more cerebral and ocular, and start approximating the so-called Greys of sci-fi fame.

I don't think so, though. I think our evolution is complete. Our genes on average are stagnating or weakening from generation to generation, and we will die out soon. Why do I think this? Because of how we are cheating natural selection.

If you look at the rules of evolution theory, we depend on natural selection to ensure a strong genotype. In plants and animals alike, natural selection is the culling machine that eliminates the unfit individuals, and their associated genomes. But when it comes to humanity, we have outsmarted many of the mechanisms of natural selection. For example, very little running is required in making a purchase from your local butcher, and your chances of ending up with a platefull of succulent lamb chops, whether you are an exceptional sprinter or a coach potato, are equal. Maybe we have finally arrived at the point where survival of the fittest has become survival of the wealthiest. Every year there are fewer and fewer means of cheating natural selection that cannot be bought.

This will be our downfall. The end, indeed, is near. I'm guessing no more than 1 or 2 million years.

The answer to human survival, of course is simple, but unthinkable: Get rid of hospitals and medication. Engage in war. Abandon all laws. Revert to anarchy. Every man for himself. Indulge the selfish gene!

Mintaka
Tweefo (April 12, 2009, 19:12:22 PM):
I think not. It is only the last 100 - 200 years that we managed "to beat evolution" but this we did while running on a fossil fuel economy. Once that is gone it will not be as easy. Nuclear can supply the energy but we get a lot more from oil and coal, things like fertiliser. Without that there is no way that the current world population can be fed. Maybe you are right and it will be the survival of the wealthiest. I think we have thousands rather than millions of years left.
Mefiante (April 14, 2009, 10:48:37 AM):
One needs to bear in mind that “fitness” is contextually determined. A person who is a faster runner, better hunter, more agile climber, etc., is no more “fit” to survive in today’s societal climate with all its modern conveniences than the committed couch potato. However, should a radical transformation in the environment occur, this will probably change.

It is also incorrect to say, “evolution is complete,” as if evolution had some or other goal or objective. It doesn’t. If an individual organism is maladapted to its environment, it will be selected against. As humans, we have learned to adjust our environment to be more favourable for us. We have also learned to manipulate the genetic code, but one must realise that these achievements can change the course of evolution, not somehow halt or negate it.

From the perspective of evolution, what matters is how many offspring an individual produces and how many of them survive to procreate further. In this regard, despite poverty and disease, poor countries (mostly African ones) have Western societies beaten cold because, except for the US, population growth figures are either stable or declining, whereas they are positive in underdeveloped countries.

Humanity’s biggest threat is posed by adaptive microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, parasites, various spores and prions. Self-extinction or an asteroid collision, while real possibilities, are far less likely to occur, at least to the extent that all of humanity will suddenly and catastrophically be eradicated.

Finally, doomsayers have been around for as long as humans have been conscious of their own existence. Oddly, none of their predictions concerning the end being nigh, whether specific or vague and general, has yet eventuated. The reason is not hard to see: as a whole, humanity has an amazing capacity to roll with all sorts of changes, pretty much irrespective of how traumatic they may be. Doomsaying is a symptom of people getting older and finding it difficult to accommodate the pace and extent of changes in the social fabric that they are witness to.

I think it would be premature to write us off just yet.

'Luthon64
Rigil Kent (April 14, 2009, 12:29:25 PM):
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However, should a radical transformation in the environment occur, this will probably change.

Thats exactly the idea behind my expectation of our imminent extinction, yes. Should we be surprised by trying environmental circumstances, I think we'll be less likely to survive than our much more robust ancestors of a million years ago if put in a similar predicament. Like the panda, we are effectively loosing our adaptability.

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It is also incorrect to say, “evolution is complete,” as if evolution had some or other goal or objective.


"Complete" meaning "shan't advance any further". No evolutionary goal or aim is implied.

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Doomsaying is a symptom of people getting older


Not so. I've been at it since my early teens! ;)

Mintaka
Tweefo (April 14, 2009, 13:24:01 PM):
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Doomsaying is a symptom of people getting older and finding it difficult to accommodate the pace and extent of changes in the social fabric that they are witness to.
Calling me a doomsayer and old to boot! :-\ May have a few miles on me but not old yet.

Nothing last forever, and mammalian species (on average) only 1 or 2 million years. We already have a million years or so behind us. Big brains only really helped us in the last 10 - 20 thousand years. That is nothing.

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