View Full Version : Would new evolutionary mutations be accepted in today's society?
Church Key Kid
01-24-2003, 09:38 AM
I'm sure we all know that evolution is just a serious of coincidental mutations of the body. After all, the body doesn't think "Hey, I'd like to have a baby with another foot! I think I'll pump one out!"
Suppose someone were born today with a mutation that was definitely unusual, and perhaps a bit scary looking to us, such as eyes in the back of their head (along with the brain capacity to interpret the visual signals from the back of their head and separate it from their front vision). Would today's society allow that person to propagate and spread their new genes and mutations to future offspring? Or, would they be essentially ostracized by society and/or kept under lock by the scientific community?
Would the human race be able to evolve at all, or would all 'mutated' humans be shunned by society?
01-24-2003, 09:50 AM
Undoubtedly the latter. And this variety of xenophobia is an evolutionarily reinforced defense against deleterious mutations. Any single-step macromutation is almost infinitely unlikely to be advantageous to the organism or the species; and in the unlikely event that it is, it's still likely to be swamped out of the gene pool by the existing genes, except in the even more unlikely event that a large number of individuals undergo the same advantageous mutation.
Evolution necessarily proceeds by steps that are invisibly small when viewed through the microscope of a few generations time.
01-24-2003, 09:55 AM
I gues there would always be that segment of society that would reject someone with serious genetic mutations and another segment that would welcome, support and accept anyone with same. Geez, look at the public's response to Michael Jackson.
01-24-2003, 10:05 AM
Some mutations would be considered desirable, though, wouldn't they? Like someone with extraordinary strength, or endurance, or intelligence. (Although it would probably be up for debate as to whether a trait was a mutation or just an extreme example of existing traits.)
01-24-2003, 10:08 AM
It really depends on what you term "evolutionary." Eyes in the back of the head would not really help a modern human survive longer or find mates.
Enormous boobs and god-like ability to metabolize beer, however... :)
01-24-2003, 10:40 AM
Originally posted by fatdave
Suppose someone were born today with a mutation that was definitely unusual, and perhaps a bit scary looking to us, such as eyes in the back of their head (along with the brain capacity to interpret the visual signals from the back of their head and separate it from their front vision).
Natura non facit saltum.
The kind of "mutation" you are talking of is hardly the norm as mutations go. Variation itself is (statistically speaking) not the creative force of evolution - selection is.
Were such an unlikely mutation to actually occur, the individual possessing it would likely be treated as oddities have in the past: as a freak.
01-24-2003, 10:45 AM
maybe if that happened, a bald guy would start a private school for all the young mutated people where they could feel less like 'freaks' and learn how to deal with their new powe----oops, i mean genetic mutations. ;-)
01-25-2003, 03:38 PM
If the mutation had anything to do with a sexually selected characteristic, chances are these days that that person could find a mate somewhere, via the internet, who'd consider it a turn on:
"SWF, 22, with four fully developed breasts, seeks older sucessful male for marriage and children".
01-25-2003, 04:20 PM
Evolution does not happen through the sudden invention of traits where none exist. It happens though tiny modification of pre-existing traits.
As such, evolutionary mutations happen around us all the time. They're just too minor for anyone to realize that that's what they are.
01-25-2003, 05:46 PM
A gross mutation usually results in death or incapacity of the organism so afflicted. This is because the requisite changes in physiology that could make such mutation viable have not taken place.
Evolution seems to be concentrating on the size of the human jaw at the moment. The result is orthodontal and periodontal problems such as crowded and/or overlapping teeth or roots, fused teeth, missing permanent teeth, gapped teeth, etc. Wisdom teeth are most likely artifacts of our last evolutionary jaw reduction which is why they often must be removed. There is simply no room for them in the "normal" sized human jaw.
Evolutionary change is a series of baby steps. Even though the end result of our continuous jaw reduction "mutations" may ultimately result in humans looking like narwhals, I doubt we'll see any gross mutations to that effect.
01-26-2003, 01:29 AM
Cillasi has a point, but evolution doesn't 'concentrate' on any particular trait. Human mandibles, indeed, are woefully imperfect. This is a result of the last few bursts of evolution in our common ancesters. As our craniums became more massive to accomodate our enlarging brains, our jaws became more gracile but apparently not at the same rate. Therefore, our woes with wisdom teeth and orthodontic appliances increase, and will likeky continue to increase as people with 'corrected' teeth continue to spread their genes.
01-26-2003, 01:54 AM
there's a novel out about this very subject, called 'darwin's radio', by greg bear.
01-26-2003, 10:00 PM
Better start reading those back-issues of "X-Men". :)
01-26-2003, 10:12 PM
I gues there would always be that segment of society that would reject someone with serious genetic mutations and another segment that would welcome, support and accept anyone with same. Geez, look at the public's response to Michael Jackson.Michael Jackson is not a mutation. He's an experiment in applied Lysenkoism gone horribly wrong... :D
01-26-2003, 10:31 PM
Anomalocaris, that was kind of a tongue-in-cheek remark on my part, not to be taken literally. I meant to imply that it seems it seems to be the area in which we are seeing the most evident disparity, and as you point out, should continue for a very long time.
Sorry if I confused anyone else by my "concentration" remark :)
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