Is continuing human evolution a good thing?
There have been some suggestions that humans will stop evolving now that we have much more control over our own environment. Natural selection, the driving force of evolution, is also being affected as the weak now survive due to advances in medicine and other technologies. Indeed many of the changes in human bodies over the last couple of centuries, such as growing taller, have been caused by these environmental changes not evolution. As evolution is such a slow process it will be a long time before we can look back and say for sure whether it has or not. Regardless of whether we are evolving do we wish to continue evolving? Humanity is certainly not perfect but compared to other animals on earth we seem to be pretty well off as it is.
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Humans are still fairly primitive.
Humans have not evolved much over the last 10,000 years. This is partly because humans don't reach maturity as quickly as other species and so don't breed as fast, so there aren't as many mutations. Also, our environment isn't stable enough for us to have time to physically adapt to it, especially when it is more practical to think up a way around the problem that threatens survival.
Despite not evolving, we have improved ourselves as a species dramatically. We have much longer lifespans, we can adapt the environment to our own needs to keep ourselves alive where we would normally be dead. We can build worldwide societies. We even have the ability to travel off the planet, and we can imagine worlds wildly different to our own, thus giving us the potential to escape from our situation. We no longer think only of survival, but try and find meaning outside our mundane lives. We praise artists, philosophers and poets. We can create societies with some measure of fairness and justice, where the strong can't entirely take advantage of the weak.
If we could evolve to match our situation, we would be physically and mentally optimised to improve ourselves even further. We could encourage traits that lead to more complex brains, ingenuity and imagination and remove instincts that we don't need any more and may be holding us back. Plus our cocks arent big enough.
The fact that we haven't evolved suggests that we actually can't evolve - our environment changes too rapidly - and that it would be a wasted effort to try and encourage evolution. If we are surviving perfectly well without evolving, it isn't a problem that we aren't evolving. We should concentrate on continuing to progress in ways that ensure our survival.
We are in a position to guide our own evolution.
We have made some progress in genetic engineering, such as identifying and treating genetic conditions, and we are working towards life extension. We have the potential to guide our evolution by choosing what beneficial mutations occur in the next generation. Whatever the negative consequences of evolution might be, such as lessened resistance to disease due to overuse of medicine or loss of social skills due to over-reliance on communication technology (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6057734.stm), we are in a situation where we can prevent them, for instance by identifying the genes that affect disease resistance and social skills and correcting flaws in them.
We could be adapting to an environment that will suddenly change.
Currently we are reliant on expending huge amounts of resources and large-scale processes that could be disrupted fairly easily. The environment we adapt to is probably probably going to reflect this. If we evolved to suit our environment now and there was a sudden radical change in our environment, such as running out of resources, losing the ability to power technology or losing the ability to communicate globally, we wouldn't be able to cope with the change and there would be a massive loss of life, even more than there would be now when we are dependent as a society but not as a species.
This could also be said to be an argument in favour of evolving to deal with such a cataclysmic change.
We are evolving too much for the planet to cope with.
We are living longer but still breeding at the same rate. Our lifestyle uses more of the planet's resources than ever. If we evolve to become larger and have longer lifespans, we are going to end up making this problem worse.
Our brains will become larger and more complex as well as our bodies becoming larger, and so we will be able to think of better solutions such as developing sustainable alternative energy sources and managing the population growth sensibly.
We won't be human.
At some point in our evolution, we will inevitably branch off into new species. If we can survive without evolving, we are more likely to retain our humanity.
Clinging to humanity when the species we evolve into may well be superior is misguided pride.
What do you think?