View Full Version : Is gene research evolution?
The theory of evolution (or at least part of it) has to do with animals (humans included) adapting to suit themselves to their particular environment(if I understand it correctly)... giving canines pads on their feet, polar bears a second set of eyelids, etc. All of these changes make any particular species better suited to deal with their preditors and environment.
An animal for the first time in history has the capability to strengthen themselves manually (manually may be the wrong word but I think you get the jist) through gene research by eliminating genetically transmitted diseases, obeisity, etc.
Could gene research be classified as evolution(or stimulating it) or is it different?
I'd be inclined to say no.
Using your polar bear example, every baby polar bear is born with the second set of eyelids. That's just the way they come. As gene research and gene therapy stands, however, we aren't going to have babies coming out with Trait X every time, unaided. Yes, individual babies may be engineered, but I wouldn't call it evolution unless the inherent DNA of the child-in-question is changed to allow it to pass on the trait received.
What if that happens? (Engineered humans that, say, have x-ray vision, and can pass it to their offspring?) Sure, I'd call that forced evolution - or perhaps intelligent design, if we want to start getting religion into the mix.
But, how something evolves is determined by the environment in which it lives. Only a select few will be born without said gene. There is always going to be areas where this technology is not an option to them allowing the trait to pass on to the next generation (or at least the chance for it to pass).
The theory of evolution says something about "only the strong survive" (doesn't it?). Might gene research be included because of this?*
*parts or North America, parts of Europe, parts of Asia, parts of Austrailia, parts of africa (some with more parts than others) are more able to support progress than others, providing economic prosperity, allowing for knowledge - being the strength.
07-13-2001, 06:07 PM
This is a very interesting question, and it makes me think of different evolutionary responses. Polor bears for instance, they have the dual eye lids, if you consider their habitat and hunting strategies and prey, one could logically deduce they have adapted to their environment. Look at their fur for another example, their fur is hollow, each individual strand has a hollow core. this is an adaptation to a cold climate.
Does this mean that humans are evolving to their environment? Through gene research? I don't think so that would be a far reach. Could we force a evolution, no I don't think that will happen either. "mother nature" has a way of always prevailing. [this is why I don't logically think technology will ever surpass or humanity] But I don't want to hijack.
Gene research may produce people that live longer, and can fight off disease better, but I doubt it will pass generation to generation. One could pose the argument that if it did, then this type of evolutionary response would stem originally from us, but if it past down to the next generation it would be a cognitive passing if you will.
A known genetic pass of traights to the next generation.
Look at the movie 2001 Space Odessey. At the beginning when the 'hominids' [I guess they can be called that] were quite docile. They layed around and didn't do much. BUt then when they woke to that monolith in there sights......They had never seen a straight line, or something so perfect and symetrical. Could that have triggered their evolutionary response to start to utilize tools. and Start to make tools and then eventually fight with those tools. Maybe, maybe not. But as for gene research being classifies as evolution, I think it maybe a step in the right direction, but as for labeling it our next evolution I do not think so.......
If you removed said gene or altered it in both parents, wouldn't it pass as is, either not at all or in it's alterted state.
07-13-2001, 06:41 PM
I'd be inclined to say that just about everything humans do are part of evolution.
I mean, humans are animals. We are adapting to our environment or adapting our environment to us. If we use our brains (brought to us by evolution and nature) then that is part of evolution and nature.
It all sounds a bit self-referential, but it's kind of like when somebody says that a person is doing something "unnatural." Well, what is "unnatural" considering that we are all a part of nature?
Looking at this, I think I've managed to confuse the issue -- or at least myself. But my brain is too tired right now to try to straighten it out...
07-13-2001, 11:10 PM
Originally posted by mayberrydan
But, how something evolves is determined by the environment in which it lives.
Human society is part of the environment that influences human evolution, just as ant society is a part of the environment that influences ant evolution. If natural selection encourages the survival and reproduction of ants that don't themselves reproduce, but operate in their society as workers or soldiers, etc., then artifical selection (only artifical because it involves humans) might encourage the survival and reproduction of humans with who have, just for example, naturally green hair. This could happen regardless of whether the naturally green hair was aquired through old-fashioned mutation or genetic engineering.
The theory of evolution says something about "only the strong survive" (doesn't it?).
I think the phrase you're looking for is "the survival of the fittest." It's a common and very unfortunate misconception that "fittest" equates to "strong" or "tough." In an evolutionary context, fitness is defined as the contribution of an individual to the genetic material of the next generation*, which most likely has nothing to do with strength, endurance, etc. Note that although extremely weak and not very tough, snails are very successful in an evolutionary sense.
* The contribution to the next generation's genetic material may be indirect as well as direct (through the offspring of close relatives rather than the individual's own offspring).
Originally posted by David B
... what is "unnatural" considering that we are all a part of nature?Absolutely. We're the ones doing the genetic jiggery-pokery. If aliens were doing it to us I'd say it wasn't evolution - if we radically alter our own species, as we may eventually do (highly unlikely I guess - they never let us do anything REALLY cool), that's evolution, and not even forced evolution, because... well... was the fish that trudged out of the sludge forcing evolution? Were theoretical baby Tyrannosaurs forcing evolution when they ate their runty little brother?
Doesn't matter if it messes up the species and wipes us out, either. It doesn't have to be an improvement to count as evolution. See Douglas Adams' ape-descended lifeforms and their niggling suspicions that they should never have come down from the trees... or left the oceans...
07-14-2001, 09:23 AM
Wow! You mean in that hodge-podge message of half-asleepness I actually said something that made sense? Cool. ;)
wevets, thanks for the clarification by the way, been a while since I've taken biology. Trying to work through the Origin of Species and I Must say, it's taking me some time.
I was kinda working toward how our environment (fertile as opposed to a baron environment such as the Sahara) allows us to progress faster providing the necessary economy to allow for greater knowledge/gene research. By eliminating genetially transmitted diseases would this not make us a fitter species? I suppose in the future turning everyone into Alphas (Brave New World, Alphas) only being able to produce other Alphas.
Ross, never quite thought of it that way...evolution is I suppose simply a change to a USUALLY more complex or better form not necessarily always. That DOES leave an opening for us to evolve into a a less fit species. Is it (?) entirely possible that eliminating a gene generally thought to cause a certain genetically transmitted disease could also in fact benefit us in another fashion (my logic could be terribly flawed on this one)?
I am inclined to agree with David B (in case my last post made very little sense)
07-15-2001, 11:18 PM
Originally posted by mayberrydan
By eliminating genetially transmitted diseases would this not make us a fitter species?
Fitness really refers to a comparison between members of the same species. Comparing the genetic contribution of a human to the next generation of humans to the genetic contribution of a chipmunk to the next generation of chipmunks doesn't really help much. You're right, though, because genetic engineering could make us a more abundant or longer-lasting species.
In terms of fitness though, we run up against the 'Red Queen' paradox (or maybe it was 'Red Queen' something else): the faster you run, the more you have to speed up in the future to win the race. If all humans can have more successful offspring, an individual human has to have even more successful offspring to be considered more "fit."
07-16-2001, 01:04 PM
This seems like a question related to Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Unnatural Selection, meaning by humans. Darwin pointed out the odd birds that bird breeders were ablt to create by selectively breeding for particular traits. This is the sort of thing that explains changes in cat and dog breeds over the years.
Gene research, itself, isn't evolution. You aren't changing any people with it. Some gene therapies allow scientist to alter genes in a particular person, but not in a manner that is passed to offspring. Apparently, scientists either already can, or at least know how to, alter genes in a human in a manner that is passed to offspring. Such a change would be evolution - you have a different organism - but by unnatural selection.
David B, I think that I have simply restated your post, but by suggesting that "unnatural" has the artficial meaning of directed by humans.
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