Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Recent Human Evolution May Have Been Driven By Self-Selection

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the masters-of-our-domain dept.

Science 448

Slur writes "The New York Times reports an insightful theory of Human evolution that gives credit for our accelerated evolution to the evolving brain. By virtue of our aesthetic and utilitarian preferences we ourselves have been responsible for molding the present human form and consciousness. Applied to other species we call it 'artificial selection,' but the new theory implies we did it all quite naturally, unconsciously, and that the exponential evolutionary acceleration we have achieved as a species in recent time is just what you'd expect. It also suggests that the current lull in our physical evolution is by 'choice' as well."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Heard on the evolutionary kickball field... (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688708)

"And I pick.... me!"

Re:Heard on the evolutionary kickball field... (2, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688896)

Yeah, dumb luck usually works most of the time.

feather fuckers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21688710)

sex with ducks yo!

Eugenics (2, Funny)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688762)

Eugenics works, but is of course worse than the disease. I guess all you can do is buy some new clothes and get a car with a pussy magnet.

Physical lull. (4, Funny)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688774)

In my next incarnation, I want six digits on both hands, a tail, and four nipples. So just grin and bear it, people!

Re:Physical lull. (3, Insightful)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689604)

Yeah, but who's going to mate with you now in order to ensure that? I'm guessing no one.

Re:Physical lull. (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689756)

Either asexual reproduction or one very desperate basement geek.

Re:Physical lull. (1)

BotnetZombie (1174935) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689750)

You're next incarnation will be as one of my kind. Be happy about it, zombies are the pinnacle of evolution!

Who needs evolution with technology (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21688784)

It doesn't matter if we evolve, because we change the environment around us as opposed to adapting to it. Therefore evolution has been irrelevant as a factor of survival since humans learned to use tools.

Re:Who needs evolution with technology (4, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688952)

Unless we are evolving to get better at using tools.

Re:Who needs evolution with technology (1)

darkfish32 (909153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689632)

Our mental 'evolution' to learn to create a better tool is so much faster, why would we need to change genetically just to fit a specific tool better? Just make the tool differently...

Re:Who needs evolution with technology (3, Funny)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689304)

Mod that fellow up! That is exactly right

. "evolution" is a response to external conditons. Its cold, I grow fur, water means webbed feet etc. With humans cold means another log on the fire and wet means fix the roof. The roof evolves. I do not...

Re:Who needs evolution with technology (1)

RincewindTVD (1011435) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689474)

With humans cold means another log on the fire and wet means fix the roof. The roof evolves. I do not...
And the one who can fix the roof better is more 'fit'.
or the one that can afford (through prowess in another area) to get the good roof fixer to fix his roof is more 'fit'.

I see no problems with us evolving.

I for one welcome our new roof-fixing overlords.

Re:Who needs evolution with technology (3, Insightful)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689616)

Biological evolution has ceased, according to yourself.
However, mental and social evolution continues.
Any further biological evolution of humans will only be on the "resistance to disease" level, and that which we do ourselves. Transhumanists are gonna love this news. Augmentation's always getting closer.

The environment always changes, tech does nothing (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689532)

So what if we change the environment? That doesn't stop evolution. There are always traits that will give an advantage, and those that will give a disadvantage, and there are always novel ways of combining previous traits that can lead to something new. Evolution has never been about survival, it is about passing on genes. And every organism out there changes the environment. Organisms define the environment: prey to some, predator to others, host to still others. To stop evolution in humanity, one would need to ensure that every human on the planet had exactly the same chance to pass on their genes as every other.

Re:The environment always changes, tech does nothi (1, Interesting)

tcolberg (998885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689786)

Here's one example of an evolutionary path. Data indicates that sickle-cell anemia may have evolved in order to give resistance to malaria. As a plus side, people with sickle-cell anemia have resistance to a deadly disease, on the downside, people with sickle-cell anemia can experience pain in their joints and death. If our governments got their act together we could either eliminate or severely curtail the presence of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. If such a decrease in malaria occurred, it might lead to a reduction in sickle-cell anemia in the human gene pool. An example of tech (and to one's confoundment, politics) influencing environment and evolution.

Re:Who needs evolution with technology (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689568)

It doesn't matter if we evolve, because we change the environment around us as opposed to adapting to it.

Well that's partly right, but that's assuming that we can control our environment. Our man-made environment does harm us in ways we can't seem to do a lot about. Think about the high availability of high energy foods leading to disease, inactivity and pollution, a high rate and fast transmission of infectious diseases. None of these things will change soon. We might start to lose the genes that evolved to store energy in places with

We are sexually attracted to people who look to be thriving (health and wealth, confidence etc) the best in the environment we find ourselves in. In this way we continue to evolve to fit our admittedly man made surroundings. For example we might start to lose the genes that evolved to store energy in places with unreliable food supplies, that in the modern world lead to vascular disease and early death.

Re:Who needs evolution with technology (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689670)

Some of us are evolving to better tolerate artificial estrogens in our environment.
Some of us are evolving to better use genetically modified food.
Some of us are evolving to better tolerate a starch centric diet.


If some aspect of our environment affects our ability to reproduce (and the artificial estrogens are a huge issue) then we will either go extinct or some random group of humans will get a mutation that can ignore that factor and they will reproduce better.

For now, I think meme's have a lot more effect on breeding rates than other factors (i.e. catholics and muslims way outbreed atheists and european protestants).

All animals change their environment (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689728)

Humans are no different, other than perhaps on the scale they operate. There is no real difference between birds building a nest and us building a house.

Nor is our use of tools any more perfect than (other) animals, we do not have mastery over everything (eg HIV, anti-biotic resistant bacteria) and until we do (ie forever) evolution will still have a role.

Medical science kills natural selection (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689780)

Natural selection tries to weed out a huge % of the population, but medical science overrides it.

Nature determines that weak and premature infants should die, yet they are kept alive and become adults. Nature determines that some adults should not be breeding, yet fertility drugs override this. Nature determines that various people should die by heart failure etc, but drugs keep them alive.

Sure, these are all good from the emotional point of view of keeping people alive and making childless couples happy etc, but does it really help the human gene pool? Perhaps Mother Nature had a good reason to kill off a weak child or prevent that infertile couple from breeding. The long term impacts can only be known in a few generations.

So now with civilization... (3, Interesting)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688786)

...advanced to the point where really stupid people can safely breed with other really stupid people, the predicions of "The Marching Morons" [] and "Idiocracy" [] will come to pass.

Re:So now with civilization... (4, Interesting)

Selfbain (624722) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688846)

I think thats highly unlikely as we are on the verge of obtaining the ability to write our own DNA as we see fit.

Re:So now with civilization... (4, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689082)

that is if copyrights don't get applied to genes like they do anything else. we may have the ability to alter our genes at will technologically but politically we are absolutely screwed. companies are already filing patents on plant and animal genes, even breeds that contain these genes- I shudder to think of what would happen if any of this were applied to people.

Re:So now with civilization... (2, Interesting)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689192)

And if the corporations don't screw us, the religious right will.

Re:So now with civilization... (2, Interesting)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689852)

Don't worry about the religious right. It's the nut-jobs you'll have to worry about. Imagine a world with lots of people tagged with similar retroviruses that are demographically selected. I read a book once about an advance in genetics where the Koran could be imprinted in people's DNA through a retrovirus. This gave those who wanted to kill all Muslims a targeted vector for doing it. So they released a virus that gave everyone a flu (or whatever, it was just an infection vector) and if you had that sequence of DNA, you got cancer.
Say you decide to make your skin (or your kids' skin) glow through a relatively simple genetic tweak. Now they're easily targeted, too. The only way you'd be overly safe is if the genetic tweaks were selecting existing human DNA ("I want my kid to have blue eyes"), custom DNA tweaks from scratch (or from generic human DNA fragments), or data appended which is encrypted with a one-time key (include an encrypted pic of your family in your DNA, retrovirus-style). Anything else opens the door for genetic profiling in the worst way.

Re:So now with civilization... (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689194)

Well, it's a race to a photo finish, then. Gattaca or Idiocracy? Which force will overwhelm the other?

Re:So now with civilization... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21688976)

Idiocracy was indeed a brilliant documentary film. []

but... (2, Interesting)

DisownedSky (905171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689216)

Fertility rates are coming down everywhere, even in the developed world, where the exigencies of daily survival still tend to apply some selection pressure on intelligence.

Since H.G. Wells, there has been some speculation that the human species will split into two distinct gene pools (I wouldn;t say "species," since interbreeding remains a possibility). However, if one gene pool should find itself supporting the other, larger pool, the burden would eventually become too great and the two pools would either re-merge or one would become extinct.

sigh (3, Interesting)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688824)

We just have to feel special, don't we...

As if all of the sudden when you gain intelligence, the rules of evolution change to a new set. Perhaps the term evolution should always be prefaced with a qualifier, such as "biological" or "human" where the qualifier has distinct meaning, and can make it a subset of other qualifiers. It just seems to me that the increase in our intellectual evolution is no different than biological evolution. Not to say we shouldn't put our effort into researching cognitive science, it is a remarkable field. But I think looking at it in this way makes us feel special for no good reason and can muddy the waters more than clear them.

Re:sigh (1)

SlipperHat (1185737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689004)

So we should tag this as feelgood

Re:sigh (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689152)

Hmm. You could almost say we intelligently design ourselves. :)

Re:sigh (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689244)

TFA's not saying that evolved by conscious choice to evolve -- rather that we evolved based on the choices we made as a species. We chose to move to environments in which we had to adapt. We came out of Africa, but moved to Europe and Asia -- considerably colder climates with a wider variety of different and harsher conditions. And that when we changed our environment through our culture, we adapted to that new environment as essence, we caused our own evolution, even though that's not what we were trying to do.

Re:sigh (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689866)

The exact effect culture has on evolution is a rather contentious issue, which is why Dawkins developed the concept of the meme to explain cultural evolution.

As to humans moving into other environments, other animals have done the same thing. In most cases with animals, and that includes humans, migration is simply an attempt to either follow or find new resources. Europeans no more chose to evolve paler skin than polar bears did white, thick fur.

Re:sigh (4, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689262)

Your inference that there has been intellectual evolution is rather disturbing, one look at US politics should tell you that not much intelligence evolution has really occurred. It might do to remind you that after the invention of the modern day food can, it took almost 50 years to invent the fscking can-opener.

There are a million things I could give as an example, but think about this, if you did not have modern tools, eating would still be a big part of your daily activity, or trying to eat. I think that early man was probably very intelligent also, just didn't have all the mod-cons that we enjoy today. Without electricity, there is little reason to invent a sit-com, and without petroleum, little reason to invent NASCAR. Technology is a progressive linear-like process, it did not simply happen one day. Intelligence, laboring under the burden of little technology, will seem as though it is less than what we have today. All that we really have today is more KNOWLEDGE, not more intelligence.

Re:sigh (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689816)

I think the growing gap between the rich and the poor suggests that evolution continues. The rich are more fit to ensure both there genes and their memes survive and replicate.

The poor can not afford fertility treatment, cannot influence the media in a meaningful way, and would not be able to ensure their own safety in case of a disease pandemic. Having a private island in Dubai or a gigantic, gated estate would come in handy once the next black-death-type sickness strikes.

We are evolving and we know who is the most "fit;" we just haven't seen much selectivity pressure in recent history.

Re:sigh (1)

internic (453511) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689846)

Or to put it succinctly we can just quote Sir Issac Newton:

If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21688826)

Almost like theres a intelligent designer moving us forward saying "nothing to see here"

I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the USA (-1, Flamebait)

zymano (581466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688838)

1. We would solve obesity and cancer. These are controlled by genes and fat people marrying other fat people.

2. We would create longer living healthier people.

3. Side benefit would be extremely beautiful people........think women that look like Victoria Secrets models.

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688904)

We've had eugenics programs around here before - in my very own hometown and city, even. Now it's regarded as an atrocity [] .

Just sayin'.

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (1)

CFTM (513264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688974)

Wow, that is absolutely abhorrent. I am speechless...

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (2, Informative)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689068)

Ya, because its awful that we don't keep creating stupid and poor people.

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21688938)

Yes, let's kill people that do not fit your arbitrary definition of beauty. That would solve all the world's problems.

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689856)


Who said kill? You can convince people by winning them over.

Dwarfs marrying and having kids is a SIN

We tried that in the 1990s.. (4, Funny)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688962)

..and there was a down side: KHAAAAAN!

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (1)

JKSN17 (956518) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689070)

You want to implement EUGENICS in the US. Historically this has had some downsides as well, granted yes it can be beneficial in someways, as you have listed, but how do we avoid reimplementing segregation, and genocides in the process. Can you assure that you yourself will be acceptable in the eyes of this new program? There is far too much gray area here for some innocent people to be hurt or worse because they don't fit in. Basically I disagree...

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (1)

Antity-H (535635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689204)

About point 3 : I have a hard time seeing how you could breed with photoshop to create these extremely beautiful people, or rather I prefer not to imagine it.

Here, see for yourself : []

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (1)

Antity-H (535635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689294)

Sorry this was not the original link : []
additionnal hint for this site, click on the picture to start playing.

Secondary bonus for bearing with me this far a post with many other links about the subject: []

This was just about 20 seconds of googling it. I count two professional photographer within my friends, and when discussing with one of them who does portraits, she told me that when she takes the picture she is already thinking of the things she can fix on photoshop later ... that about sums it up.

Eugenics doesn't work (2, Insightful)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689534)

Eugenics might work in the short run, but I doubt it would be a very bad thing in the long run. First off, by selecting such traits, you decrease the amount of genetic difference between offspring. Sure, they might all live to be 120 and be able to bench press a truck, but that won't be much consolation when a single virus kills everyone. I find the commercial banana to be a good example. Years of breeding the best fruit and healthiest plants, and it is very possible that a single disease could ravage the population because of that lead to too much genetic similarity between plants. You can also look at the cheetah population to see the long term results of a small breeding pool. You stop the 'unfit' from breeding, you're going to have one hell of a mess on your hands in a few generations. Personally, I'll take cancer and obesity over crippling birth defects and constant fear of illness.

And besides, evolutionarly speaking, life evolves by trying new and weird things. Maybe fat and ugly is the next phase in human evolution. Do you know? Do you think anyone knows enough to direct human evolution? Then shut up.

Oh, and there's the fact that you'd have to be one immoral bastard to decide that certain groups arn't allowed to have kids.

Re:Eugenics doesn't work (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689776)

Actually, experience shows that interbreeding two relatively different genotypes produces hardier (and often more attractive) offspring. So rather than restricting who can breed, we should be making sure that Fat Blonde Appalachian White Woman marries Swarthy Arab Immigrant Guy (insert your own combination of stereotypes, genotypes and ethnicities). Their children will thank them for it.

Re:Eugenics doesn't work (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689894)

Yes it does.

Look at Germany and other nordic countries.

Looks fine to me.

Ever been to Iceland tubby?

Re:I would like to see a EUGENICS program in the U (1)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689594)

I've been saying this for years. First though, we need to isolate the genes that cause greed, arrogance, and stupidity. Once that's filtered out of the gene pool, then maybe we can advance as a species. Also, whoever modded you troll needs to quit being such a damn fundamentalist. Maybe they're afraid they'd be first on the block.

But don't forget.... (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688854)

Perhaps, but don't neglect the affects of bacteria, viruses and parasites in molding human evolution.

The 5 books which should be mandatory reading for North Americans:

1) Against Empire by Michael Parenti

2) Other People's Money by Nomi Prins

3) American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips

4) John Kenneth Galbraith by Richard Parker

5) Brothers by David Talbott

Re:But don't forget.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689292)

Perhaps, but don't neglect the affects of bacteria, viruses and parasites in molding human evolution.

The 5 books which should be mandatory reading for North Americans: ...

Apparently all that reading hasn't had any positive effect on your grammar.

Re:But don't forget.... (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689734)

Why? Seriously. And why just "North Americans", by which I assume you mean US citizens. And more importantly, what have any of them to do with bacteria, viruses, parasites, and evolution?

Broken circularity (4, Insightful)

Empiric (675968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688886)

So, we're talking about teleological choices, made by teleological beings, driving a non-teleological process?

Re:Broken circularity (1)

mrpeebles (853978) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689302)

I thought teleology was a metaphysical subject about which natural selection had to be agnostic. In any case, I know that most of the time my actions don't produce the result I had in mind for them!

Maybe.. (1)

trendzetter (777091) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688910)

Maybe the selection wasn't always completely unconsciously ?

O rly. Humans are evolving? (0, Troll)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688930)

How many new species are there now?

Re:O rly. Humans are evolving? (1)

cynicsreport (1125235) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689276)

I believe that our ancestors from 10-50 thousand years ago are considered to be the same species as we are. There have, nevertheless, been evolutionary changes; a prime example is disease resistance. Our ancient ancestors (despite being of the same species) could not have survived the kind of regular exposure to a variety of modern pathogens.

Re:O rly. Humans are evolving? (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689764)

Neither could you without immunizations. Seriously, that's a technological advancement, not an evolutionary one. At least not in the sense that the GP is discussing.

Thank you (2, Insightful)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689486)

For demonstrating so succinctly the wilful ignorance that many religionists have with regard to evolution.
You could have wasted our time but all it took was a 7 word comment and a three word sig. Ten words.

Gah. (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689536)

A 4 word sig.

Re:O rly. Humans are evolving? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689596)

Learn what evolution means before posting about it again. New species only result when a species is for one reason or another split. And yes, we did have several species due to geographic splits at one point the most common example being Neanderthal. But as you clearly don't understand there wasn't a monkey who gave birth to a human and a neanderthal, changes from evolution are gradual over many generations. As this article points out, certain features have been selected (naturally) and have spread across humanity and been enhanced over many generations, most notably meaning that humans rapidly became more intelligent, as a whole. A pity we seem to have left some people behind...

Re:O rly. Humans are evolving? (2, Insightful)

Dhar (19056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689618)

Don't confuse evolution with speciation.

Autism and tetrachromats (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689860)

We're getting improvements all the time - you don't just suddenly pop into being a new species. It's gradual.


Autism. Most likely this is evolution trying out ideas for the next generation human brain. [] People with autism can occasionally do extraordinary things - but usually at a cost which makes the change non-beneficial, so evolution sorts them out. But eventually some selection will take place and we'll get a beneficial autism-like ability added to our species. Maybe someday soon we'll all be able to count cards ala Rain Man, or be able to tell you the square root of a six digit number without a calculator, or memorize the phone book.

It happens. Here's (most likely) a recent improvement to our species - extra cones in the eyes. Some women can see in more colors than the rest of us. They're called tetrachromats. []

i was just arguing with some guy (5, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21688990)

who comes from that classic heartless eugenics-oriented pov that we as a species are getting physically unfit as we allow the autistic, the downs symdrome, the epileptic, etc., to survive and breed. in classic trollish fashion, he insisted the cavemen had it right when they just left the old, infirm, etc. to die outside in the snow

my response was to question the supremacy of physical fitness. for example, the rise of humans in larger groups, cities, drives the emphasis on new genes: human empathy, for example, being a highly desirable survival advantage in large groups. and the less physically fit in large groups can still contribute to the survival of the group. such that a well-organized group of less physically fit humans can outcompete very fit physical specimens that unfortunately aren't as well wired for human empathy, and therefore are out there, loners, failng to coordinate with othwer humans for the successful passing on of their genes. the rise of cities changing the emphasis onto new genes for survival

which, ironically, given his utter lack of empathy for the less physically fit, put him on the lower end of the "fit" gene pool, where "fit" now means more empathetic, not bigger biceps

perhaps we should leave him out in the snow i wondered? ;-)

Re:i was just arguing with some guy (5, Interesting)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689130)

he insisted the cavemen had it right when they just left the old, infirm, etc. to die outside in the snow

AFAIK even very early cavemen didn't do that, there's evidence of cavemen taking care of the crippled and elderly.

even better (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689454)

it's always good to dismantle a harmful pseudoscience's "facts" and show that their "facts" are nothing more than propaganda

Re:i was just arguing with some guy (2, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689136)

who comes from that classic heartless eugenics-oriented pov that we as a species are getting physically unfit as we allow the autistic, the downs symdrome, the epileptic, etc., to survive and breed. in classic trollish fashion, he insisted the cavemen had it right when they just left the old, infirm, etc. to die outside in the snow

You do realize this is how evolution works right? That's EXACTLY what every other complex organism does.

Honestly, what is the benefit to our species as a whole to continue to create genetically wrong humans, that can't survive without depending on society the rest of their life? Other animals leave the unfittest behind because otherwise the ENTIRE group will perish. Empathy in any other species would spell the end of that species.

Re:i was just arguing with some guy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689284)

He was arguing that the definition of "evolutionary fitness" does not necessarily mean physical fitness. And that because we have formed a dense civilization requiring cooperation, compassion becomes a desirable trait from the standpoint of survival.

Anonymous because I'm lazy

Re:i was just arguing with some guy (5, Insightful)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689506)

This is an oversimplified view of how evolution works. In fact, it's so oversimplified as to be grossly misleading.

Evolution works by *differential* reproductive success. This does not require in any way that we leave the "unfit" out in the snow. Their own genetic disadvantages will see to it that they simply leave fewer offspring.

By intervening directly (the "leave them out in the snow" school) you run the very significant risk that you mistakenly identify as "unfit" individuals whose genomes contain significant survival advantages that would otherwise be passed on in the gene pool.

IOW, not being omniscient, people are likely to identify as "unfit" individuals who they simply don't like, feel threatened by, etc., and prevent from reproducing people who are, in fact, carriers of genes with significant survival value.

It's called "natural selection" for a reason: the inevitable expression of each individual's genome will of necessity result in some individuals leaving more offspring than others. These individuals are, *by definition* the fittest. No need to intervene - it's already taken care of.

Note that in artificial selection, breeders can only select for heritable traits that they observe. In the process they often end up with breeds that carry significant deleterious traits because the breeders were not aware that they were inadvertently selecting for these as well.

It all comes down to humility about our lack of omniscience. Anything short of a complete understanding of all the complexity of the human genome, epigenetics, and how these interact with various past, present and yes, even future environments, will lead to the unintended, but potentially disastrous reduction of variation and loss of genes of significant fitness.

The system (natural selection) works well precisely because there is nothing driving it except the objective reality of navigating the myriad vagaries of life successfully to the goal (from evolution's standpoint) of reproducing. Let's not pretend that we understand all of it fully and interfere with it.

Re:i was just arguing with some guy (5, Insightful)

2nd Post! (213333) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689514)

What is the benefit to our species as a whole to create genetically wrong humans?

Excuse me?

How about the geniuses with perfectly sound minds but unsound bodies? Like Stephen Hawking?

Are you saying the only value humans have is their ability to survive independently of each other? That children who cannot hunt down a buffalo without the help of a parent, or even a peer, is useless? Yet what is cooperation to achieve things greater than an individual (the space shuttle, the pyramids, the aqueducts of Rome, raising a single child) except "depending on society for the rest of their life"?

Perfectly FIT people depend on society their whole lives! Can you generate your own electricity, recycle your own trash, smelt your own steel, craft your own furniture, etc?

So even genetically wrong people can offer things, such as their minds, their voices, their arts, etc, to humanity. On top of that, their survival broadens our genepool; what if the AIDs resistance virus lies in a mildly autistic child? Or the resistance to the next bird flu pandemic lies in a mildly retarded child?

you seem to lack human empathy (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689570)

therefore, you are on the lower end of the "fit" gene pool

where "fit" now means larger empathy, not larger biceps

therefore, we should leave you out in the snow ;-)

Re:i was just arguing with some guy (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689662)

Next time, point out to him that since people with Down's Syndrome can't breed for purely biological reasons, he's clearly too ignorant to be allowed to breed himself.

"fit" has never meant bigger biceps. There's a reason the average man has smaller biceps than the average gorilla.

yup (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689774)

what "fit" means is constantly changing. fat people are now seen as unfit. well, we live in an age where the food supply is rock solid dependable. there's no need for a biological reserve, and all of the cardiovascular and other health related deficicts associated with a a lot of adipose tissue

but in previous ages of man, ages of sporadic starvation, the fat were most fit. and that was what, a century or two ago all around the world? still real today in some parts of africa?

Re:i was just arguing with some guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689882)

Why is it "classic trollish fashion" when someone disagrees with you? The original definition of "troll" was one who makes statements *specifically* to get you to argue, which this quite obviously doesn't fulfill. Sorry Tiger, it's not a troll just because you believe otherwise.

Jaysus... the ego in people these days. How can we breed *that* out?

Also, empathy does nothing but cause one to make emotional decisions, which almost never result from careful consideration. In other words, they're generally rash and illogical. How often are those decisions *good* decisions? Yup, just about never. No, no, let me guess... now *I'm* a troll.

Ah awesome (1)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689036)

At the bars I can start hearing this now:

Eww, I can't sleep with you! Think of man's evolution! Think of the future!

Once again proving, geeks are there own worst enemies when it comes to the sex.

Re:Ah awesome (2, Informative)

boris111 (837756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689272)

Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've always advertised my geekiness when flirting with women. Works for me. Wellllll it didn't work in college. My theory is women just simply prefer 25-35 yr old males when it comes to looking for a mate.

Homo Superior (3, Interesting)

SMACX guy (1003684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689042)

Companions the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators the creator seeks -- those who write new values on new tablets. Companions the creator seeks, and fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the harvest.

Re:Homo Superior (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689886)

It may be apropos of the issue at hand that the speaker never had any children either, despite being one of the most brilliant philosophers of the 19th century. Notwithstanding another one of his expressions, also from Zarathustra... "Man shall be trained for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly."

Um, we ARE still evolving... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689050)

...into a bunch of politically correct pussies who can't handle criticism, sarcasm, and the bacteria found on doorknobs. If we CAN impose artificial selection to counteract this mess of pussified people we've created, then for the love of God, do it!

If this were true there would be way more (3, Funny)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689134)

hot asian and hispanic chicks around.



Never mind.

Yay, evolution!

No surprise (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689180)

Just watch how quickly the genes for HIV resistance will spread in Africa.
I'll bet if we look closely we will be able to find mutations for plague resistance in European populations. Talk about selection pressure if 30% of the population died.

Re:No surprise (2, Interesting)

CFTM (513264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689332)

Uh I think this might possibly sort of be what you're talking about but I don't really understand it :)

I love the internet.

A mutant allele of the chemokine receptor CCR5 gene (CCR5-Delta32), which confers resistance to HIV-1 infection, is believed to have originated from a single mutation event in historic times, and rapidly expanded in Caucasian populations, owing to an unknown selective advantage. Among other candidates, the plague bacillus Yersinia pestis was implicated as a potential source of strong selective pressure on European populations during medieval times. Here, we report amplifications of the CCR5-Delta32 DNA sequence from up to 2900-year-old skeletal remains from different burial sites in central Germany and southern Italy. Furthermore, the allele frequency of CCR5-Delta32 in victims of the 14th century plague pandemic in Lubeck/northern Germany was not different from a historic control group. Our findings indicate that this mutation was prevalent already among prehistoric Europeans. The results also argue against the possibility of plague representing a major selective force that caused rapid increase in CCR5-Delta32 gene frequencies within these populations.
Linked here []

Re:No surprise (1)

Sqweegee (968985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689688)

I think they were meant as two separate examples of evolutionary influences on our immune system.

It is very interesting that a gene linked to fighting off the plague in Europe has also been linked to potentially preventing HIV infection. Discoveries like this can lead to potential cures.

Messages seem to differ (2)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689240)

I read the first article and discussion; the impression I got was that by "accelerated evolution" the author meant "more diversity", typified by this comment [] :

Mutations that in earlier times were fatal are now viable. They may now lead to offspring. So these mutations will live on more than before. We have more mutations surviving and spreading, we have more diversity, not less.

The idea being that everyone gets to reproduce these days and that there is no longer a heavy selection process weeding out "unfit" characteristics. Now this article seems to indicate that selection is more intense than ever. I don't see how you can have, at the same time, a more intense selection process and higher than usual diversity.

So it took a bunch of evolutionists... (4, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689312)

... to tell us that to some degree, we are... intelligently designed.

This notion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689338)

smacks of the phrase, "Well, duhh!".

"Natural Selection" was never defined as some great force of nature. No, it has always been a handy way to describe the consiquences of lives of living entities on their own populations. For instance, many birds pick the prettiest mate, for whatever reason, thus it's the prettiest birds that live on rather than the ones who can feed themselves more efficiently.

Seriously, humanity has to step down from its bloody high horse - we are beings. That's it, just beings living on a ball of dirt in space. Waahoo. Of course our preferences will help form our population... duhh... I hope no one was paid governement money to come up with great revilation...

The Mating Mind (not a new theory) (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689342)

That's not a new theory at all; I first read about that in the book "The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature" by Geoffrey Miller - good book, worth a read.

all change is driven by need (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689352)

we 'evolve' because yOUR creators designed us to do so. any other notion is misleading.

as is (misleading/deceptive) the corepirate nazis' attempt to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive.

we're intending for the nazis to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather'. [] []

meanwhile, the life0cidal execrable continues on its path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US;

gov. bush denies health care for the little ones [] []

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids [] []

whilst president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles; [] []

still making his views known worldwide, whilst many of US keep yOUR heads firmly lodged up yOUR infactdead.asp(s) hoping (against overwhelming information to the contrary) that the party LIEn scriptdead pr ?firm? fairytail hypenosys scenario will never end.

for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available after the big flash occurs.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

whois it that said that trolls cannot evolve?

whois it that said that trolls cannot evolve?

The summary (4, Informative)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689426)

The summary seems to have little relationship to the article. The article doesn't say a damn thing about choice, nor does it at all imply that humans intentionally directed their own evolution (as the summary implies.)

Prior to this, evolutionary scientists assumed that the power of culture was so strong that it swamped evolutionary effects by essentially keeping people alive where they otherwise couldn't have. What this says is that no, that is not true, and that the human race evolved to adapt to new environments just like every other species. Essentially what this means is that our brains let us survive in new environments (for example, the arctic, which without knowledge of clothing and shelter would kill a human quick) and then those that did so evolved to adapt to the environment (for example, the way the Inuit tend to deal better with high fat diets like you'd expect living on seals.) This wasn't by any sort of choice. This was because the ancient Inuit who had cholesterol problems all died off.

This is, of course, all something that happened in the past. We aren't entering any new environments, but even if we were, the death rate has become so amazingly low, that any sort of evolution is hard to imagine. Evolutionary works fastest when lots of people are dying.

The name for selection that depends on choice is "sexual selection" and it is found in many, many species and was recognized from the beginning. The extent this happened in humans is unknown. This article says nothing about that.

Re:The summary (1)

lazy genes (741633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689876)

It may be that life always evolved at an exponential rate. The main goal of life may be to eventually get beyond this. But who can argue if all life is a product of 5 billion years of exponential growth. This may be the reasoning behind genetic religeos belief systems.

The Ascent of Man (4, Interesting)

sakusha (441986) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689520)

This is a pretty old theory. It's the basis of the 1970's book and TV show "The Ascent of Man" by Jacob Bronowski. His final chapter (as I recall it, it's been years since I read it) says that human evolution accelerated because of "cultural evolution." In other words, Man is the only species that can pass its knowledge to future generations by means of words. This allows each generation to evolve beyond the previous, without having to create everything from scratch. But Bronowski also said that alongside Cultural Evolution, there was also real biological evolution, because people tend to fall in love with people like themselves, and intelligent people marry intelligent people, a form of natural selection for intelligence.

Not Really . . . (1)

Dausha (546002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689526)

I don't think intelligence came from self-selection breding. Look at it this way: we don't go after the smart chick. We go after the hot chick. Sometimes the smart chick is the hot chick, but stereotypes suggest this is the exception rather than the rule.

Re:Not Really . . . (1)

burndive (855848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689812)

The set of hot chicks is not disjoint from the set of hot chicks (nor is that union disjoint from the set of chicks who want to have a family).

You must all obey the master! (0)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689554)

Yes of course I know we have developed over time, it is purely logical. Put two stones together and you have 3! I am a mindboggling genious on the brinck of madness sitting here browsing the other mindless blogging egos typing their life away all fighting for good karma just to impress some damn bytes streaming to the epiphany of evolution at the other end, chezus KRIST we are screwed! You know what? I bet those people who joined a sect to go to a "better" place in fact DID go to a better place, anything is better than here, or anywhere, for fuck sake - take me away from this goddamn place.

Oh, btw. - thanks for all the fish!

Mutation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689612)

I wish they would stop calling it mutation like something new never seen before suddenly appeared in our DNA - which is contrary to almost every new discovery about how our DNA changes over time. Too many of these people still beleive Darwin's Finches actually "evolved" new beak shapes. In fact, the finches beak shapes where already coded in their DNA and methylation of the DNA allowed their evironmental adaption (not mutation) to be inherited by their offspring. No mutation required. In fact, adaptions inherited through methylation can disappear after a few generations if they are no longer beneficial. Yet Darwin's Finches were the undisputed proof of evolution in textbooks when I took biology in college a few decades ago.

In human "evolution" grandparenting became a survival factor because the knowledge obtained from grandparents taught to children and adults was more valuable then the energy grandparents consumed. Our longer lives are mostly due to our hairlessness (boosting our immune systems) and increased levels of superoxide dismutase (slowing aging) - neither of which required a new mutation. Our larger brain capacity augmented the passing of knowledge between generations. But increasing the size of something we already have doesn't require mutation. For example, men produce testosterone in varying amounts. If having more testosterone proves to be beneficial then those who have more will survive passing the trait to have more testosterone to their offspring. No mutation required.

A true mutation has so little chance of being beneficial in a complex biological organism as to be almost beyond belief. So I doubt the rapid changes we have seen during the last 50,000 years has had anything to do with evolution; we are just adapting rapidly as traits we already have are being emphasized.

It's Amazing We're Not the Only Animals Left (1)

mqduck (232646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21689654)

By virtue of our aesthetic and utilitarian preferences we ourselves have been responsible for molding the present human form and consciousness.
Uh, doesn't that apply to all other animals too? There's a reason, say, flying squirrels don't run around humping anything at random, or humping sick and dying flying squirrels. I suppose we have the probably somewhat special ability to reason who the mate best able to care for young, as simply understanding what people need to do to do well in human society requires a certain amount of reason.

But last I heard, there were some pretty awesome lizards with three different types of males in a complicated competition between them that all adds up to great evolutionary fun. Maybe when we genetically alter ourselves to take that lizard trait we'll be something special. But when it comes to procreation, we're just apes, man.

duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689682)

This is called sexual selection and is nothing new. Darwin wrote about it extensively.

Self Selection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21689726)

I've been self selecting for so long I'm facing extinction.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?