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Author Topic:   Is the evolution of modern man going to stop
Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 19 of 107 (630405)
08-25-2011 2:32 AM


My thought on this question is that selection is still very much in play today. Some people have children while others do not and some people are still more desirable partners than others. If you survive long enough to have children, if you succeed in having children, and if your children have children, then you are an evolutionary success, otherwise you are a failure.

As a first simple thought, those in our society are wealthy are probably being selected for ultimate success. The traits that make someone wealthy and produce children will most likely be selected for, while the traits that make someone poor and without children will be selected against.

Are things like economics natural selection? Who in the world believes that humanity is somehow above nature? Our wars and our economic injustices are evolution at work.


Replies to this message:
 Message 22 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-25-2011 4:18 AM Tanus has responded

  
Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 43 of 107 (630460)
08-25-2011 12:27 PM
Reply to: Message 27 by Larni
08-25-2011 4:46 AM


There is a general rule (with definite exceptions) that as humans become wealthier and more educated, they have fewer children. Europe and the US would be below replacement level if there were no immigration. The traits that lead to an educated population have components that are selected against. The fact is that evolution and genetics are complex and still not all that well understood.

This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 48 by Larni, posted 08-25-2011 2:19 PM Tanus has responded

  
Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 44 of 107 (630462)
08-25-2011 12:33 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by Dr Adequate
08-25-2011 4:15 AM


Is it really fair to ask for math? I have written a number of technical papers and I am published in technical journals so I sadly know the work involved in modeling. While all of us would welcome quantification in a forum like this, it is unrealistic to expect mathematical models in these posts. This sort of writing is about shooting from the hip.

This is not to say that I would not welcome seeing a good spreadsheet or two.


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 Message 21 by Dr Adequate, posted 08-25-2011 4:15 AM Dr Adequate has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 46 by Panda, posted 08-25-2011 12:48 PM Tanus has responded
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Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 45 of 107 (630463)
08-25-2011 12:36 PM
Reply to: Message 22 by Dr Adequate
08-25-2011 4:18 AM


The implication here is that some gene combinations will increase the chances of wealth, while other gene combinations will reduce the chances of wealth.

An organism and a population are a product of genes, culture, environment, and congenital conditions. However, it is fair to say that some genes will impact wealth.


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Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 47 of 107 (630465)
08-25-2011 12:54 PM
Reply to: Message 46 by Panda
08-25-2011 12:48 PM


Yes, asking for a link to mathematical evidence is fair.

I made my argument based on similar conversations I have had in which people wanted me to back up my thought experiments with numbers and while getting those numbers would be possible, it would take more than forty hours of hard research and number crunching.

Sometimes even just finding sources to back up my statements takes such a long time.


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 Message 46 by Panda, posted 08-25-2011 12:48 PM Panda has acknowledged this reply

  
Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 57 of 107 (630508)
08-25-2011 9:46 PM
Reply to: Message 48 by Larni
08-25-2011 2:19 PM


Thanks for the warm welcome that I have received from a number of people.

Larni, you say that you do not believe that there is a correlation between education and number of offspring (fertility). Do you have a source for this? Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the topic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertility_and_intelligence

I don't like the word intelligence because the measurement of it is so controversial, so I prefer the much more measurable 'education'. Anyway, the inverse correlation between fertility and education has been noted in many times and places.

Some will argue that this results in a limit on how educated a population can become because the less educated are always winning the demographic battle with the more educated.


This message is a reply to:
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 Message 58 by Larni, posted 08-26-2011 7:31 AM Tanus has responded

  
Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 59 of 107 (630594)
08-26-2011 3:00 PM
Reply to: Message 58 by Larni
08-26-2011 7:31 AM


Larni,

You mention correlation versus causation and I do not dispute that. The correlations are not too controversial and I am not prepared yet to say what is the cause and what is the effect.

I am definitely not saying that humans are becoming dumber. My guess is that the negative correlation between fertility and IQ serves to lower the ultimate IQs that humans can reach. If the correlation were positive, then we would probably see IQs rise higher than the current average until a new steady state was reached. Average IQs are probably where they are now, because dumb people throughout history have not been good at keeping their children alive long enough the have grandchildren. Average people have the highest fertility, and smart people seem to get distracted by other pursuits than regular sex and raising children. Of course these are generalities. There are exceptions, but the generalities seem to drive the overall trends.


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Replies to this message:
 Message 62 by Larni, posted 08-26-2011 4:22 PM Tanus has responded
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Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


(1)
Message 60 of 107 (630598)
08-26-2011 3:42 PM


My thoughts on selection and evolution
The question of this thread is "is evolution taking place right now?"

I would most definitely answer yes and argue that evolution is much faster today than ever before.

Evolution is just the slow change of organisms over time. It has two main drivers which are:

1 mutations
2 selection

Mutations are the random changes in genes that occur due to mutagens such as radiation and chemicals in the environment. By the way, when I talk about mutagens in the environment, I am not thinking about recent environmental problems such as industrial pollution or radiation from nuclear reactors, I am thinking of environmental toxins that have always been present in the natural environment. Mutations can also occur due to blind chance. The important thing to remember is that each organism that reproduces has a certain chance of a mutation. The more organisms and reproductive events that there are, the greater the total number of mutations. I would argue that more mutations are occurring today than ever before. I say this not because there are more mutagens in the environment, but because humans are having more children than ever before. For this reason, more than any other, evolution has sped up.

The second important factor in evolution is selection. Both natural and human driven selection will drive evolution. The only question we must ask is, do some types of organism tend to reproduce to have children and grandchildren than other types? If the answer is yes, then evolution is moving forward.

For the sake of this post, I will define natural selection as anything other than humans willfully choosing one type over another. An example of human selection would be wars or genocides that choose to kill off a certain type of person. Sometimes is is not clear whether selection is natural or artificial; does sex selection count?

We know that blue eyes are a mutation that occurred only about six thousand years ago. Before that time, all humans had brown eyes. The blue gene spread so quickly throughout human populations that we know there was a strong selection pressure. It is unclear whether blue eyes provide a physical advantage or whether they are influenced by sex selection. Some evolutionary biologists believe that most humans find blue eyes more attractive and thus blue eyed people have more success at mating. Support for this theory is provided in that by far more blue colored contact lenses are sold than brown colored contact lenses. The question is this, is human sex selection natural or artificial? Are people even consciously aware that they are doing it?

People say that modern medicine and welfare have slowed down or stopped evolution, but let's quote the bible for a moment. Jesus said, "the poor will always be with us" and they are. We have experienced a several hundred year run of extreme wealth in the US, but that is nothing new. Human history has always recorded that there are fat years and lean years. There are always times of feast and famine. For instance, it is well known that the people who die in wars tend to more often be poor than rich. The people who die in famines and plagues also tend to be poor. Human history is a several thousand year record of events that tend to kill off more poor people than rich people. All of the events that you see in the news where people die are evolution at work.

In the 20th century it seems that nearly everyone in the US had plentiful food and healthcare, but this was a temporary illusion. The veil was briefly lifted in the 1930s and was well recorded in the book "Grapes of Wrath". Recent economic events in the US should make it clear that natural and artificial selection are still very much in play.


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Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 61 of 107 (630600)
08-26-2011 4:01 PM
Reply to: Message 60 by Tanus
08-26-2011 3:42 PM


Re: My thoughts on selection and evolution
I want to add something about natural and artificial selection.

If genetic engineering ever becomes common, will the natural component of evolution disappear? The answer is a definite and loud, NO!

Even if all reproduction were in vitro genetic engineering, natural selection would still very much be in play. With anything in the universe, there are many more wrong ways to do things than right ways. Cars have round tines and not triangular or square tires because those shapes just don't work. That is natural selection of cars. Cars also have a shape that we call streamlined because it moves through air better. Streamlined shapes can also be found on birds and dolphins because it works better in this universe. Streamlining is another example of natural selection in cars.

Two features that separate humans from other animals are our brains and our social structures. There are many changes that we could make to humans because we think that they are better that would just not work because nature has been working on human brains and social institutions for so long. We will likely make efforts at creating better humans in the future and we will make numerous attempts that just don't work because the new humans will be sickly, crazy (cognitive mistakes), or unfit for society. All of these failures at genetic engineering will be examples of natural selection.

In short, genetic engineering may very well be a different type of mutation and not a different type of selection.


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Replies to this message:
 Message 63 by Taq, posted 08-26-2011 4:39 PM Tanus has responded

  
Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 64 of 107 (630689)
08-26-2011 11:46 PM
Reply to: Message 62 by Larni
08-26-2011 4:22 PM


Larni,

The positive correlation I was talking about is fertility and education. If the correlation were positive, then smarter (more educated) people would have more children than poorer people and this cycle would be reinforcing. However, the correlation we see is negative so that smarter people have fewer children and the overall population does not become smarter. What I am talking about is a matter of natural selection, which is on the scale of several centuries or thousands of years.

The Flynn effect has been observed over a period of decades and it is thus assumed to be environmental and not genetic. My understanding of the Flynn effect is that people are getting smarter because of a change in the environment such as better nutrition, better healthcare, or an increased emphasis on education due to a wealthier population. None of these are due to evolution.

For those who want to read more on the Flynn effect, here is a link to the Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect


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Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 65 of 107 (630692)
08-27-2011 12:04 AM
Reply to: Message 63 by Taq
08-26-2011 4:39 PM


Re: My thoughts on selection and evolution
Taq,

I'll try to take your points one by one:

I view the natural component of evolution to be the random production of variation and the filtering of that variation through the human environment. If genetic engineering allowed us to determine the genomes of offspring, down to every base in that genome, then that component would be gone.

You are talking about natural mutations here, but more often, people talk about natural selection. What I am arguing is that genetic engineering is replacing natural mutations with artificial mutations (i.e. genetic engineering).

I am further arguing that natural selection is just what works in a particular environment versus what doesn't work. Human selection might be that we want a dog with black and white stripes. However, natural selection is the process of finding out whether the black and white striped dog works. Is that dog sickly or in some way unfit? Genetic engineering does not get rid of nature deciding whether a created organism is fit or unfit for its environment.

One of the most interesting and most powerful mechanisms in evolution is the disconnect between the production of variation and the needs of the organism. This type of problem solving arrives at very strange but effective solutions, solutions that human engineers would probably never come up with as part of a rational design process. On the same note, human engineers are starting to take advantage of evolutionary mechanisms in their designs as part of genetic algorithms.

You and I agree completely about this.

I would argue that it is the relationship between the production of mutations and selection that makes evolution what it is.

Again, you and I agree.

Evolution is currently about natural mutations, which create new variations and natural selection which weeds out the bad while leaving the good.

I am arguing that genetic engineering replaces mutations in creating new variations. In genetic engineering there is also some artificial selection, but nature still has the final word in what works and what doesn't. If genetic engineering creates a human with a weak heart, or one that cannot fit into a social group, then an unfit organism has been created and nature will make sure that it does not thrive.

With genetic engineering, humans will create organisms, but nature will still stamp the organism as fit or unfit.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 63 by Taq, posted 08-26-2011 4:39 PM Taq has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 66 by Taq, posted 08-29-2011 3:35 PM Tanus has responded

  
Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 68 of 107 (631766)
09-02-2011 10:51 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by Taq
08-29-2011 3:35 PM


Re: My thoughts on selection and evolution
What if we base fitness on genotype and not phenotype? What then?

That is a good question, what then? I don't have an answer., so I am curious to hear what you think.

One question worth asking is how often genotype is really different than phenotype. Often an organism with a single recessive gene shows a difference from an organism with zero recessive genes.

It seems that your concern is with humans selecting for genes that are not obvious. You make a good point that this would be different from what nature normally does. I doubt that humans would genetically change the human population in just a few generations. If we screw up the genome, there will still be a lot of wild type humans to keep the gene pool robust. In other words, if genetic engineering creates screwed up genes and some sort of fad makes them popular, nature will still be weeding out the mistakes and allowing the good genes to continue on.


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Tanus
Junior Member (Idle past 3449 days)
Posts: 17
Joined: 08-25-2011


Message 69 of 107 (631767)
09-02-2011 10:58 PM
Reply to: Message 67 by caffeine
08-31-2011 7:26 AM


Re: Evolving to be dumb
Your point is well taken. I like the question of which has more great grandchildren. Of course we would need to isolate a high IQ population from a low IQ, because interbreeding would confound the results.

All of the article that I have read just mention IQ and fertility which is a measure of live births; however, I believe that the fertility measure looks at all age groups so children born later in life would be counted. I think the low fertility numbers accurately reflect people that never had children at any age.


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Replies to this message:
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