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Future Human Evolution

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Postby alextemplet » Tue May 05, 2009 1:56 pm

Maybe I'm just being paranoid here, but I'm of the opinion that tinkering with our genome like this is one Pandora's box we're better off not messing with.
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Re: Future Human Evolution

Postby skeptic » Wed May 06, 2009 12:08 am

alex

Lots of people feel the same way you do. My own opinion is that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Once we learn to carry out the basics, we will first use the new technology to reduce disease, and hence reduce human suffering. Already some genetic ills can be avoided by embryo selection. In due course, our capabilities will increase to permit disease prevention by selective gene insertion. Given the choice between bearing a child with hemophilia or cystic fibrosis etc., or a simple gene insertion resulting in a healthy child, most parents would go for the latter.

Only later, when the technology is well developed, will we use it for more 'trivial' purposes, such as making sure the child's nose is straight. However, for lots of people cursed with physical defects making them 'ugly', such may not seem trivial.
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Postby alextemplet » Wed May 06, 2009 1:27 am

I suppose I wouldn't be against curing any diseases, but gene therapy for purely cosmetic purposes seems a bit over the line, in my opinion.

Although I am reminded of a form of genetic modification described in David Weber's Honor Harrington sci-fi series. The idea was to use a virus (in the book, it's a variant of the common cold) to alter the genome of an entire population. The virus inserts its DNA into the the host as per virus SOP, and the modified genes bond with the person's DNA and become part of his genome. The person then spreads the modification to other people by passing along the virus, as viruses usually do. Not sure how well it would work in the real world, but it's certainly an interesting concept.
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Postby Tramadolian » Wed Jun 17, 2009 11:29 pm

isnt human reproduction closer to selective breeding than natural selection ?
good looking people mate with other good looking people . ugly people mate with ugly people . so humans will get uglier and more handsome - a wider range of handsome .

im a biology ignorant 12th grade educated guy , so be easy on me
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Re:

Postby alextemplet » Wed Jun 17, 2009 11:40 pm

Tramadolian wrote:isnt human reproduction closer to selective breeding than natural selection ?
good looking people mate with other good looking people . ugly people mate with ugly people . so humans will get uglier and more handsome - a wider range of handsome .

im a biology ignorant 12th grade educated guy , so be easy on me


I really don't think that's true that beautiful people only mate with beautiful people. Certainly there's some cases where it happens, but a lot of people seem to look for a lot more than good looks in a partner. I wouldn't say it's selective breeding in the same way that term applies to domesticated dogs, and while it may not be exactly random on a personal level, on a population-wide level, it might actually appear random. I don't know if anyone's ever done a study on what types of people are likely to marry whom (someone, somewhere, probably has), but that would be interesting to investigate.
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Postby Tramadolian » Wed Jun 17, 2009 11:54 pm

funny movie called Idiocracy where stupid people outbreed smart people

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e2OEgafELw
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Postby AstusAleator » Thu Jun 18, 2009 12:20 am

not actually funny. In fact... it's ridiculous and asinine. It COULD have been hillarious. Good concept, bad acting, really dumb jokes.
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Postby futurezoologist » Fri Jun 19, 2009 3:13 pm

I don't know if anyone's ever done a study on what types of people are likely to marry whom (someone, somewhere, probably has), but that would be interesting to investigate.


Many have been done in the animal kingdom and out conclusions have brought us back to good old primordial instincts - large hips, big breasts etc. - suggesting fertility, same goes with males - the females are looking for the guys who have the most advantageous genes, of course this trend is becoming less relevant as we change our environment to suit our bodies rather than the other way around.


funny movie called Idiocracy where stupid people outbreed smart people


Quite an interesting topic this one, presumably the dumber ones breed faster than the smarter ones(quite an amazing adaptation) but the dumber ones are dumber...=lower chance of survival, considering that as a 'dumb' one you dont need to be alive very long to have lots of kids, we have a situtation that needs investigation. This could be an interesting topic for someone to start.

(very sleepy, sorry for any errors)
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Postby AstusAleator » Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:48 pm

Regardless of how the movie portrays it, here's what I find a "plausible" scenario.

"dumb" people breed faster and make up a larger portion of the population. "Smart" people persist and form an elite class, only breeding with other "smart" people. "Smart" people become the ruling class, while "dumb" people do the grunt-work. The disparity between the two classes grows even more exaggerated. Eventually the "dumb" population becomes too large for the "smart" population to control The "dumb" people rise up and overthrow the "smart" people. At this point the smarter "dumb" people may decide to keep the "smart" people as slaves in order to help them run the society, or they may just kill off the "smart" people. Either way, we enter a dark-age.
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Re: Future Human Evolution

Postby skeptic » Sat Jun 20, 2009 4:50 am

I go back to my earlier post. While the evolutionary trends suggested here are certainly plausible, I think that they will be overwhelmed with the effects of future genetic manipulation. Why should 'dumb' people become more common if the genes for intelligence become known and available for genetic manipulation?

And the cost will come down. Any new technology begins very expensive and later becomes much cheaper. What parent would not do what is needed to give their kids the best start in life? If that involves a little genetic manipulation to make them smart, healthy, athletic and good looking, then parents will do it.

Over many generations, guess what humanity will be like? Dumb aint it!
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Re: Future Human Evolution

Postby AFJ » Sat Jun 20, 2009 11:33 am

Maybe I'm just being paranoid here, but I'm of the opinion that tinkering with our genome like this is one Pandora's box we're better off not messing with.


I have to agree with you Alex, but you know we will do it and already are. We just can't help ourselves. To leave a room locked and never look in it is not human nature.
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Re: Future Human Evolution

Postby skeptic » Sat Jun 20, 2009 9:44 pm

The Pandora's Box argument is not terribly valid. It is based on a logical flaw I call 'argument by slogan.' A bit like the NRA arguments in favour of liberal gun laws, where they say 'Guns do not kill people. People kill people.' In other words, using a slogan as if it were a logical argument.

Better to look at history and derive your conclusions from proven historic trends. Humans have been tampering with a vast range of 'natural' things for a long, long time. Today, human life in the West is very unnatural. People are conceived using techniques for tampering with fertility. They are born in hospitals. Grow up in unnatural suburbia, treated with a wide range of unnatural medical methods, and eating unnatural processed food. They live in unnatural air conditioned environments, and their recreation is mostly highly unnatural.

The end result is a degree of good health and longevity that is unmatched by any time in history or pre-history. Not perfect - we get some undesirable side effects such as obesity. However, even that is temporary, with a range of new medications on the way to control our excessive appetites.

If we could come up with an objective and numerical measure of 'natural-ness', we could draw a graph of human lifespan versus naturalness over time, which would show an exact inverse correlation. ie. The less natural our conditions, the longer we live. This relationship is very long term ( at least 10,000 years to the invention of agriculture) and is, if anything, getting stronger.

By simple extension of this principle, combined with a smattering of common sense, I predict that genetic manipulation of the human genome will increase human welfare. As we become even less natural, human health, longevity, and other positive factors will continue to increase.
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