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The Evolution of Species in Relation to Technology in the 21st Century

ccrichar's picture



TheEvolution of Species in Relation to Technology in 21st Century

            CharlesDarwin defines Natural Selection as: “This preservation of favourable

variations and the rejection ofinjurious variations, I call Natural Selection.” (Darwin

144)            Accordingto the Oxford English Dictionary, technology is defined as: “1. a.A discourse or treatise on an art or arts; the scientific study of thepractical or industrial arts. 1615BUCK ThirdUniv. Eng. xlviii, An apt close of this general Technologie. 1628 VENNER Baths of Bathe 9 Heere I cannot but lay open Baths Technologie. 1706 PHILLIPS (ed. Kersey), Technology, a Description of Arts,especially the Mechanical. 1802-12BENTHAM Ration. Judic. Evid. (1827) I. 19 Questions in technology in allits branches. 1881 P. GEDDES in Nature 29 Sept. 524/2 Of economic physics, geology, botany, andzoology, of technology and the fine arts. 1882 Mechanical World4 Mar. 130/1 The Department of Applied Science and Technology.”  I would define technology as anythingthat is new or advanced either scientifically or mechanically but not limitedto any one area of interest.  Iwould like to argue that technology in the 21st century hasinterrupted Darwin’s theory or process of Natural Selection.

            Ithink that there are pro’s and con’s to the use of technology in the 21stcentury in contrast to Darwin’s Natural Selection.  For example, one pro would be Pre Implantation GeneticDiagnosis (PGD).  This is aprocedure where a couple seeking to have a healthy baby without for example,Down syndrome.  The embryologistwould take the gene for Down syndrome carried in the embryo out of the line-upof embryos to be transferred back into the woman.  This procedure is used for couples who wish to becomepregnant using In vitro Fertilization (IVF).  It is a much more complicated procedure than I haveexplained but this is the basics. I would argue that in this example technology has helped evolution ofthe species by providing the advances in medicine to help a couple becomepregnant with an embryo without Down syndrome and thus creating one fewerdisabled babies in the world. Darwin’s Natural Selection has been interrupted by this example becausemedicine and technology has come together to produce a healthy baby.  Darwin would say that people should letnature run it’s course and to take the chance of producing a baby with Downsyndrome according to Natural Selection. In a New York Times article, Cornelia Deanwrites “…according to Paul Paquet, an environmental scientist at the Universityof Calgary. The spawn of younger fish do not seem to be as robust as the spawnof older fish.  “It’s forcedevolution,” he said. “It is not working to their advantage.”

This“forced evolution” theory that Paquet mentions has validity with my example ofPre Implantation Genetic Diagnosis because embryologists are forcing the embryothat carries Down syndrome out of the race to become a baby and thendestroyed.  But is this procedurewrong? I think not. Because the costs required taking care of a baby with Downsyndrome don’t outweigh the benefits of producing a healthy baby to raise andcare for.  Those costs includephysical, emotional and financial to all parties involved in the care of suchan infant into adulthood and longer. However, one might argue that a healthy baby would incur physical,emotional and financial costs as well. But, I would argue that with a healthy baby, the costs are verydifferent then those cost to care for a disabled infant and lasts the entirelife of the person with Down syndrome. Those differences would involve state aid, special schooling, specialcare and support, as well as assistance in other areas of their life.  The evolution of costs isinsurmountable to a baby with Down syndrome and also with the costs of ahealthy baby.

Ithink many scientists would argue that they are helping evolution moveforward.  I think that scientistsfeel that they are not disrupting Darwin’s Natural Selection but ratherprogressing it along.  My exampleis one that would show how scientists are helping rather than disruptingDarwin’s Natural Selection.

Inconclusion, I think technology is helping the process of Darwin’s NaturalSelection progress along the lines of making the world a better place to live. However,some technologies can be misused for example in wartime or with the Internet. TheInternet is a technology that can become vulnerable to many viruses thatdestroy whole computer systems when it is not guarded with more technology.  The Internet is not a perfect systemand is always evolving. I think that technology has interrupted Darwin’sNatural Selection by taking away the natural aspect and replacing it withtechnology.








Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species. Ed. JosephCarroll. New York: Broadview P, 2003.


Dean,Cornelia. "Seeing the Risks of Humanity's Hand in Species Evolution."New York

Times[New York City] 10 Feb. 2009, sec. Science: D4-D4


Anne Dalke's picture


Yours is one of several papers I’ve read this evening that examines the “unnatural” human interventions in the process Darwin called “natural selection.” You might want to look @ amirby’s essay on
Natural selection among humans”
epeck01’s paper on “Mankind’s Influence on Evolution
and Sophiaolender’s “How We Made the World What We Wanted it to Be
--and compare the different spots where you all come out on this question of the advantages of technological furthering of selection.

You ground your argument that technology can be beneficial in a single case—that of PGD; this gives your paper a concrete specificity. But I find myself wanting more of the same sort of specifics when you claim, for instance, that “Darwin would say that people should let nature run its course” (but he was a breeder! Why do you think he would say that?). Again, when you say that “many scientists would argue that they are helping evolution move forward,”or that you “think that scientists feel that they are not disrupting Darwin’s Natural Selection,” I find myself wondering why you think so. On what do you base those thoughts, those feelings? Such purely speculative claims need to be backed up with data. Where are the sources? Where are the quotes? How might you find them?