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Comments

William Charles Mixson

It certainly makes sense in terms of genetic evolution that it would be more likely for there to be accidental mistakes when DNA duplicates. The more people there are, the more copying occurs which results in the likelihood of copying mistakes or mutations. Personally, I think the increase in the momentum of human evolution is becoming monumental but that this is due more to mementic evolution than genetic evolution. I realize that the new science of Mementics has been controversial and encountered many difficulties since its introduction in the 1976 book of Richard Dawkins "The Selfish Gene". Still it makes sense to me that beginning with fully modern humans we have a species whose evolution is governed both by genetic processes and mementic processes which Homo sapiens is uniquely capable of creating. The genetic make up of a diabetic human would put them at an enormous disadvantage in terms of natural selection. With the creation of insulin and other human invention however diabetic are not at the same evolutionary disadvantage that they once were. Now they are more likely to live to produce offspring’s and pass on their genes. The increase of human invention in areas such as medicine and digital technology is accelerating the momentum in human evolution. I speculate that we are on the verge of evolving into an entirely new species

jake

People need to be careful before equating "evolution" and "natural selection" with regards to human evolution. Another extremely powerful selective force, one that often runs counter to natural selection, may be at work: sexual selection. This is the Red Queen theory. If we care to extrapolate, as the authors are certainly doing, then we can just as validly surmise that extinction is nigh.

James Anderson

Is human evolution really accelerating? If so, what does "acceleration" mean in that context? Perhaps it means increasing speed devoid of quality? Consider the number of writers today who can't tell the difference between the word "then" and "than". The original version of this story contained that error twice in one sentence. Now I see someone has deftly avoided a correction by simply removing one of the words altogether, but it's clear they didn't really know what they were correcting, because they left the other identical error alone. (By the way, the original copy of this article -- containing both errors -- is still available from CNN's homepage. Here's the quote: "The rate of evolution is far greater then in the last few millenia, Harpending and his colleagues say, then it had been in the millions of years before.") Why would a magazine dedicated to the high standards of modern-day science allow someone lacking basic writing skills to be a contributor? In my view articles such as this one -- especially given the topic -- are an embarrassment to Popular Science.

Ed

The real question is-why are so many people degenerating? What kind of chemicals are contaminating our food and air supplies so thoroughly that our nation has become filled with morons?

James Boll

Forget the ongoing degradation of literature in this visual age; The logical question is when did this process or increased evolution start and how did the Human gene become altered/infected or was it artificially manipulated to change in comparison to which primative ancestor? Or, are they stating they have confirmation of a specific human thought process that can alter the physical construction of our genes?

William Charles Mixson

I find it to be a serious mistake not to consider evolution from a mementic as well as a genetic point of view.

Below I discuss two forces I see at play in human evolution: Genes and Memes. Recently I had an opportunity to discuss media in the Unites States considered as a Meme and Viruses within the context of these two evolutionary forces by contrasting digital viruses with organic viruses. This document has grown out of my discussion in that one that one.

One area which needs clarity especially for the intelligent reader who is not a professional scientist or professional philosopher is exactly what is meant by the word ‘Gene’ and the word ‘Meme’ These two entities are the primary subject matter of the science of genetic and new science of mementics.

At the simplest level Genes are biological entities which we inherit that provide instructions as to how the human body will be originally built out and general instruction for how the body and mind should operate under given circumstance. The latter “operational” type of instruction is general in nature and cam be compared to the instructions embedded in a computer software program. Certainly there is no sense anticipates or gives instructions regarding how to react to behave in many specific situations.

At its simplest level a Meme is a unit of human culture. As such Memes includes human tools used to construct and enhance human culture and simple (e.g. a carpenters hammer) to extremely complex tool (e.g., computers) made by human beings. Some other animals make simple tools (nests, spider webs, etc.) but no other animal has shown the capacity to make the any thing approaching the variety or complexity of man made tools. Other examples of memes, or units of culture, include human institutions such as religious or governmental institutions which regulate the behavior of their members as well as organizations to which human beings belong voluntarily for various reasons. The list above certainly does not include every type of Meme yet discovered or analyzed. The important points are that memes are units of human culture which have a history and which are now part of evolution and therefore change, continue to be naturally selected by their environment, viz., continue to exist and grow, or become extinct.

In an effort to give a more through analysis of Genes and Memes below I use an over simplified model of the “Genome” which is a fundamental entity and molecule studied by Geneticists and Biologists among others.


Until about 50,000 years ago genes and the mutation of genes alone were responsible for the evolution of new forms of life. Genes and the science of genetics, which studies the behavior of genes, was discovered by a catholic monk, Gregor Mendel, during the second part of the 19th century. Perhaps the best way to get a simple grasp of what genetics is to use a model of the Genome, which every life form that has ever existed has had. The Genome of any particular life form has every gene that impacts a living organism and this amount to thousands, or even tens of thousands of genes. Further, this genome is constantly being replicated or copied by the phenotype or “body” which possesses it. In the copying process certain genes on the Genome are turned off and the result, commonly known as “DNA” is sent to the body with instruction as to how different parts of the body and mind are to be constructed. When this replication occurs correctly the copied genes are exactly identical to the original in every respect.

However, on rare occasions copying errors are made so that the original “building instructions” cannot be carried out as originally intended. The expected result of such a copying error is a catastrophe; a species phenotype is built out with only one ear and so on. Occasionally, however, the copying error called a “mutation” results in an evolutionary advantage for a particular life form. A new rhinoceros is created with a second smaller horn. The new rhinoceros with two horns is favored by its habitat while the other species with only one horn is not and eventually the one horned rhinoceros goes extinct. A new species evolves replacing one less suited to survive. Charles Darwin would say that the two horned rhinoceros was “naturally selected” over the species with one horn. The important point is that this evolution all comes back to a genetic accident, a copying mistake at the Genome level which should not have occurred in the first place had things worked the way they were supposed to.

Media is a "Meme" as opposed to a "Gene" As a Meme media is a unit of culture, in this case a tool which is used to dispense information that impacts how human culture itself evolves. Media has other impacts on culture as well, as is the case when photography and cinematography are used to produce artistic work. A primary difference between memes and genes is that in the case of memes man has at least the possibility of exercising control over which memes are created and how those that are created are used. Evolution prior to Homo sapiens was entirely genetic and therefore entirely a matter of accident. However, around 50,000 years ago, Homo sapiens began to behave in a very unusual manner. In a way no other life form had ever behaved before. Art was drawn in caves, beads were made, and dead people received ritualistic burials and so on. Homo sapiens had become self conscious and the beginnings of Human Culture had occurred. Man became involved with things went beyond coping with survival needs. Ritual evolved. Language evolved. Behavior began to be regulated by man made rules and not instinct alone. Scientists such as Steven Pinker refer to this unique series of events as the “The Big Bang” of the mind.

Recently the "Industrial Revolution" occurred during the late 19th century and continued well into the 20th century. Human culture was dramatically impacted. Massive numbers of new tools, machines for mass production in factories were created.

Today we are in the era I call the "Digital Revolution". Although in its infancy this epoch began in the final part of the 20th century and is continuing today. I suppose one can say that the two are related in the same sense that you can clam that any evolutionary event is the outgrowth of an evolutionary event now extinct which preceded it. A significant difference in the case of the “Digital Revolution” involves the mementics impact of the Digital Revolution on evolution in general and the evolution of Homo sapiens (human beings) in particular

The interesting point really is that with Meme's, as opposed to Genetic processes, Homo sapiens can exercise some choices which may alter the evolutionary impact that occurs. This in turn can counteract or even alter the genetics impact the evolutionary. Consider the medical inventions, for example, which are now an important part of our “human” culture and, therefore, memes. Some ophthalmologist's or perhaps optometrist’s made an enormous contribution to culture with the invention of eyeglasses. Nearsightedness or farsightedness resulted from a genetic accident, commonly referred to as a "mutation" some 1,500 years ago pr more. Nearsighted people would have fallen off of cliffs and farsighted people would have fallen prey to predators. But today because of the choices man made around this meme, eyeglasses, and the impact that had of genetically programmed eyesight, those consequences do not occur anymore. This same line of thinking can be applies more dramatically to the treatment for diabetes. On the other hand, one can look at the discovery of atomic power and choice to bomb Hiroshima instead of harnessing damns.

When we consider the impact we have had on evolution mimetically, it cannot go unmentioned the impact that man has had on the history of “Mass Extinctions”. It is a normal function of evolution for their to be a certain number of living forms that reach total extinction in any given geological epoch, making way for superior life forms that have evolved to be naturally selected. There has however been numerous “mass extinction” due to climatic changes and other factors such as highly equipped predators. The most dramatic of these was the Permian–Triassic extinction event, often referred to as the “Great Dying” which scientists believe occurred around 250 million years ago. It is estimated that in the somewhere around 96% of all species of marine life and up to 70% of land animals reached total extinction in the Permian extinction event.

There is a current mass extinction event going on referred to by biologists and other scientists as the “Holocene extinction event”. This mass extinction event is unique in that it has occurred over an extremely short interval of time. It is believed that during the last 100 years up to 2 million species have reached total extinction. The Holocene extinction event is totally the result of Homo sapiens behavior in killing other life forms and also through such things as pollution creating ecosystems, along with various other epigenetic impacts which have harmed our species and brought thousands of other species to full extinction within a very short period of thime

I would also call the Holocene extinction event unique in that it appears to me to be result of Mementics. I acknowledge at the same time that the other mass extinction events were not primarily genetic in nature. This then is a case where the two evolutionary processes are unrelated. The problem Homo sapiens have caused is various serious. Even with an awakening consciousness to the impact man has had on the planets environment, Irreversible damage may have occurred. When I hear a scientist of the stature of Steven Hawkins declare the only hope is space travel to find a new planet to colonize and treat differently, it makes me aware of how serious what man has done is. in nature. So when I when I hear discussion about contemporary media, an important part of our culture of which there are many varieties really, in my judgment, this too is a meme which Homo sapiens has created and over which he may or may not choose to deal with wisely. The topic of media as a meme is quite worthy of further discussion and the sentence above at least draws attention to the most import feature of any such discussion.

In closing, let me return to the topic of the media in the United States and Viruses because these discussions help to summarize the difference between Mementics and Genetics as the processes behind contemporary evolution.

I suppose it is obvious that the transmission of “viruses” over the Internet would have to be considered a man made meme, a unit of our current culture which replicates itself doing damage to infected computers and mutating all the time into more and more virulent man made structures. My personal view is that in the beginning only adolescent children with high IT knowledge were involved. They attacked Bill Gates website, occasionally did more serious damage by infecting networks in larger computers. Unfortunately, the predators using these memes today appear to be foreign terrorists and large corporation in this country and elsewhere. This has resulted in a phenomenal increase and phishing and more generally in identity theft. “Illegal downloading” appeared impervious to the legal system and attorneys’ so corporations and CD produces began putting their own products out on downloading networks, such as the guerranna network used by P2P software. Of course, this corporate sharing contained downloads filled with insidious computer viruses which quickly destroyed the computer of an unsophisticated down loader. So here we have an example of a man created Meme which has always had a malicious intent and impact of which is evolving into something more and more dangerous.

However, if one is referring viruses, which exist in the human body, then that is entirely different matter. The continuing existence and behavior of viruses is a part of genetic evolution that is very poorly understood. We know that viruses are the only living organism that replicates RNA instead of DNA. They do that by invading bacteria and grasping control of all the cellular mechanisms forcing the replication of RNA instead of the DNA bacteria would naturally produce. Viruses are very dangerous to the human body and one aspect of genetic evolution over which we seem to have little mementics control at the moment. I consider viruses to be the single most dangerous human predator alive on the planet today. We have done much better with bacteria. Bacteria and viruses remain the major predators of Homo sapiens. Both organisms have been on the planet much longer than any other living being. Both organisms along with the parasites that often accompany then are the only real predator of Homo sapiens. As hosts in the human body they have a unique pathway of attack. In the case of bacteria, there are also the so called “friendly bacteria” often collectively referred to as probiotics the impact on the body is beneficial and health giving.

Respectfully Submitted,
William Charles Mixson
July 15, 2008

Salvador

Sri Aurobindo wrote a lot about human evolution. He was an indian saint, though. Not a scientist.

Chris Sanford

Evolutionist are always saying that creationist are "crazy people" who walk by blind faith. Isn't that something. Now I am a Bible believing Christian and let me tell you something, I cannot answer for anyone else but I certainly do not walk by blind faith. The faith which Christians walk by is intelligent faith based upon the evidence that supports the Word of God.
No other book in human history has been put through the scrutiny that the Bible has, and come forth shining in all of its glory. There has never been one archeological find, not one that has discredited the Bible. There has been over 25,000 archeological finds that determine that the Biblical writers were accurate in the things that they wrote. In the movie Expelled Michael Ruse says that he believes life "piggy backed" on the back of crystals to the earth. What??!!! And this guy is a credible science? Talk about blind faith, where in the world is the evidence for that? Also wouldn't have the earth's atmosphere burned up the crystals thus destroying the life that was "hitching a ride". This is comical, it really does take more faith to believe this, than it does that there is an all powerful Creator God.
I will join in what Mr. Ben Stein says in his awesome movie "I thought we were talking about science not science fiction". This is crazy that they would even begin to believe something along these lines much less teach to people! Yet they call the Bible fairy tale?? You decide.

Romans 1:18 for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness

jud

wow. a lot of pseudo scientific crap. do any of you actually have any degrees in science?

jud

first of all... the whole memes argument is a bunch of garbage pseudo science that nobody takes seriously... unless you are someone like my middle school science teacher who had only an elementary understanding of science and math and horribly misconstrue the fine underpinnings of science. you know, the person who thinks they are mister science in their neighborhood because they read Discover magazine (complete and utter trash for people actually in the field).

the memes argument essentially falls apart under any close scrutiny because it is becomes quickly obvious that the observer is merely projecting his cognitive understanding onto the people he is supposedly studying. its a completely reflexive exercise that does little to actually describe anything of value.

as to the crazy talk about viruses.... ok wow... we get it ... nobody likes virses.. the problem is they have done quite a bit to drive evolution. retroviruses have been responsible for tons of mutations and some appear to spontaneously transfer information from one species to another. the family of retroviruses, while its effects completely suck... are actually a part of our evolutionary process. for instance, did you know that MLV was responsible for certain color change mutations in mice?

also the arguments about modern society and diabetes and so on are just completely rediculous... many mutations that have been kept around were done so because they have secondary effects. sickle cell anemia is a classic example, but others exist and are often not popularly known. the whole memes argument is topical at best, reductive at worst... and mostly comes out completely untestable in mathematical terms. "utter garbage" is a good phrase that fits.

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The humankind always evolves in different situations we adapt to every place so you don't have to worry about us we always develop abilities to grow better and biggest .

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Human Evolution is Accelerating because the way everybody is living, for example when people take some food totally full of hormones, it could change our evolution.

D J Wray

The question of whether or not the speed of evolution is increasing is kicked around by people who focus on the role of genetics in evolution, but there is much more to the story of evolution than genetics. High-level (advanced/complex) consciousness is the thing that distinguishes humans from the rest and it can't be explained by genetics. A separate process is involved - and it is one that shouldn't be confused with information or memetics. Information is not the same as intelligence. People who are asking such question should be trying to find out what that other process is.

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