Most of the intelligent world, and by that I mean the portion whose reasoning is not polluted by mythologies, understands the necessity and general concepts of evolution, especially in regard to human development. While true evolution takes place slowly at the DNA level over hundreds of generations, one need not look back much more than a couple of generations to see the more immediate environmental impact of changing conditions. As a species, we are generally taller, more sedentary and therefore, more obese, and living longer. We have largely eradicated the diseases that killed our great-grandparents but succumb to autoimmune diseases that were once quite rare. How this might all balance out on the evolutionary scale remains to be seen, but without question the actions we take today affect what our species is tomorrow.
How much control do we have over our own evolution? Some would claim that we are in total control of our evolution with technological and metaphysical advances that allow one to choose not only physical traits of our children but also their temperament and even the basic structures of their belief system. If we develop the means by which to conceive, gestate, and give birth to live humans totally outside the physical body, is there any real limit to the changes we might make in human physiology? Eradicating disease is one thing, but might our attempts to make ourselves smarter change the evolutionary construct of the brain in ways we cannot anticipate? Does giving one the ability to run faster change the skeletal and muscular evolution of our legs?
Some suggest that genetic modification interrupts and eventually might bring an end to evolution; that by preventing latent genes from dying or promoting certain DNA strands out of order, we deter the species from its natural course of adaptation. Yet, are we not, through natural biological processes, doing the same thing when we choose with whom we mate? Two red haired parents are more likely to produce a house full of red haired offspring. The combined DNA of two track champions yields children with a higher potential for physical development.
Genetic modification might change the appearance of one person for one generation, but in order for that modification to become part of the greater human genome, it must be duplicated identically across the whole of the population for multiple generations until that modification itself becomes a part of our very nature. For such modification to overtake the natural course of evolution, the population must first surrender all personal choice.
One must then ask, at the point humans surrender their personal choice, are they really still human?
We don’t just make this up. Here are our sources:
Miller, Geoffry F. The mating mind: How sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature. April 1, 2001. Anchor Books, Random House, New York.
This article was originally published in EspritNu, Vol. 1., November 2014.