Blog Seven: Genetic Manipulation

Homo sapiens have definitely not completely evolved. If we consider that we have changed significantly since our ancestors walked in Africa, we can attribute our phenotype and genotype to a number of factors. Obviously, we have undergone natural selection as various traits became advantageous with respect to our environment and ongoing way of life. Our brain size and associated abilities allowed us to use effective communication to develop advanced culture. Random mutation played a part in these ongoing changes, but since we evolved over hundreds of thousands of years it seems like selected traits played a greater role. We are who we are due to the ways in which our ancestors coped with their environment and migrated across the globe.

Our continued evolution may be focused differently than ever before. If you consider that advanced countries have become more sedentary and exercise has developed a recreational purpose, this could lead to changes in our bodies if this trend was to continue over generations. We might select for larger feet to improve the stability of larger bodies and possibly even need more cushioning to allow us to sit for longer periods of time. It does not seem that our environment is selecting for physical changes. We have clothing, housing, transportation, and 20 aisles of food at Meijers so I do not think we need to develop hairy coats, larger canines, or better grasping to move back into the trees. Even our vestigial parts like the coccyx and appendix have not completely disappeared even though they have not served a meaningful purpose during recorded history. As our life expectancy has increased due to improved medical care, people are experiencing diseases that were not problematic when people died at an earlier age. Cancer, heart disease, and infections due to bacteria or viruses are becoming more important when considering the genetics of our immune systems. Even though our diets are not heart healthy and some environmental factors increase the prevalence of cancer, it is possible that our immune systems could battle these problems given ample time. Man may not be willing to wait for our bodies to find a way to defend against these problems over the next thousand years.

Our future evolution may be very different. We are no longer dealing with predators and seeking shelter in caves. We rely on microwaves and convection ovens instead of struggling to make a fire. The pressures that challenge us today revolve around infection and disease that have become major killers of Homo sapiens. If we consider that our past evolution has changed our genome creating our present chromosomes, the current ability to cut and splice our genes may govern our future evolution more than natural selection or mutation. Removing or replacing genes has previously required thousands of years, but today a permanent change might be made overnight. I fear that changing our genome before our bodies are exposed to generations of environmental stress may lead to phenotypic disadvantages that have not been anticipated. I hope our governments and scientists can agree on a reasonable course to take that allows a safe path to treat disease without upsetting thousands of years of mutations and natural selection. Survival of the fittest might become survival of the most manipulated.

2 thoughts on “Blog Seven: Genetic Manipulation

  1. Jaclyn, I love the way you talked about Homo sapiens. Although we are better than them now. From the early time, they still are special species in the human history. From the biological evolutionary perspective, 20 years is a very short time. It is in this very short period of time, Homo sapiens reached an astounding prosperity. From the tropics to the poles, the world’s land areas where there is basically human habitation. In a distributed animal so wide, we only Homo sapiens.
    Homo sapiens in a place like buildings in the city such as river basins in different parts of the world developed civilization. Today, Homo sapiens, have even contemplated going into space to live. Such a high degree of prosperity, in addition to humans, no other animal on Earth.

  2. You made some good points in your response. I agree with you in that the evolution path we are currently undergoing is very different, from the path our ancestors took. Where our ancestors had to take a longer and steady path towards evolution. We have been taking a quicker pace towards it. What I also consider to be different is the adaptions we have been striving for. Our ancestors had to strive for physical changes that would allow them to gain an edge. Where we currently as humans are striving to gain an edge in the latest technology available to us. While some of us may want to genetically manipulate our physical bodies. I believe the true advantage will be to those who have the most sophisticated technologies available to them.

Leave a Reply