Haydon Mort

Visiting Professor, Universidade de Pernambuco

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A forth way for continuing human evolution

Dr Fineberg presented 3 possibilities for the future evolution of humans. They were 1) It won't happen, 2) Natural selection may slow but it will inexorably continue, 3) Neo-evolution through the tweaking and enhancement of the human genome. I agree that third will probably happen.

Nevertheless, I see a forth way, which I believe will a more fundamental driver of change. A first order background, upon which neo-evolution will play out.

It works like this. Mental illness is soaring in developed and emerging economies. The reasons are complex, but likely due to an interaction of a 'dumbing down' of the media and a more vegetative lifestyle. How would this affect the gene pool? Would people with genetic pre-dispositions to mental ill-health be less likely to reproduce?

Consider the growing problem of obesity, a symptom of socio-economic 'development'. Overweight people are more likely to survive if they have a biology that, for example, reacts more quickly to increases in blood-sugar levels, or de-clogs arteries. Those who don't possess these biological pre-dispositions are less likely to survive. Hence the gene pool would trend towards a creating a metabolism that is altered to suit the environmental pressure that we created (a high calorie diet).

A final example. Pollution. Recent studies published in high-impact journals show the emerging impact of environmental petrochemicals on child and adult physiological and neurological development. Who is more likely to survive? Anybody who has a genome more resistant to these chemical. We can expect to see the gene pool gradually move in away that help humans survive in petrochemical rich environments. This may, of course, come at the expense of our ability to survive in non-petrochemical rich environments.

So in summary. Our immense environmental footprint may feedback and impact on our own biological evolution. If this is true, humans are already evolving as we speak, without the need of direct genetic manipulation.

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    May 5 2011: I am sorry but it amazes me that nobody here has even mentioned Epigenetics, which not only are affected by a personal lifestyle, but also by the parents, and possibly even grandparents and previous generations lifestyle.
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    Apr 27 2011: Interesting concept, but is mental illness that bad of a thing? Here a few artist with bipolar: Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Ezra Pound, Charles Mingus, Gustav Mahler, Paul Gauguin, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollack,Vincent van Gogh, Ozzy Osbourne, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Axl Rose, Sinéad O'Conner, Jack Irons, Linda Hamilton, Peter Gabriel and Kurt Cobain to name a few. Imagine a world without their creativity? I believe great struggle lead to great accomplishment. Mother Theresa sacrifice her life to others and became an Icon. Her struggle made her be love by others. Why the struggle of everyone of those artist would be any different? They achieve greatness by imagining the world differently. Does it mean everyone should become bipolar? No. But maybe as a society we should decrease the stigma attach to mental illness.
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      Apr 27 2011: I agree with you 110% I only think mental 'illness' (which is a very grey concept) is bad only in so far as it causes undesired suffering to the person who has it.
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    May 7 2011: Of course we evolve now!How?We are becoming more invariant to changes in the environment(we build shelters, air conditioners, space ships, we manipulate genes, create implants,etc.) One day, perhaps, even if the sun dies we are going to be invariant to that fact as well, because we would have the abilities to create at will suns and solar systems by just scooping some space dust.

    The dinosaurs existed for about 170 million years. I presume we as humans could beat that number. Perhaps, being the first of the sentient species, we would branch out into series of sub species like the dinos did.

    One requirement for evolution is segregation. What segregates us today is our mental capacity and abilities to perform certain task. Most of our elite today have roots in the elite in the past. Also, we all publicly condemn eugenics (in all forms) and we fail to admit that for centuries most of our social top echelon apply eugenics principles to select mating partners. It is done even today. If you need proof study the genealogy of successful people and compare to those of failures.
    As intelligent agents we are also segregated by our memes. I believe people with compatible memes have better chances to mate.

    What I believe, the evolution of intelligent agents would be, is:
    There will be 3 groups of intelligent agents functioning as part of the society:
    1) Pure biological agents - humanoids perhaps genetically engineered with huge (compared to us) mental capacity and discipline of movements;
    2) Cybernetic agents - transitional forms between organic and machines ( think of Borg like creatures as one example);
    3) Pure non-biological agents - machines with what we call today Genuine Artificial Intelligence.

    All of them will have us as their common ancestor.

    However,all bets are off if we invent artificial womb where we can give birth to children in labs.

    Naturally, all that could change in an instance if a rock drops from the sky and clears all mammalian life on earth.
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    May 7 2011: HEyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!not so fast!!!!!!!!!!!!Who says mental problems are worse in prosperous countries?, who says the world is worse off? Sorry, I don´t think so. I work in mental health. I really can´t agree that prosperity brings more mental health problems. Industrialization - a change in society- brings more stress from allienating life stlyles and from learning new skills- like the terrible twoos when we learn to speak or living on a desert island for 3 days- , and that translates into mental problems when there are vulnerabilities. But if we watch evolution in society, we see that we create structures to live better after some time - takes generations, sorry, very nasty- but it does happen. It can also go the other way round, some societies are wiped out by their belief systems, other societies or catastrophes.
    People with mental or other health issues have always had a harder time to reproduce , except perhaps for narcisists and some sociopaths!. I´m surprized at our fantastic capability to survive and grow out of mental illness, given time and means, and both these resources are provided for better in countries that are advanced in technology, organization and money. It´s amazing to see how health prone we all are. Much of what we consider mental illness today is hopefully going to pass as we will create structures- for instance, 8 h working days instead of Victorian 12 h days- and attitudes - possitive thinking, commitment to the truth, etc- to adjust.
    Genetic problems such as psychosis and schitzofrenia are and allways will be there. There seems to be a constant percentage of these cases in most populations....
    I really liked Pinker´s talk where he talks about how much we have improved.
    I´m sure we will change biologically. I´m sure the use of our computers will affect certain areas of our brains. There will be good and bad consequences, we will lose certain faculties and gain others. If we can get to choos some, it might be nice.
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    May 6 2011: Good thoughts. With your last example "pollution" we are also driving mutation of any life form that is exposed to it hence evolution , that's what I feel.
  • May 2 2011: Might I ask if there is possibly a 5th way in the form of devolution?
    I am not a scientist, but as I understand it, genetic (as opposed to cultural) evolution requires mutation and selection, acting largely in opposition and tending towards a sort of unstable equilibrium.
    Assuming I am accurate in this over-simplification, modern medicine has (in affluent society) largely eliminated selective processes, particularly prior to sexual maturity.
    So conditions which, in the past, precluded procreation, are now no longer an impediment to doing so. These may be chronic diseases such as diabetes, or physical expressions such as a narrow birth canal.
    In the latter example, the intervention of medicine has meant that successive generations are perhaps more and more likely to require caesarian surgery to be able to give birth. If this turns out to be that case, it's hard to argue it as anything other than a kind of devolution.
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      May 2 2011: Nicholas/Haydon,

      DEVOLUTION..exactly.isn't that.twhat the fifth way you are refrring to is? Isn't that the point? That evolultion may not always be an improvement beyond being able to to be born into and survive whatever cklimate and enviornmental conditions we have created.?.That was my disquieting thought about a possible loss of the pre-frontal cortex.

      Nicholas you have added an intriguing extension to Haydons premise which is foused on our enviornmental foot print. As you point out our medical technology may also allow an inbreeding of undesireable physical traits. And for me, I have come to dwell, through this discussion , on the unhappy possibility that our culturally prevalent coping adpations of apathy, cynicism and narcisistic pre occupations , loss of critical thinking, will actually devovle the human brain..that the physical capacity through the brain of consciousness, empathy, compassion, invention, creativity will also be bred out of us..is being bred out of us right now.
      • May 2 2011: So, control the breeding process... For example, enjoy what you choose to enjoy; however, remember multiple lines of defense and choose to promote genotyping and research as mandatory in all citizenship. It may seem like a little 1984/BNW, yet, it is the reality of the time. In the next, 100 years we will in fact be applying these practices and we need to understand what is the good in it and what is the potential harm. We cannot just say it is bad and close our eyes!

        The idea of the loss of the pre-frontal cortex would be fun to watch... However, I would like to see it on the big screen and not in reality!

        Moreover, human-intelligent design is what I think will work best. (aka: neo-evolution with thought!)
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          May 2 2011: RE:mandatory in all citizen ship? Jonathan what are you saying? I'm not sure I am following
      • May 4 2011: Lindsey, I stretch to the extreme to make the point. Basically, it is the idea that promoting evolution on the level of our species requires us to make sure everyone understand the meaning. Therefore, the ability to vote is liked to your contribution to current science. Moreover, I hope everyone will just volunteer to be genotyped. Yet, you cannot study without data!
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        May 6 2011: I think the situation is more complicated. If you start with the general premise that happy people are more attractive then what follows? More sex? Possibly. I'm generalising of course, but generalisations are exactly how the gene pool shifts very gradually over time...so...

        People who get depressed because of what they are exposed to are gradually limited in number of time, leaving what? People who are happy with what they are exposed to. But there is another kind of person we have forgotten about. The person who lives without these stimuli very happily. Let's call them TED people. They could also be selected for for their inclination for problem solving, thinking and learning, which also bring happiness and thus, according to my gross generalisation, more sex.

        We may therefore be creating a more polarised society, where, in the long-term, people are happier with what they have (which would be nice) but with very different priorities. Unfortunately, highly polarised societies have their own problems and conflicts.

        The possibilities are endless and I for one don't know what the future holds.
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          May 6 2011: Got to add to this point.
          Neuroscience has proven that people who are considered beautiful are also more symetrical which is THE indicator of neuronal health. Thus nature appears to be choosing that the person who is most neurologically health will have more opportunity to mate and pass on genes.
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          May 8 2011: @Debra..neuroscience.symmetry=neuronal health..interestig hadn't seen that is there a link or layperson oriented discission to look at?
    • May 6 2011: The term "evolution" doesn't imply positive changes to genotypes, just changes. So even changes that are seen as "negative" or "bad" are still examples of evolution. "Devolution", therefore, is just evolution.
  • May 2 2011: you kill a whole bunch of petri dishes my friend before you find the EXISTING organism which is resistant. Therefore, you must work with what you have and not what selective force is apply. Some times the selective force wins and the organism becomes extinct--talk to the dinosaurs... (well, ignore bird etc.)

    The sad thing is neo-evolution is a potential fix for many problems; however, it takes the knowledge and wisdom to shape the gene pool vs. drain the gene pool. I think we need to genotype everyone (it is not an issue if we tkae care of those who need assistance because of genetic issues and don't ostracize.) and maintain a log (or some kind of Journal... ;) ) of the genes expressed in the phenotype.

    I did my under grad in psychology and biology; therefore, I thought about this whole bunch. What will be known about psycho-biology and the impact of genes on our species will be greatly needed to define the present stance of speciation and the man-guided convergence of the gene pool. In other words. we have spend a whole bunch of time dealing with the perception of the "masses" on what was the real idea behind Gattaca. The human definition needs the proper research and not the belief in superiority of genes. For example, what the hell is wrong with me that the idea of a freaking great time is typing away on ted.com while sipping a beer instead of going to reproduce? What inhibitors exist and are they learned vs. genetic? Moreover, will my children act the same way... or will it be inevitable because it is genetic or is it potential because it is genetic... Remember, the petri dish... you don't select for you select against and hope for the organism exists in your dish!

    We are stagnant or an isolate colony of organisms: I would have turned vegetarian when I was five if my parents had understood the future impact of "farm factories". However, I had the potential and insight as a child it was culturally unacceptable at that point. Now, I am.

    Code the future!
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    May 1 2011: @Lindsay Newland Bowker.
    "that is partly what Haydon is pointing to.ins't it..th epossibility that these are outward manifestation of actualt genetic changes?"

    I understand Haydon's point in a slighly diferent way: the observations you make about the Island were you live could show how the Antropocene is causing these "genetically determined tendencies towards mental disorders" (towards melancolic ones in the case of that spiritual paralysis you were talking about) to activate and express.
    From my perspective, the Antropocene might not be causing those genes to be there (it's a consensus that this mutations need way more time than this Antropocene has had so far) but actually slowly eliminating them from the gene pool.

    I think Luke pointed the negative consequences of that from a cultural point of view, even though it might mean a reduction of "total human pain".
    Don't know if that's good or bad, but in my opinion, it is a part of the direction this Antropocene seems to have taken.
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      May 1 2011: Hi Juan..this is wayyyyy deep..I have to do more thinking ( and research on Antropocene) to even understand what you are telling me..and I will..I guess implicit in my comment is my belief that it is possible our cells are actually actively changing all the time in response to these events..constantly "tinkering" inside us ( that from some study I read on how cells behave..how mutations ocurr). I am obviously not a scientist and not a geneticist so whatever I say is very soft on that ground ( or better put, in way over my head) but just intuitively I guess I am allowing for the possibiity that biological responses are happening right now inside us and that these changes may be inherited in the same way that tendencies to disease are inherited ( or am I wrong here too..it is my understanding that there are no DNA components llinked to most chronic diseases yet our propoensity to those diseases is passed on with predictable results for the next generation ( for many diseases)
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        May 1 2011: Hi Lindsay,
        I'm actually writting from the top of my head so don't give me too much credit, I just find this topic very interesting :) I'm a student of psychology and this reminds me of a research I did some time ago...excuse me if I get to dense or specific.

        Of course there's still a controversy about the influence of genes in the development of "mental disorders" but evidence is being found.
        As far as I know, there are different levels in wich environment changes our biology. As I read your answer, I thought of the studys that suggest that our cognitive activity re-structures the synapses in our bran in "real time" or even that our cognitive activity (wich is nothing but the constant processing of internal and external stimuli) is the product of those changes in the structure of the brain. Furthermore, it seems like having a particular thought repeatedly stenghtens the synapses that are involved. I'm gessing that could be a connexion between the environment and the expression of the genes even if there's not a fisical external cause for them to express.
        But these changes cannot reflect in the genome carried by the gametes, so they wouldn't explain the question of hereditability. The answer might be in the process of the development of psique during childhood, as it uses the elements (thoughts, laws, instruments...) that the children repeatedly finds in his environment...

        Resuming: the changes that environment produces in the biology of the subject during a lifetime don't impact on the gametes, but the cognitive changes are indeed heritable by the next generation, that will actually organise its hole structure around the cognitive elements in the portion of the Antropocene they have access too.
        Antropocene would, with the time needed, filter our gen pool (the process would be working, but its consecuences would take a looot to be evident) and it is actively changing not only our thoughts but our psique's structure. Question is: Should we take control, direct it?
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          May 2 2011: well thank you for that Juan..I have to go the drawing board again...even though it is over my head still, I am sure it is not over Haydons. ( I will do my homework though and if I come up with anything close to a worth reply I'll come back on this),Because of my advocacy for people with cognitive diseases and brain injury I am very interested in the brain and recall seeing something about your reference to he brains constant real time restructuring of itself.I was speaking of the way cells carry and react to new information ..also real time..
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          May 6 2011: I'm flattered you don't think its over my head Lindsay! haha. I'm actually a geologist! In response to Juan's interesting conclusion. I would be very interested to know how we could possibly control or direct this 'auto-selection' pressure on our gene pool.
  • Apr 30 2011: Hi Haydon, several studies have shown that people exposed to air pollution have higher quantities of certain white blood cells that respond to the inflammation caused by air pollution. There are indications that persons who live in polluted environments permanently have a higher ratio of these cells. It has also been demonstrated that air pollution causes DNA mutations in birds and mice, and may extend to humans.

    There is perhaps also a change in humans caused by the use of medicines for every malady. While the body was able to heal itself from simple diseases, the overuse of medication robs it of that innate ability. Hence, maybe those of us who are heavily dependent on pharmaceuticals would be left behind in natural evolution (genome enhancement may override this ?)

    There is also a less obvious evolutionary trend in the way we socialize, and that has be ongoing. Early man was concerned only with his local environment - that meant interaction with just a few people and animals and the main concern was food, shelter and safety . Now we are aware of a global environment, have the potential to interact with millions of people, we are still concerned with our own survival, but are also concerned with survival on a global scale. The stimuli have been changing so we have been evolving to respond to the changes.
  • MR T

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    Apr 30 2011: Your forgetting perhaps that there is still plenty of healthy food around, you could call it a selective pressure I suppose but only upon the people who eat that way, even then with medical treatment how it is people with the "unfavourable genes" are gonna live along time, atleast long enough to have plenty of kids. But then, so are the healthier people with a good diet. I believe this is also true for the petro-chemical example, for the moment being.
  • Apr 28 2011: evolution itself is just a theory not proved yet certainly. and theory is just a guess and assumption avails not against the truth at all.
    you want to predict future based on guess?
    guess based on guess! what will be result?
    there is many critics and doubt about evolution.
    better to first try to have more certain evidences about evolution then use evolution as a base for new theories.
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      Apr 28 2011: So what you are saying is that anything not proved is a just guess?
      • Apr 30 2011: sure!
        but still there is many facts proved. better to use them as foundation.
        • May 1 2011: the theory of evolution although still technically called a theory has an absolutely inexhaustable amount of supporting evidence. besides the "holiest" man in the world when he was alive said...

          “[N]ew findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”

          “A theory is a meta-scientific elaboration, which is distinct from, but in harmony with, the results of observation. With the help of such a theory a group of data and independent facts can be related to one another and interpreted in one comprehensive explanation. The theory proves its validity by the measure to which it can be verified. It is constantly being tested against the facts; when it can no longer explain these facts, it shows its limits and its lack of usefulness, and it must be revised.” [pope john paul ii. 1996]

          there is very few prominent intellectuals critical of evolution in comparasion to the vast vast majority who lend their support to it... stop using ted as way to pedal faith.... its boring... if you want answers to your questions of faith and have the open mindedness(which i doubt from reading your comments in the link above) to read: richard dawkins:the god delusion. this book champions stepping outside your religion infected mind and asking yourself some seriously hard questions for the religiously indoctrinated...
    • Apr 28 2011: I think it is helpful to say what we mean by evolution. Is it biological evolution of species (including humans) in general or evolution human society?
      The later is the more relevant subject for discussion.
      It is quite apparent that societies do change. Whether it is correct to think of that change as evolution is worth discussing (as change is not necessarily for the better).

      A huge change has been taking place since the onset of the Industrial Revolution about 250 years ago. In terms of technological competence more has happened in those couple of centuries than during two millenniums.
      In this context it is important to consider that technological change is exponential in nature because the present generation can start where the previous generation leaves off. According to Alfred Korzybski this is the defining feature of the human species. He calls it the time-binding power that sets humans aside from the animal kingdom. He also argues in Manhood of Humanity that serious problems arise in societies because social institutions change and advance at a slower pace than scientific knowledge and technology.
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        Apr 28 2011: Although societal change is extremely important, I was actually talking in terms of our biological evolution. I'm thinking that the scale of sociological and environmental changes are selection pressures by themselves. Pressures which will favour certain individuals over others.
    • Apr 28 2011: Just try to explain the alternative. I do agree that there are discussion on how evolution operates. Have you wonder why AIDS virus is that resilent? Why doctor are prescribing cocktail of antivirals instead of one antivirals ? All those therapies are based on evolution. There are countless examples for its implication and evidences.
  • Apr 27 2011: Mental illness due to a dumbing down of media and vegatative life style, this seems to me a massive overgeneralisation. What about seious mental illness? Eg Bipolar disease? Your argument is flawed in that these seem to be considered by you to be evolutionary negatives. Are they though, how many massive steps forwards has humanity taken in arts and sciences, due to those suffering from mental illness and disability, perhaps these people are evolutionary steps forward.

    As far as less likely to reproduce - some of these most extro-ordinary people are the most attractive due to their unique abilities and are celebrated as. If evolution had some how deleted them from the gene pool then then world would be a grey place indeed and actually we wouldnt be having this discussion, and our survive would indeed be far more precarious.
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      Apr 27 2011: Hi Luke,

      You are absolutely right. I was massively over-generalising. Sorry about that. Serious mental illness is an entirely different matter and, having lived with someone with bi-polar and psychosis, I know that one needs to draw a line somewhere.

      However, I would add that the majority of people are not born mentally unwell. A trigger is required and it is thought that this trigger is at least partly guided by genetic predisposition. Someone who was once very close to me became psychotic on her wedding day, forgetting who her husband and mother were. It seems environmental factors very frequently result in changes in the equilibrium state of the brain. Mild depression certainly can lead to more serious mental problems, such as bi-polar, if left untreated. And I do consider the way the majority of people live these days to be a factor in the rise of depression.

      And of course I agree that extraordinary people are attractive. I'm sorry if that's the message that came across. It certainly wasn't my intention.
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        Apr 27 2011: One recent piece of research that lends itself to your thesis is that a 'bug' spray that was routinely used in homes which was banned 10 years ago has been linked to a 25% reduction in IQ of children who were exposed in utero. We are doing things that are clearly effecting our children and our selves. If baby's DNA can be actually altered by maternal diet in utero as another recent paper reported what are the pesticides etc. doing to them?
        This is another example of how some people's self interest in the form of profit maximization is harming humanity.
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        Apr 29 2011: There's an interesting debate here: is current civilisation, with it's progressive destructuration of the family, the loss of faith, the over-individualisation and the global vs. local tention increasing the risk of mental disorders?
        Well some authors (specially in the psychoanalytical field) believe that this new environment is increasing the risk of narcissistic disorders (neurotical depression is considered the illness of our "advanced societies") that can lead to a complete mutism, a loss of touch with the external world...

        In the other hand, there's the point of knowing whether the people who carrie genes related with those disorders are deleted from the gene pool. I think here we have to take acount of the environmental factor that Haydon announced in his lasts answer: those who also recieve a "negative" influence do have more crisis and deliria. That doesn't affect the gene pool if they have already had children, but if not...some of them manage to fight the deseade and go back to the reproductive game. The rest of them are usually numbed by the psychyatric's drugs (so the chance of finding a sexual partner si dramatically lowered), confined in an assilum (again, the chances of mating decrease) or end uo commiting a crime or suicide (idem).

        There is no question about some of these illnessess increasing artistic creativity, the inmense gift some of them have and the enormous value they add to our culture and the respect they deserve just like any other person. The question is rather: is the actual Antropocene speeding up the elimination of these genes from the gene pool by activating theyr expression (and the social reaction linked to it)?

        I believe so, but I admit it's only a theoretical position.
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          May 1 2011: RE: some authors (specially in the psychoanalytical field) believe that this new environment is increasing the risk of narcissistic disorders (neurotical depression is considered the illness of our "advanced societies") that can lead to a complete mutism, a loss of touch with the external world

          Interesting thought and it "fits" what I often see in visitors to our island..I kind of narcissistic fragility..and anxiety..loss of resilience a kind of spiritual paralysis, an illness un named but present everywhere...,and that is partly what Haydon is pointing to.ins't it..th epossibility that these are outward manifestation of actualt genetic changes?
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          May 1 2011: Juan, I am convinced that we cannot experiment with humanity and our genome by randomly adding poisons to our environment and not expect that the organ in our bodies that requires by far the most nourishment to be adversely affected. The brain is an elegant if fragile instrument. Even though there is a blood brain barrier many of the food additives (especially in meat) are able to change or mimic neurotransmitters. I think this might be a real reason for the elevation in mental disorders particularly of the depressive sorts.(I think issues like schizophrenia are more likely to be virally derived in utero).
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    Sky F

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    Apr 26 2011: fourth*

    There also may be genes that give predispositions to depression. It's more likely than ever to develop depression because of societal factors. As such, this may be a gene that, after a lot of time, will slowly remove itself from the population because major depressive disorder is said to have, I believe... a 15% mortality rate? It could also be theorized that such people, who tend to be socially stigmatized, would be less likely to have kids because they'd be less likely to have a partner.

    I could see it. It's interesting though, that our environment is self-crafted rather than naturally crafted. My head now hurts.

    EDIT: Oh hell, I skimmed too much. I read some of your examples but I completely skipped the one about mental health. Maybe I refined it. My bad :P
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      Apr 27 2011: My point exactly. I'd be interested to see a reference for that 15% mortality rate. Will research that one.

      Depressed people may indeed have less children as they are less likely to interact and have offspring. Genetic predisposition's to depression would therefore be weeded out leaving a population that is generally happy watching hundreds of hours of mind-numbingly boring cable TV. On the other hand, another symptom of the modern society is an increasing occurrence of other mental illnesses, such as bi-polar spectrum disorders. It is possible that these people will have more partners ... not less, especially in a manic state.

      Then there are people who gravitate to enriching medias such as TED. They could be selected for too because they are more likely to innovate solutions in an increasing unpredictable world (climatologically and sociologically). The end result may be a socially highly polarised society.

      But I'm going to far. There are likely a thousand reasons why I could be wrong.
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    Apr 26 2011: I believe you are absolutely right, but feel that your 4th example is the 2nd one.

    But it adds taking into account our massive influences to our environment (stress, waste, fastfood - all of it is our -recent- constructed environment). This fast forwards slow (=~natural) form of evolution, because they are mayor influences after many years of evolution.

    To me, a fish with a headlight to find food equals that declogging artery.
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      Apr 27 2011: Yes. Accelerated evolution. It would be interesting to know if there had been any examples of a organism that influenced its surroundings (if only on a regional basis) that it drove genetic shifts behavioural tendencies, or even physiology.
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    Apr 26 2011: wow..well I guess that's possible..the 100th monkey thing operates without a value system so if we are creating an environment that is full of toxins and other degradations..the 100th monkey will just adapt to it and "IT WILL BE SO"..disquieting and important thought... So the longer we postpone creating a healthy viable sustainable planet earth..the more likely that we will simply adapt to what we HAVE created?...wow..sounds true or at least possible....So we can't afford to postpone or wait?..if we don't change the world we are creating, ..it will change us..literally..is that what you are saying????..We will become what we are creating????As an advocate for people with mental illness or cognitive disability I also deeply appreciate your idea that some now very prevalent forms of mental illness are really a kind of spiritual dispair..that people who feel great compassion or who despair at the loss of the world's health and viatlity will just be bred out leaving us with people who are perfectly happy with our poisoned.world.
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      Apr 27 2011: "if we don't change the world we are creating..it will change us..literally..is that what you are saying? We will become what we are creating?"

      Yes, that kind of what I am saying. It makes sense in light of the fact that biologists and ecologists have now coined the term 'Anthropocene'; the new era into which humans are entering, whereby we, and not nature, are the predominant drivers of global changes in climate and biodiversity. People will be genetically selected for by the environment we create.
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        Apr 27 2011: not to further confound discussion of this very important possibiility you are pointing to by confusing references to the mentally ill..but what struck me in that part of your point is that the pre-frontal cortex of the human brain..the part we believe makes us human..social, compassionate loving creative..actually is affected by post traumatic stress for example.or experiences of terror. If we "dumb down" or allow ourselves to be be dumbed down by becoming either overwhlemed or comptetley apathetic to the degradation happening all around us..it makes perfect sense that we, as a species, could lose that part of our brain through adpative evolution..be back to the reptilian fight it, eat or mate with it paradigm. If the 100th monkey imodels apathy or terror as a response to the degradation we are creating we as a species could lose that part of us that makes us human and compassionate. Do we know that isn't happening already?
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          Apr 27 2011: Good point, Lindsay. We certainly influence our neuro-physiology depending on what we expose/don't expose ourselves to. The pre-frontal cortext, the seat of executive function and higher thought is the first point of call for incoming stimuli, good and bad.

          Research published in the past 5 years also seems that gene expression is altered by our environment. This is just one more layer to the puzzle.
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      Apr 27 2011: RE:HUman Evolution will continue to follow and evolve on the bases of Compassion and all else will follow along with it.

      I'm a big believer in the power of consciousness and intention and want to believe that compassion and love have righting moment ( a sailing term..the ability of a boat to right itself after a knockdown) but Haydon's point gives me pause because we don;t know, maybe have no reason to believe, that biological evolution has any value other than adpation to survive.
  • Apr 26 2011: Hey!
    This is very interesting. I believe that now, reproduction is more of a choice as opposed to a challenge. Ex) A person that is overweight, has a low IQ, and is very allergenic can still find a partner and have 10 children before they die. Humans in this case, I believe, can not be compared to the standard evolution by natural selection which eliminates #2. #3 is the way I believe we will evolve because we will not be affected by natural selection, mental illness, obesity, and pollution do not factor. However, pollution is a wonderful cause of Neo-Evolution. Thanks for posting this! It is a topic that needs to be discussed. Definitely an idea worth spreading =]