Micro Life Zone
Asked by ultimatezeus to Dirk, Elise, Janette, Renee, Yusuf on 21 May 2012.
Keywords: evolution, future, human, superhuman
I am not an expert in this area, and I think there is a fair bit of debate amongst evolutionists around your question but my personal view is that human evolution is virtually over. Isolated ‘islands’ of populations that have adapted to suit their environment are becoming very rare, easy and relatively cheap global travel makes it easy for genetic information to spread all over the globe and the human experience is not really about the ‘survival of the fittest’ concept that evolution is based on. Advances in medicine allow those who may have died young in the past, to live long enough to reproduce.
I often think about this in relation to my own life – I inherited a moderately severe case of myopia (short-sightedness) which I’ve now had corrected with laser surgery. I think if I had to live in a ‘survival of the fittest’ situation, I wouldn’t have been able to see well enough to hunt for food, or tell poisonous berries from edible ones, so I doubt I would’ve been long on this earth. In this way I am glad that I think human evolution has pretty much come to a stop.
I am not sure we will look too different any time in the future – evolution is a very slow process and humans have had their current form for hundreds of thousands of years. Evolution also requires some form of selective pressure, so there would possibly need to be a huge shift in our environment to force a major evolutionary progression. This is a great link with an interactive timeline of human evolution from apes spanning millions of years.
My area isn’t specifically human evolution, but I work with people that specialise in the area, and based on what I’ve heard them say, I generally agree with Renee and Elise’s responses.
Humans are able to modify their behaviour to suit the climate and resources, thanks to our ability to think and problem solve – this is probably the best ability to have, as you aren’t reliant on the chance you have the right genetic mutations that enable you to survive, and really, it’s probably as far as a species can go. Many other species aren’t like humans, so when their environment changes those with the right traits to survive in the new conditions will end up dominating, and they will be the ones who can reproduce and pass on the genetic differences that allow them survive. The result is that the trait ends up becoming fixed (ie. the species has evolved). But once you can master and overcome the things that can shorten your life, you can survive longer, and as such there isn’t the need or pressure for humans as a species to evolve and pass those traits onto future generations.
And like Renee mentioned, humans are mixing more and more thanks to global travel and immigration, so once isolated (and possibly genetically different) groups are mixing more and more, so any chance for isolated ‘evolution’ is becoming more and more unlikely.
However, the future may hold something we aren’t forseeing here, and certain events that are even beyond our abilities as a species may cause us to change. Mutations can sometimes spontaneously arise, and while rare, in theory such a mutation may just give us a new physical feature that is somehow beneficial and ends up resulting in our species looking or behaving differently. However as Elise mentioned ,the process of evolution usually is a very slow.
At the end of the day, genetics is a very complex and sometimes unpredictable thing, and it can be argued that as mutations are happening all the time, so it is quite possible humans may evolve new traits!
Oh I love questions like this. Humans will evolve over time and [un]natural and sexual selection will drive that. This has already been covered by Renee, Elise and Janette. As to what can we expect, well that to some degree depends on our ethics as well as natural processes. Humankind is always looking for ways to better itself, it is in our genes! In the 1980s and early 1990s an author named Dougal Dixon wrote several illustrated books on extrapolated(speculative) evolution (I suggest you get them from your local library if they have them for some interesting fun). I found them fascinating! One in particular covered the evolution of man (see link 1) below). While this is all fanciful and fun to look through and read, it does show that there are people who seriously see humanity’s future as “tailored” rather than natural. That is, we modify ourselves for our needs. The ethics of doing that are, well questionable. But as we move into space and an environment that is not suited to “Earthlings” why not a fast-track a human better suited to micro-gravity who does not have to worry about issues like bone densities suited for Earth?
I prefer my humans 100% natural personally though.
Humans do evolve over time, but it is not a one directional change as with other animals. With other animals, they adapt to changing environment conditions. With humans, we adapt but we also change our own environment, so in some cases slowing down the evolution in other cases speeding it up in ways that are not dictated by the environment, but forced on us by the technological and social structures we have created.
Not sure what the humans 10,000 years from now will look like. Too bad we won;t be around to see it.
By BRIDGE8 under license from Mangorolla CIC 2020