Changing environment, changing ourselves

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Considering our place in evolutionary history, one of the most interesting, yet confusing ideas is the fact that we are the result of billions of years of evolution yet are also the substrate upon which natural selection is currently working. This is interesting in the fact that one can think about our bodies and minds as being perfected by all those millenia, yet being so imperfect as to require many millenia more of perfecting. In reality, there is no perfect organism in an environment that is continually changing. What is ideal one decade may be highly unideal the next if the environment changes quickly.  Humans have managed to step outside of this constraint in some ways as we are, of all the other species on the planet, the most able to change the environment around us. In many ways, this enables us to shape the natural selection being applied to our species. This should terrify us. 

Reworded, our ideas, turned into actions, are now the actual force changing how our species evolves. In many aspects this is good. Many people benefit from the ability to wear eyeglasses, stay warm when it is cold out, or store food for long periods of time. However we must realize that anytime we alter the environment, we change the course of evolutionary history. The risk of unintended consequences, no matter how good the intentions, is high. However the opportunity to do good for our species and the other species inhabiting our planet is also immense. To crib Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.

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