Monday, September 27, 2010

Darwinism in Relation to Human Progress

As a continuation of earlier posts on this blog made by Lisa and Jacquie, I would like to expand on the idea that the strongest survive in relation to the human species.

Charles Darwin penned On the Origin of Species during a time when the capitalist economic system was gaining great momentum. Certainly, his observation of human behavior in the capitalist economic system had an influence on the observations he made about plant and animal species while aboard the HMS Beagle. However, the reverse must also be true, as the theory of natural selection that Darwin developed throughout his academic career extends to the human species as well.

Throughout human history, man has made use of both the environment and technology to progress into some of the societies to which we now belong. The peoples of Western Europe advanced technology to the point where the English were able to colonize a host of countries during the age of imperialism. North America was part of this great colonization, where some of the world's greatest technological and medical advances have been made.

Past the age of hunter-gatherer tribes, technology has been the major driving force that has forged the evolution of man. There are still a number of hunter-gatherer societies throughout the world, such as the San Bushmen of the Kalahari desert or the Hewa people of New Guinea, who have had to resort to farming and traversing larger amounts of land in order to survive. Peoples such as the San Bushmen and the Hewa are disappearing rapidly, as have many other similar tribes, due to their inability to advance technologically at the rate at which the majority of the world's population has.

The development of farming allowed people to control their food sources and with the development of various technologies, has grown to the point where farming helps to support the entire world's population. However, developments in crop technologies such as altering the genetic makeup of certain strains of crops has also allowed man to grow stronger crops that are less susceptible to weather conditions and able to grow in less favorable conditions. In a world that can only support a limited population in a given land space, a majority of humans have evolved our methods of survival in the way of farming in order to support ourselves no matter the weather conditions.

In subsequent posts, I would like to address the idea of the strongest survive in relation to the human condition in further detail. Until then, stay strong!

1 comment:

  1. I like the ideas in your post.

    What you say about farming technology makes me think about:

    a)how monoculture farming has changed the relationship between people and farming - with more largescale farms & mechanization (crops are bred or engineered to be more uniform in size and maturation date, to facilitate farm machinery, for example).

    b)how genetic engineering of crops has changed the legality of people farming. In some places it is illegal to grow engineered crops from harvested seed, changing the human relationship to farming, as people traditionally saved & grew the next year's crops from their own seeds. It also changes the self-reliance of farmers to dependence on the companies selling the seeds.

    d) The way that monoculture farming of crops has led to the wholesale loss of genetic material for future use, thereby limiting the available variations for use by farmers, nature, and genetic engineers. Farmers used to grow a wider variety of crops, many specifically because of their ability to grow in particular microclimates. Despite governmental & NGO efforts to preserve that variety of DNA, much has been lost. As genetic engineering depends on utilizing natural variety in DNA, this has an ironic effect of reducing the DNA available.

    e) how genetic engineering can include DNA crossing the species barrier - something extrememly rare previously. Removing this barrier changes evolution dramatically. As these engineered crops potentially cross with wild species, the results will be interesting. For example, I read an article where tests of 'organic, non GMO' soybeans revealed that over 90% of those crops had 'accidentally' crossed with GMO soybeans - essentially negating the 'non-GMO' status. A sign that human genetic engineering of food crops is affecting far more species than intended.