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healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:16pm PT
And finally, we have created such comfortable and clean environments that we have reduced much selective pressure.

Jan, I believe this is a mistake and one of human-centric social biases. There is no such thing as a "clean and comfortable" environment - there are only 'different' environments with more or less 'novel' attributes. From a microbial perspective, mega slums represent an active competitive environment whereas our "clean and comfortable" environment may be far better suited to the evolution of 'superbugs' given the hostile agents used to achieve these environments. Our first world environments may in fact be be evolutionary 'accelerants'. Similarly, habitat destruction unbalances 'stable' ecologies creating other highly novel incubators.

If a superbug emerges from either our 'clean' environment or a destabilized habitat then it's unlikely mega slum dwellers will be well-suited to survive either other than as more a mutational fluke of pure numbers.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 02:31pm PT
Ok, I see where you are coming from, Moosedrool. Great post, Jan. I'm with you. But let's just say that all of Asia and Africa were first world countries, with concomitant very low infant mortality and high life expectancy. Would your answer be the same?

With respect to 3, remember, the setup is the emergence of life on one planet and the liklihood of intelligent life (say, capable of technology)emerging on that planet. I'm not asking about the odds of intelligent life in the universe as a whole, which I would put at extremely high.

Sharks have evolved very little in the last 200 million years. Why? Because they haven't needed to. Evolution doesn't do it's magic just because. And there's certainly no reason to believe that given enough time that sharks would involve intelligence on par with humans.

Healje, (respectfully) the premise that because we are here means that the answer to 3 is high seems faulty to me. It smacks of the creationist premise that because the universe is just right for humans that it must have been designed for them.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:35pm PT
healeyje-

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. However, if our current sanitary environment makes us more susceptible to superbugs emanating from other continents, and we die off in great numbers, isn't the final effect of that to reduce our role in ongoing evolution even further?

And yes you're right about "clean and comfortable" being an example of social bias. But really, have you ever tried to live in one of those societies? I am always made aware of what a biological weakling I am compared to my Indian and Nepalese friends.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:39pm PT
eeyonkee: Healyje, (respectfully) the premise that because we are here means that the answer to 3 is high seems faulty to me. It smacks of the creationist premise that because the universe is just right for humans that it must have been designed for them.
Naw, I just think that we exist means intelligence is inevitable in some percentage of galaxies which become hospitable to life.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:43pm PT
eeyonkee-

That's a very interesting question and one that's hard for me to imagine given the present state of the world and dwindling resources. For hypothetical purposes however, assuming that all the world becomes as developed and hygienic as ourselves, then yes, the biological fitness of the entire human race would become less than that of our ancestors.

Likewise, if all the elites of the world fail to reproduce, the same effect will be achieved. There are indications of this already happening in parts of Asia as the Japanese and Korean governments are now giving child allowance to encourage reproduction and Singapore has gone so far as to promote social events between highly educated professionals in the hope of increasing marriage and reproduction of those classes.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
Jan: I'm not sure I understand what you mean. However, if our current sanitary environment makes us more susceptible to superbugs emanating from other continents, and we die off in great numbers, isn't the final effect of that to reduce our role in ongoing evolution even further?

It works both ways, our superbugs will kill more slum dwellers and a novel pathogen jumping species out of the blue from a destabilized habitat may be equally lethal to both high rise and megaslum dwellers - it's more a question of how novel the microbe is to our exposure to it.

And yes you're right about "clean and comfortable" being an example of social bias. But really, have you ever tried to live in one of those societies?

Yes, and always deathly ill on first exposure as well. Cruise ships are a good example of why there is no such thing as "clean and comfortable" environments despite our social images of them.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 02:52pm PT
it's more a question of how novel the microbe is to our exposure to it.

Agreed, (and really good point about cruise ships!) but it still seems to me that people whose immune systems are frequently challenged will have a better chance than those whose systems produce allergies as false alarms because they have so little else to respond to.

And I'm wondering if the decimation of the Native American populations wasn't an example of both - superbugs they had no previous exposure to and possibly weakened immune systems from living in sparsely populated, microbially challanged environments?
elcap-pics

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:01pm PT
I think we will screw our earth up and kill ourselves off long before evolutionaly pressure will demonstrate measurable results. Our present population is not sustanable for another 500 years and maybe much less than 500 years. But the good news is that I will have lived at the very best time to be alive and will be gone before the "Crunch". Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!
WBraun

climber
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:06pm PT
I think we will screw our earth up and kill ourselves off long before evolutionary pressure will demonstrate measurable results.


Will not happen.

The built in over ride will prevent it.

Mankind is not the ultimate controller of the planet/universe as the so called modern eduction is projecting.

Mankind is too stupid to run the planet.

There's an ultimate plan in place regardless what all the mental speculators are projecting.

That ultimate plan is perfectly carried out in the same fashion the seasons perfectly eternally change ......
crunch

Social climber
CO
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:08pm PT
But the good news is that I will have lived at the very best time to be alive and will be gone before the "Crunch". Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!

Too late; I'm here already....
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:13pm PT
Great thread. All of these are wonderful topics. Very stimulating.

(Best way to keep it on track, largely done so far, is to not feed the trolls. Just a reminder for thread wellbeing.)

Hope to contribute some later. This talk about epigenetics, gene pools, genetic drift, gene pool strengths as a function of human values, micro vs macro, individual vs group, etc. is encouraging esp coming from climbers!

Make Dawkins proud!

.....

Ken, how is it you know Hawking and have spent time with Dawkins and Wilson. Let's hear it! :)
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:16pm PT
And I'm wondering if the decimation of the Native American populations wasn't an example of both - superbugs they had no previous exposure to and possibly weakened immune systems from living in sparsely populated, microbially challanged environments?

I think that is a closer parallel to your 'megaslum' scenario of a 'dirty' (ag-based humans and animals in close proximity) and dense-population pathogen wreaking havoc on a [sparse] 'clean' population.
Roadie

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
Nice thread.

We’re still evolving, for sure. We are getting dumber and fatter, at least in the first world. If you give a non-culturally bias IQ test to a representative population from most remaining hunter gather peoples, the average is about 110. Evolution fails to work in our favor when people aren’t allowed to eliminate themselves from the gene pool- before breeding. People living longer means that medical technology has evolved, not people. People riding their bikes faster, hitting more home runs and climbing 5.17 means better nutrition and better drugs…

Question two seems a bit poorly worded. Altruism…, it seems to me, is a product of cultural evolution, not genetic. Both are important for sure but shouldn’t be confused. Social evolution= history, physical evolution= genetics. History is a stationary bicycle disguised as a bulldozer, evolution is exactly the opposite. I read that somewhere, can’t remember where but I liked it.

I like question three. It would be ridiculous to hold too strongly to any one opinion given our pathetically small sample of one. That being said, for every planet with life (obviously there are scads) I’d like to think about 5% of those planets develop intelligent life, that’s not to say we’d recognize it as such…
Roadie

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:34pm PT
Oh yeah,for those of you who still haven't read: Jared Dimond's Guns Germs and Steel, get on it. Thats only slightly off topic.
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 03:45pm PT
Question 2, as I indicated earlier, requires a little more background reading for most people. It's actually a pretty big and controversial subject among evolutionary biologists. Altruism, is at first blush, not easily explained by classical evolution. Richard Dawkins (building on others' work) presented compelling evidence that altruism in humans is the result of 'selfish' genes. Briefly, since you share 50% of your genes with your siblings and parents, it would be beneficial to your gene legacy if you were to sacrifice yourself for say, three of your siblings. E.O. Wilson, too, suggested that altruism has a genetic basis, but he conceived of a separate level of selection, one at the group level rather then organismic or gene level. Dawkins would claim that group selection requires some mysterious agent that is simply not needed to explain the genetic basis for altruism. This is a super-simplified explanation.
Roadie

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:56pm PT
Thanks E,
Maybe I’m still too hung over for question 2. I think I read one of Dawson’s books (wasn‘t he the ‘THERE‘S NO GOD AND IF YOU THINK SO YOU‘RE A MORON’ guy). I remained unimpressed. Just so angry… And doing such a bad job of trying to prove a negative…
Never the less, I’m standing by my original statement- altruism=cultural…
Norton

Social climber
the Wastelands
Jan 1, 2013 - 04:01pm PT
I read one of Dawson’s books (wasn‘t he the ‘THERE‘S NO GOD AND IF YOU THINK SO YOU‘RE A MORON’ guy

maybe, but Richard Dawkins book The God Dulusion

or Christopher Hitchens book God Is Not Great

may be more what you are referring to
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
Jan 1, 2013 - 04:08pm PT
does altruism explain morality? If by your example a "selfish gene" supports helping others but only as far as your siblings, does it also support ambivalence or even hostility toward those outside "the family" - those of no recognizable material worth, as it were. In group / out group. If the selfish gene is the root cause of altruism, has it "evolved" only so far as to provide benefit to the select few - those that can return the favor? I hope not.

Yes - a very good thread, possibly for the sole reason of avoiding dogma. Unfortunately as Gobe has shown, some people take exception to the entire concept of evolution because.....

OK forget it - I won't go there

eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2013 - 04:19pm PT
Dawkins is known by the general public more for his anti-religion writings, but he is a well-respected zoologist and evolutionary biologist who authored some very seminal books in the field. I've read at least 10, including his most famous book, The Selfish Gene.

Altruism really is the basis for morality from a genetic standpoint. I really didn't explain the whole selfish gene thing very well. I'm not on top of it enough to summarize in a paragraph or two. For one thing, one should probably throw out the term 'selfish' in a summary explanation, as it is more likely to obfuscate rather than shed light on the subject. I'm hoping somebody who is on top of this will chime in.
Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Jan 1, 2013 - 04:48pm PT
Ken, how is it you know Hawking and have spent time with Dawkins and Wilson. Let's hear it! :)

My graduate work was in genetics at Davis, and I studied with two of the giants of evolution of the last century, Stebbins and Dobzhansky. Just having known them opens doors, much less having worked with them.

I had communicated with Dawkins, who'd read stuff I'd written, and when he came to town to lecture at UCLA a few months ago, we got together to talk for awhile over coffee. A privilege.

It turns out Hawking is a fan of magic, and so am I. When I heard that, I arranged through intermediaries to have him invited to the Magic Castle, a private club for magicians in Los Angeles where I sometimes go, for a private show. To my astonishment, he accepted, and he and his entourage came and had dinner and a great time. I had a chance to talk with him, but it was only for a brief time.

By the way, Stebbins was a climber, and put up first ascents in the Sierra!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ledyard_Stebbins

Dobzhansky's work was instrumental in spreading the idea that it is through mutations in genes that natural selection takes place.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_in_Biology_Makes_Sense_Except_in_the_Light_of_Evolution

Don't know Wilson personally, didn't mean to imply I did.
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