Interesting Topics on Evolution


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 61 - 80 of total 348 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 08:57pm PT
I too would like to hear more about epigenetics and altruism genes.

Certainly the question of whether altruism is genetic or cultural is an interesting one. Considering the densely populated cooperative societies of East Asia and the individualistic and fragmented nature of America gives food for thought. We know that Chinese looking at a group photo scan everyone in the photo and surmise their relationship to each other while Americans tend to focus on one or two individuals with unusual characteristics (perceived interest or dominance) instead. In the social sciences we assume that is the result of culture.

I would love to hear an argument from the gene point of view. Or perhaps they are symbiotic? Individuals who stood out in dense agricultural populations had a greater chance of being rejected, persecuted, or annihilated in these societies by the power structures, and their genes over 6,000 years of history were gradually eliminated? An epigenetics example?

We know from DNA studies that in southern China (south of the Yangtze River), most of the men are northern Han Chinese while most of the women are southern, non Han Chinese. Therefore competitive pressures (and no doubt outright annihilation) altered the gene pool of a large population of non Han males. Human males in most places of the world must have been subjected to this type of selection many times over. Another case of epigenetics?

And what does this say of the relative fitness of men and women? The surviving males should be stronger, able to run faster, and smarter than the women? Or more likely this has contributed to men having more flight or fight reactions and women more accomodation oriented survival strategies with intelligence exhibeted in different ways?


Social climber
the Wastelands
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:11pm PT
As for subject #3, it probably depends for how long and how fast organisms evolve. It took on Earth 500,000 years(?) to produce intelligence. Maybe intelligence is not inevitable but highly probable if given enough time?

moose, what do you mean by 500,000 years?

that our primate ancestors exhibited a higher intelligence about that many years ago?

or that from the beginning of the earth to some point and 500K to what?

Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:17pm PT
Life on Earth began at least 3.5 billion years ago.

Depending on how you define intelligence, our lineage began about 2 million years ago and really got going about 50,000 years ago.

So it took almost 3.5 billion years to achieve intelligence if you define it as the first microwave oven or first species in space or whatever wha wha you want to use.

Yes, we are still evolving. Modern medicine does affect this, and would make a good discussion topic on its own.

The real kicker here is that very soon we will be genetically engineering ourselves. We can do it with corn, we can do it with mice, and there is no reason that we can't do it with people.

It is inevitable that we will jump beyond slow natural selection and engineer ourselves. If there is a shortcut, it will be used. The potential advantage of engineering ourselves is actually a conscious and deliberate way to control our evolutoun. Mice with tinkered DNA are being used in all sorts of experiments and drug trial experiments.
The benefits of genetic engineering will be fast and efficient. I leave the moral implications up to the reader.

A paper just came out that showed a genetic predisposition for some of the things that we call "morals," such as altruism. Altruism surprised me.

I think that it is very difficult for an intelligent creature like ourselves to evolve. It doesn't really provide a reproductive advantage for the long haul. Man is facing all sorts of self inflicted environmental and population problems already. If we don't make it, bacteria certainly will.

As far as the beginning of life, from my discussions with others who work in the field of evolution, life appears to have only begun once on this planet. That begs the question of why life hasn't begun many times, given that it happened early on the Earth and the planet is ideal for life of our chemistry.

Their is the universal genome which implies that all life comes from a single common ancestor.

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:23pm PT
Jan, I am not sure how advanced the epigenetics research is. It is relatively new. You are looking for DNA modifications and then interpretation.

DNA mutations, on the other hand are easy to track these days.

When it comes to cultural differences, they seem to arise from traditions rather than from epigenetics. If you raise a Chinese baby in the USA, would she/he retain some of the Chinese cultural traces?

Epigenetics is implied in intelligence and emotions, but cultural behavior? I would say no.

Edit: Sorry for that 500,000 blunder. 3,500,000,000 it is :) I blame oxycodone.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:29pm PT
Good question and neat experiment that could easily be performed on Chinese Americans by showing them group photos at different ages.

Eye movement can be easily measured, no matter what the person perceives they are doing. If genetic, very young Chinese children would look all around the photo and then focus on individuals as they grew up and were more acculturated to American ways.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jan 1, 2013 - 09:46pm PT

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 10:05pm PT
Very good article Healyje. I think we need to start testing DNA of our political candidates. Half joking.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Jan 1, 2013 - 10:29pm PT
It's cool to see this thread developing.

I'll try to contribute when I've got something to "tweet." No particular rush, right? It's nice that eeyonkee started it so we have it now - for when the interest or inspiration comes.

Ken, that's neat! You probably know, RD is living it up in Antartica now.

P.S. Eeyonkee, I think your questions and descriptions were well posed, I think you hit many of the ongoing issues very well and expressed them validly and accurately. How refreshing around here! :)

P.SS. Ken, I must've unconsciously confabulated, lol, regarding Wilson - when I should've said Hitchens, eh? Lucky dog! :)

Jan 1, 2013 - 11:50pm PT
There's no selfish gene.

You guys are dreaming and stuck in body consciousness.

Selfishness is rooted in body consciousness.

This is body mine, the extension of the body is mine, family, country, all extensions from the bodily concept.

But we are not the body but humanity as one whole and simultaneously with difference and individuality.

My country, your country, mine, mine this, and mine that, my religion, your religion, all create selfishness.

All due to poor consciousness of oneness, materialism, and body consciousness.

Such a simple thing to understand and see .......


Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 1, 2013 - 11:57pm PT
The paper I read said that this gene was also found in primates other than humans. Many animals work together as groups. Some animals mate for life, and somehow most animals know not to have sex with their brood or offspring.

I'm serious with the genetic engineering aspect. It isn't a part of my field, but I read a paper that was in the PNAS that included mice who were engineered without H1 hystamine receptors.

I'll do a little googling on the matter, but if you think about it, since we are still tribal and war with each other for no good reason. A genetic improvement in strength, intelligence, absence of hereditary disease and the like, and then kept it to yourself, within a generation you would be ruling the rest of the human race who were just a tiny bit slower in acquiring these methods.

The first group to do this will dominate. Go watch the idea in the movie Gattica. That film covers much of this, including actual genetic descrimination.

The time is rapidly approaching when we will be able to create our own evolutionary fate.


Social climber
An Oil Field
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:05am PT
Hold the door. Read these two articles. Kind of mind blowing.

The second, about Synthia, is where a totally artificial genome was inserted into a bacteria with all normal DNA removed.

This science is kind of like the Atomic Bomb. If we don't do it, somebody else will, and if they do, they are gonna kick our ass.

Not the best of intentions, but so are many ideas of what to do with raw science.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 2, 2013 - 12:37am PT
Our future as a species is being determined in Asia, home of over 50% of us.

The peoples of Africa are more genetically diverse than those of the rest of the world, combined. This suggests that they may be better able to adapt to whatever environmental challenges we create for ourselves.

As for the questions, I'm not a geneticist, but will make some guesses.

1. Are humans still evolving?

No reason they shouldn't be, and hybrid vigour from interbreeding of previously separated populations may lead to interesting results. I don't know that we can evolve to have larger brains, or that that would be an advantage. Can human females give birth to children with larger brains, and survive? Alternatively, if the brains grow further after birth, would an additionally prolonged adolescence be beneficial? Perhaps the brain can evolve in other ways, of course.. Anyway, we're surely still evolving, it's just a quesion of how.

2. Is group selection, as advocated most notably by the evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson, a viable process for explaining things like altruism or can this be explained entirely by selection at the organism or gene level?

If we can select some people out of SuperTopo, or at least just ignore them, that may demonstrate this hypothesis.

3. What is the likelihood that the emergence of life on a planet will lead to intelligent life given 100s of millions or billions of years of evolution to work with.

I'm not sure that humans are intelligent or civilized yet. After 4.53 billion years, give or take, we like to believe we are. My guess is that unicellular life is fairly common in the universe, but that it rarely evolves to more complex forms, let alone intelligence.

On a related note:

Eventually the US government will feel pressured into a rover/return mission to Mars, perhaps followed by a human flight. It will be a response to a possible Chinese manned Moon flight, and if the current series of increasingly sophisticated probes (and a rover/return) lead to the conclusion that Mars once had a real atmosphere and surface liquids for any length of time (almost certain), and that there is sufficient liquid water in the interior that life might still exist there.

If we get to the point of detecting oxygen atmospheres in planets orbiting other stars, we'll have a real challenge figuring out what to do.

Jan 2, 2013 - 12:53am PT
//The first group to do this will dominate. Go watch the idea in the movie Gattica. That film covers much of this, including actual genetic descrimination.

The time is rapidly approaching when we will be able to create our own evolutionary fate.

Science fiction can be viewed as a form of contingency planning. Robert Heinlein is one among several authors to speculate on our evolutionary future, for example in Beyond This Horizon (serialized in 1942) and Assignment in Eternity (1941-49).

It's hard enough to come up with a zombie plan, never mind a superman plan.

Jan 2, 2013 - 01:08am PT

Genes DNA etc etc are all there.

I don't discount gross material nature at all.

That's impossible to do.

It's a bonafide fact.

For hypothesis and theoretical sakes you can make any argument, assertion or whatever.

You can spend innumerable life times searching after the answers to those and continually suffer birth death disease and old age in an endless cycle.

Although western materialistic science and western Christianity discounts reincarnation the fact remains that it is factual truth.

If you study material nature you can easily see it.

But the goal is not to reincarnate ........


Jan 2, 2013 - 01:23am PT
why don't we see it

We ...

It should be you don't see it.

Just as the average tourist can not see the route on El Cap but you can.

In the same way one must train up to get the knowledge to "see".

One doesn't become knowledgeable even on the material platform without extensive training in education in schools and Universities.

Even a mechanic needs to train up.

You get the idea.

One problem is there are many cheaters.

And we've all been cheated, some of us for many life times ......


Jan 2, 2013 - 01:31am PT
Remain a cynic.

Also remain on guard.

Never blindly accept anything.

Don't worry you are always free to choose.

I'm not selling anything ......
Ben Emery

Trad climber
Australia via Bay Area via Australia...
Jan 2, 2013 - 01:31am PT
Interesting thread, thanks for starting it.

In terms of whether people are still evolving; maybe.

Some evolutionary theory suggests a model where most species are fairly static for most of their history, punctuated by rapid ("rapid" being a relative term here) changes that form the steps between species. I don't think we've changed greatly as a species in the past 100 thousand years (happy to be corrected)?

I'm sure there will be modest drift in the human species over time, but at least at the moment I can't see a strong survival/breeding advantage in being intelligent, for example, so I'm not sure we're evolving further in that direction any time soon. Likewise, I can't see any evolutionary advantage to being able to complete a 100m sprint in record time (unless there is data out there suggesting Olympic medalists have 10 offspring on average).

If the species or an ancestral species survives long term (not a given), I suspect our next major stage of evolution will have to wait until a crisis or major event causes either a bottleneck in the population or a strong selection process (e.g., an isolated population in space, or a global famine reducing us to a handful of individuals).

BASE104's ponderings over whether human evolution will be an active/directed process via genetic engineering is an interesting one.

Brave new world indeed.

Trad climber
Golden, CO
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 2, 2013 - 07:04am PT
Good responses, and thanks for the links! Base, I'm completely with you that the future of "evolution" of humans will likely be based on self-engineering and technology. It will simply be so much faster than natural selection. Seems to me that two other ways for significant change would be one or more major pandemics, in which, as MH and others have pointed out, the great genetic diversity in Africa would likely come into play. Another, suggested to me by a friend, would be if we survive long enough to become a space-faring species. A small group of people who become separated from the rest of humanity for long stretches of time would almost certainly start evolving faster, since there could be no remixing of genes with the mass of humans on the planet.

Turns out Werner, the idea of cheaters is a big one with respect to the second question. The foundation of Dawkin's problem with group selection is that cheaters would ruin it before it ever really got going.

To anyone interested in the genetic basis for altruism/empathy I would highly suggest reading 'The Selfish Gene'. For all of the ideas it packs, it's short and a relatively easy read. If you're not already familiar with some of the ideas, you'll come away looking at this subject in a completely different way.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Jan 2, 2013 - 08:02am PT
Regarding Ander's comments:

The peoples of Africa are more genetically diverse than those of the rest of the world, combined. This suggests that they may be better able to adapt to whatever environmental challenges we create for ourselves.

Maybe we can say that Asia will determine the future of the human race based on sheer numbers if all goes well, and Africa with its greater genetic diversity will save us if we face a catastrophe? For sure, between them with diversity and numbers, they have the best chance.

I don't know that we can evolve to have larger brains, or that that would be an advantage. Can human females give birth to children with larger brains, and survive?

We could indeed give birth to babies with larger brains if those brains were added to the top of the head. One theory about the extinction of the neanderthals who had around 300 cubic centimeters more brain than modern Homo sapiens, is that their large brain caused many maternal deaths due to the fact that it was stacked in the back, making for a head that was very wide coming down the birth canal. Homo sapiens by contrast, had a smaller brain and stacked on top resulting in a high forehead compared to neanderthal and less width in the birth canal.

Alternatively, if the brains grow further after birth, would an additionally prolonged adolescence be beneficial?

I think this has already happened for cultural reasons and why not? If we now live to 80 instead of 50, why shouldn't we lengthen the period of childhood and adolescence with its great potential for novelty and learning?
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Jan 2, 2013 - 09:21am PT
this is a stoopid thread. we had an interesting discussion going on donini's ignorance thread, but yonkers here has co-opted all the evolution true believers away from that. now donini's thread is dying a predictable death.

these are not interesting questions, yonkers.

1. of course humans continue to evolve. do you even understand the premise of standard, government-issue evolution? but the big problem is the direction of evolution. women are not getting prettier, they're getting fatter.

2. altruism is merely a concept contained in the wishful thinking of the researcher. it's the most subjective thing imaginable. i'm being objective about that.

3. you should go back and study GI evolution again. if you get your dates right, you might begin to ask some "interesting" questions.

sheesh, can't believe this: "given hundreds of millions or billions of years". here's the time line, buster:

12 billion ybp (years before present, so's you don't get confused by the birth of jesus), big bang happens.

5-6 billion ybp, our solar system confabulates; prior to that we had the evolution of quasars, protogalaxies and a bunch of astrophysical stuff it wouldn't hurt you to study up on. don't overlook the role of supernovas and the triple alpha process, which produces the element carbon, and which caused fred hoyle to stop being an atheist.

2.75 billion ybp we have amino acids, zapped in the tidepools by lightning, beginning to replicate the little link-ups they naturally form just lying around. eventually this "evolves" into dna, we get cells, probably viruses first, then fancier stuff. life remains unicelled for more than another billion years, but then the little buggers start building alliances (aka organisms), and, alas, they start eating each other as well. this is so sad, when you think about its implications for our future right now (because we are continuing to evolve).

so these klunky kritters keep on cooking and then comes the cambrian explosion. wowee. somewhere, deep in that dna, lies the propensity to experiment. it all gets on the fast track. vertebrates evolve out of a dumb-looking cambrian thing that happens to have a spinelike structure just to keep it swimming. from this come the great dinosaurs, then the great mammals, then the great humans. hooray for us!

the great humans started anthropoidizing outa fellow primates around 6 million ybp. i think the latest on homo sapiens (humans who can act like saps) puts our breakaway from other anthropoids at around a million years. don't think fellow primates are not intelligent. don't think ungulates are not intelligent. don't think dinosaurs were not intelligent. they were probably pretty in their way too, but not in the way of certain contemporaneous human females. (there's a whole thread on supertopo currently devoted to the latter, which is probably dying out. it makes me so sad that i have quit posting on it.)

the above dates are subject to immediate and possibly drastic revision based on next month's issue of the british magazine nature.

i see werner has come over here. i think he's running from me. i'm determined to figure out whether he's a sourpuss or not.
Messages 61 - 80 of total 348 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews