Survival of the fittest

On occasion, in my darker daydreams thinking about inspiration for a story, I have wondered about the concept of the survival of the fittest and how the modern world has influenced Natures way of evolving the human species. In the past, Nature weeded out those unfit for life through a multitude of ingenious ways but we humans have systematically fought back to the point where some of us alive today would probably not have existed had Nature been allowed to follow its grand plan. In fact, most of us probably would not.

Looking at it scientifically (and without letting emotions cloud the idea) I wonder if our meddling, while saving individual lives, has ultimately meant that diseases and ailments Nature would have bred out long ago through natural selection and developing natural immunity, still linger in the human population? Have we unwittingly weakened the human species by striving to save the lives of people who would otherwise not have lived to pass on their genetic disposition for a particular illness? Has our meddling meant that bugs our immune systems would have made irrelevant have become more virile and deadly?  Has the rest of the Natural evolved and we have chosen a path no longer in sync with the rest of our world?

When asked why there seems to be such an increase in the prevalence of breast cancer, a local doctor surmised that our bodies are always fighting to keep the rigours of life in check and our immune systems continually fight these cancerous growths and usually win. Over the years, it could be that our dependence on medicine and other treatments has meant that instead of our bodies getting stronger – like kids getting really sick when they first start school and build up immunity to the general run of the mill bugs, our immune systems over generations have become weaker at dealing with certain problems and the increase in cancer diagnoses are actually just an indication of a general inability of our bodies to protect themselves from the environment and the junk we subject them to. Nature would have just let those immune systems unable to cope, die and kept the stronger ones.

Mutation is obviously natures way of evolving a species and can take hundreds, thousands or millions of generations to find the ‘best’ organism for the specific environment.  Mistakes in the design would mean the organism would die off and remove its defunct genetic material from the gene pool.  Death would have been the genetic cure-all for any ailment.  Creations with a competitive advantage would thrive and reproduce mutating into other failures and eventually the next ‘better’ creature.  Could it be that the natural world, and its bugs, is evolving and instead of us humans, evolving along with them, we are using technology to, like a grumpy stubborn traditionalist, fight against change that should be part of us.

It’s a shocking thought to put out there, but would people suffer from diseases like allergies, asthma or diabetes if our species had been able to evolve natural defences to our polluted environment through natural selection (and yes, death) rather than us meddling? Or are we forced to “assist” Nature because the evolutionary response is far too slow to compete with how we have changed our environment?  Now I am not saying that I would have let my kids die if they suffered from some illness – I’d want medicine to save them and I’d want it now – but perhaps that is the problem that we as humans will never be able to deal with.  Medicine is a knee jerk reaction to illness when maybe it needs to be making the species stronger so that we naturally defend ourselves from illness independent of needing a course of antibiotics or an insulin jab? But then what would vaccinations and our other attempts of preventative medicine do to us in the long run – like the possibility of the MRR vaccination causing autism. Should we be building stronger humans from birth, not trying to pump ourselves full of little helpers (nanobots anyone) after the fact?

And that brings me to genetic modification. Remember that movie, Gattaca? The genetic elite – taking it to the opposite extreme and removing natural selection from the equation and evolving the species through breeding and genetic modifications in some sort of genetic racism and class structure. I wonder how successful we as ‘creators’ would be or if The Walking Dead would end up being not just a TV show.

If I could have a child that would be guaranteed to be free from all ailments for the length of his natural life and endowed with above average intelligence and physical abilities and be able to pass this genetic advantage on to his children, I would sign on the dotted line without hesitation and pay any price. Problem is, would that kind of guarantee even be possible? What would the small print on the paperwork say? Faust anyone? Who decides what would be a genetic advantage or not?

The thoughts that I end up with are, what would we be like if Nature had been left to its own devices? What will we be like if we continue to meddle in a knee jerk reaction to our aliments? What will humans become if we start meddling to create a better superior being? If there is supposed to be between 95% and 98.5% similarity between apes and humans what would it mean if we create a human with even 0.5% of a difference to us… Homo Meddleus? What would the world be like if we weeded out genetic anomalies at birth and prevented any natural evolution through mandatory human culling of anyone predisposed to something undesirable?

Oooh, the sci-fi possibilities. I’d love to be able to take a time machine to the future and see how badly we humans end up messing things up. Come on, you know we will… we are our own worst enemies and always will be.

Till someone finds E.T. that is.

Lanceolot

ps.  I know I used a picture of Darwin but this is not intended to be some scientific discourse… I am not clever enough for that. This is an idea jotted down in a writers notebook that I thought may spark someone else’s creative juices as much as it has mine.

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