Biological evolution, Biology

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Natural selection is a process which directs all biological evolution. It is a process that directs genetic changes which when proved to be adapted to the environment are retained in the genome. In other words, man like any other organism may have to passively adapt lo changing ecological circumstances through a slow, generation by generation change in gene complexes. The question is, does natural selection act in the same way in man as it is acting on other organisms. The major difference between man and other organisin is that man is capable of steering his own evolution whereas the other organisms cannot. Teilhard de Chardin, an eminent human paleontologist and anthropologist says "the evoluton of life on earth, far from having come to a stop, is on the contrary now entering a new phase. The Darwinian era of survival by natural selection is thus succeeded by a Lamarkian era of super life brought about by calculated invention". Such a statement gives credence to the hypothesis that man can monitor his own evolution in future.

There is evidence to suggest that man through the technological revolution has modified the role of natural selection. As an example one may mention the cancer of the eye, the retinoblastolna caused by a dominant mutation. The disease develops as a tumor in one of the eyes of the affected child, spreads to the other eye and then extends to the brain causing the death before the individual reaches the adulthood. Today, if the condition is detected sufficiently early, it is possible to remove the tumor surgically despite the loss of one eye. The child can grow into a near normal adult, marry and give birth to children. But there is a 50% chance for his children to be born with retinoblastoma. And inturn they have to be treated for the disease. Here is an instance where, through a surgical treatment a lethal gene is permitted to be preserved and passed on to the subsequent generations. Natural selection in normal course would have aimed to eliminate the gene from the population. But if the lethal condition were to be completely cured in every patient the frequency of the gene would increase slowly in the population.


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