Evolution

Evolution



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In assessing the "future of human evolution", I would challenge the general assumption that humans have made such tremendous progress due to natural selection pressures.

It is fascinating to examine many of the articles and see phrases that allude to the significance of humans using such advanced technologies, and of the scientific progress that's been made by humanity. In particular, the theme that seems to run through this discussion, are the examples of how humans have grown and developed their initial intelligence as proof of human evolutionary prowess.

However, I would dispute that any such thing has or is occurring. In point of fact, very little of human achievement is attributable to any but the smallest minority of individuals in the world. The biggest bulk of technological developments and scientific theories are well beyond the reach of all but the tiniest minority of people, so how can we lay claim to these achievements as indicative of human evolution?

Just as there are small pockets of people that still live in ways that would be considered "primitive", I would argue that there are only small pockets of people that are living on the leading edge of human achievement. In fact, I believe the point can be made that technological developments and achievements have outpaced most people's ability to even keep up, let alone to have the means to be considered competent in these areas.

Evolution by natural selection says that an individual that is basically "unfit" would be precluded from reproducing, or if they did, the overall survival would be in doubt. Yet, how can we make any such claim in today's world, where the issue of survival to reproductive age is governed almost exclusively by political conditions.

While I certainly don't possess any studies on the matter, I seriously doubt that one could argue that even one percent of the world's population could be considered generally competent in all the fields of human achievement. Therefore, if even that point can't be made, then how can we claim such credit for the entire species?

As an example, the 4 minute mile was considered impossible at one time, but that record was broken and has since become a standard for male athletes. However, even in this case, the argument can hardly be made that this is some sort of evolutionary achievement for humanity at large. There's no question that some tiny percentage of males have attained this level of performance, but there is no evidence to suggest that anything remotely evolutionary has taken place. In fact, as the population gets larger and larger, it would be startling if probability didn't predict that such anomalies should occur. To make the claim of evolution, would require a demonstrable link between individuals that possess this capability and their offspring. In the absence of such a connection, then it is only probability, not natural selection which is at work.

As a counterpoint, I would argue that humans have evolved into a collective, and essentially lost their ability to survive individually. It is unarguable that most people don't have the knowledge our ancestor's did to survive off the land, but additionally, most people don't have the knowledge to survive using today's technology without its infrastructure. People can't produce their own energy, can't repair their own appliances, can't obtain clean water, can't acquire food, or perform any of the myriad number of tasks it would take to survive in the world today.

These statements aren't meant to denigrate humans, or to downplay the knowledge and expertise that an individual may possess. Rather, it is intended to make us realize that, while we excel as a group, the reality of human evolution is that the individual has also been supplanted by the group. The group evolves by the efforts of the few, but the individual is absorbed into the group and derives benefit by being a member. An individual does not evolve by the achievements of another.

If we use the example of the space program, one is struck by the fact that its success was the result of a group effort, and not any particular individual. Therefore whatever evolutionary argument is made, must be applicable to the group and not the individual. There is no question that a significant number of people participating in any project will not possess any competence greater than the specific job for which they are tasked, nor will they engage in any revolutionary achievements or theories. Yet it is precisely this ability to engage as a collective that has allowed human society to become an evolutionary organism in its own right.

For good or ill, the simple truth is that it is the survival of the group that is the subject of natural selection and evolution, while the fate of the individual is of increasingly limited concern. In fact, a strong argument could be made that the natural selection pressures tend to reward those that "get along" and are more cooperative, than those that might be regarded as individualists. After all aren't we all "team players"?

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