On humans, those with "poor" traits (for example, bad eyesight) would have been killed or died at a young age. Thus, only those with better genes (like those who could actually see well) would reproduce.

However, technology allows those with bad genes to have a higher chance of reproducing and passing those genes on to other humans. Needing glasses or contact lenses may not seem like a big deal, but we also allow things like diabetes, heart conditions, and the like to "spread" to more people.

Fortunately, we are now reaching the stage of being able to artificially improve ourselves genetically. Hopefully, people won't mess with stupid things like eye color and instead only touch important things like eyesight.

Please Note: I am not saying that people with any of the problems I listed are inferior, just genetically inferior.

Natural selection happens just like it used to, it cannot really be changed. Whether an organism survives or not as part of natural selection is determined by that organisms adaptation to it's environment. Thus fitness is relative to environment. Crocodiles are well adapted to swamps, thus they are "fit" in them and survive, in the arctic they are not "fit" and do not survive.

So we come to humans who, at this point are able to create an environment that fits our needs, thus making us fit without changing phsyically. If we lose this ability to customize our environment (nuclear war, asteroid), we become correspondingly less fit and therefore less prone to survival. In our current state the selection pressures have simply changed form, instead of being predators and pointy rocks, they are now high-cholesterol foods and terrorists.
A great many people mistakenly believe that natural selection implies that it only takes place if they who are perceived to be less valuable or somehow deficient are removed from the gene pool.

You're fucking wrong.

Natural selection is when you are either selected for removal or selected for survival. If people with poor vision who would otherwise have died survive by help from others, then people with poor vision have been selected to survive. Natural selection.

If the group of people who aid people with poor vision overburden themselves by trying to help those with poor vision and fail to survive, then they have been selected to die. Natural selection.

If the increase in population from the survival of blind people overburdens the ecosystem and it is no longer able to support either the human population or the canine population, then both humans and dogs have been selected to die. Natural selection.

If the blind people overtake their sighted benefactors in population until all persons are blind, then sighted people have been selected to die and blind people have been selected to survive. Natural selection.

If you're poor and your best friend falls ill, and you choose to take care of him at your own expense, thereby preventing you from passing on your genes, then you have been selected to fail. Your compassion will fail to be passed on to your offspring and thus it will be that much more removed from the gene pool. When your other friend chooses to ditch your mutual best friend, he'll succeed in passing on his genes, thus pushing forward a selfish mentality. Genes, people, animals, behaviors, all were naturally selected in some way or another.

You cannot escape natural selection.

You cannot escape evolution.

Anytime someone tells you that evolution/natural selection doesn't affect humanity anymore, they are wrong.

Humans are no more separate from the community of life than any other species; belief to the contrary is egotistical self-indulgent vanity, and a load of shit.

Reply to Helter:

If stupid people are no longer allowed to simply get themselves killed, and if weak people are no longer killed off by stronger people, and incompetent people are no longer allowed to starve, then those people are suited to their environment and therefore successes. The fault in your argument is that you draw up comparisons between changing populations (the weak of yesteryear and the weak of the present) without also showing the comparison between the environment of yesteryear and the environment of today. If they are alive, then they have been selected to live; they are suited to their environment. If anything, the strong who would kill the weak are now not suited to their environment, as the environment of today doesn't allow for the killing of others for being weaker.

In other words, natural selection is still applicable to the whole of humanity. Just as it was yesterday, just as it is today, just as it will be tomorrow, and every other day after. You're not less affected by natural selection one day than you are the next. It is a constant and works on many different levels. I believe the problem you're having is that you can't see it as anything but one level, and in your sight human society is somehow removed from the community of life, which it isn't.

You say that we've removed the natural system and replaced it with our own. What does that mean, anyway? Natural? I don't subscribe to the idea of something being natural or unnatural, because all things produced in the universe are of the universe, and therefore inherently natural. If a human system exists in the universe, it is natural. Your argument of how a societal system has usurped a natural system is wrong also in that the actions taken by the population to protect "genes ... that are not neccesarily adapted well in regards to nature" will result in one of two things: 1) It will help the population succeed; 2) It will help the population fail. Again we go back to your limited scope: you don't see that natural selection can affect more than individuals.

Reply to Deadbolt:

What is considered natural is stated above in my reply to Helter.

There is no distinction between humans and "instinct-driven animals." Humans are driven by instinct more than we believe. When you smell a woman's perfume as she walks by and you turn to look at her and inhale more deeply, you've done so instinctually. When you're about to get into a fight with someone bigger than you, you'll either stay and fight or run. Sometimes you'll stay because the winnings are worth more to you. You need it, and you're willing to stay and fight for it. Sometimes the bigger person will back down, because it isn't worth the trouble. And sometimes a mountain lion will fight for its kill even when a bear four times it size decides he wants it.

Don't say you're not instinct-driven and don't say animals can't reason.

As for what agency, or who has acted upon you, the answer is no one. You're a part of a system and if you choose not to breed then you have removed yourself. If someone else shoots you in the head then you were not well suited to your environment to survive (read that as you didn't have a kevlar skull, you didn't have good enough hearing to know they were there, you didn't have the sense to have better friends, or you just had a stroke of bad luck). You are part of an enormous interacting system; there is no who.

And about mutation, think of it this way: mutation is the clay, natural selection is the molder. Don't confuse the two or consider one the whole of evolution, nor should you think that they the same.

The difference between your selection (choice not to breed) and the random chance of getting hit by a falling meteor is that on the one hand you were not born suited to your environment (where the choice to reproduce is necessary) and on the other hand you were not born suited to your environment (where falling meteors is a possibility).

What do you think the whole answer is?

Reply to SkiBum5:

If a heroin addict ODs and survives then that addict is suited to survive in his/her environment. They were selected for survival, not death. Nothing was foiled, everything went as said. I think what we have here, as in most other writeups, is a fundamental misunderstanding about the workings of evolution.

If anyone has the time and patience, a great place to get started is talk.origins (usenet) or www.talkorigins.org.

Reply to Azure Monk:

Natural selection is the differential reproductive success of genotypes. In other words, the successes and failures are included.

You poorly paraphrased me and misinterpreted me. I said if people with "trait X" who would otherwise die are helped to survive by others, then those with "trait X" are suited to their environment; they don't have to alter their environment to survive because their environment is supportive of them. In other words, "trait X" isn't something that removes them from the gene pool, and they are allowed reproductive success (which includes reproductive success of their genotypes). I'm not sure how your reply on this point applied.

Your point about an environment not having a specific capacity for a population is wrong. Carrying capacity is well documented and well understood in evolutionary biology. Your example of scarcity decreasing the population to a sustainable level is but one example: it is entirely possible for an organism to increase its population, and thus its waste output, to the point that it destroys the viability of the ecosystem in which it lives and thus itself.

Your point about people with "trait X" breeding more and overtaking the population is redundant: if a population succeeds it is because during the timeframe of its success it was suited to succeed. Nothing can succeed that isn't suited to succeed.

You end by saying that technology has ultimately reduced diversity and as a result natural selection is now not as relevant as before, though it still acts upon us. I disagree in that any time someone breeds or dies without having bred, natural selection has taken place.

Reply to Roland:

Darwin didn't coin "survival of the fittest."

Animals aren't the only organisms on the planet.

Other organisms exert control over their environment, such as a beaver that builds a dam or a bird that builds a nest.

You say in one sentence that humans are the only organisms that exert control over their environment and then equate control with reason. Your support for this is that we're the only ones that make it warmer/colder and that we're the only ones who reason we'll die without food and that we ensure nourishment is nearby. Tell that to the squirrel who stockpiles his nuts and the mouse who builds himself a bed of paper.

That pretty much kills the rest of your argument for a new theory being required.

I disagree. I've noticed that people with the following qualities still tend to be more likely to get married and raise children than those who lack them:

As long as people continue to find the above traits appealing in members of the opposite sex, natural selection will continue to do its thing. There are exceptions, of course, but there always are; its the general trend that concerns Darwinism, not the specific beaters of the odds.

Darwinism or Natural Selection does still happen today, although it is stunted a bit by society. Let me explain: Natural Selection does not only root out physical problems but mental ones as well. Humans have developed the ability to think, adapt and generally solve problems. This is our strength, not physical prowess. So natural selection should, therefore, root out those with poor reasoning skills.
Society stunts this process, here is an example: A Heroin addict ODs on the drug and is sent to the ER for treatment; s/he survives due to the treatment (when they would have died without it) and is released. Ok, so society made Heroin available, but it also saved the addict that overdosed on the crap by means of the social norm that states it is unethical, immoral, unhuman or what-have-you to let someone die in the street (for one thing it is a pain in the ass the clean up). Natural selection was foiled by society.
On the other hand society and technology have provided an environment with a different set of hazards than the African Interior offering seemingly unlimited possibilities for death or injury (see Darwin Awards). An example of this comes from Salt Lake City, Utah: SLC recently invested in a new Light Rail system that runs on the street level (as opposed to a subway or elevated train). The Darwin Award goes to the woman who decided to race the train to the crossing.... on foot. She was trying to cross the tracks ahead of the train to make it to the boarding platform. They ended up washing her off the train with a hose.

Ok, so I may be insensitive, but this is a prime example of Better Darwinism through Technology.

Deadbolt, you're absolutely right, that YOU made the choice, but what hramyaegr is trying to say is that there are genes (and also memes, which are other agents of natural selection) which will make us more likely to make one choice or another. If all, or most, existing compassionate people have less of a chance of surviving and propogating, then they will not pass on they're gene which caused them to be compassionate, nor will they pass on their compassion to imitators (see meme).

Obesity is a good example. Suppose that women found severly overweight men very attractive. Women all over the world would search for these overweight men, and try to have sex with them. These men would sleep with at least a thousand women a year. In this scenario, wouldn't you agree that fat men would become more prevalent (assuming obesity is genetic)? But doesn't obesity cause heart disease, etc. which is bad for survival? This is to illustrate that natural selection does not necessarily lead to more desirable traits. The reason natural selection usually does lead to more desirable traits, and why the above example isn't likely to happen, is because there is no reason for women to be especially attracted to fat men, because that will decrease their children's odds of survival, which would diminish the attraction to obese men as a trait in the gene pool. The only way that this scenario could lead to increased survival is if all women were initially attracted to fat men either because it used to increase the liklihood of survival, or because it happened suddenly, in an "outbreak."

Another example are midgets dogs. Most animals that are born as a dwarf are killed very early on. However dogs like chihuahuas or toy poodles have a very high survival rate? Why? Because they're cute. Sure, they may not be the best physical specimen designed for survival, but there are other factors involved too.

Natural Selection is not a magical or mystical force. It is a principle. It applies outside of biology as well.

This first part is largley in response to hramyaegr, with his arguments paraphrased in italics:

A great many people mistakenly believe that natural selection implies that it only takes place if they who are perceived to be less valuable or somehow deficient are removed from the gene pool.
Natural selection DOES only take place when individuals that are less suited to their environment are removed from the gene pool.

If people with trait X who would otherwise die are helped to survive by people without trait X, that's natural selection.
No, this isn't how things work. The population as a whole does not drastically shift behaviors. If dominant trait X begins to develop in a population, and the affect of this trait is that people with trait X need to be cared for by people without trait X, some people without trait X will care for them, and some won't. Suppose we assign the label “trait Y” to the gene that makes you care for those with trait X.

If the people with trait Y are caused to overburden themselves and consequently die, that's natural selection.
Yes. If trait Y (caring for people with trait X) is a survival advantage, the people with trait Y will come to dominate the gene pool. If it isn't, they will be gradually removed, as will the people with trait X because they don't have anyone to care for them.

If the increase in population from the survival of people with trait X overburdens the system so it can no longer support the population and it consequently dies, that's natural selection.
No, this isn't how things work either. Environments do not have a specific capacity, beyond which massive dieoffs suddenly occur. If the population begins to exceed the environment's ability to sustain it, resources will become scarce. Suppose food becomes scarce. People will begin to die from hunger until the population has been reduced below the level of the environment's ability to support them. The ones that die will depend on which genes are better suited to deal with the situation, thus natural selection.

If people with trait X breed more than people without it and eventually dominate the population, that's natural selection.
Yes. But this will only happen if trait X allows those with it to better survive in the environment. If trait X is impotence or total brain death, it will probably never become dominant in the population.

If you have trait Y and help person with trait X, and do not breed because of it, that's natural selection.
Yes. Trait Y will eventually be wiped out, as will trait X, if people with those two traits are less likely to reproduce.

The issue addressed in this node is whether or not natural selection is now acting upon us. If a group of identical pink bunnies have a total of one gene, and it is exactly the same for all of them, and they mate for life, always producing two offspring, and there is sufficient, identical food to sustain them and there are no accidents, violence, or enmity in this bunny world, no natural selection will take place. Natural selection only ceases to act if the gene pool remains static -- that is, if everyone reproduces equally.

Obviously, this isn’t happening. Our collective gene pool is continuing to change, and always will be. However, we have greatly slowed the effects of natural selection through the use of technology. The range of genes that are irrelevant toward reproduction is constantly widening. Every new wonder drug we develop renders a few more irrelevant, reducing the diversity of the population and making us more like those pink bunnies. There are too many raw variables for us to ever reach pink bunny status and totally stop natural selection, but we have slowed it... for now, at least.

Lith: As far as the obesity scenario is concerned, it would become prevalent in the short term. In the long term, natural selection would undo this "alien mind zapping" or whatever caused women to become attracted to obese men, because obesity puts you at higher risk for heart disease, and heart disease prevents you from passing on as many genes.
First, let me start by saying that I voted up almost every write-up in this node because there are obviously some educated people who are addressing this topic. Now, I would like to interject my views.

Charles Darwin was a scientist. He observed certain phenomena regarding the evolution of the species of life that exist on our planet. The fundamental ideas behind his theories are based on fossil research and archaeology. He proved (and these proofs have been verified over and over again by reputable scientists) that genetic mutations of animals define which animals survive and which animals die. And that the survival or death of these mutations depend on the environment in which the animals exist. Also, these mutations do not occur because they are suited to the environment, they occur by chance, and thus occurring, those with the mutations more suited to the environment tend to survive while those less suited to the environment die off.

Darwin's 'survival of the fittest' theory is quite accurate when describing animal species. Animals that exert no control over their environment are subject to their environment and, if lacking the ability to exist in this environment or the ability to migrate to a more suitable environment will become extinct, while animals that are suited to their environment (whether or not they exert any control over it) will survive.

Darwin's theories fail with regard to animals that do exert control over their environment. To date, the only animal species that exhibits this trait is the human being. The human adapts to its surroundings not by mutation, but by reason. The human being is a self-aware animal that realizes (not unlike other animals) that it will die if it is too cold or too hot, or if it is hungry. But the human (unlike other animals), will take steps to alter its surroundings by making them less cold or less hot, and to ensure that adequate nourishment is available. Thus, the fundamental difference between human beings and other animals that are subject to 'survival of the fittest'.

New theories must be devised to describe the survival of the human being, then, as less fit (according to Darwin's theory) individuals continue to survive. Darwin provides no basis for intellect in his theories, and it would seem that trait more than any other is the one that determines the survival of the human race. In studying the existence of animal species throughout known history, one will find that there are striking similarities in the rise and fall of individual animal species. The population of any given animal tends to rise (if the species is suited to its environment), plateau and then fall abruptly (the one exception being the cockroach, which has pervaded throughout known history largely due to its singular ability to survive almost any crisis).

The human being, on the other hand, has defied these norms, growing in population to a greater degree than any other animal. This phenomenon is due simply to the fact that the human is not subject to survival by mutation, but to survival by adaptation. Humans have populated the Earth by altering the Earth to fit its needs. These alterations include the building of shelters, the invention of items which facilitate survival, knowledge of things that cause death and the ability to learn from history. Other animals do not posess these environment-altering capabilities.

I have not meant for this write-up to be a contradiction to the previous viewpoints expressed here, but merely a new idea.

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