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(no subject)
2012
unknownj
I've been thinking about the sea level rising, and I've come to the conclusion that it's a bad idea..

I mean, water is just too thick. And the cold probably doesn't help either, nor do issues relating to oxygen intake.. I think lack of fire would also present a unique challenge..

You see, I have nothing against extinction. From an evolution point of view, extinction is actually quite an exciting prospect - whenever anything changes, the rest of the world changes with it, and that to me is interesting. If an animal dies out, it'll have been due to some selective pressure (even if that was human driven) that wasn't previously there. Such selective pressures then lead to speciation elsewhere.

But I'm not sure about the sea level rising 7m over the next thousand years. I mean, on the one hand it'll do wonders for coral reefs, which are habitats of incredible biodiversity. But, as I said, I don't think water is very good..

Take tools, for example. Learned manipulation of tools in primates is a giant evolutionary step that can't even be fully taken by marine mammals. I'm aware that dolphins are able to use pieces of coral to safely investigate ocean floors, and I expect there are probably other behaviours they can undertake that use tools. But it's the manipulation of the environment that aquatic life just can't grasp (literally). Underwater digits are not viable from an evolution point of view. Due to the viscosity of water, an animal has to be streamlined. Short of developing some sort of retractable hands, the early stages of evolution of limbs for the purpose of manipulation will always leave an animal at a disadvantage, and the evolution won't progress.

This is also due to the small number of ecological niches for large aquatic mammals. While temperatures and depths may vary, ultimately they're all under the same conditions. On the surface, you get tree-dwellers, swamp-dwellers, mountain-dwellers, and all manner of different environments in which to live. Mostly because gravity creates such conditions. Underwater, as pressure counteracts gravity and true three dimensional movement becomes possible, there is less diferentiation between different environments. Again, viscosity of water makes it a poor environment for evolution of 'higher' traits.

And adding to the problem of tool manipulation is the lack of submarine fire. The ability to bring about state changes developed by early man is one of the defining points of evolution, and was the gateway to a true ability to influence the environment. Fuel is burned to give energy, water can be boiled to make gas, food can be cooked. This was the killer app for tools - the single thing that made the whole tool-use gig worth it. And there is no underwater equivalent, no epiphany that can spur on further development. They can be as potentially smart as they like, but until there's something to harness and drive that potential, it won't be put to good use.

I'm all for humans being wiped out later on, and making way for the evolution of another species. I'm not saying that I'd prefer that to humans actually surviving and making their way out into the universe, but it wouldn't bother me too much. I don't have that much affinity for my species, they don't seem to work properly.

However, I don't think rising sea levels are the way to do it. Too much water, and you start to lose the ability to evolve the most complex of animals.. What we really need is a cataclysmic tectonic shift, bringing the continents back into a pangea style mega-continent. Then a re-division of that in such a way as to provide each new continent with a unique location on the planet, each with its own environment. Temperate continents, tropical continents, cold continents.. With small land bridges between them to facilitate colonisation by the more adaptable species..

If I were God, that's how I'd do it, anyway...

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(Deleted comment)
we would have to devolve and regain fins

No. It's called 'evolution'. If fins are what we need, then we would evolve to have them. It's not a two-way process where you can take steps back, and 'devolution' doesn't actually exist.

maybe our coccyx will become of use in the next 500 years?

500 years is, at best, 25 generations. It would be impossible even if there were massive selective pressures pushing it that way, which there aren't. No human with a 'better coccyx' is going to be more viable with regard to reproducing, so nothing will change.

by keeping the ill alive with modern medication, none of us are evolving into the super-fit alpha humans we need to become

Utter bollocks.

Altruism is a part of group selection, the very existence of it is proof that it makes a positive difference to species viability.

Furthermore, 'keeping the ill alive' generally relates to the elderly, who are no longer contributing offspring. Evolution has already taken out most of the issues that affect people before reproductive age - everything that affects them afterwards has no impact on evolution, because the kids have already been born.

Humans are programmed to live until they're about 40 or so. After that, they play no further part in genetic evolution, and are just there as 'advisors' to the young. In a species that is born adaptable, that means that behaviours are left to learning, not pre-natal instincts. As such, it's important to keep those people around.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the effort, but this just smacks of the 'social darwinism' that really pisses me off. Evolution is a process that takes millions of years, it operates on a timescale incomprehensible to us. Evolution certainly wouldn't save us from cataclysmic climate change, just like it didn't save any of the other species who've died out in the past.

(Deleted comment)
I don't disrespect your point of view, as such.. I just don't like it, which is rather different :o)

If it helps, there are a lot of people who agree with you on that.. my main issue is that a lot of people use those arguments to support eugenics, and ideas like genetic purity. Which aren't so great..

In any case, evolution takes environment into account. There are illnesses, for example, that can be treated in the western world that don't get treated in the third world. As such, selective pressures will drive any genetic factors out of people in third world countries, but won't do the same in western countries. But that's fine, because medicines exist to treat the problem, so it doesn't matter if those people get those illnesses.

Ultimately, evolution is still working on people. The main thing that's changed is that we've artificially removed a lot of the selective pressures that act on us, but that's still just part of the whole system.

In the animal kingdom, genetic factors can greatly affect an organism's viability for reproduction, and selection acts upon these to produce better offspring. Without those selective pressures, humans can do as they please, and I don't see why that's a bad thing. Why is further evolution necessary?

Any further evolution would have to take place over the next few million years, which doesn't solve any problems with climate change. The rate of evolution is limited by generation length, which itself has adapted to the environment that humans live in. We can't change anything like as fast as the climate can, so why bother?

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