Is Mankind Undoing the Benefits of Evolution?

An essay by Ken Wear, 1986,
and posted July, 2000

Are man and deity moving in contrary directions? Evolution (God, Nature, Intelligent Designer -- you choose) has brought man, through a series of successive advances, to an increasing cranial capacity and higher intellect. Whether another step increase is impending -- or even possible -- we cannot forecast, but I note we have among us today many supremely bright individuals, comparing with the average person as modern man compares with Neanderthals.

We have a long history of destroying anything that is unlike ourselves. Whether a brighter sub-species will be allowed to survive is questionable -- unless they are to all outward appearances one of us. Our one hope for further advancement lies in something presently -- and likely to remain -- beyond our control, while we are knowingly and diligently undermining the level we have already reached. Let us be reminded:

Throughout recorded history man has been steadfastly diluting what innate gifts and abilities the species possesses. Such an idea is difficult to measure for want of a common standard of measurement applied then and now. Moreover, modern man is much more diligent in seeking out the gifted individuals among us for we recognize more than any generation before us that we cannot afford to needlessly waste a single outstanding talent. Despite this recognition we continue to encourage proliferation of the lesser able and discourage the more able. I cite three tendencies in support of this assertion.

(1) There is the effect of the military. When combatants meet it is most often the more able who prove victorious; therefore, the community that does not field its best has doomed itself to defeat. In recognition of this we seek the more able to serve in our military units, thus selectively leaving the less able at home to carry on normal pursuits -- and produce the next generation. Moreover, it seems characteristic of military conquest that the victor destroys the upper echelons of the vanquished to forestall a vigorous protest. Thus, on two counts: selection for military service and subjugation of the vanquished: man systematically cultivates the weaker and destroys the stronger.

(2) It is axiomatic in the affairs of men that the more capable rise to the top of their spheres. Exceptions abound, for some totally without aptitude rise to uncommon heights while many outstandingly capable never experience the dawn of recognition. Nevertheless, when we examine any generation, we find the capable and industrious gravitating toward the top and those less able to compete slipping or rising each to a level roughly in keeping with his capabilities.

I wish not to be impaled on the argument whether environment is more important than genetic inheritance, but we can agree without argument that we cannot educate or train into a person what is not in him to be educated or trained. Environment can detect ability, and once detected that ability can be enhanced by education or training, but environment cannot itself create the ability. And we should not expect all individuals to have innately the same degree of mental capacity or artistic perception or athletic prowess any more than we expect all eyes to be brown.

Thus we are brought to the consequence of the rise of the gifted to the fore: The outstandingly gifted have a tendency toward fewer offspring. Again, there are exceptions, but we can intuitively accept -- and history will record -- that a rise to prominence tends to decrease the size of a personís family while those with less time committed to the fruits of prominence produce the bumper crops of offspring.

(3) A pervasive influence on the dilution of ability is the result of our great and wonderful advancements in medical science. More and more we see those individuals, who would in earlier generations have perished, live to propagate their own kind, so that bodily and mental weaknesses that in the past were rarely propagated are now commonly so. Were it not for an apparent tendency in nature to concentrate bodily vigor, mental vigor and talent in one person, it might be difficult to assert that medicine is diluting strengths. It is of course possible that knowledge and control of DNA can ultimately reverse this trend. But we are forced to recognize that, increasingly, in today's practices, the physically and mentally weaker specimens are surviving to marriage, thus reducing the general level of good health in the population.

I conclude: Review of history suggests that evolution strives to produce brighter, stronger, more capable individuals. Were that not true we would now have a species notably degraded from those superior minds and bodies of a few millennia ago. So I am convinced that evolution has and will, if left to its own devices, strive to improve us, a tendency that man is diligently attempting to undermine.

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To read my contribution to the dialogue on evolution: Evolutionism, Creationism, Intelligent Design or Rational Theism: click here.
Other consequences of mankind's heedless pursuit of self are mentioned in connection with the Exxon-Valdez catastrophe; to read that click here.
Other thoughts regarding propagation appear in the Social Contract; click here; and in an essay on abortion; click here.

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