Alex Davies shares his recent thoughts on evolution.
Science can be a confusing and counterintuitive thing to some people. Some latch firmly onto the quite correct piece of reasoning that evolution is just a theory. I suppose it’s an excusable misconception, given the natural confusing nature of complex science. The point I would make to any of those people, however, is that the rules of aerodynamics are just a theory, but how many people happily traverse oceans, in small metal canisters, rocketing at around 550 miles per hour, roughly 6 miles above the sea, and think nothing of it? Theories in science can be essentially fact, with the only difference being that no scientist has the arrogance to state that their idea is definitively correct – even though a lot of them could be. A theory can change, where a belief cannot. And that, is the beauty of science.
A big fear of mine is that a large majority of people will one day decide that evolution is fictionby using a human model. Yet as is always the case, and has been shown by this article’s very title, context is essential. I want to make clear now that this is not a definitive claim nor a certain belief. This is a question, not a fact… and I am no scientist. I am really little more than a half-arsed thinker with free time. Yet it occurred suddenly to me, as I circled the recess of sleep, that we as a species may have inadvertently halted our own evolution.
My fear, is rather complex. There are many variables and as a hypothesis the idea cannot be tested, but to summarise the thought as succinctly as possible. By shrinking the world, and by developing a *somewhat* civilised society around ourselves. Have we accidentally killed off the very thing science has been thrusting for decades into the faces of the ignorant.
If intercontinental travel is not only viable, but easy – as it has undeniably become – then an integral part of the evolutionary model could possibly have become redundant. Evolution is best exhibited through common ancestors, in an evolutionary development known as speciation To put it simply, a creature that lived in an area that eventually became divided into smaller segments, will evolve differently in each separate area. The logical example of this is the relatively obvious jigsaw of continents that our planet is covered in, briefly, that a supercontinent (Pangaea) began to break apart 200 million years ago, resulting in the continents we now know. A common ancestor now became isolated from its own species, and because of this, over great periods of time, they began to evolve distinct differences; as each subspecies continued to evolve, the differences between each of the creatures becomes more noticeable, until eventually, you end up with an elephant, and a haddock.
Back to society though, given that we are a nurturing and caring species – for the most part, genetic flaws could become prevalent. In a world where those with genetic anomalies that cause both physical and mental mutations, have a wider reach into the world than they did one thousand years ago, certain debilitating conditions will not necessarily be bred out of human DNA as a whole. For example, Dwarfism. Many millennia ago, someone with the condition would likely not have survived long enough to breed, but in a world where anyone can find a mate, thanks to everything from aeroplanes to the internet, I think that our collective evolution, as a whole, will be an incredibly difficult thing to predict.
In itself evolution has been a difficult process for science to display, but that is more because of a general lack of interest. The evidence of the above is plentiful. Selective breeding is a commonly used practice in farming, but over a longer period, creates even more distinct differences. Selectively bred boar over many centuries have been bred into domesticated pigs. A great many other farm animals, fruits, vegetables, and grains, have all been selectively bred to create better food. Another clear example of this is dog breeding, all domesticated dogs are descended from wolves, and depending on the selected characteristics of the breeding, makes all the difference from a Chihuahua to a St Bernard. My personal favourite, out of a great many selectively bred species, is the ‘cheap date’ fly. however the only real example that most people show interest in, is the missing link. The common ancestor between the humanoid species that coexisted, and primates. These elusive fossils have yet to be discovered, but examples of the basic premise above, have been proven more than a handful of times.
I am not trying to prove these ideas though, merely trying to clarify them for those who may not understand them. What I am pondering at present, is whether now that so many of the international populace have open access to international travel, will evolution continue? I think the clearest answer would be yes, it would. However, rather than evolving into separate subspecies, the consistent intercontinental mingling of DNA will keep the human race as one main species.
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