do you think higher brain functions can be counter productive in evolution?

in other words, i'm asking if the fact that we realize we are evolving could affect the way we evolve, perhaps even negatively? since society plays as much influence in the selection process as natural does, if not more, could we eventually become so evolved that we die off?

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Hmm ... interesting question, and I believe the answer is yes.

    The reason is that intelligence allows for the Lamarckian evolution of *ideas* (like learning, language, and technology). By Lamarckian I mean that learning *acquired* by members of one generation, can be passed on to offspring, and in fact to *any* members of the next generation (including the offspring of others).

    This is why Lamarckian evolution can be very fast.

    Biological evolution is not Lamarckian, it is Darwinian. In other words, a member of one generation can only pass on biological traits that it is *born* with (rather than something it *acquires* in its lifetime) ... and then only to its own offspring.

    This is why Darwinian evolution is extremely slow.

    Thus the (Lamarckian) evolution of ideas can be *much* faster than the (Darwinian) evolution of our bodies has ever been, or ever will be. So we can evolve ideas that seem great in the short run, but have a *devastating* long-term effect on biology.

    Global warming, pollution, extinction of other species without knowledge of their effects on us, medicine, computers, and other fast-paced products of technology may be exactly that effect ... technology that develops so fast, there is no way we can judge what its effects will be in 100 years, much less 1,000 years (when evolution acts in the tens of 1,000s of years at *best*).

    The only hope is that the evolution of ideas can be *so* fast, that it is able to detect its own long-term dangers, and to solve them.

    IMO, global warming may be the first big test of that (mental) evolution.

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  • Yaybob
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Yes. Man is a great example. Today, the world's living things are threatened by global warming (if you believe the talk about it being a real and manmade problem, and I do), a phenomenon directly due to man's technology outstripping his philosophy and wisdom.

    If we end up self-destructing because of this or any other reason, such as total nuclear warfare, it will have been a result of having evolved to the point of being able to do these things. It means that ape-men were actually safer and therefore better off.

    That doesn't mean that evolution IS a bad thing, just that it might be. To date, it has been a miracle.

    But some philosophers, especially those from the field of SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) have posited that no culture that evolves to man's present level of intelligence - smart enough to self-destruct - becomes wise enough to avoid self-destruction, and that therefore we are very unlikely to have been visited or to be visited by alien civilizations in the future since they will have destroyed themselves before reaching that level of sophistication. They suggest that evolution proceeds to a point and can go no further.

    It is a pessimistic view, but who can rule it out as a possibility?

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  • Qyn
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    This theory is known as specialization, where a species specializes in a niche so that retaining the fitness of the task when changes take hold of the environment becomes impossible, because it is over specialized.

    In humans, these evolutionary selections of society are for not a lack of suave, detrimental. I think that society has too much of a say in the selection process, making it at best, sick. Therefore, evolution is indeed not in some sense progressing, although there is no sense in progress evolutionarily, survival being the rip curl.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think this question could be better answered from a philosophical point of view. I assume you are asking about why we developed intelligence, and qualities such as consciousness and self awareness as a consequence of it. Another question to ask would be why do we have a subjective internal experience of the world around us? And, why are you conscious of it? Those are obviously really difficult questions that have been around since the ancient Greeks. If you view these problems from an evolutionary point of view, like you are, then you find yourself asking of what advantage is consciousness or self consciousness? why would a subjective experience of brain processing have been selected at all? do other animals have self-awareness? You are now back to the problem of explaining, or at least hypothesizing about the why of consciousness. Its a hard question to grapple with, but to answer your last question, unless we end up killing ourselves I dont think we'll be dying off due to evolution.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Sure, with our intelligence as high as it is, we now have the capability to kill off our entire species with a single nuclear "misunderstanding".

    Also a large brain costs a lot in evolutionary terms. It requires a lot of nutrients, and due to our big heads the birth process is complex and dangerous compared to most species. If we didn't use our extra brain power and reverted to a very simple lifestyle like that of a cow, our brains would probably shrink to make it easier on the rest of our bodies.

    The book "Galapagos" by Vonnegut has a great example of this.

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