When Evolution Stalled

Evolution Stalled and Asleep

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Evolutionary Insight: Where Are We Now

The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (P.S.)
The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal (P.S.)

Jared Diamond places us in our evolutionary tree, talks about how we got here and where we go next.

 

Evolutionary Pace

Since evolution is not well understood, I thought I'd add a simple note explaining how quickly it happens.

Actually, it's never instantaneous and all species have their own individual paces. Some have hardly evolved at all over millions of years, most turtles for example, in the absence of evolutionary pressure.

Some, like us, experience a plateauing, a cessation of change. Without reproductive advantage to heat up our DNA, nothing much takes place.

Has Evolution Stalled or Why Do We Watch So Much TV

Evolution Stalled

Back in the good old days–well, maybe not so good, but definitely old–our human ancestors broke off from the line of reptiles in which we'd lived so far. Speciation, a word we didn't even have then (or any others), is the process by which living things break away from a common ancestor and evolve as a freewheeling branch, innovating, becoming.

Anyone who doesn't "believe in" human evolution is excused from reading further.

While the theory itself is continually being amended with new discoveries, it's well-known to be densely populated with facts while discoveries consistently expand and reinforce our knowledge.

No debates about intelligent design. Religion can be nice, but when it plays dishonestly with reality, it isn't useful.

So, back to that big familial break up. This one was gradual enough that there probably weren't many tears or recriminations, although resentments continue. Calling a human a "reptile" is an insult universally.

Still, what eventually evolved as homo sapiens went courageously off into a new environment with some advantages and many dangers.

The dangers, predatory animals, unpredictable weather, food shortages, and long reproductive cycles, created what can be called evolutionary pressures.

According to our understanding of natural selection as the strongest driver for change, the human strains best able to deal with these pressures and most successfully produce offspring won. In other words, they got to be us, the stars of the current millennium.

As a species, we have been astonishingly successful.

We've learned to protect ourselves from weather as well as predators by living in shelters, caves at first. We evolved effective digestive systems that allowed us to thrive through the use of, maybe, our greatest invention, agriculture.

We developed social systems that protected children from the time they began as fetuses until adulthood. We've been masters of environments all over the world, even to the extent that we are now left as our own worst enemy.

The others, with the possible exception of some virulent viruses and microorganisms, have been vanquished.

Our development of agriculture, largely powered by advanced genetics, has enabled us to feed a population much greater than we thought, even if the political logistics haven't been worked out.

The development of urban populations and government has, in spite of the Tea Party Movement, sustained a safer, healthier world than ever before and one that shows no signs of losing momentum.

Scientific research, with the invention of tools that let us "see" what can't be seen, has taken us far into realms even our most recent ancestors never imagined.

Strange then that we are running out of gas.

Nothing realistic scares us much anymore. That fact is evidenced by routinely flipping on the TV or going out to movies to buy the thrill of terror, of mayhem, of war, of medical emergencies.

Cop shows, I was startled to find recently, have grown more grisly and violent, the element of thought-provoking mystery having taken a back seat to visceral thrills. Can you just imagine the average viewer now sitting still while Joe Friday coolly builds a case or Perry Mason picks apart a witness in court?

Having overcome human evolutionary pressures, having defeated them, the reality we face is that change for us has stalled, and while this is a great sign of success, it also heralds the prospect of enormous tragedy.

Tragedy for humans.

Think about it. What is threatening enough to us as a species to favor special features in natural selection? Intelligence and logical thinking, probably the most powerful of our evolutionary developments, are neither highly valued for reproduction or even for social recognition, at least not these days. Richard Feynman may have been the last scientific rock star. Maybe Carl Sagan.

The more advanced intelligences in our culture have moved on, leaving the majority of us behind, gaining weight, lost in the cosmos, employing TV, movies, videos and other vicarious attractions as substitutes for real lives and real challenges.

Maybe speciation is gloriously at work. The great artists, philosophers and scientists of our day may be separating from our common ancestor, Post Industrial Man, and evolving a new lineage. The rest of us may sinking into obscurity, safe, secure and entertained.

David Stone

Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

Quick Poll

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  • No, there are too many missing pieces
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© 2010 David Stone

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What do you think? 4 comments

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David Stone 6 years ago from New York City Author

Kristal you are mistaking a variety of social actions for evolution.


Kristal 6 years ago

We have not stopped in fact what evolves in the next twenty years will be mind boggling........I still am a fan as well of darwinism.....:-)It is actually what will keep evolution going......and it is moving.

I'm not sure what world you boys are living in but most of my world contains vital, active and living beings not dormant passive ones (my sons excluded LOL)

Perhaps your experience is a simple observation of the pause between. As for the interference we have allowed and you see as progressive I would have to dosagree....we are actuallymoving against the invasive procedures that have been inflicted on our unborn fetuses. We have almost completely stopped the arcane feeding of something out of a can to our newborn lives and returned to what is natural and healthy and as for the drugs and the fear instilled by the drug companies......that too is beginning to be discovered and will soon return to a more conscientious way of taking care of ourselves.

The sun is our best friend but we now shun it. Choloesterol is NOT bad for us by we have been convinced it is and on and on I could go.

Perhaps we need to fix the mess we created in this last accelerated evolutionry phase before we can move on to th next.

Getting back to basics in many areas will be imperative~~

David, please re-read....a couple of typos in there :-)

xo


David Stone profile image

David Stone 6 years ago from New York City Author

It's an important component in my book, and maybe I'll expand on this later, Dan. My belief is that we have to make voluntary, conscious choices in favor of evolution. Fear will not be enough anymore. It's a new paradigm, if we're up to it. Otherwise, it's this plateau forever, I think.


Dan Carpenter 6 years ago

Interesting and I actually understood what you were saying David. I quite agree much of society has become dormant, perhaps from the perspective that our economic, government, business and educational models don't encourage thinking outside the box and as a result, there seems to be no incentive to look at life outside of the daily routines.

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