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Name: Mark D.
Status: other
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001


Question:
Natural selections is based on competition for limited resources, mainly food. Since almost no one starves to death in developed countries, what is the primary selecting factor now? Also, since most of our "best and brightest" are having smaller, more economical families, while many rural and impoverished people are having larger families, does this suggest "de-evolution"? I know that poor does not equal inferior, but it does for most of our capitalist society. Where can I find more info on this subject?


Replies:
I think your assumption that natural selection is generally based on any one thing is wrong...food or other limiting resources. Think of it....every single protein we have is a product of evolution. From time to time anything can be a selective pressure and the trait that it finds advantageous is not so easy to assess. I tend to work backwards...a finch with a long beak...a red cell with the sickle cell variant, hyoid cartilage and bones... ...they all have their advantages...the first is food retrieval one is disease resistance and the last is a complex related to speach.

PF

Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Office of Science
Department of Energy


Natural selection and evolution occur on a time scale of >10^6 years or more. I would throw out the challenge that given homo sapiens brief participation in this process(es), that we can even identify what the selecting factors are. Or that the factors that are operative in the past several thousand years have anything to do with natural selection.

Some examples: We are the first species in all eon-ic history that has the technology to wipe ourselves out by nuclear, biological, and/or chemical means--that is a certainty. But, there are all those issues surrounding global warming and ozone layer brought about in only the last few hundred years. Are these but insignificant blips on the time line of history, or are they our doom. I submit that no one knows.

It is not self-evident that food will be an important factor if genetic manipulation allows an essentially unlimited supply of food, and the eradication of disease by "treating" diseases genetically becomes possible, as it appears it may. These two human interventions could have a large, or an insignificant part to play on the million and billion year scale. Perhaps we are just filled with our own self-importance. Perhaps a catastrophic meteorite will change the whole equation, as it has apparently done so in the past. Or perhaps a solar belch may end life on earth, but that is a terra-centered view of existence. On the scale of the Universe our best guess is that there must be many stellar systems capable of supporting intelligent life. If earth disappears, we may not even be missed in terms of the grand scheme of the Universe.

Just a few thoughts for your consideration.

Vince Calder


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