Human evolution (Still happening?)

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.

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Comments (6)

  1. bobbycopher

    You are on the right track. IMO, humans are the evolution of consciousness not the other way around.

    June 29, 2012
  2. stevehayes13

    ‘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.’ Who are the scientists making this claim?

    June 29, 2012
  3. georgetsmurf

    It is not generally scientists that “make this claim” just people that write their ideas on evolution-hence the idea that humans are no longer subject to evolution by natural selection is not a sound emperically falsifiable concept, just conjecture. Even Richard Darkins hinted in the June/July 2012 COSMOS that there are people out there saying this but didn’t mention any names.

    June 29, 2012
    1. stevehayes13

      Well, the first sentence would seem to be misleading then. The only reputable Biologist that I can think of who may have suggested such a thing is Professor Steve Jones, who is an expert on snails, is now retired, and delivered his speculations on the notion that human evolution may be slowing down in an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph, if my memory serves me well.

      However, be that as it may. The notion the theory of evolution applies to cultural, and/or psychological, progress is a category error. Just to illustrate: over the past thirty thousand years, there has been no perceptible evolutionary change in the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens. However, that same period has seen the development of agriculture, writing, mathematics, science, civilisation, medicine, the rule of law, reductions in violence of several orders of magnitude, etc, etc. These achievements were not outcomes of evolution: they were the result of cultural progress.

      June 29, 2012
  4. Nephele

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    Dear George, I am sorry about the ‘Re-Posting’ of this; I’d much have preferred to just reply ‘here’ – but the limitations of this option I find utterly inadequate and, honestly, I think my contributions to Thoughts.com may be near the end. The new revisions to the Site make Posting & Replying here far, far more work and time-consuming than it should ever be. Please pardon if my style and language should strike you in any way as ‘offensive’ – I’m extremely tired and now a bit frustrated too. To cause you any offense is the furthest thing from my thoughts and intent. Warm regards, A link to the ‘Re-Post’ … http://nephele.thoughts.com/posts/human-evolution-still-happening—3

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    June 29, 2012
  5. georgetsmurf

    This response is to stevehayes13 re your suggestion that “over the last 30 thousand years there has been no perceptible change in human evolution”-I beg to differ on that point as any change in gene frequency within the the genome is a potential change in evolution as it means the chances of a trait of higher gene frequency has a better chance of surviving if and when natural selection dictate that the trait is better able to survive as environments dictate it’s opportunity for such success. I also do not get why you say "cultural and/or psychological progress is a category error " ?
    Of course natural selection can work on cultural, psychological entities as these things are the result of the expression of human consciousness which is predominantly an expression of the genome.

    July 10, 2012