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Author Topic:   Preventing Evolution's End
LifetimeTrekker
Alpha Geek

Posts: 326
From: Albuquerque, NM, UD
Registered: Sep 2001

posted February 15, 2002 10:38     Click Here to See the Profile for LifetimeTrekker   Click Here to Email LifetimeTrekker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Somehow I think the previous thread evolved into a debate over creation and natural selection, so let's start again.

Let me return to the origin of the thread: poor science making wild statements. Leave religion to the other thread, please.

I also wonder if there are any grant writers out there who could advise on how to get a grant to prevent humanity's evolutionary extiction before it's too late! Someone has to put this poor science to work and scam--er, research--this immediately!
There may not be any scientific evidence one way or the other, but can we afford to wait?

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Oldguy geek
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posted February 15, 2002 11:11     Click Here to See the Profile for Oldguy geek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, and then we could create a 'master race' and take over the world . . . hmmm.

Probably need to obfuscate the grant application on that one.

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macadddikt18
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Posts: 1126
From: In a world beyond your understanding
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posted February 15, 2002 11:51     Click Here to See the Profile for macadddikt18   Click Here to Email macadddikt18     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see where you're going with this. You think science has the answers and you think religious people are all delusional. Let's talk about science for a moment. Consider magnets near each other, they are attracted. Yet there is nothing material connecting them. There's a magnetic field. You can see it when you do that experiment with the metal shavings on a piece of paper. You hold a magnet under the paper and the shavings all organize along magnetic lines. That's the magnetic field. It's a 'field,' as we say. But you can't fill a container with a magnetic field and take it with you. You can't cut it in pieces. You can't block its power. No matter what object you insert between two magnets, their attraction to each other remains exactly the same. This 'field' of yours is strange stuff. We can see its effect and we can invent a name for it, but it doesn't exist in any physical form. How can something that doesn't exist in physical form have influence over the things that do? Maybe it has physical form but it's small and we can't see it. That's possible. Maybe there are tiny magnetrons or somethings.

Consider gravity. Gravity is also an unseen force that cannot be blocked by any object. It reaches across the entire universe and connects all things instantly, yet it has no physical form. I think Einstein said it was the warping of space-time by massive objects. But what does that mean? It means that space is bent, so when objects seem to be attracted to each other, it's just that they're traveling in the shortest direction through bent space. Can you imagine bent space? I can’t, but just because I can't imagine it doesn't mean it's not true. You can't argue with Einstein.

Scientists often invent words to fill the holes in their understanding. These words are meant as conveniences until real understanding can be found. Sometimes understanding comes and the temporary words can be replaced with words that have more meaning. More often, however, the patch words will take on a life of their own and no one will remember that they were only intended to be placeholders.

For example, some physicists describe gravity in terms of ten dimensions all curled up. But those aren't real words-just placeholders, used to refer to parts of abstract equations. Even if the equations someday prove useful, it would say nothing about the existence of other dimensions. Words such as dimension and field and infinity are nothing more than conveniences for mathematicians and scientists. They are not descriptions of reality, yet we accept them as such because everyone is sure someone else knows what the words mean.

Have you heard of string theory? String theory says that all oh physical reality-from gravity to magnetism to light-can be explained in one grand theory that involves tiny, string-shaped, vibrating objects. String theory has produced no useful results. It has never been proven by experiment, yet thousands of physicists are dedicating their careers to it on the faith that it smells right.

Maybe it is right. Every generation of humans believed it had all the answers it needed, except for a few mysteries they assumed would be solved at any moment. And they all believed their ancestors were simplistic and deluded. What are the odds that we are the first generation of humans who will understand reality? I don't think the odds are bad. Everything has to happen for a first time. Some of us were around to see computers invented and to see space travel. Maybe we'll be the first for this string theory.

Computers and rocket ships are examples of inventions, not of understanding, All that is needed to build machines is the knowledge that when one thing happens, another thing happens as a result. It's an accumulation of simple patterns. A dog can learn patterns. There is no 'why' in those examples. We don't understand why electricity travels. We don't know why light travels at a constant speed forever. All we can do is observe and record patterns.
Nayt

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Through out your life you will wonder who THEY are. Then you find out who THEY really are. From then on you live you life in fear of THEM and you wish you never knew who THEY were.

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Xanthine
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posted February 15, 2002 12:18     Click Here to See the Profile for Xanthine     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think what Lifetime Trekker is getting at is not a dabate as to whether or not evolution happened but whether or not it is still happening. So let's lay aside the religion vs. science for a minute and consider this: evolution is an on-going process. That's Trekker's point. He found some bad science and wanted to rant about it. Unfortunately, it got taken the wrong way.

The suggestion that evolution has ended is ridiculous. We can't beat natural selection. We can slow it, but in the process of removing selective pressures like infections we introduce new ones like pollution. It's a slow process, particularily when a species reproduces as slowly as we do, but it DOES NOT STOP. Suggesting that it does is the science equivalent of a theologian announcing that after He created the world God went away and ignored it. As I understand it, most if not all religious thinkers would disagree with this statement. They might debate the extent of God's involvement (and I'm not inviting such a debate to happen here - open a new thread if you want to do that), but I'm sure that most religous scholars would agree that God is still around, even if it's been a while since any prophets showed up.

You are right macaddikt, there is an element of faith in sicence. No one denies this. I take it on faith that my reactions are occuring, especiaaly since I work with macromolecules in transparent solution. The difference is science has certain standards of proof. I take my reaction on faith until I run it out a gel and then use some technique (either a tain or radio-labeling) to visualize the molecules. If the reaction occurs, I see molecules that have changed. I know they've changed because I ran a control. There, that's the proof the reaction happened, and I no longer need to take it all on faith. No one else does either. If I left it all up to faith I could just leave the molcules in the tube and announce that this is my result because I'm sure it all worked as planned.
String theory does have a stronger element of faith than most of your other examples. String theory is also not as widely accepted as particle theory due to the lack of experimental evidence that you cited. Sure, the math works out, but on paper magnetic monopoles also exist and no one's been able find those either. Consequently, like strings, monopoles aren't the most widely accepted theory either.
Debating science vs. religion is pointless. It goes in circles, and in the end, both the religious leaders and the scientists have the same goal in mind: to understand life, the universe, and everything.

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Take by surprise and the world gives up resistance.
- Tennesee Williams

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Steen
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posted February 15, 2002 12:23     Click Here to See the Profile for Steen   Click Here to Email Steen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the original article (conveneint link) that started this, the scientists themselves aren't making statements that are all that wild. Each one quoted in the article is giving the basic outline of the theory that they feel is most likely to be true. The article itself, however, is written in a fairly sensationalistic style. The wild statements in the article are the author's more so than the scientists.

As for making money off of it, I would suggest you do as most of the popular lecturers do. Develop your theory and find the supporting facts, assemble it all into a presentation and see how many speaking fees you can pick up while expanding your reputation. There are two things to be careful about, however, if you wish to be a successful speaker. First, your theories must be unprovable (or at least very difficult to prove) one way or the other. Being right is great, but once everyone agrees, nobody will pay you to come speak. Second, the theories must go against majority opinion in some way for the same reason... once everyone agrees, nobody will pay you to speak. Keep these two things in mind, and you'll fare well on the lecture circuit.

Alternately, you could just become a muck-raking journalist.

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EngrBohn
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posted February 15, 2002 15:05     Click Here to See the Profile for EngrBohn   Click Here to Email EngrBohn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You could put together a grant proposal to study how eugenics can be applied to maintain (or enhance) the strength of the human race. Actually, this is sort of the opposite of "preventing evolution's end", as you'd be replacing natural selection with animal husbandry -- um, I mean: selective breeding aka artificial selection. But it should have certain appeal to those who opine that controlling a process is the best way to make sure the process doesn't go bad.

Just make sure none of your research subjects name a son "Khan Noonien Singh"

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cb
Oooh! What does this button do!?

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LifetimeTrekker
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From: Albuquerque, NM, UD
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posted February 15, 2002 21:40     Click Here to See the Profile for LifetimeTrekker   Click Here to Email LifetimeTrekker     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by macadddikt18:
I see where you're going with this. You think science has the answers and you think religious people are all delusional.

If you had read my post, you'd see where I went with this, but no. Try reading the first sentence, then the second. You only read up to my request to leave religion out of this and just had to spout off.

Geez, Mackadddikt18, chill out!

I asked for creation and natural selection to be left to the other thread because has nothing to do with my topic.

The last paragraph would be satiric; the last sentence should give you a clue: it's the mantra of the environmentalists who want to punish the US economy based on similarly flimsy science, despite nothing can be proved.

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ZorroTheFox
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posted February 16, 2002 07:59     Click Here to See the Profile for ZorroTheFox   Click Here to Email ZorroTheFox     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A giant asteroid will get us before we ever have a chance anyway............Z

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Zwilnik
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posted February 17, 2002 18:21     Click Here to See the Profile for Zwilnik     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The big problem with trying to control the evolution of anything is that you never know what is or isn't important until several generations down the line when it's too late.
You only need to look at the genetic disorders in most pedigree dogs to see what can go wrong when you breed for specific traits. If you accelerate that by direct genetic manipulation, you can easily end up with a non-viable or even worse, dangerous variation, but only after enough generations to make it too late to go back.
The pro/anti-evolution rant that went on in the other thread gives us a major hint that people haven't got the emotional and scientific maturity to play about with this sort of stuff at anything other than a theoretical level yet.

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macadddikt18
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posted February 17, 2002 18:44     Click Here to See the Profile for macadddikt18   Click Here to Email macadddikt18     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder, can something is evolving stop it's self from evolving? If we as people are evolving, can we tell our body, lets be left-handed? Or when we fin d defect in our own self, when we get married and have kids do we go in and change their genetic code to keep that defect from coming back. At what point do morals conflict with stopping evolution? If any. at what point do we start playing god? Is that our job to play god? even if there is an omnipotent god out there, is it our job to play him?
Nayt

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Through out your life you will wonder who THEY are. Then you find out who THEY really are. From then on you live you life in fear of THEM and you wish you never knew who THEY were.

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ASM65816
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posted February 17, 2002 19:04     Click Here to See the Profile for ASM65816   Click Here to Email ASM65816     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's look what traits that we are most likely to need (desired evolutionary traits):

Resistance to: [b]Thermo-Nuclear Induced Environmental Temperature Increases, Extremely High Concentrations of Heavy Metals in Water Supplies (which could eliminate food sources as well as killing you outright), Change in Atmospheric Compostion (Acid Rain, stuff that rots your lungs, or just plain lack of oxygen), High Velocity Metal Projectiles (to include shrapnel), Asteroid Impact Induced Environmental Changes, Extreme Ultra-Violet Radiation (from 100% ozone depletion), Sterility (from radiation, etc.), ....... [\b]

Oh, by the way ..... Macadddikt18, get a life, or stop posting rhetorical drivel.

I believe the quote is attributed to the "Pogo" (ancient) Comic strip: [b]I have seen the enemy, and he is us.[\b]

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Once a proud programmer of Apple II's, he now spends his days and nights in cheap dives fraternizing with exotic dancers....

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Xanthine
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posted February 17, 2002 20:28     Click Here to See the Profile for Xanthine     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by macadddikt18:
I wonder, can something is evolving stop it's self from evolving? If we as people are evolving, can we tell our body, lets be left-handed? Or when we fin d defect in our own self, when we get married and have kids do we go in and change their genetic code to keep that defect from coming back.

To answer the question about left-handedness, no. Your behavior, cosmetic surgeries, etc. will not change your genes. As for actually changing your genes, we don't yet have the technology to actually manipulate the human genome, be it in somatic or germ cells. Select embryos yes. Actually repair or delete a gene, no. Will we ever have the technology? For somatic (body) cells, that could be a cure for cancer. For germ (reproductive cells), that could be the future as portrayed in Gattaca and I hope that never happens. But that's bioethics, which deserves a thread unto itself.

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Take by surprise and the world gives up resistance.
- Tennesee Williams

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Me
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posted February 17, 2002 22:47           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just couldn't help but nitpick here.

quote:
Originally posted by macadddikt18:
Consider magnets ... But you can't fill a container with a magnetic field and take it with you. You can't cut it in pieces. You can't block its power. No matter what object you insert between two magnets, their attraction to each other remains exactly the same. ...

You can do all of those things. Superconductors make very good magnetic bottles. You could take a magnetic field with you given a container made of suitable superconduting material.

If you've ever studied any plasma physics, you'd see its all about carrying magnetic fields about.

Lots of materials will change the force between two magnets, its one of the properties of the material and you can find tables in text books to show you the effect,

Just insert a sheet of iron between your magnets to see what happens.


quote:

This 'field' of yours is strange stuff. We can see its effect and we can invent a name for it, but it doesn't exist in any physical form.

The field exists in a very physical form, its well understood to be all about the exchange of particles (photons in the magnetic case)..

quote:

Consider gravity. Gravity .. connects all things instantly

You mention Einstein, but entirely miss the point that most of the things Einstein was on about involve things not happening "instantly". Gravity is not an instant force, it still propogates at the speed of light.

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Steen
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posted February 18, 2002 06:49     Click Here to See the Profile for Steen   Click Here to Email Steen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
macadddikt18 wrote:
at what point do we start playing god? Is that our job to play god? even if there is an omnipotent god out there, is it our job to play him?

Please re-read the first post (and most other posts other than yours) in this topic. The idea is to discuss science in this thread and not religion. If you cannot seperate the two, perhaps you should refrain from posting.

I wonder, can something is evolving stop it's self from evolving?

I think you misunderstand the concept of evolution. Single organisms do not evolve. An organism is born with the genetic code that it will carry throughout it's life (barring external manipulation such as gene therapy, radiation damage and so forth). Evolution is driven by offspring being slightly different from either of the parents. To stop evolution, you would have to ensure that the offspring are identical to the parents.

As we develop technologies that allow us to clone organisms and perhaps even swap genes out to tailor the resulting organism to our desires, random evolutionary changes become less and less of a factor, but directed evolution comes into play. Even if we were to gain complete understanding and control of the human genome, directed evolution would become common due to many, if not all, parents chosing a genetic makeup for their offspring that would give them an advantage over their peers.

when we fin d defect in our own self, when we get married and have kids do we go in and change their genetic code to keep that defect from coming back

We can already screen for certain genetic defects. While we cannot currently fix those defects, it's not impossible to envision a future day when we can. Take sickle cell anemia, for instance. It's linked to a recessive gene and will only express itself if the child inherits the same recessive gene from both parents. Barring malaria epidemics where they live, what parent would refuse to replace those recessive genes with healthy dominant ones, thus ensuring the health of both their child and all it's descendants?

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Oldguy geek
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posted February 18, 2002 12:39     Click Here to See the Profile for Oldguy geek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
As for actually changing your genes, we don't yet have the technology to actually manipulate the human genome, be it in somatic or germ cells. Select embryos yes. Actually repair or delete a gene, no. Will we ever have the technology?

I'm not so sure we don't have the technology. After all, we've got spider genes being spliced into goats so they produce spider silk proteins in their milk. And there is very little, except social and moral barriers, stopping us from taking the step of splicing genes into humans.

It raises some interesting and disturbing questions. Was Eugenics such a bad idea after all, or did it just get a bad rap due to the way it was implemented by the Nazis and some others? I know I'm not comfortable with the idea of engineering human genetics, but I also realize that it may not carry the same conotations for others that it does for me.

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Xanthine
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posted February 18, 2002 14:00     Click Here to See the Profile for Xanthine     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Oldguy geek:
I'm not so sure we don't have the technology. After all, we've got spider genes being spliced into goats so they produce spider silk proteins in their milk. And there is very little, except social and moral barriers, stopping us from taking the step of splicing genes into humans.

We can do the same with mice. However, as far as I know (and I get the table of contents for Nature every month in my inbox, so I would find out very quickly if this ceased to be the case) we're having a very hard time reliably splicing genes into a human cell culture, never mind a fertilized egg cell.
By reliable I mean not only a consistent yield of treated cells but also splicing into the correct place on the genome. Humans are a bit more complex than goats. We're not quite there yet, though be assured that if it can be done someone out there who is not bothered by moral and social issues will do it.

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Take by surprise and the world gives up resistance.
- Tennesee Williams

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quantumfluff
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posted February 18, 2002 20:30     Click Here to See the Profile for quantumfluff   Click Here to Email quantumfluff     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been thinking that the geek gene pool should have a better chance of being in the next evolutionary round. Every male here should run down to the nearest fertility clinic and leave a donation for some couple who wants a baby but where papa can't deliver the goods. And women, don't feel left out, you can probably sell an few viable eggs for more money than you think.

Evolution. Don't just be a bystander, help shape it!

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Tau Zero
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posted February 19, 2002 08:34     Click Here to See the Profile for Tau Zero     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Oldguy geek:
Was Eugenics such a bad idea after all, or did it just get a bad rap due to the way it was implemented by the Nazis and some others? I know I'm not comfortable with the idea of engineering human genetics, but I also realize that it may not carry the same conotations for others that it does for me.

It definitely got a bum rap.  Cystic fibrosis is a disease which can be prevented if carriers do not have children together.  You could argue for making this mandatory on humanitarian grounds because of the suffering and premature death of the children who wind up with it.  But that's still "eugenics".

quantumfluff:  That's not a bad idea, but many sperm banks are really picky about who they'll take.  A lot of them want only donors 30 and under (I don't qualify any more).

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homesalad
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posted February 19, 2002 12:40     Click Here to See the Profile for homesalad   Click Here to Email homesalad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Tau Zero:
That's not a bad idea, but many sperm banks are really picky about who they'll take.  A lot of them want only donors 30 and under (I don't qualify any more).

Hmmm...Off to the sperm bank I go...

Honestly though, I'm not so sure how I feel about that. Any genetic material out there thats 50% me, I'd like to have a hand in bringing up. Wouldn't want my genes to be used for evil...

Okay, so somewhat back to the topic.

poor science making wild statements.

I think there is a lot of poor science out there, and we (as consumers) just need to filter out what we deem inconclusive, unintelligent, or just plain wrong. Yet, many scientists in the past were considered coming up with 'poor' ideas, until everybody else gave a little faith into their ideas, and then realized that they were 'more true.'

So, I'm not saying that we've reached evolution's end, in fact, I feel that we're far from it. We still have pinky toes to get rid of. But its hard to say, as it has been brought up previously, with a reproductive cycle thats at least 20 years (or more) its hard to see changes from one generation to the next, or even over as many generations as we have information for. Looking at it tangibly though, we've discovered skeletons of our ancestors, that show obvious changes, pick up a copy of nat'l geographic for evidence.

But as long as we don't switch entirely to cloning (what? no sex?) I don't think we can ever escape evolution. We can do things to get around it, such as medications, and artificial organs and what-not, but ad infinitum we will be evolving. Unfortunately all of us will be long gone before any of this is proven though.

/confused rambling

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"When I worship a god it will be in a temple made by his own hands" -John Muir

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