No Pressure

I can’t run into an article about evolution that doesn’t contemplate the question: are we still evolving, and if so, where to?

Frankly, it seems like there’s some X-Men like desire in a lot of people to eventually evolve into cooler, superhuman beings. Not that I’d mind that (since I already can fly and sprout coca-cola from my fingertips) we eventually gain more adaptations, but the word “adaptation” itself makes me throttle down a bit.

Wait a minute, adaptations, adaptations to what?

If anything, it’s more likely that in some populations (in the Western world, ceteris paribus), certain physical traits would devolve, rather than evolve.

I think it’s safe to say that almost 100% of our physical adaptations are adaptations to running around, almost naked, in the Savannah, chasing wild animals, picking berries, and running like hell from tigers.

That said – we don’t really need most of that stuff. When I’m hungry, I go to the fridge. I don’t need to co-operate with my peers in hunting groups, I just send them an e-mail and we have coffee together. (Obviously a silly example, but it serves as some filler to denote the fact that the modern era allows humanity to survive well and safely without a lot of the adaptations nature has endowed us with)

In short – a certain law in evolution states that useless traits tend to devolve and diminish (a la eyes in cave fish).

Well, don’t start writing goodbye notes to your pinkies and robust physique just yet -lacking selective pressure in human beings doesn’t obstruct their freedom to choose which adaptations to keep and maintain, and which to enhance and cultivate. That said – we could, in theory, “artificially breed” ourselves into bigger, smarter human beings. (I’m not a eugenicist, I’m just betting that the competetive spirit in nature, and in humans in particular, would probably create such selective pressure. That isn’t eugenics, that’s just natural selection. )

Somehow, this to me sounds more likely – a lot more likely than us developing an insanely convoluted new trait – although I’m sure that if some variant of Homo sapiens somehow develops the ability to fly or see in the dark, I’m sure his genes would spread rather fast. Don’t stay up all night for that to happen, though.

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14 Responses to “No Pressure”

  1. Mark Says:

    At first I wanted to mention that “devolution” is a sort of evolution too and give the example of the cave fish myself. Seeing that you brought it yourself, I suppose it’s just a matter of wording. By defining a change as “devolution” you assign your own value that isn’t really there (I mean, it’s all natural, not teleological, right?). losing the eyes is a form of evolution – those fish increased their protection via getting rid of useless and vulnerable organs. Sure, something that was acquired (evolved) is lost (devolved?) – but it’s still evolution, it’s adaptation to the environment.

    As for the post itself, that’s a matter I have thought about quite a long time before. I think that the next question to ask is “what sort of people do not bring children to the world?”. I had the assumption that most people marry and bring children, but I suppose it might be not entirely true.
    Obviously, people more akin to catching/dying of certain diseases at a young age (the range of “young age” being broadened with each generation, it seems) will “dilute”. Also, suicidal (again, of young age, no any “mid-life crisis” here) people will dilute, at least where it’s a case of “nature” and not “nurture”.
    I’m quite curious to know, actually, what kind of people do not marry and bring children, if there is any similarities between them? I wonder what source of information might bring a clue?

  2. Uzza Says:

    Sounds like a specific organ ‘devolves’ away from being an eye or whatever, at the same time the entire critter ‘evolves’ into some other critter? Possibly too the eye will eventually re-‘evolve’ into some other spooky organ. Personally I don’t like the term devolution because its implication of teleology just gives talking points to the creationists.

    As to our future, sadly, I’d say ignorant people produce way more offspring…

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