Re: More Evolutionary Thoughts

Robert S. Wrathall (Wrathalls@AOL.COM)
Sun, 17 Sep 1995 21:02:09 -0400

I have suggested that intelligence has been in control of our evolutiion,
both cultural and biological over the past 1e6 years.

Vance Geiger writes:

Our differences do go beyond the semantic. In this we will
merely dissagree. I do think that there are things about which
humans can be intelligent, the long-term future of humanity, is
however, not one of them. I do not think that intelligence
ensures survival nor reproductive success. I do not think that
organisms can choose conciously or intelligently which traits
WILL be favorable. The only way this is possible to even suggest
is to predetermine the future which I do not think is possible,
that is beyond the imagined. To the degree people are capable of
creating what they imagine they can make intelligent choices. I
do not think, however, that all that much fits into that
category. There are simply too many unintended consequences for
any such choices.

This is, however, the crux of the issue of science and prediction
that was being discussed on the list. Thus, any replies?

********** Response

I do not claim that intelligence has a "predictive" power, not yet, at least,
concerning our evolutionary state. I believe that the next Homo species will
be generated by intelligence with predictive powers however. This, of
course, is just an extension of the past.

In the past, culture, genome and intelligence have evolved self consistently
and interactively. To discuss cultural or genetic evolution without
considering the strong effects of intelligence on both will not obtain the
correct answer.

The very rapid evolutionary course of the genus Homo can only be explained in
some selection mode beyond "fittest" and "sexual". What remains is

We must trust our forbearers to have understood what "fittest" meant in the
local context and to have moved in that direction by rather simple decisions
relating to mate selection. Intelligence can be partly seen as a strong
amplifier to the selection of the fittest.

But intelligence is nothing if not chaotic in the mathematical sense.
Selection of many traits such as the perception of humor and the
appreciation of the aesthetic can best be understood in the context of
intelligence selection. Much of what we value as humans does not directly
concern "survival", but the pleasure of association and the sophistication of
culture as a tool for association.

Another argument is that somewhere about 1e6 years ago, our genus became
decoupled from the normal survival of the fittest at some moderate level of
intelligence and sociability. If we are to posit further evolutionary
changes beyond that point in terms of fittest, where does the evolutionary
pressure come from? Functionally, intelligence selection does not stop when
survival pressures cease. Even after the removal of all fittest arguments,
evolution will continue under the auspices of intelligence. Survival becomes
a social question rather than a physical one.

And a moral one. In a few decades we are going to sit down and decide what
is to be the genome of the new species of Homo. (It will be well within our
technical powers. And we know that what can happen, will happen.) What will
survive? This is the ultimate question of intelligence selection, but we are
experts since we have been doing this for a thousand millenia.

Bob Wrathall