Assessing the Future of Human Evolution

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"Assessing the Future of Human Evolution"
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Human evolution refers to much more than biological evolution alone

Evolution is a process that brings about permanent changes in the Constitution of living beings. That way one can differentiate it from the permanent changes happening to the non-living objects, like stones, mountains and even fossils. In the context of biology, 'evolution' refers to the permanent biological and genetic changes in different species. However, the term 'human evaluation' connotes changes beyond the realm of biology and genetics.

Biological evolution is a slow and very long drawn process by the standards of a human lifetime. It takes thousands of years to bring about visible and significant changes in the constitution and characteristics of a species. By comparison, most of our modern knowledge has been accumulated in less than a thousand years. The much shorter lifespan of a human generation also means that 'evolution' during the next ten thousand years may not have much relevance for the common man. What may still be relevant are the factors that may accelerate this process to bring about genetic changes within a lifetime.

Evolution is brought out by a string of genetic changes that slowly get accumulated in the genome of a species, and gradually start manifesting themselves, thereby bringing about changes that will qualify as evolution. These genetic changes can be brought about naturally during the process of normal reproduction, when genes from the two parents meet, or by external factors like radiations, chemicals and even biological agents. Radiations and chemicals that are becoming an almost inseparable part of twenty first century human life are bound to have some impact on our bodies and a certain impact on genome is more or less inevitable.

Thus, human biological evolution in the context of a common man or a government, is primarily about the adversities that can be brought about by the modern lifestyle. We need more study on that, and it would be one of the primary concerns of scientists, more so in the field of genetics, to study and warn us against the dangers of unhealthy human evolution.

More important than the biological evolution, there is another kind of human evolution going on, which is less biological and more social and civilizational in nature. Evolution depends upon the process of selection of the 'fittest' among the species. However, this concept of 'fittest' depends as much on the environment as on the characteristics of the individual member of the species. In the jungle, fitness would primarily be physical fitness - the ability for fight and flight, but in the networked knowledge based human world of today, physical fitness may mean little, when compared to capacities of intellectual and temperamental nature. While the natural process of reproduction involves forces of sexual attraction, and keeps physical fitness alive as an important factor of selection, the focus on success and wealth means that reproduction itself is somewhat under danger of getting sidelined, as we are observing in the developed world. There is more than one country in the world who are faced with the aging population, fall in child-birth rate and a kind of reproductional stagnation in the face of a free sex revolution.

Thus the factors to watch out for, are the sexual and reproductive preferences of individuals, the most sought out skills in the automated world, the accumulation of external radiation and chemicals in day to day life and the shifting of reproductive age to a later time in life, that increases the vulnerability to genetic mutations. In the end, human evolution in the relevant form will depend upon how these different factors interact, and how we, as the only species with a choice to make decisions about our evaluation, are able to cope with them.

More about this author: V. Kumar

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