Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two questions to those evolutionary biologists out there:
  1. Could allergies act as a negative selection pressure?
  2. Could the internet act as a sexual selection pressure?
The first one is a little in-depth, so I will return to it later. The latter came to mind when I read this article from PhysOrg:
Web or sex? Nearly half of women would rather go online
Nearly one out of two women would rather give up sex for two weeks than go without the Internet, according to a survey released Monday.
Far fewer men would choose to go without sex, according to the survey of 2,119 adults carried out by the online research firm Harris Interactive and sponsored by Intel Corp., the world's biggest computer chip maker.
Forty-six percent of the women polled said they would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up access to the Internet for the same period of time, according to the survey, "Internet Reliance in Today's Economy."
Only 30 percent of men said they would rather forgo intimate relations than cyber ones.
Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said it is "very important, important or somewhat important" to be able to access the Internet.
Sixty-five percent of those surveyed rated Internet access above other discretionary spending items such as cable television subscriptions (39 percent), dining out (20 percent), shopping for clothes (18 percent) or a health club membership (10 percent).
Sixty-one percent of the women surveyed said they would rather give up watching television for two weeks than give up access to the Internet for one week.
Harris Interactive and Intel said the survey was conducted November 18-20. They did not provide a margin of error for the results.
Now if this is something that is inherent in human behavior, then it might have a significant impact on human selection pressure - by diminishing it. What do you think? I mean, if 46% of women and 30% of men said they would forgo intimate relations than cyber ones, then that could mean that there could be a maximum of 30% of the population not procreating. And this is of people surveyed in the United States. What if this was rolled out to the rest of the world? I mean, governments could give greater internet access to people as a means of population control! And if the internet and computing continue to advance toward a neural-integrative state, then virtual lives could become even more important and facinating than real lives. That number of 30% and 46% could increase even further!

Furthermore, for those out there who would argue that these people are "merely saying this" and that they would likely continue to create the next generation, think about how that might change if virtual sex were to be incorporated into a neural-integrative computer. It could be made "better" or "more intense" than "real" sex, possibly diminishing people's desire to pursue biological mating, thus population control.

The other point - allergies as a selection pressure - was something that I thought of today. It smacks of eugenics, but bear with me for a bit. If allergies have a genetic component, then it stands to reason that there would be a chance of inheriting them. If someone has an allergy to a food or medication, then they could pass it on to their children, thus maintaining that allergy in the population. In today's world, there are many medications and treatments that can be taken to alleviate the effects of allergies. These allow people to not die if they accidentally ingest or come into contact with the allergen, thus increasing the possibility of passing along their genes. However, these medications will also allow for the prolonging of the genes in the population.

Now comes the eugenics part: if having one allergy makes a person susceptible to developing another one, and if this susceptibility is based on genetics, then we are - because of the presence of allergy medications - we are breeding a population that is increasingly susceptible to allergens. This brings me to the selection pressure thing.

If this is prevalent in society, then there will be more people in the future with severe allergies to foods. This will mean that they are likely to just not eat the foods to which they are allergic - since it is an easier thing than to take medication for eating those foods. In this group of people, the ability to eat that particular food is effectively selected against, but by continuing to live and procreate, that genetic selection will remain in the population. Combined with medications for that allergy and effectively random mating (since there is no heavy social stigma about having allergies), it might be possible for these genetics-based allergies to be established in a population, thus creating a population-based selection pressure.

However, with increased movement of people within a country such as the United States, then it is also possible that these genetic selections might be spread across the country. On the other hand, it is unlikely that they will progress faster in the gene pool than any future advances in gene therapy, so this is likely to be all hypothetical.

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