Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
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02-03-2011, 09:23 PM
Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
We have evolved traits that will lead to humanity's extinction, says Christian de Duve – so we must learn to overcome them

We are the most successful species on the planet, but you think we will ultimately pay the price for this success. Why?

The cost of our success is the exhaustion of natural resources, leading to energy crises, climate change, pollution and the destruction of our habitat. If you exhaust natural resources there will be nothing left for your children. If we continue in the same direction, humankind is headed for some frightful ordeals, if not extinction.

You think that natural selection has worked against us. How?

Because it has no foresight. Natural selection has resulted in traits such as group selfishness being coded in our genes. These were useful to our ancestors under the conditions in which they lived, but have become noxious to us today. What would help us preserve our natural resources are genetic traits that let us sacrifice the present for the sake of the future. You need wisdom to sacrifice something that is immediately useful or advantageous for the sake of something that will be important in the future. Natural selection doesn't do that; it looks only at what is happening today. It doesn't care about your grandchildren or grandchildren's grandchildren.

You call this short-sightedness "original sin". Why did you pick this terminology?

I believe that the writers of Genesis had detected the inherent selfishness in human nature that I propose is in our genes, and invented the myth of original sin to account for it. It's an image. I am not acting as an exegete - I don't interpret scripture.

How can humanity overcome this "original sin"?

We must act against natural selection and actively oppose some of our key genetic traits.

One solution you propose is population control, but isn't this ethically dubious?

It is a simple matter of figures. If you want this planet to continue being habitable for everyone that lives here, you have to limit the number of inhabitants. Hunters do it by killing off the old or sick animals in a herd, but I don't think that's a very ethical way of limiting the population. So what remains? Birth control. We have access to practical, ethical and scientifically established methods of birth control. So I think that is the most ethical way to reduce our population.

You also advocate giving more power to women. Why?

Speaking as a biologist, I think women are less aggressive than men, and they play a larger role in the early education of the young and helping them overcome their genetic heirloom.

Are you optimistic about humankind's future?

I'm cautiously optimistic - very cautiously. I try to be optimistic because I prefer to give a message of hope to young people, to say: you can do something about it. But in the present, there is not much evidence that this is happening.
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Christian de Duve is professor emeritus at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium and Rockefeller University, New York. In 1974 he co-won a Nobel prize for his work on cellular structure. His latest book, Genetics of original sin, is published by Yale University Press.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20...oy-us.html

My reason for being is to serve as a cat cushion. That is good enough for me. Wink
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02-03-2011, 09:35 PM
 
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
M. This guy's put into words and made public thoughts I've kept to myself for quite a while, since most don't really like you talking about how we need to control how many people we have.

As for selfishness, i completely agree. Humans and any other organism that has ever lived is/are/was/were selfish and it's what led to their survival. Problem is, we're surviving too much and now we have to deal with a completely different way of life than our bodies were originally forced to adapt to.

I really liked this post, thanks.
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03-03-2011, 01:43 AM
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
Me, too. Christian de Duve said it as best as it can be said. The people who create pollution and use up natural resources as a result of their profiteering are not the ones who clean up their messes. They leave that to later generations, who leave it to later generations while adding their own mess.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Richard Dawkins comes to me, speaking words of reason, now I see, now I see.
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03-03-2011, 02:57 AM
 
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
We took evolution into our own hands. We have become our own watchmaker.

It has all ready begun. Medicine, transportation, and computers... We are living longer, smarter, and healthier than our ancestors. To those that insist that we aren't really evolving, what is it you carry around with you /everywhere/ you go? That's right. Your cell phone. It has become as apart of you as any non-attached device could be. It is a near extension of yourself.

It's true, natural selection is failing. But genetic engineering is picking up. We'll find ways to engineer ourselves better, stronger, and faster.

---

Evolution has evolved.
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03-03-2011, 07:26 AM
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
Hey... A smart Belgian in the news... Smile (I heard from the man before, If he said he does not interpret scripture, he doesn’t)

Overpopulation is something that’s bothering me for quite a while. First off... I plea guilty. I have children myself so I concur in the strife.

Look, all these, global warming-, health-, natural resources-, mobility-, integration-, multiculturalism- problems-, are peanuts. Why? These are all technical problems, and mankind has over time proven to be very good at those. I am confident that the natural resources problem, for example will be as good as solved over 2 or 3 generations to come, starting with ours. (I like the idea of being given a challenge in which we could be remembered.)

Overpopulation however is a whole other problem. Having or not having children is something that plugs directly into your emotion driven caveman/cavewoman part of the brain. No matter how many rational reasons you can come up with for not having children: It simply does not add up! Now there’s a challenge!

I like to think that perhaps this is a reason the gay movement is on the rise. I've said it before in a post somewhere: I consider the fact that gays might one day be saving the world an incredible funny ironic joke! Respect!

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Agnostic atheist
Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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03-03-2011, 07:32 AM
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
Moving from hunter-collecter culture to agriculture sort of screwed humankind. Farming allowed the population to grow, but at the same time it made the bad years even worse. Eating became one-sided, which caused bad health, and people became dependant on a few species of crop. Farming culture also allowed the birth of society classes.
But on the other hand, settlement and farming allowed knowledge to expand, since people didn't have to spend all of their days getting food for themselves. If we would have stayed as collector-hunters, we wouldn't have these ecological problems, but we wouldn't know anything about anything else either. I'm not sure which is better: ignorance and almost guaranteed survival or knowledge and economical problems.

Correct me when I'm wrong.
Accept me or go to hell.
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03-03-2011, 09:20 AM
 
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
It certainly puts The Church of Euthanasia into perspective, as they've been saying through wry humor this very thing for years.

I don't doubt this will provide fodder for the supremacist groups who think natural selection bolsters the pale race.Though it's inevitable that our zeal for control of all things related to our existence will eventually cause our extinction.
If so, we earned it. Human hubris thinks it's up to us to save a planet that was here long before our hairy feet touched ground.
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03-03-2011, 12:20 PM
 
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
It IS up to us, considering we're the one putting it in danger in the first place. The planet was here long before us, and if the issues it was experiencing now were the same as the ones it's always faced, then it wouldn't be our responsibility.
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03-03-2011, 12:48 PM
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
"Natural selection doesn't do that; it looks only at what is happening today. It doesn't care about your grandchildren or grandchildren's grandchildren."
I really like this part, it's such a basic column of evolution. A magnificent fact.

What I think is that this way of life of humanity is not sustainable for much longer. I expect a great-great war/cysis, in about 200years wich will lead to the extinction of a great part of humanity (like half or more). Than we will find a fancy name for this war, and then find new resources to drain, new ways of life to live. And -considering that we clearly don't show any tendency to learn from our previous mistakes- it is likely the planet will be once again overpoulated, and everything, and the cycle starts again.
Question is, how many cycles can Homo Sapiens Sapiens survive? And eventually will it evolve to Homo Sapiens Sapiens Sapiens, or will it fall, like the dinosaurs, and give rise to whole new ways of the evolution of life. The last possibility is quite depressing, mainly because we can be pretty sure that the 'new ruleing species' will be just as selfish as we are (or will have been by than).

..."we can be truly free - not because we can rebel against the the tyranny of the selfish replicators but because we know that there is no one to rebel."
Susan Blackmore : The Meme Machine
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03-03-2011, 01:05 PM
 
RE: Biology Nobelist:: Natural selection will destroy us
Homo sapiens as they are now have stopped evolving physically, at least for the most part and that will never change, unless this great war happens and humans are forced back into the wild without any of the technology they have today. Even then, it's not very likely.

As for the end of the Homo sapiens, i'm not convinced it will be through war. Famine, overpopulation and sickness are more likely if you ask me. Homo sapien is an exponential growth type species and it's rapidly approaching their carrying capacity.
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