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Does modern medicine reverse evolution?
in Science

By ih8shartsih8sharts 59 Pts edited March 2019
Modern medicine keeps people in the gene pool that otherwise would not survive. This slows/stops the usual evolutionary step of filtering through survival of the fittest. 

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  • There are four problems with this post. First, you're conflating two concepts: natural survival selection and evolution. Second, you're claiming that survival is the sole or even chief factor by evolution is regulated. Third, the specification of modern medicine excludes other issues that also lengthen lives. Fourth, that increased survival of populations with deleterious conditions automatically reduces or reverses evolution.

    For the first, while natural survival selection is undoubtedly a factor in evolution, it is not the sole factor. Modifications that beget evolution can occur via a variety of means, including genetic drift, mutation, genetic recombination, and other sources of genetic and phenotypic variation. The processes that bring about those changes remain regardless of whether natural selection is imposed, they may simply have no reason to persist in the population. 

    For the second, it's usually not the length of survival that determines whether or not an organism is physically fit - it's reproductive success. What I left out of the above list was sexual selection: not everyone is going to have a lot of kids and pass on their genes, and that's a greater measure of their fitness than the length of their lives. Simply surviving longer imparts no greater evolutionary benefit unless that means you pass on your genes more as a result. 

    For the third, you seem to be assuming that any effort to lengthen the lives of those in poor health is inherently detrimental to evolution. On that basis, I don't know why you're specifying modern medicine. All medicine, ancient, modern or otherwise, has this same aim. The difference is in degree of effectiveness, though they all still accomplish that goal. And, if lengthening life is the sole requirement for something to reverse evolution, then medicine is hardly alone. Any program aimed at feeding or clothing the poor falls into the same trap; they are all interventions aimed at lengthening the life and improving the quality of life of individuals who would otherwise not survive (or survive poorly).

    The fourth, however, is probably the most important. Your assumption is that the only way to evolve as a species is to become more physically fit, i.e. survive longer. I don't see how that's accurate. Even if we take reproduction out of the picture, fitness, particularly among humans, is not even chiefly measured by length of survival. Progress as a species can often be measured by just how much smarter people are getting, and while there is some room for debate on that, you're talking about a group of dramatic achievements on which there is absolutely no room for uncertainty. I think it's also reasonable to question whether having a greater diversity in our population is actually harmful for the population as a whole. What you call a step back from survival of the fittest, I call diversity sufficient to survive the worst pandemics via a population that doesn't cull non-fatal genetic illnesses. And all this assumes that it's an evolutionary step backward to show sympathy and empathy for those who need this help to survive. Whether that shift can be called evolution may be subject to some debate, but I don't think the fact that we're well past the point of throwing living plague victims out on the streets indicates a weaker population. Maybe that's just me.
  • searsear 109 Pts
    "Modern medicine keeps people in the gene pool that otherwise would not survive." i8

    That mainly matters if they breed after they've begun the "modern medicine" regime.

    Does modern medicine reverse evolution.

     This question implies evolution is linear, and can go either forward, or backward. Reality is more complicated.

    Adversity is the engine of evolution. Swifter gazelles result in faster more agile cheetah's.

    Modern medicine alters the attrition criteria, as do so many other things:
     - cars
     - eye glasses
     - warm clothes

    "This slows/stops the usual evolutionary step of filtering through survival of the fittest." i8

    I changes the criteria of "fitness".

  • @whiteflame made the exact argument I was going to make in response to the question: our advancements in evolution do not reverse evolution and, instead, constitute evolution. Evolution can manifest in many ways, from physical mutations to behavioral shifts.

    Our ancestors became the dominating species on Earth by learning to utilise the resources they found around them with high efficiency. They would build small camps, store collected meat, make tools helping them hunt and skin animals, brew herbal concoctions to defeat basic illnesses, use bandages and arboreal extracts to speed up their wound healing.
    Over time, the tools became more sophisticated. Nowadays, we are even creating technology that works autonomously, producing tools without our active involvement. Our scientific advances are incredible, and our medicine is the best it has ever been. All of that has been a result of our natural strive for excellence, of our desire to bend the environment around us to better suit our needs.

    All animals do that: they adapt, they learn, they improve. Humans just do it with more sophistication. And that, in turn, improves our physiology naturally. You will find that the average lifespan of a human living in a primal tribe in Amazonia or Southern Africa to be roughly 30-40 years, while in many nations in the developed world we have crossed the threshold of 80 years a while ago. Dietary improvements and nutritional supplements allow us to become more physically fit if we so desire than any human on Earth was 1000 years ago without putting nearly as much effort into physical exercise. All of this is clearly a part of evolution, just on a much shorter timescale than it happens for most species. Humans are incredibly adaptable, and Homo Sapiens do not need millions years to achieve a significant leap in our performance.

    Where crocodiles need dozens millions years to change significantly, we nowadays change significantly every few decades. The only difference is the speed of evolution and the exact means by which it is achieved; at its core, it is still the same old good evolution.
  • ih8sharts said:
    Modern medicine keeps people in the gene pool that otherwise would not survive. This slows/stops the usual evolutionary step of filtering through survival of the fittest. 

    @ih8sharts ;
    No modern medicine does not revers the gene pool. Survivable of the fittest is a human interpretation of justifications in a intellectual category to state of action. Medicine is an art describe around a constant state the process of human death. The fittest is not a true description of the last to die in a general sense to life.
  • TKDBTKDB 604 Pts

    No, it doesn't.

    Evolution is still going on.

    Nature's going to evolve regardless of what humanity in general comes up with. 
  • not true, my fathers family is dutch they are the biggest strongest smartest people on earth, they have created a nanny state for themselves and as a result

    Sizing up the Dutch height explosion

    The Dutch are, on average, the world's tallest people, but it hasn't always been that way.

    In fact, 150 years ago they were almost three inches (7.5cm) shorter than the average American.

    So what happened? Scientists believe a number of factors are responsible, such as genetics, better diet and medical care.

    But now there's another theory. Research from the London School of Tropical Medicine suggests that natural selection may also have something to do with it.

    Jane O'Brien went to the Netherlands to find out more.

    Edited by Bill McKenna; Filmed by David Botti

    Find out more about the Dutch love of cheese

    The passion for destruction is also a creative passion. Mikhail Bakunin

  • @ih8sharts diet has more to do with it than medicine
    The passion for destruction is also a creative passion. Mikhail Bakunin

    Nothing reverses evolution. And advancing knowledge in the medical field only serves to facilitate our advancement overall. Unless it somehow eliminated the best of us before they could reproduce and increased the sexual activity of the worst of us
  • There is some degree of accuracy in this statement. The medical system can keep people alive who should be dead.
    By assisting in child birth doctors keep alive children that nature would have killed off at birth. This allows faulty genes to proliferate and retardation and deformities to proliferate.
    Thus, we are stuck with a large amount of non-viable people that can't contribute to society in a meaningful way. Females that have narrow birth canals will live on and pass on this faulty genes to their children who will also have the gene of narrow birth canal and create further medical problems for future generations.
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