Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Blip: A truth about evolution.

I thought for a moment I would tickle around an area that, by and large, we avoid on this blog: Explaining advanced scientific principles to people who would do best not trying to learn it. Not to say we don’t talk about science, just that we believe that certain areas of science, such as the on-going roll of studies in medicine whose reports are released very regularly with the view to adding to the pile of testable and citeable data to be used in more prescriptive reports that make actual claims shouldn’t be in the public domain. The pool of resources needs to be constantly expanding in these areas so that the actual theories always have fresh ground to step on and yet reports are taken wrongly and reported twistedly to make them seem arbitrary or they are taken out of context and given as fact only to be reported to idiots (such as the overwhelming amount of crap in national ‘newspapers’ stating that everything causes cancer).

I want to talk a little, nonetheless, on evolution. Evolution, despite the ignorant, anger-filled claims of many of its supporters, is just a theory. It is largely considered a strong theory due to much evidence that seems to work very well in its theoretical structure. The theory of evolution talks of an endless amount of tiny, imperceptible changes to the genetic structure of a creature; changes that alter the survival rates of the creature by the very tiniest amount, which, when expressed over tens if not hundreds of thousands of years, makes enough of a difference to make a certain genetic sequence slightly more likely. Amplify that by yet more time and what you have is a series of trends in the species that seem to continue and change.

This theory is often combined with the ideas that the survival rates are affected due to the effect on adaptation that those genetic alterations have. Natural selection says that the best adapted creatures will live while the others die; this means that the expressed genetic changes that help adaptation tend to survive longer and therefore tend to spread down family lines more.

Evolution is a complicated, long-winded and, above all, a theoretical chain of constructs, about which we know extremely little. When a child is, at total random, born inside out or with bony outcroppings that resemble wings, it is not evolution. The child hasn’t been born as a buzzard to two human parents. The newspapers, as well as every dimwit that reads them, will begin purporting that the ‘next stage’ in human evolution is one with wings but that just isn’t the case. The differences across generations are tiny, they are impossible to detect. Millions of years down a fish’s family, the given fish will be able to stay above water for a little longer, survive in warmer, more shallow water and will, on occasion, become washed up and be able to flop itself back down. This, coupled with many other changes of a similar type, leads to land life (again, in theory) and it happens over such a long time, through such undetectable motions that every generation think themselves static and yet the species moves on.

Evolution is not a sea full of fish and one day a fish rather difficultly plops out a somewhat shocked frog that hops off to find other mutants to mate with. Thus, a sudden unexpected change in a child can be genetic but is not evolution. 

This applies, to an even greater degree, to psychological changes. This is because we can be certain (at least, according to the theory) that our physical attributes are encoded into our DNA but our psychologies have other things involved. Namely, they develop over time according to our individual experiences of life and how we choose to analyse them.  This means that although some psychological traits have been suggested to have a possible relationship to certain genetic sequences, our individual minds and personalities are formed mostly separate from our state at birth. 

The reason I’ve offered this explanation is because of a rather uninformed comment I saw that was someone suggesting that low latent inhibition could be the next stage in human evolution and it reminded me of the severe bastardisation of scientific terms that permeates current culture. It’s insulting enough that they were thinking this because of the ‘advances that it could lead to’, so once again it’s being treated like a super power that unlocks potential otherwise locked off in the human mind and so once again I’ll say: It’s a rare behavioural trait that has been shown to have connections to some personality types, such as often being perceived as creative or thinking in degrees of detail and consequence that other people can find difficult but, to be honest, it’s more often a hindrance and an annoyance than anything positive or helpful, even to those of us considered to have an amount of creativity or intelligence. It is not boosted creativity nor boosted intelligence, just another way of looking at the world. Just like how democracy isn’t a furthered governmental system compared to autocracy, it too is just a new perspective. 


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