Natural Selection Vs. Technology

Posted Jul 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Natural selection is the process by which individuals of a species that are best suited to the environment survive to reproduce and pass on their beneficial traits. It is believed to be the primary mechanism that drives evolution. With the human species, one of the results of this is the increased intelligence required to develop technology.

Some of this technology has, for a long time, been able to compensate for undesirable traits to allow more individuals to survive, and the effect of this technology is constantly increasing. So individuals who would otherwise not survive the environment, are able to live long enough to reproduce. It would appear that this is working against natural selection.

I see two ways to look at this. One is that modern technology is nullifying natural selection, and preventing evolution from continuing. The other is that technology is a direct result of our intelligence gained through the process of natural selection, and therefore is part of evolution. I think both of these are valid.

There is also a potentially devastating long-term effect of modern medicine. As we develop more and more potent antibiotics and disinfectants, we kill off the majority of bacteria species. This leaves the most resistant species and removes their competition. This effectively accelerates natural selection and creates stronger and stronger bacteria at an unnatural rate. This is evident in the existence of “super bugs” in sterile environments like hospitals.

The only real conclusion I can come up with is that technology plays a large part in the survivability of individuals. I’d say it’s the same exact effect of a less hostile environment. The question is, are the long-term effects of this good or bad for us as a species?

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