Has human evolution been impaired or stopped?

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I was thinking about your evolution lecture, and in the notes it says that humans have removed themselves from the selective factors underwhich they evolved. Do you think that in doing so, humans have caused a degredation in their evolution, or are no longer evolving (some biological selective factors are eliminated by medicine for instance, individuals who would have died and not passed on, say the breast cancer gene, are thriving; also other genetic diseases that perhaps would have been eliminated by natural selection are not due to advances in modern medicine). Or would you say that our evolutionary path was simply altered by our own technological evolution; which is to say that we have merely created a new environment for ourselves with different selective factors. I was thinking that if we had truely separated ourselves from the selective factors we evolved under, it would stop our evolution, but then, wouldn't we be freaks of nature; sort of breaking the laws of nature? It seems improbable to me that our evolution has stopped entirely, yet how would we know if we had, and if we had would that not mean we inadvertantly placed a limit on our survival as a species?

-- Abagail Hanford (ahanford@oswego.edu), April 07, 2000


I read Abagail's comment along with Dr. Gabel's response, and I'll just offer a brief thought of my own. Homo sapiens certainly has not stopped evolving. My own opinion is that our evolution is now much more like that of other domestic animals and plants. Selective pressures are still there but are different in many ways from those we see in "natural" situations. We have achieved a high degree of control over the nature and timing of death, which at first resulted in a high rate of population growth. Now we are groping for an understanding and means of controlling the timing and rate of birth. This is a very important area of thought in which we must make progress if we are to avoid a very uncomfortable future.

-- Andy Nelson (anelson@oswego.edu), April 08, 2000.

Evolution can mean change. But evolution is a hypothesis based on a theory it depends on how you stack your theories to develop your hypothesis. Being a geology student, you are biased by your professors to believe in a long earth model. I would like to present a young earth model debate. What we observe vs. what we are told that we have observed may not in fact be what is truth. You would have to imagine god creating a full size tree and making it magicaly appear before your eyes. Because this was a supernatural event we cannot believe that this happened. Even Adam did not witness this event.

-- John Stergios (johnstergios@ameritech.net), April 09, 2001.

Wow, I posted that question a year ago in response to a lecture, and I was surprised to find a response in my mailbox today after so long. In response... I have a hard time lending any credence to a theory with no evidence other than belief and speculation scrawled by ancient people who didn't know the ground I stand on now existed at all, when theories with overwhelming evidence that I have put my hands on, seen with my own eyes, and/or can follow in a logical, scientific, and mathematic matter is not only available, but far simpler, more obvious, and far more likely than anything this young earth model can offer. A wise man once told me, the simplest answer is most often the correct one. I appreciate your response, and encourage you to continue your study, but I have examined the young earth model and found nothing logical or probable about it. In fact I found that it disregarded the existance of millions of forms of life that preceeded humans. Much like the old model of the solar system placing the earth in the center, I find this both egocentric and shortsighted. I realize this may be your religious view, and I respect your convictions, but I choose to recognise a more holistic notion that evolution and dinosaurs and the idea of your diety can co- exist. 7 days in "God-time" may not be so short as 7 days people- time, myth and metaphor can be taken as such and still be very much respected. This is simply one idea, among many, for you to consider as I have considered yours. Take no offense with my disagreement, perhaps we are ALL wrong and the truth remains to be seen; until then, follow your instincts and whatever disciplinary conviction you choose. Thank you for sharing your thoughts

-- Abigail Hanford (ahanford@oswego.edu), April 11, 2001.

I agree that humans have stopped evolving (or at least on the same tier that we have for ages past) and I disagree with the notion that this shift places a "limit" on our survival as a species. Factors such as advanced antibiotics, world travel, and inter-mating of the far regions of the earth creates a global community that has (rapidly increasing) access to our evolutional shields: medicine and technology. We therefore have no need to biologically adapt to our environment while we can use technology and medicine to act as a filter. Survival of the fittest no longer requires sturdy arms to swing a club, yet I've heard the argument that the new "survival of the fittest" is intelligence. This may be true, but only if "fit" means "favorable," for we must look at the breeding population, statistically, it's predominantly composed of the least educated quarter of the Earth's population. So from that, I don't think there's any survival of the fittest, nor is there any need for us to biologically adapt. We're stuck in a mating game, and all that can end it is severe population curving and/or the destruction of the world community. This places no limit on our survival of species, for even though we don't evolve to our surroundings, our technology does the evolving for us.

-- Scott Friedman (sjf1@cec.wustl.edu), July 26, 2001.

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