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Are Humans Hurting Their Chances of Evolving by Helping One Another?

lparrish's picture

Are Humans Hurting Their Chances of Evolving by Helping One Another?

Good people are bad for evolution. It’s the truth. Good people are out there saving starving children. They are lobbying for their governments to send supplies of food and medicine to places domestic and foreign to help those in need. How dare these people do such things? Or are they actually giving evolution a better chance of occurring within the human race?

The first thing to do here is explain who “good” people are. I am talking about people who help others. I am talking about helping the mentally ill, helping those who have AIDS and HIV, and helping those with genetically-transmitted disorders. They are also the kind of people who don’t discriminate and copulate with people from other societies and other lands. These people which (American) society labels “good” might actually be seen as bad.

As animals, humans don’t really follow the same patterns as many other species of the animal kingdom. We don’t look out for only the members of our species which look very similar to us as individuals or only care for members of our immediate family or community. Instead, some humans are looking out for the well-being of humans whom they have never met. The technology of television and news media as well as expedient modes of travel and transportation have made it possible to limit or eliminate geographic isolation. As Darwin’s book indicates, reproductive isolation is a necessary part of the evolutionary process, as is evidenced by the finches of On the Origin of Species. It allows for what is commonly referred to as allopatric (referring to an “other fatherland”) speciation. However, humans are no longer as isolated as they formerly were or as animals are. With the ability to move across the globe and copulate with people of different continents and regions, there is no reproductive isolation. This, as well as others, is a possible reason for the lack of speciation of new organisms from Homo sapiens (sapiens).

As part of the stipulations of evolution, there must be limited food/resources which mean that all those born do not live to maturity or the point at which they would reproduce. For humans, this is not the case, as food is now grown in mass quantities and shipped to other countries in order to feed the people of the world. Many societies would see their members dying-out if not for the “good” people who find ways to feed them. The human, as an atypical animal, is looking out for the good of all human beings and, therefore, putting a stop to one of the mechanisms of evolution.

Furthermore, medicine and therapies allow humans who would otherwise not have lived to maturity and been able to reproduce to do both of these things. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 26.2 percent of adults suffer from some diagnosable mental disorder. It also states the following:

“The burden of mental illness on health and productivity in the United States and throughout the world has long been underestimated. Data developed by the massive Global Burden of Disease study conducted by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and Harvard University, reveal that mental illness, including suicide, accounts for over 15 percent of the burden of disease in established market economies, such as the United States. This is more than the disease burden caused by all cancers.”

As most mental disorders as hereditary, treating these illnesses, which often allows sufferers to remain living long enough to reproduce, is actually allowing such illnesses to be passed to offspring. If only the do-gooders would stop helping people seek treatment and creating more treatments for such illnesses, people like my own mother, maternal grandmother, paternal grandfather, and maternal great grandfather most likely wouldn’t have produced so many offspring. Maybe our society would have moved more toward the mentally well individuals producing offspring and less of the mentally ill individuals living to maturity. Our society might have evolved to be much more mentally stable. I, too, am one of these people who seeks to help people in other nations and supports helping the mentally ill to live happier lives. I am one of these people who are bad for the future of human evolution.

Other genetic illnesses, such as sickle-cell anemia, are also being passed on to future generations. Medicine and treatment are allowing individuals with such disorders to live longer and produce offspring. As a “good” society, we are caring for the ill, the elderly, and the members of society which are no longer as productive to society as other healthier and younger members of society are. Why do we do this?

It seems that there is a reason for society to be “good”. Could it be that these “good” people are actually helping to make our society more diverse? Darwin also explained that differences in individuals of a species are a driving force of evolution. Might helping people in different places around the world and treating individuals with disorders be a way of keeping a diverse population from which new mutations and advantageous traits may arise? Maybe good people aren’t so bad for evolution.


Iain Cooley's picture


Revise your statement to this, humans are no longer if evolving for survival. Technically we are still evolving but not in the normal sense of things. Great thoughts by the way.

Paul Grobstein's picture

good and bad people and evolution

Your ironic presentation is an effective way to bring people into this important conversation, particularly once you make it clear that you include yourself among "people who are bad for the future of evolution." Maybe though it would be worth more development of your idea that "good" people are actually contributing to "a diverse population" and so aren't in fact "bad for evolution"? Along these lines, see Diversity and Deviance ...