• Benj96
    1.5k
    One view derived straight from evolution is that we have had a target on our back from the beginning of life (the last universal common ancestor/LUCA).

    Why is this?

    Selective pressures encourage adaptation, change, in order to survive.

    However, not all organisms are created equally when it comes to their share of "selective pressure" .

    Some organisms have had a lack of pressure, a calm, peaceful "good time" during the eons of evolution.

    This is demonstrated by the fact that some organisms have enjoyed a relative lack of change for millions of years: cockroaches, shrimp, the platypus, some sharks, crocodiles and turtles. They seem to have reached some form of equilibrium where there was little need to adapt further. Their design stood the test of time and succeeded again and again over whatever few natural pressures they may have faced.

    On the other hand some organisms have evolved rapidly in a very short period of time. This suggests they were constantly bombarded with novel or enhanced selective pressures that forced them to repeatedly adapt and change again and again. Never quite good enough to stay the same/static.

    One tactic in this case of relentless pressure is to stay small, dynamic/highly mutatable, and multiplicitous: enter bacteria, viruses and parasites.

    The other technique is to become ever more singular, larger and multicellular, complex/sophisticated, stable and unmutated (long lifespans, few children): enter homo sapiens with our superior intelligence taking the reigns of survival.

    There are some striking implications of this conclusion. If we are indeed the most complex/sophisticated organisms in existence, we are the ones that failed the most historically, consistently pressured to "up our game".

    If stability and lack of evolution is an indicator of correctness/aptness of a genome to survive, then our human genome is riddled with errors and subsequent amendments. The "runt of the litter" - the one that had to go furthest to achieve worthy status of survival.

    That may be the reason for our incredible intelligence and complexity. But it may also serve as a reason for our propensity for cancers.

    Less is more in this case. Simple organisms that don't really change likely shouldn't get cancer, but they also are unlikely to be intelligent.

    With less genes to protect and control, there's less possibility of a detrimental mutation. And it's self proving in that these genes are constitutional - haven't changed a lot over time, they're highly stable and preserved.

    On the other hand, having a lot of genes, many of which were not good enough/ too unstable that they required more genes to bolster their stability or increase genomic complexity to ensure their protection, means they are inherently more vulnerable to detrimental mutation and cancers.

    The implications of such a conclusion are profound. Cancer is known to be relatively rare in sharks and turtles - the species that have remained unchanged for millions of years. Many of which live a long time (upwards of 100 years).

    It seems then that they possess some genes that are anti-cancer in nature. With genetic engineering, humans could in the future avail of such genes to prevent cancer in our own species. And undo the repeated failures of our genetic past.
  • Vera Mont
    837
    Ants got it right early on, so they haven't had to change much in their configuration or mode of operation order to keep adapting to new environments and changing conditions. They have somewhat fewer genes - 18,000 to our 23,000 - but it's possible that, because of the high turnover and low tolerance for maladaptation, ants are better able to afford detrimental mutation: it isn't passed on.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    What caught me eye is cancer - we're relatively fast evolving - from apes to humans in, what?, 2.5m years? One reason why that's possible is greater genetic instability (mutation rate in our species is higher, compared to other species) and that has the downside of increased risk of malignancy. Everything comes at a price, oui mes amies?
  • Bradskii
    72
    we are the ones that failed the most historically, consistently pressured to "up our game".Benj96

    That implies that there is a winning strategy in evolution. There isn't. Nobody wins. It's either stay in the game...or lose.

    If we had failed then you wouldn't be reading this.
  • GBG
    6
    It appears that every celebrated leap forward in science and technology has been achieved primarily to solve a problem that has been created by the continued evolution of mankind. All any of these scientific advancements achieve is to speed up the journey that will eventually lead to mankind’s inevitable extinction.
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    All any of these scientific advancements achieve is to speed up the journey that will eventually lead to mankind’s inevitable extinction.GBG

    Damn that hits deep
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    If we had failed then you wouldn't be reading this.Bradskii

    Well, true in the objective sense of course. If we failed to stay in the game we'd be extinct.

    On an ethical/moral or more human perspective "how one ought to stay in the game" is open to what tactics of survival we value or deem worthy.

    Parasites and viruses stay in the game effectively but their nature is generally reprehensible to us. Selfish. Feeding off a host to its detriment. Writhing bloodsuckers.

    So we then face the conflict of whether we identify homo sapiens as a species to be closer to parasitic in nature, or a species who's tactic has been to mitigate our detrimental effects on nature/other organisms as little as possible.

    What is the quality of our species tactic for survival? And are we more likely to bring down everything with us (destroy life on earth) or uphold a harmonious ecosystem, acting as gardeners so to speak.
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    What caught me eye is cancer - we're relatively fast evolving - from apes to humans in, what?, 2.5m years? One reason why that's possible is greater genetic instability (mutation rate in our species is higher, compared to other species) and that has the downside of increased risk of malignancy. Everything comes at a price, oui mes amies?Agent Smith

    True I agree. Afterall, cancer could be considered a group of cells that found a way to adapt, survive and multiply in an environment that didn't favour their well-being for one reason or another - be it genetic instability, or poisoning: tar/nicotine, alcohol, pollution etc or insult from the body itself - inflammation and immune behaviours etc.

    The cells are put under negative selective pressure and have a reactionary overcompensated counter defence. "We better multiple, steal resources and invade other areas to maximise our chances of surviving."

    In other words, cancer cells drop their cooperation programming and takes on the selfish behaviour similar to that of the genes found in viruses. All it want to do is multiply, divide and conquer. A revolt against the immune system government of the body.

    This makes sense when we consider the very strong link between certain viruses and cancers like hpv and cervical cancer.

    So it seems like natural selection and evolution works on numerous levels and numerous time frames - from what has gone on in the past between generations of humans, to what is currently happening within our own bodies on an epigenetic/ cellular level.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k


    El Rachum mon ami, El Rachum, and Muslims say Allah rahim!
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    Ants got it right early on, so they haven't had to change much in their configuration or mode of operation order to keep adapting to new environments and changing conditions. They have somewhat fewer genes - 18,000 to our 23,000 - but it's possible that, because of the high turnover and low tolerance for maladaptation, ants are better able to afford detrimental mutation: it isn't passed on.Vera Mont

    Interesting. I would have imagined that having one sole producer of offspring would render the gene pool quite vulnerable. As one bad mutation in such an individual pairing could render the entire colony disadvantaged/defective.

    This could be offset if evolution operated most importantly on chemical messenger genes. As ants are highly communicative. If this set of genes is quite small in the 18,000 it would be less subject to mutation as its insulated by a lot of non-important more mutatable "junk" dna
  • Vera Mont
    837
    As one bad mutation in such an individual pairing could render the entire colony disadvantaged/defective.Benj96

    Not really. If the queen is defective, or she mated with a defective male, her new colony will never get started; she and her one mate are bred out of the gene pool in one generation. Which doesn't matter, because new ones are started all the time. If that one mating was successful, it establishes the gene pool for the entire colony; all her offspring are siblings, but they collectively decide which few are good enough to reproduce.
    So with ants it seems the key to the kingdom isn’t as easy as marrying a prince. You’ve got to be born at the right time, with the right gene expression, in the right place.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    We better multiple, steal resources and invade other areas to maximise our chances of surviving."Benj96

    :lol: That, of course, eventually backfires, oui?
  • sugarr
    8
    If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish. — Jonas Salk
  • BC
    11.5k
    But it may also serve as a reason for our propensity for cancers.Benj96

    Do we have a propensity to develop cancer? In 1901 the leading cause of death was infectious disease -- endemic infections like tuberculosis, and acute infections like staphylococcus. Sulfa and antibiotics reduced infections, allowing cancer a greater opportunity. Better food and sanitation led to greater longevity, which gave us more time to develop cancers and heart disease.

    we're relatively fast evolving - from apes to humans in, what?, 2.5m years?Agent Smith

    We evolved through a series of species in stages. Some of those stages, like from Australopithecus to Homo sapiens maybe took 2.5 million years, but there were several steps before then. I don't know why the total number of years would be between the first branch of our last common ancestor and us.

    Not for nothing do we fit the definition of "a plague species", like rats.
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    :lol: That, of course, eventually backfires, oui?Agent Smith

    Of course because they kill the host. Or get chemoed. Or surgically/radiologically targeted.

    The "cooperation" or "socialist" genes are constitutional to a multicellular organism. It simply wouldn't do for any part of one's body to get ahead of themselves and challenge governance - the fine balance and homeostasis/harmonious ecosystem of the body.

    In truth, cancer develops in the healthy many a time in their life but is usually adequately dealt with by the proper functioning immune system. Thats why patients with hiv and other immunocomprimising diseases get cancers.

    So cancer is as much about the integrity of the "self : non self" axis of our inbuilt protective systems as it is about the arising of cancer in the first place.

    Cancer is an inevitability in such a large multicellular complex system that is always undergoing change, but the body usually knows what's what and who needs to be removed to keep things in proper order.

    So ageing in this sense is a sort of a process "losing the sense of biological self" that was established at a young age.

    The young body is usually highly intolerant to invaders (cancer included) and mount a merciless attack. Even when children do get cancers many of them are highly curable for this reason. They take only a little bit of "oomf" to get going.

    But as we age, our quality of composition wears down, accrues damage, and then the immune system reaches a point where it has lost its textbooks and either attacks itself or doesn't attack enough, working off an incomplete dictionary that has corrupted over time.

    Maintaining innate sense of self may be down to genes, it may be down to environmental factors, hell it may even be down to psychological factors/mental processes and awareness and the brains control of its body. But we are never fully in control of all of these factors all the time. And that is our downfall.

    And I guess that's why we have children. Because our system is imperfect and needs to renew as a novel individual - healthy once again (in most cases).
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    Do we have a propensity to develop cancer? In 1901 the leading cause of death was infectious disease -- endemic infections like tuberculosis, and acute infections like staphylococcus. Sulfa and antibiotics reduced infections, allowing cancer a greater opportunity. Better food and sanitation led to greater longevity, which gave us more time to develop cancers and heart disease.BC

    Yes now we have a propensity for cancer in the tiered system of threats to our life, having dealt with barbarism, and infections pretty well, and because we are living long enough for our genetics to reach the point of consolidated existence they never had to deal with before when we had shorter life expectancies, cancer is now predominating.

    We are also one of the only animals that partake in self destructive and toxic habits that encourage cancer.

    Natural selection only works off pressures. And pressures don't exist when you're already dead. But now that we are living longer, social pressures brought around by rigorous and longer education, establishing social and financial security, are pushing the average reproductive age later and later in life, which applies pressure for those that maintain health and reproductive viability into their 30s and 40s.

    Assumimg this trend continues, cancer will be selected against by the need to survive longer before reproducing.

    This is of course simplified and many other factors influence this process such as IVF, medicine and lifestyle.
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    Not really. If the queen is defective, or she mated with a defective male, her new colony will never get started; she and her one mate are bred out of the gene pool in one generation. Which doesn't matter, because new ones are started all the time. If that one mating was successful, it establishes the gene pool for the entire colony; all her offspring are siblings, but they collectively decide which few are good enough to reproduce.Vera Mont

    Ah I see. So natural selection would operate on whole colonies - the unit or collective organism that is being snuffed out or propagated. Makes sense as they operate in unison as a strict and well characterised society.

    I wonder then what selective pressures are at work on humans as a society rather than just individuals.
  • BC
    11.5k
    now that we are living longer, social pressures brought around by rigorous and longer education, establishing social and financial security, are pushing the average reproductive age later and later in life, which applies pressure for those that maintain health and reproductive viability into their 30s and 40s.Benj96

    True enough, but the age of reproduction affected by social factors (like education and the economy) is a short term factor, too short for evolution to have had any consequences.

    BTW, at the present time, roughly 1/3 of industrialized populations will die of cancer, 1/3 from heart disease, and 1/3 from circulatory defects in the brain (stroke). Infection doesn't presently play so large a role in developed economies. Low death rates from infection are not guaranteed, however. Evolution is working on the short time scales of microorganisms. Infection may have a very bright future, unless we find a solution to antibiotic resistance.
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    . Infection may have a very bright future, unless we find a solution to antibiotic resistanceBC

    This is very true. We may indeed not have had the last laugh with regards to infections. As evolution of bacteria is much faster than human evolution and our use of antibiotics is placing selective pressures on them to evolve new abilities and protective mechanisms, they seem to be keeping pace with our advancing pharmacy and tech.

    Bacteria are incredibly stubborn and changeable. This can confer benefits to us in industry in some cases but also poses a constant health threat.

    I am certainly concerned that perhaps our selection of effective antibiotics will become ever more restricted but am hopeful that the nature of capitalism will fuel innovation either chemically or through advancing tech to combat this microscopic foe.

    Not to mention, our immune systems, in the billions, are sure to have a small cohort that form a natural immunity to certain infections that perhaps the rest of us can avail of by isolating the genetic mutations that enable sucb protections. And if not maybe we can synthesise a chemical analog.

    I think the battle between humans and bacteria will be a constant one, with no ultimate winner, lest we somehow depart from our biological existence entirely and become technological.

    But then of course we will have digital viruses to contend with.
  • Vera Mont
    837
    I wonder then what selective pressures are at work on humans as a society rather than just individuals.Benj96

    Whatever pressures we put on ourselves. For the past 6000+ years, we have pretty much set our own agenda for individual breeding and the survival of societies. Over the last two hundred years, the environment was of little consequence: the odd storm, drought or cold spell might kill off a local population, making more room for the rest of the species; an epidemic would take out a chunk of humanity here and there, but not like the global pandemic we have in the age of universal mobility.
    There were plenty of spare people and so much technology that we beat nature into submission: it could not affect us as a species. Of course, now that nature is actually dying, we don't know how it will end.
    The human gene pool is an ocean now - diversity is assured in whatever pockets remain, unless we burn off the atmosphere of set off enough nuclear weapons to make life impossible everywhere.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k


    I wonder what's up with autoimmune disorders? Do you have any idea whether they're linked to cancers? I know diabetes type II (some kinda immune-mediated destruction of pancreatic beta-cells that has been correlated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer).
  • punos
    321
    Just wanted to put on the table that modern medicine has had a significant impact on human evolution, as it has allowed weaker individuals to survive and reproduce who would have otherwise died. This effectively allows for the gradual genetic degradation of the human genome and thus our species.

    Additionally studies have shown that exposure to microplastics can lead to decreased sperm quality and testosterone levels in mice, as well as lower fertility rates in both men and women. Globally fertility rates have decreased significantly over the last 70 years, starting shortly after plastics began to be mass-produced following the Second World War. Microplastics are considered to be ubiquitous and a widespread contaminant, documented in almost all aquatic habitats, several atmospheric and terrestrial environments, and also in human consumables. Microplastics have even been detected in human placenta.

    Scientists have also warned that we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction event, caused by human activity. This event known as the Anthropocene extinction is ongoing. I don't think we'll survive as a species if we don't radically change what we are as a species; we'll eventually have to move beyond biology and into a more robust and capable substrate. That's all i got for now.
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    I wonder what's up with autoimmune disorders? Do you have any idea whether they're linked to cancers?Agent Smith

    All autoimmune disorders lead to chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation in itself is a risk factor for cancer development. So there is definitely links. Not as strong as other links but they exist.

    Diabetes is an immunocompromising disorder. High blood sugar impairs the function of white blood cells and also acts as the perfect nutrient medium for opportunistic bacterial infections both of which likely compound the inflammatory processes that damage healthy tissue and affect dna repair/ increase mutations and cancer risk.

    So in summary yes. Autoimmune diseases contribute to cancer - its development, aggressiveness and how well it responds to treatment.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    :up: The immune system itself turns malignant (leukemias, lymphomas) sometimes, oui?

    Have you ever wondered - are we (humans) a highly virulent cancer/infection? Mother Earth's already developing a fever (global warming) and Covid-19 and other pandemics could be an immune response. :cool:
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    I think we don't like to think about it that way because it's unsettling/ a tough pill to swallow.

    But from the perspective of the planet as a holistic system of checks and balances and natural laws, a fine tuned ecosystem - we have numerous parallels with a cancer.

    We reproduce our numbers far beyond the tolerable number of an apex predator. We pillage and plunder natural resources under the thin veil of "self declared ownership/possession" or a false sense of entitlement. We invade, destroy and replace systems with un-sustainable artificial ones that only serve our own needs/ don't abide by the planets carefully manifested setup. We oppress any and all threats to our own longevity, and thus they evolve under that pressure that we apply to build resistance (eg bacteria), in essence we are far from meek, humble or considerate.

    We tip the balance very much in our favour, and as a consequence the planet is mounting a natural response as you pointed out.

    Every action has an equal and opposite consequence. If you overcrowd you breed infection, if you pollute the vessels and gases of the planetary body you're asking for a fever and self contamination.

    Hoarding excess resources (obesity/high bmi), polluting our internal atmosphere with noxious gases (smoking), damaging and dismantling our own systems with poisons (alcohol and drugs) and not respecting our natural repair systems (failure to get enough sleep, enduring chronic stress, anxiety and not allowing for adequate clearance/filtration - drinking enough water and taking in adequate nutrition) leads us ever closer to developing our own internal war.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    Yoi're well-versed with the rules of the game mon ami.
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    Yoi're well-versed with the rules of the game mon ami.Agent Smith

    Thank you I have been thinking about the planet as an organism for quite some time and it naturally leads one to qualify what type of pathology we as humans add to the system.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    (Momma) nature is red in tooth and claw, eh mon ami? A taste of her own medicine :love:
  • Benj96
    1.5k
    she scorns badly behaved children, as any self respecting mother ought to do. I don't blame her in the slightest.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    she scorns badly behaved children, as any self respecting mother ought to do. I don't blame her in the slightestBenj96

    :ok: She cares not whether humanity survives or tapeworms survive - we're not exactly her pet, oui?
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