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#1 Qwickdraw

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 11:43 AM

So here are my thoughts of the last couple days.
Are humans inadvertently skewing the natural selection process by artificially allowing disease to continue in humans to the point that procreation is not hindered. Lets take diabetes for example. Are we promoting the disease by allowing those with it to have offspring after their normal termination would occur? I am not suggesting any different course of action ATM as I am a diabetic but just looking for wondering if we are missing the larger picture.
Any thoughts?

#2 starbux

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 12:19 PM

Well this probably isn't the best forum for that question, but I am inclined to agree with your observation. Increased longevity has in many ways opened up cans of worms for society and humanity.


#3 Qwickdraw

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 12:32 PM

Interesting, I didn't think of it on terms of negative social behaviors being catered to hence increasing the same tendencies of slothfulness, alcoholism, etc. I certainly feel we as a society are obligated to take care for those who through no fault of their own are unable to but if it is a conscience choice, I can easily say too bad.

#4 FirstSight

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 01:38 PM

CAUTION: This thread involves subject-matter which offers worthwhile territory for discussion within CN's TOS, but which is potentially vulnerable to interjection of political hot-button tangents which are not. Another potential problem area that's inherent to the subject-matter is if it wanders off into eugenics, i.e. mandated selection of eligibility for further procreation of the human gene pool.

That said, this is the Science forum, where the member-participants presumably are, by self-selective interest in the typically more challenging technical issues involved in threads here, more likely to be able to maintain a self-disciplined, objective inquiry over a more extended discussion than the average bear. Please help prove us right, and keep the CN TOS in mind when you post to this thread.

#5 rockethead26

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 01:48 PM

Good point, Quickdraw. NPR just had a discussion on this the other day. A couple of points were made that seemed rather logical.

1) Our disease control efforts will most likely have a long term effect on the natural evolution of our species. People with diseases that would have led to sickness or death before procreation are now fewer in number and natural selection is hindered, keeping those defective genes in the pool when they should have been weeded out. Long term effects? Who knows.

2) We are the first species on Earth who has stopped (or almost stopped) adapting to our environment and started adapting the environment to suit our needs. This comes with all the associated dire consequences for the rest of the planet's species and most likely, our own.

#6 Qwickdraw

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 02:26 PM

Thanks for the caution Firstsite. I knew going into this that it was subject to much abuse but this is after all a science forum. An interesting topic (at least to me) if it can be kept under the TOS.

#7 Qwickdraw

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 02:27 PM

Rocket, no, I didn't hear of this discussion but it would appear I may be a genetics genius even reviling jarad? :jump:

#8 shawnhar

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 05:41 PM

So here are my thoughts of the last couple days.
Are humans inadvertently skewing the natural selection process by artificially allowing disease to continue in humans to the point that procreation is not hindered. Lets take diabetes for example. Are we promoting the disease by allowing those with it to have offspring after their normal termination would occur? I am not suggesting any different course of action ATM as I am a diabetic but just looking for wondering if we are missing the larger picture.
Any thoughts?


Yes, without a doubt. BUT....
Look on the bright side. Nature will always come up with new and wonderful ways to kill us. :)
Humans have been un-naturally changing the course of their own evolution for about 10,000 years now. The abiltiy to digest cow's milk, lighter skin to produce more vitiman C from the Sun, lots of things have changed and are passed on through the genes, but even though some individuals reproduce that would not have in an earlier time does not, in my opinion, lead to more disease. I used to think that the gene pool was being "weakened" by this reproduction of folks that in the past would have died before passing on genes, but now I view it as a gene diversification, which can only be good for the population in the long run.
Actual statistics are very weird, at least to me. In 1997 more people died from diarrhoea than HIV/Aids, that's just weird to me, a person that lives in a "modern/civilized" society where almost no one dies from dehydration due to the runs.
http://www.who.int/w...tre/50facts/en/

#9 Qwickdraw

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 07:16 PM

Yes, without a doubt. BUT....
Look on the bright side. Nature will always come up with new and wonderful ways to kill us. :)


Yes, now I feel better :foreheadslap:

#10 Jay_Bird

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 07:33 PM

Humanity's effect on and control of environment, or vaccines and disease eradication, pre-natal and neo-natal care, the 'green revolution', and more are all *more reasonable* topics for how natural selection is being blunted in some ways, but sharply resurgent in others like antibiotic resistance or migrating disease vectors.

The "us vs. them" intra-human-species social judgments (unlike 150-years proven Natural Selection as the engine for inter-specific competition driving evolution) do not survive scrutiny as well, so better to avoid that pitfall.

#11 Jarad

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 05:17 AM

Look on the bright side. Nature will always come up with new and wonderful ways to kill us.


...but sharply resurgent in others like antibiotic resistance


Yep.
CDC Antimicrobial Resistance Threat Report

Jarad

#12 mich_al

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 07:14 AM

Look on the bright side. Nature will always come up with new and wonderful ways to kill us.



... and there are also the ways we come up with, outside of nature, to kill ourselves (car accidents, wars, etc).

#13 Qwickdraw

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 11:56 AM

Look on the bright side. Nature will always come up with new and wonderful ways to kill us.


...but sharply resurgent in others like antibiotic resistance


Yep.
CDC Antimicrobial Resistance Threat Report

Jarad


But isn't this opposite of what I am suggesting? Bacteria , microbes etc becoming resistant to antibiotics will promote more deaths and shortening lifespans. I am referring to lifespans being lengthened long enough to procreate thereby skewing natural selection negatively, disease becomes more prevalent due to genetic disorders being passed on when they naturally would not be.

In your example it is the microorganism itself with is mutating causing more deaths, in my example it is humans deferring death and passing disorders on to their offspring.

Is this the same process because it does not seem like it to me.

#14 WaterMaster

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 12:25 PM

Preventing pre-reproductive death in offspring by disease prevention is mechanistically no different than any other 'invention' that promotes survival. As shawnhar mentioned, that's been going on for a while now. Agriculture, spears, and even fire all increased individual Darwinian fitness.

While we have decoupled some of our reproductive success from natural selection, the universe is a dynamic place. I believe the challenge to human survival will be our ability to provide technological answers to a universe that is bound to eventually be inhospitable to us in a timely manner.

#15 FirstSight

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 02:32 PM

I am referring to lifespans being lengthened long enough to procreate thereby skewing natural selection negatively...


When I was about 13, I briefly had a friend whom my father disapproved of and advised me not to hang around with. My dad said: "Chris, that guy's poor protoplasm."

#16 petrus45

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 04:59 PM

Interesting question. I wonder what would happen if there were a worldwide EMP. How many humans would be "fit" to survive without scientific and technological infrastructure?

You also should take into account the very non-darwinian-seeming culling of hardy offspring which otherwise would be conceived and survive, due to advances in family planning science over the past 100 years. Arguably conception "mistakes" are the fittest offspring of all, for they come into existence despite the parents' desire to the contrary. So, due to modern science, you have both a positive pressure on less "fit" offspring, and a negative pressure on "fitter" offspring. I wonder if there would be any way to scientifically gauge how much the overall "fitness" of the human race has declined. Or, more precisely, how much human "fitness" has become adapted to, symbiotic with, and dependent upon, modern technology.

#17 Mxplx2

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 06:49 PM

Humans left physical prowess in the dust when they figured out mental prowess ensured survival, so controlling physical maladies should have little effect on human survival I would think.

#18 UND_astrophysics

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 06:59 PM

Interesting question. I wonder what would happen if there were a worldwide EMP. How many humans would be "fit" to survive without scientific and technological infrastructure?

You also should take into account the very non-darwinian-seeming culling of hardy offspring which otherwise would be conceived and survive, due to advances in family planning science over the past 100 years. Arguably conception "mistakes" are the fittest offspring of all, for they come into existence despite the parents' desire to the contrary. So, due to modern science, you have both a positive pressure on less "fit" offspring, and a negative pressure on "fitter" offspring. I wonder if there would be any way to scientifically gauge how much the overall "fitness" of the human race has declined. Or, more precisely, how much human "fitness" has become adapted to, symbiotic with, and dependent upon, modern technology.


You obviously have confused Spencer and Fisher with Darwin. Social Darwinism and Darwinism are two completely different things, and well you are veering subtly into divisive politics.

#19 Jarad

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 07:36 PM

Technology has certainly changed what we select for in terms of "fitness". Without technology, I would be dead several times over. I was born by emergency C-section, I would have been stillborn without modern medicine. I have had a severe case of pneumonia that would probably have been fatal without antibiotics. I am very nearsighted, I would never have survived in a hunter-gatherer society without glasses.

But our society selects for other things, now. The ability to work in a group, to figure things out, to communicate clearly and persuasively, to use technology to improve our lives in various ways.

Is that bad? Well, it is different. That doesn't mean we are "less fit" than our ancestors were. We are by definition fit enough to have survived in our environment. The fact that we use technology to alter it to suit us is part of that fitness.

Will the future continue to select for the same things? Probably not - the link I gave above is an example of challenges coming our way. We are running out of effective antibiotics - bacteria are becoming resistant faster than we are discovering new ones. Maybe that will push to discover new ones faster. Or maybe we will focus more on bacterial vaccines instead of antibiotics (which happens to be what I work on). Or maybe we will have some major outbreaks that will kill a large percentage of our population and only leave behind those who are naturally resistant.

Certainly we could not support the current population without technology. Without modern agriculture and transporation, there would not be enough food to support much more than 1/10 the current world population. We have used our brains to improve our access to resources in many ways. Yes, we rely on our bodies less, but that doesn't necessarily make us "less fit". We are using different means to achieve our survival. As long as it works, we are fit enough.

Jarad

#20 petrus45

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 07:46 PM

Interesting question. I wonder what would happen if there were a worldwide EMP. How many humans would be "fit" to survive without scientific and technological infrastructure?

You also should take into account the very non-darwinian-seeming culling of hardy offspring which otherwise would be conceived and survive, due to advances in family planning science over the past 100 years. Arguably conception "mistakes" are the fittest offspring of all, for they come into existence despite the parents' desire to the contrary. So, due to modern science, you have both a positive pressure on less "fit" offspring, and a negative pressure on "fitter" offspring. I wonder if there would be any way to scientifically gauge how much the overall "fitness" of the human race has declined. Or, more precisely, how much human "fitness" has become adapted to, symbiotic with, and dependent upon, modern technology.


You obviously have confused Spencer and Fisher with Darwin. Social Darwinism and Darwinism are two completely different things, and well you are veering subtly into divisive politics.


Who are Spencer and Fisher? And what is social darwinism? I'm talking about reproducing species that mature to reproductive potential, and then produce another generation, propagating their genetic information. There's nothing "social darwinism" about that. It's straight up galapagos turtle snapping, sooty white moth pecking Chuck Darwin.

#21 UND_astrophysics

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 09:46 PM

You have got to be kidding. You do not know what social Darwinism is? You cited an example in your previous post. I guess that is the problem. Survival of the fittest is a term coined by Spencer, who was an economic and social theorist. Darwin did not coin that phrase. Your example of "family planning science"is a social construct, and an extension of social Darwinism.
Galapagos turtles and finches did not have externally induced artificial evolutionary pressure that you are confusing for "Darwinism". Big difference. That is a very common misunderstood concept by the general public, and I see it often.

#22 GregLee1

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 10:09 PM

Who are Spencer and Fisher? And what is social darwinism? I'm talking about reproducing species that mature to reproductive potential, and then produce another generation, propagating their genetic information. There's nothing "social darwinism" about that. It's straight up galapagos turtle snapping, sooty white moth pecking Chuck Darwin.

There are differences of time scale. We observe social changes over 10s or 100s of years, but the biologicsl changes we see in the geological record are over tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, or more. So just because you think you're talking about biological evolution, that doesn't mean we have to believe you.

I suppose we all understand the very bad flavor that speculation about eugenics fell into due to racial bigotry and the holocaust, but just in case you wonder why there is not more discussion about how social policies might affect the biological future of our species, well, that's why.

#23 WaterMaster

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Posted 02 October 2013 - 10:39 AM

There is a general and widespread misunderstanding of the evolutionary biology concept of 'fitness'. Simply stated, 'fitness' is the number of viable offspring and individual produces (it can be expressed in absolute or relative terms, and can apply to complete organisms or genes).

Assuming that pre-reproductive death is prevented by some means, the progenitor's fitness would increase.

#24 llanitedave

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 11:18 AM

From an evolutionary standpoint, of course, that concept of "fitness" is only valid if the fitter organism has some means of transmitting that fitness to its offspring, some form of heredity. Human populations and societies are evolutionarily unique because our inheritance is not merely genetic, but cultural as well. Our descendents will (hopefully) inherit the technology that adds to our fitness, and (wishfully) the prosperity to afford it and willingness to make use of it.

Otherwise, they're in poor straights.

#25 GregLee1

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 12:15 PM

Otherwise, they're in poor straights.

And in narrowing nitches.






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