I'm a believer in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. In short, the theory goes like so:
If the reproduction process was perfect, the offspring would have 50% of its genes from each parent. But sometimes it is not perfect, and what can happen is that some genes mutate from errors in the cell division process or from a means of radiation. Thus, the mutated1 gene is different from the same gene each parent passed on2. This means that the offspring with the mutated gene will pass on this mutated gene to future generations if it reproduces. Because each gene performs a function of some sort, a mutated gene can perform a different function previously unseen in the species.
Gene mutations have allowed species of animals to survive certain events in history, and hence, the species are more evolved (as they were able to survive). This is called "survival of the fittest".
© James Kanjo 2006
I think that natural evolution of the human species has stopped. But first, let me talk about Lactose Tolerance.
Over 10,000 years ago4 a gene mutation occurred in the human population. This particular gene mutation enabled the production of lactase in our bodies. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the main sugar found in milk and (therefore) dairy products.
People lacking this gene mutation are unable to properly digest lactose, and trying to do so will cause symptoms such as "abdominal cramps, bloating and violent watery diarrhoea"5. Such people are "lactose intolerant", and become very sick and die and if they continue to consume lactose.
Lactose Tolerant people are therefore considered to be biologically "more evolved". But because we figured out that some people became sick from digesting dairy foods, we tell lactose intolerant people to not eat them.
This is where natural human evolution ceases to progress:
Because our medical knowledge is so large and constantly growing, we are becoming better and better at prolonging the life of all individuals. Because we are detecting lactose intolerant people, and preventing them from eating lactose-foods, we are stopping them from dying. Because they aren't dying, they continue to live and produce lactose-intolerant offspring. Hence the entire human population as a whole is not going through the process of "natural selection", and the entire human race has stopped evolving.
When you think about it, this applies to lots of things: allergies, genetic disorders and syndromes, disease immunity, infection immunity and even cancer.
By prolonging the life of these people, we are not prolonging the ability for our species to survive in the wild. But it would be inhumane and downright evil to systematically eliminate the people who are holding our species back.
So how do we continue to evolve, if we can't so naturally? The answer is a highly controversial concept:
Human Genetic Engineering
There are many ethical considerations currently in debate about this, but I believe that it is a process that is necessary to advance our species. It would fix so many problems, and just for example, with the case of "designer babies", you could change the lactose intolerance gene to become lactose tolerant; thus giving birth to a "more evolved" baby.
People need to let go of their conventional beliefs and the silly "don't play God" arguments.6 But at the same time we DO need to impose a set of laws and regulations to prevent us from going crazy (i.e. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Future Trap by Catherine Jinks).
I'm positive, however, that this is the best option for us, and that we can do it responsibly.
~ James Kanjo