The path of isolation

Our understanding of most things is primitive at first, then refined. Our understanding of natural selection is probably primitive.

In the current model, which might be called the “sieve” model, mutations occur randomly and then those organisms which survive pass on the mutations they have to the population at large.

In the future, we will probably use another model perhaps called the path model. In it, when an organism finds one mutation works, it will progress further down that path at the point of gene recombination.

To that end, organisms that find themselves heading in a different direction from the herd break away and segregate themselves. This is how evolution happens: the few who see a different way make themselves scarce, and disappear to differentiate.

An opposite of evolution, then, is to take a group that has broken away and force it to merge with one that did not. This is the basis of ethnic resentment.

We can see this process currently in a near-relative:

In one of the most dangerous regions of the planet, against all odds, a huge yet mysterious population of chimpanzees appears to be thriving – for now. Harboured by the remote and pristine forests in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and on the border of the Central African Republic, the chimps were completely unknown until recently – apart from the local legends of giant apes that ate lions and howled at the moon.

But researchers who trekked thousands of kilometres through uncharted territory and dodged armed poachers and rogue militia, now believe the group are one of the last thriving chimp “mega-cultures”.

A group decides to break away and isolates itself. In theory, this is disadvantageous. There’s less diversity, so in theory less resistance to disease, etc.

In fact what is happening is that the troop is bottlenecking itself, or reducing itself to the population of individuals who have a favorable mutation.

This will increase the ability of related mutations to arise, be recognized, and thus be preserved even if their value is not immediately recognizable.

One way this has happened in our own history is the production of smarter humans. Those take longer to grow up, so it took a group like this that had isolated itself to recognize the process, value it, and protect those individuals until they could mature.

One Comment

  1. LoreTek says:

    Good article I enjoy seeing you write some science pieces.

    An interesting point: there is actually significant evidence that humans went trough a huge evolutionary bottle neck early in our history. Our genotypic diversity is actually quite low when compared to other species, even if we perceive large phenotype differences.

    Although one must understand how much a fraction of a percentage difference in DNA can potentially make.

    Ill admit I have little knowledge as to what the next tid bit might mean for us but people of European or Asian decent have somewhere around 3-5% Neanderthal DNA while people of African decent have 0%. Like I said I don’t claim to know what this entails.

    A final point in regards to “making smarter humans” our makeup and instinct works something like an AI in the sense that we are not specifically given adaptions to survive specific things. We are unique in that we are given tools that allow for constant adaption with the way we think, behave, and use tools. For example one theory for why a women would go through menopause essentially cutting her off from the gene pool (unlike most other animals) would be so that they could help to rear the next generation after her children instead of making more of her own, as natural instinct may dictate. Ie focusing on smarter/better humans rather than more.

    Also remember that 99% of all species that have ever lived are extinct! :)

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