August 23, 2005

Natural selection?

As someone of the younger generation the problems of pensions and maintaining the elderly to an increasingly higher age are not threatening to affect me directly. However, the prospect of potentially having to work until I'm 70 or 75 is quite daunting. This is, however, an aside, and not really what I wanted to talk about.

Whilst the developments in medical science over the recent years have been fantastic and have saved many lives, are we not in fact sidestepping the very biological system that made us so advanced: natural selection. The purpose of selection is to weed out the weak to increase the chances of surviving for the strong. Whilst medical advances have been brilliant for many who are suffering from all kinds of medical conditions, we are in fact changing our own genetic pool for the worse. People who even 50 years ago would have died at an early age from their conditions are now living far longer and even reproducing to propagate their deleterious genes.

Would it not be ironic if the human race was wiped out by a phenomenon we would have otherwise survived had we not become so advanced and learnt how to manipulate our own gene pool?

P.s. This is merely a discussion of ideas. I am not condemning the fantastic advances of medical science, nor saying that the weak should not be allowed to take advantage of them (before anyone shouts at me for being controversial).

- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Fair enough points, but we're all about survival, and we've just developed more and more complex and intricate ways of doing so.

    Good enough argument until you (one) find yourself in that situation, or your child is.

    And there you get the every-one-has-a-right-to-life argument. Not many people want to die.
    I see your point though.

    23 Aug 2005, 11:04

  2. Oh, I completely agree! There's no way that anyone would ever say no to using modern medicine on the off chance that it could be making the human race weaker, me emphatically included. Obviously this is completely hypothetical discussion!

    The point is, though, that we have redefined our meaning of 'survival'. In the animal world the fittest survive, whereas we are now actively maintaining the weakest in the population and thus reducing our fitness.

    23 Aug 2005, 11:12

  3. But then (in theory) wouldn't natural selection balance that out? If it becomes possible to maintain otherwise deleterious genes in a population through advances in medical science, might not nature play a part in removing/effects of the mutations on genes?

    It could also be argued that medical science is moving sufficiently fast to beat nature at its own game. With the results of research into gene therapy becoming more and more positive, we could reach the point where we are able to change DNA to remove mutated/faulty genes-even if new faults diseases are introduced into the genome-from the population.

    23 Aug 2005, 11:23

  4. What about the perspective that, rather than evolving physically, it is our mental evolution that is enabling to survive? As the knowledge and thinking of the species evolves, we get more medical advances, hence can continue to evolve. This is now our selective advantage.

    23 Aug 2005, 11:23

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