Natural selection among humans.
It was on a Saturday night that my friend Sarah and I had decided to order out. Usually, we eat in front of a TV show, but this time, the internet was not working, so we did the only thing two young women can do when they are alone; we conversed. Since I had gone to some classes on the Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories, I surprised myself asking Sarah quite a few essential questions that had been on my mind, such as, is there a God out there?, are we not alone in the universe?, what is a good definition of life?, is it immoral to abort?, and finally, it led me to ask myself about the human’s natural selection. Is it still being applied? Haven’t we modified or even destroyed the way natural selection acts upon us?
I believe natural selection is a problem when it comes to humans. However, it does not seem to cause any trouble for the other living organisms on earth. Indeed, if an antelope has a defect that affects its ability to run at birth, natural selection will act upon it. The antelope will be killed by a predator, since it runs slower than the others of its kind. Therefore, most of the antelopes run fast and the lagging ones are the ones to be eradicated from Earth. Now, if we take the example of human beings, we do not have any natural predators, so how can natural selection play out on us?
If we think about the ancestors of the human descendants, such as the Homo neanderthalensis, the Homo erectus, and so on, they were starting to evolve towards a human being but they were still very close to the apes. According to modern humans, our ancestors were closer to animals, such as these, than humans, and therefore, natural selection was acting on them quite easily. According to Charles Darwin, natural selection acts only for the good of each organism, so since our very first human ancestors had no natural defenses, they would die from what is considered today an insignificant disease. It was throughout millions of years, that the human body started to build an immunization to certain diseases and only the stronger humans were the ones to survive and carry on that trait. Likewise, having no fur on their bodies to survive in the cold weather, they learned how to use other animals’ skins and how to build some weapons, in order to chase wild animals.
Nowadays, humans have made incredible discoveries; we have created a wonderful world of technology, which leads us to make some enormous progress in the field of medicine; especially in how to treat diseases which were, at some time, considered incurable. My point is, that since we have made such progress in technology, I am scared that we are keeping too many people alive, including some that might not fit the environment in which they live. In addition, we are allowing some infertile people to reproduce through in-vitro fertilization, when apparently they were not capable naturally. We are also letting babies survive by saving their lives at their birth even though they might not be perfectly healthy or other traits which could be detrimental for the human species. But through science and the new technology, we have let these babies live and we have given them the opportunity to grow up and reproduce, transmitting their traits to other generations. Due to these facts, it is very probable that we are acting against natural selection in human beings, ever since humans became people who think and care for one another and we have made it immoral to kill another individual or to let him die.
However, we could think about another definition of natural selection, such as a life on Earth dies if it is not adapted to its environment and it lives if it has a niche and can reproduce in its surroundings, which is also called survival of the fittest. If we take the example of a fetus in his mother’s womb, the body of the mother can detect some errors coming from the fetus, and it would eliminate the fetus through a miscarriage. So, in this case, natural selection does still act upon human; acting within the womb of a woman, and therefore, not let a human being, which would not fit its environment, survive. For instance, we have not seen any people carrying the traits of Down’s syndrome on the chromosome 14. It is likely that this defect happened before but only inside a woman’s body which eliminated the mistake through a miscarriage, not letting the future human see the light. So, in this case, the fact that humans are living longer, letting them reproduce thanks to many discoveries such as in vitro fertilization, surgeries, transplants, medication, etc., is because we are taking into consideration that the technology is part of our environment.
So what can we say about the natural selection of human beings? This is a question that is important to me but to which I unfortunately have few answers. Is it a good thing to let people live longer? Should we try to protect our species by destroying our technology? Should we stop trying to help ourselves and let natural selection do its job? I believe the right question to ask ourselves would be: is technology considered a part of our environment, or are we really deviating the normal course of evolution? If we were talking about human beings as a species we should let natural selection work on its own, however, we have become more than a simple species. Indeed, we are superior to any other life on this planet because we have acquired the ability to think and care, not just simply Homo sapiens. I think we might have modified, by becoming people, the instinctive course of natural selection, but I am still awaiting proof either way.