Stuart Smith on human evolution

Charlie Bell charlie.bell at cbr.for.csiro.au
Tue Apr 25 23:22:19 EST 1995


>I got no comments on my last article so here goes again:
>
>Unless I'm mistaken, evolution is based on the one basic principle that that
>individual who has a higher probability of creating more ospring will
propagate >(basically).

No! Especially if the offspring are sterile or all die before reproducing.
It seems you are talking about the concept of "survival of the fittest".
This simply means that over a period of time (many generations) some sets of
inherited traits survive while others do not. 
Humans now have so much control over their own environment that I hesitate
to accept that we are still evolving in a Darwinian sense at all. If we make
our environment suit us, then there is little pressure for, or advantage
from, change. We can ADAPT to our environment (or our environment to us)
rather than having to evolve.
If we accept that competition within our species will lead to some traits
out-competing others, then it is likely the winners will have an improved
ability to control available resources for the benefit of their offspring
(political power, money, clean air and water) rather than simply trying to
out breed the competition.
If we compete as individuals, then favourable traits may include greed,
selfishness, cunning etc. If communities work for common good, then
favourable traits are likely to include teamwork, conservation, peacefull
coexistence etc. The sort of things that we already value as "good" in
nearly all societies.

>Characteristics 
>develop in a strain of species if they make these probabilities more
>favourable.
>
>So what about us humans then?
>What characteristics make us MORE likely to have MORE children? NONE! 
>take a few examples:
>
>intelligence:	no bearing. Intelligent people are just as likely to have as many
>kids as
>		less intelligent people. If there is a relation with wealth, then one could
>		even argue that less intelligent (poor?) people have MORE kids because
>		of their situation, history, etc.
>stength:		obviously no bearing. What about if we take it to mean, more
>generally
>		"well-being". Well, a couple of hundred years ago, maybe. The weak 
>		minded, physically deformed or disabled were unlikely to have, or be 
>		allowed to have children. But now our society protects them from the 
>		"laws of nature". I would argue that they are as likely to have as many
>		children as anyone else.
>
>Since our society protects those strains which may otherwise have died out, and
>supresses
>those strains which may prosper, evolution is surely dead.
>
>No STAR TREK like future, no world harmony, no increasing of our mind power,
>6th sense, etc. 
>It seems that the socio-economic environment that evolution saw fit to drive us
>to has had the side-effect of killing itself off.
>I am no neo-nazi. I believe it is right that we should all have a equal chance,
>etc. Neither do
>I champion some forced selction, ala Hitler. After all, who picks the traits?
>It is however something I I think we should be aware of. Jo Public seems to
>have this
>view of human evolution based on technology rather than biology. This is wrong.
>It is man 
>that starts wars, starves his fellow man, etc. Not technology. It is this man
>who can NEVER
>change.
>
>Stu

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Charlie Bell              Phone 06-2818324 (International) +616-2818324
CSIRO                     Fax   06-2818312 (International) +616-2818312
Division of Forestry      E-mail charlie.bell at cbr.for.csiro.au
PO Box 4008 QVT
Canberra ACT 2600
Australia
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