There is a lot of talk in the scientific community to suggest that because we manipulate our own environment we are no longer subject to evolution by natural selection. I strongly dissagree with this belief as I see that our consciousness too is a expression of our genes (albeit moulded by culture, environment, religian etc) and has shaped our evolution for hundreds of thousands of years already and is still a major attribute that natural selection can work on/with. Look at it this way-we did not come across the benefits of utelising the likes of fire and tool use by accident. Fires may have happened initially by accident ie lightning etc but it took the development of our brains to realise that warmed or cooked food benefits us in the efficiency that it gives us in nutrient efficasy. This can also be said for the utelisation of tools. Our ancestors that used these new found skills would have had a better chance of passing down their genes but it was not the use of fire or the use of tools that made it happen it was the conscious thought that enable such useage. Nowadays we have developed many technologies that enable us to choose which gene sets can be allowed in the next generation. Women can choose knowen attributes that they want in their offspring by knowing attributes of donors. We can selectively genetically modify the DNA of future offspring by knowing the expression that certain gene sequencies deliver. we even have the technology to clone humans (as far as I know we have not used such technology as yet). All of these things may been seen as a basis for cultural evolution but in my opinion this is not the case. It is the conscious use of such technologies that natural selection works on if the results are found to be inconsistent with survival of the gene carriers. From an evolutionary perspective, consciousness is like any other trait. It exists as a variable trait in around 7.8 billion gene sets world wide (the earth's human population). It's expression is collective albeit variable throughout the world. What one culture may see as a "good" expression of a trait manipulated by technology maybe deleterious for the gene expression in another culture or environment hence natural selection is controlling the frequency of it's distribution. as you can see I am passionate about this topic and interested in the thoughts of others.
George T. B.Sc.,Biology (grad 1990) Wollongong university NSW Australia.