Evolution Has Evolved into Devolution: The Future of Weaker Humans

Evolving or Devolving Humans

Let's suppose that humans have been evolving for the last gazillion years. From primordial ooze to the sophisticated human machine we know now, organism after organism improved until we get an almost unbelievably great specialization of body systems, tissues, and cells. The explanation for improvement? The most fit organism passed on it's adaptive genetic information.

It's an interesting concept to think about even if I don't have enough faith to believe it. This hub isn't really about evolution. It's about devolution, or reverse evolution. And because it is a theory just like evolution, I can theorize anything I want about it.

Here's the main idea. Until recently, in the last few hundred to the last few thousand years, humans didn't have our modern medicine, infrastructure, and technologies. Back in the day people didn't have these luxuries, people like me and you would not have lived to the age of reproduction. Only the strongest people would live long enough to reproduce. Here's the list of things that might have killed me.

  1. Jaundice
  2. Breathing in my own feces (meconium inhalation)
  3. Broken arm that needed surgery
  4. Asthma
  5. Infections
  6. Wild animal attack
  7. Starvation
  8. Accidents (from being legally blind without corrected vision)
  9. Foodborne pathogens from not having a microwave (just kidding)

I think you get the idea. The reason these things didn't kill me is because I grew up in our modern society. Even the 80's was modern compared to just one hundred years before in the 1880's. Asthma treatment was ridiculous, and any of the other items could have prevented me from getting to child rearing years.

My theory is that people are getting weaker and weaker with every breakthrough we find to help young people. Treatment of osteoporosis, for example, really doesn't matter to devolution because it is an old person problem. Treatment of childhood asthma, on the other hand, helps kids survive and pass on more asthma genes to their kids. Each generation of kids tests our human resources for survival as it becomes weaker and weaker.

My favorite example of this is asthma, a disease that goes in the opposite direction of evolution. Asthma is like an allergy in that your body tissue freaks out over some small stimuli, such as pollen. Then your lung tissue says "hey, I know, let's just not allow any air at all in here, it's just too risky, this guy is mowing his yard, he's actually outside breathing the air."

Back in the day, the lung tissue would learn it's lesson real quick when it ceased to get oxygen to stay alive along with the rest of the body. Now we have Albuterol to quickly dilate the bronchioles and make them chill out. Most of the body's systems currently have a comparable weakness. Poor eyesight, diabeties, auto immune disorders, mental illness, etc. We use human intervention to fix all these problems, some more sophisticated than others.

Our Expectations

All the while we as humans attempt to get rid of all of the lethal human problems such as asthma, we are making the next generation even more likely to struggle with even more problems. I must come to face the fact that I will pass on very poor nearsightedness and probably asthma to my children, two things my wife and I might very well have died from at a much earlier age.

We must come to terms with our deteriorating genetic legacy and realize that we are enjoying prosperity at the expense of our children and our children's children. Whenever I read an article highlighting the epidemic proportions of some awful human deficiency, I always think of how that guy or girl's parents probably wouldn't have lived to have them. I am not being cruel, just scientific. We should look for confounding variables when looking at correlations anyway. Why not question devolution as at least one variable?

Let's change our expectations of having a world with no problems. Let's face it, humans aren't getting stronger or smarter. We depend more and more on our technologies. We become more and more specialized. We become more and more weak.  Our technologies are both the cause and the cure for the ills of devolution.  There is no quick fix for this inevitable inheritable process.

Are Humans More Wise?

Are humans becoming smarter, or more wise? We have the ability to travel and communicate to any part of the world. We have information on anything at our fingertips. We have more leisure time than previous generations.

I think this is difficult to assess. Herman Hesse said, "knowledge can be communicated but not wisdom." Our knowledge is not strengthening us as a race. Our knowledge seems to be weakening us. So wisdom may be the key to keep us strong as human beings. "Wisdom is always an overmatch for strength (Phaedrus)."

Has our wisdom improved since the time of Plato and Socrates or Solomon? I don't think so. Maybe it's time to ask God for wisdom. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5)."

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