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In the future what will humans most likely going to look like after evolution?
Question Date: 2009-05-20
Answer 1:

That's a great question, but there's really no "after evolution."Evolution is a change in the proportion of gene varieties in a population. These proportions can change constantly. Evolution doesn't have a goal. The changes can happen by chance or they can be driven by natural selection, or even artificial selection.

In almost any population, some individuals have traits that make them better at surviving and reproducing. Those individuals leave more offspring, so there are more copies of their genes in the next generation. That's natural selection. The helpful traits may be resistance to disease, being a good parent, or anything else that make some individual in a population leave more offspring than other individuals in the same population.

You might think it would be easy to figure out the direction of futurechanges. You could look at a trend, like more members of a tree speciesbeing a fast-growing type, and then predict that in the future moretrees will grow faster. But maybe fast-growing trees are weaker andthey blow down before they make many seeds. In other words, maybethere's a trade-off between growing fast and living a long time. Ormaybe fast-growing trees need more water. That's fine when the climateis wet, but what if there are some bad drought years? As theenvironment changes, what used to be a benefit may now be a problem.

Humans are also subject to natural selection, but we may have morecontrol over some things. For example, our ancestors needed very goodeyesight to find particular plants or hunt animals. People with badeyesight probably didn't leave as many children. Some groups of peoplestarted farming as long as 10,000 years ago. Eyesight was less criticalthen. Much later, people invented eyeglasses, so even having very pooreyesight wasn't much of a problem. There's some evidence that ethnicgroups that have been using agriculture longer have worse eyesight thanother groups, but it doesn't necessarily mean that future generationswill have worse eyesight. In the future, we may also be able to directlygive people genes that they need. That's a whole new and fascinatingpossibility, but there are a lot of scientific and ethical questionsabout it.

Some people think that certain traits evolve because we need them orbecause we use something. Scientists know that these ideas are wrong.Just because the air is polluted, we will not magically get genes thathelp our lungs deal with the pollution. Just because you lift weights,your strength will not magically get passed to your children. Our genescan change (mutate), but those changes are random, and most will not begood changes.

What do you think humans will be like in the future? Do you think weevolve as rapidly as bacteria? Can you think of examples of how humanshave changed the evolutionary trends of other species? (Hint: thinkabout domesticated plants and animals).

Thanks for asking,

Answer 2:

Assuming that we survive at all, our future is pretty much up to us. We are deciding what our descendants' genes are going to be by whom we choose to marry, and how many children we are going to have. I am less than confident that we are making good choices; we may be evolving in the wrong direction.

Answer 3:

This is impossible to answer. Evolution and extinction are the result of changes in the environment. When great changes in the environment occur(think huge temperature changes, changes in atmospheric composition, or changes in food sources) only those organisms already having the ability to survive the changes survive. Think if tomorrow the weather became 100deg F below zero worldwide then the only humans likely to survive would be those that already owned down jackets. So as you can see, predicting what humanswill look like is impossible.

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