Are humans inhibiting our own evolution?

I am not a Yahoo Answers dweeb–this (November 2008) was a rare occasion I actually found myself there and saw a question that was being woefully neglected and took a shot.

This issue actually infuriates me, because the mainstream media, popular science media et al, mess this up so badly. Thus generally, people claim evolution is unprovable (“just a theory”), when in actuality it’s all around us–it isn’t “the bigger dudes ‘survive'” at all–it’s quite simply about sex and new babies in the end. The gradual adaptation over many many generations, to a certain niche in the environment an organism finds itself in; an environment which is itself in a state of constant flux.

It is my contention that the truth of our origins is perhaps too ‘profane’ and cruel for the socially constructed artifices within which most societies perceive the world and our place in it for it to be grasped, appreciated and celebrated.


QUESTION:
Are humans inhibiting our own evolution?
Evolution is survival of the fittest, but we take great measures to save weaker (sick or injured) humans. They are then able to reproduce and pass on undesirable traits (genetic disorders, etc.)

I’m NOT suggesting we let people just die — of course if it was my family member who was sick or injured I would want to do everything to help them. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But at the same time I’m curious about the way humans will evolve. What do you think?

Additional Details
Ok please do not make this an evolutionary debate. Let’s work with the assumption that evolution is real.

Best Answer – Chosen by Asker
I used to wonder whether human empathy and ‘ingenuity’ was working against evolution for quite some time as I read and learnt more and more about the concept of evolution. The idea perplexed me. But one day what occurred to me was this—evolution isn’t a destination, goal or objective, but a “process”. Much as “Life” is said not to be a destination but a journey.

This ‘revelation’ made me consider this whole idea differently. The truth about nature is this–it is constantly adjusting to new variables. Earlier I used to ponder, for example, vision correction : Without the Science and Technology that had created eye glasses, contact lenses and laser eye surgery hadn’t the humans with imperfect vision genes while running away from tigers and leopards in the jungle crashed into trees, fallen off of cliffs, and generally succumbed to nature and thus not propagated their relatively faulty vision genes into later generations of their bloodline? Thus, today, aren’t people (including myself) with bad eyes, merely perpetuating these “flawed” genes in the population? Why are there so many people who wear glasses today?

But Evolution being an adaptive process, isn’t about achieving the most perfect vision apparati–it’s more about adapting to whichever new circumstances and variables present themselves. These circumstances and variable are innumerable and constantly changing. What may have been an advantage (20/20 vision) or a flaw (near-sightedness) in previous generations may at present just not matter anymore. In other words, our ingenuity is having an effect, but more in just removing a variable which previously exhibited selective pressure on human populations (i.e. variables that used to kill us off, do not anymore).

So, in my opinion, the effect that humans are having is actually merely SHIFTING these variables and circumstances while the process of evolution continues.
One truism i’ve developed to aid in my perception–or lack thereof–of evolution in action:


Evolution is not perceptable a priori, but only a posteriori–in other words:
Evolution isn’t perceived in real-time–only in hindsight.

Generations from now, perhaps they may look back on our population societies and notice how we genetically shifted as those who somehow exhibited advantageous genetic traits died less, and propagated more, relative to others who lived in their time. For example, those who happen to be strangely immune to AIDS, or cancerous growths, those who are not as susceptible to diabetes, those whose bodies don’t mind having more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
One last thing not to forget–not only must we perceive evolution in terms of generations, and not in snapshots of time, we must always remember that evolution works on POPULATIONS not on individuals. Only through these levels of analysis can we begin to conceive of what is truly going on in nature.

___________________

Evolution, an a posteriori perception, implies the constant redefinition of variables which led to such perception. It is thus necessarily nonlinear; notwithstanding more colloquial forms of the terms use.

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