Is evolution still happening?

The impact of humanity

The accumulation of small heritable changes within populations over time.

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Is evolution still happening?

#1  Postby Teague » Aug 10, 2011 2:56 pm

Considering much of the planet has a human presence, are there any books on whatimpact this is having on evolution as a whole or can we just regard our presence here as part of the whole? Would it be fair to say that where humans inhabit, we are stemming the evolution of other species by our presence (be that in agriculture, pollution, deforestation, urbanisation, etc)?
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#2  Postby rEvolutionist » Aug 10, 2011 3:10 pm

Not at all. Evolution is a process, not a rate of change.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#3  Postby Teague » Aug 10, 2011 3:15 pm

I guess I'm thinking more of how species might evolve given more freedom to move into new areas. I guess you could equally ask what pressures do humanity place on other species and is there an impact on that too?
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#4  Postby rEvolutionist » Aug 10, 2011 3:19 pm

All species place evolutionary pressures on other species. That's how evolution works. Evolution continues to work if we nearly run a species to extinction (although the probability of successful evolution - i.e. remaining extant - is terribly decreased), or if we barely have contact with a species at all.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#5  Postby Teague » Aug 10, 2011 3:21 pm

Do you think there will ever be a day where we can shape the evolution of species then? By exerting certain pressure onto them, could we not deliberately shape their evolution in some way?
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#6  Postby rEvolutionist » Aug 10, 2011 3:31 pm

We do now. By selective breeding we are creating new strains of animals and crops.

We also do that in our conservation efforts. We actively try and stop the extinction of certain species. The fact that we probably caused it to be nearly extinct, doesn't change the fact that in trying to conserve it we are attempting to somewhat direct it's evolution (in the sense that we are trying to keep evolution going for that species).
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#7  Postby Allan Miller » Aug 11, 2011 9:26 am

Teague wrote:Considering much of the planet has a human presence, are there any books on whatimpact this is having on evolution as a whole or can we just regard our presence here as part of the whole? Would it be fair to say that where humans inhabit, we are stemming the evolution of other species by our presence (be that in agriculture, pollution, deforestation, urbanisation, etc)?


The only way to stop evolution (short of killing everything) is to turn off mutation, or at least to weed it out whenever it occurs. Evolution is a mutation-amplification process that can cause such spontaneous changes to become common or universal in a species by ongoing sampling error every generation; because new ones arise all the time, species can't stand still. A constant supply of new mutational variants keeps the wheels turning. If you could turn off mutation, by gradual degrees Life would "freeze": species would each crystallise upon their own universal DNA sequence.

Mutation is also the motor of divergence that creates biodiversity by speciation. By normal attrition, species would be lost with no replacement - exacerbated by of the loss of within-species variation and de facto mass 'inbreeding' - and one by one the lights would go out.

But with mutation providing fuel, you have a process that cannot be stopped, notwithstanding some dumb ape destroying diversity in domestic and wild populations at an unusual rate.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#8  Postby GenesForLife » Aug 11, 2011 9:46 am

We also need to prevent organisms from having offspring or being born, Allan.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#9  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Aug 11, 2011 10:07 am

GenesForLife wrote:We also need to prevent organisms from having offspring or being born, Allan.

One will still have evolution happening in cell lines. You would have to make the environment constant too. Gene expression changes under environmental influences. Cancer, type II diabetes etc. This is still cell line evolution, even if it is not usually inheritable.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#10  Postby Allan Miller » Aug 11, 2011 1:34 pm

GenesForLife wrote:We also need to prevent organisms from having offspring or being born, Allan.


Nope - I was stating the minimal condition. If you switch off mutation, but still allow birth and death to continue unhindered, then you have turned off the tap, and evolution will gradually cease. You don't need to do anything else. (Strictly, of course, evolution only really stops when there is just the one, homogeneous species at the end of the process. Either way, variation would diminish inexorably, and without a source of variation, there is no evolution).
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#11  Postby Ihavenofingerprints » Aug 11, 2011 1:42 pm

Do we have better resistance to diseases than humans born 10,000 years ago? Or no real notable difference in that area?
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#12  Postby surreptitious57 » Aug 11, 2011 2:13 pm

Sun is going supernova in five billion years, and at that point there will be an immediate
cessation in the evolutionary process, at least here as the planet will be reduced to mere
sub atomic matter drifting aimlessly in space. Now there may very well be another similar
world, in another solar system, in another galaxy, which has the potential to create life as
was here but it would need 800 million years to exist just to produce the bacteria from the
primordial soup from which all existing life will subsequently develop. And the odds on that
are less than perfect. It might not actually take 800 million years for this to happen. Maybe
just 700 instead. There again it might be 900 who knows ? But one thing is definitely certain
we will not be around to witness it. As Woody Allen once said, life is a bitch and then you die
But what is so unappealing anyway, about spending the rest of eternity in blissful state of non
consciousness ? Much more preferable than hanging around waiting for bacteria to evolve I say
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#13  Postby rEvolutionist » Aug 11, 2011 2:17 pm

How do you get your posts to line up like that? Very impressive!
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#14  Postby theropod » Aug 11, 2011 2:33 pm

surreptitious57 wrote:Sun is going supernova in five billion years,...

snip...


Sorry to nitpick, but our sun isn't large enough to go supernova. Our sun, as it nearly expends all its hydrogen will inflate into a red giant and then shrink back into a white dwarf. The earth will be consumed, or at least sterilized, in the red giant phase.

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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#15  Postby GenesForLife » Aug 12, 2011 4:31 am

Allan Miller wrote:
GenesForLife wrote:We also need to prevent organisms from having offspring or being born, Allan.


Nope - I was stating the minimal condition. If you switch off mutation, but still allow birth and death to continue unhindered, then you have turned off the tap, and evolution will gradually cease. You don't need to do anything else. (Strictly, of course, evolution only really stops when there is just the one, homogeneous species at the end of the process. Either way, variation would diminish inexorably, and without a source of variation, there is no evolution).


A bit difficult to do that, given that recombination is such a feature of animal genomes :) Stopping birth and death, on the other hand, will ensure that allele frequencies do not change; that, consequently , means no more evolution.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#16  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Aug 12, 2011 4:47 am

GenesForLife wrote:
Allan Miller wrote:
GenesForLife wrote:We also need to prevent organisms from having offspring or being born, Allan.


Nope - I was stating the minimal condition. If you switch off mutation, but still allow birth and death to continue unhindered, then you have turned off the tap, and evolution will gradually cease. You don't need to do anything else. (Strictly, of course, evolution only really stops when there is just the one, homogeneous species at the end of the process. Either way, variation would diminish inexorably, and without a source of variation, there is no evolution).


A bit difficult to do that, given that recombination is such a feature of animal genomes :) Stopping birth and death, on the other hand, will ensure that allele frequencies do not change; that, consequently , means no more evolution.

No, evolution will still go on. Epigenetic changes, cell lineage changes and competition. To completely stop evolution, you have to stop life itself.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#17  Postby GenesForLife » Aug 12, 2011 4:52 am

Darwinsbulldog wrote:
GenesForLife wrote:
Allan Miller wrote:

Nope - I was stating the minimal condition. If you switch off mutation, but still allow birth and death to continue unhindered, then you have turned off the tap, and evolution will gradually cease. You don't need to do anything else. (Strictly, of course, evolution only really stops when there is just the one, homogeneous species at the end of the process. Either way, variation would diminish inexorably, and without a source of variation, there is no evolution).


A bit difficult to do that, given that recombination is such a feature of animal genomes :) Stopping birth and death, on the other hand, will ensure that allele frequencies do not change; that, consequently , means no more evolution.

No, evolution will still go on. Epigenetic changes, cell lineage changes and competition. To completely stop evolution, you have to stop life itself.


Sure, but once you stop birth and death; organismal evolution will stop. Somatic evolution will require the eradication of life itself. Good point well made, DB.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#18  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Aug 12, 2011 5:03 am

Genes for life wrote:-

Sure, but once you stop birth and death; organismal evolution will stop. Somatic evolution will require the eradication of life itself. Good point well made, DB.

And of course, a few cancers are heritable! :) Ergo, organismal evolution will still continue in a few cases.
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#19  Postby GenesForLife » Aug 12, 2011 5:10 am

Darwinsbulldog wrote:Genes for life wrote:-

Sure, but once you stop birth and death; organismal evolution will stop. Somatic evolution will require the eradication of life itself. Good point well made, DB.

And of course, a few cancers are heritable! :) Ergo, organismal evolution will still continue in a few cases.


If there is no birth, nothing is inherited :P
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Re: Is evolution still happening?

#20  Postby Darwinsbulldog » Aug 12, 2011 5:26 am

GenesForLife wrote:
Darwinsbulldog wrote:Genes for life wrote:-

Sure, but once you stop birth and death; organismal evolution will stop. Somatic evolution will require the eradication of life itself. Good point well made, DB.

And of course, a few cancers are heritable! :) Ergo, organismal evolution will still continue in a few cases.


If there is no birth, nothing is inherited :P

You are forgetting lateral gene transfer and lateral cell transfer. Think Tasmanian Devil [cancer by lateral cell transfer] , and Homing Endonuclease Genes [HEG's] :)
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