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Selection, Levels.

Anyone who has read Darwin knows that evolution can be broken down into 3 basic ideas: inheritence, selection, and change. What evolves, is the organism. But where, exactly, that evolution takes place has always been debated. For almost 200 years scientists have argued the where of inheritence. Today it is known that the primary item of inheritence is DNA. DNA is passed from parent to child, ad infinitum. Some (like Dawkins) take a hard line approach to this and exclude anything but DNA as the item of inheritance. But, there are other alternative theories.

But, if we think about it, what is it that is really passed from parent to child? The embryo. Each embryo is the combination of an egg and a sperm which becomes a man or a woman who each produces their own sex cells and in turn combine to form another embryo. This idea of squeezing your "self" through a choke is important in Dawkins' contemporary theory of evolution, but I think he makes an oversite. The simple fact that it is not DNA that is passed down, it is a single cell. A single cell with yes, a full complement of DNA, but also tons of RNA, mitochondria (which has its own RNA) from the mother, and all sorts of little squishy parts. So one must concede that selection occurs not in the cell, but in all the replicating parts of the cell together as an inherited unit.

But is that the only thing that is inherited? There's no need to stop there. Learned knowledge, habits, behavior, etc. are all passed from parent to child in some form of another. It may be highly variable, mutative, and unreliable form of replication, but it is duplicated, inherited, and selected. What is that thing that gets selected? Who knows. We don't know yet. Much like Darwin, we know that it's there to be selected, we just don't know what it is. We're looking at Einstein's watch with respect to knowledge. At what level does it take place? Again, we don't know. Will the answer be biological or philosophical? I propose that the mechanisms of thought in combination with incoming data are filtered by the brain is a method of selection. Creativity is that mechanism of mutation, where new ideas are created and old ideas are changed. Are there environmental links to the evolution of thought and information? All these same questions from biology apply. I think that a true science of culture and thought needs to be developed so that we may understand them.

What are the primary types of selection at work in modern human society? Environmental? Sexual? Or is it something else? I think that environmental selection is a very weak force in modern society. We live indoors. We travel in safe vehicles. We have few predators. We travel to and from environmentally controlled buildings in safe vehicles. Most illnesses can be cured, and many diseases are not diseases anymore: they are curable. Sure a nasty viral could wipe half of human population out. It's still there, I'm just saying it's a weak force. Sexual selection is a very strong component of selection. Man (and woman) are becoming more and more beautiful as the "ugly" and unfit people are weeded from the population through lack of marriage and child bearing. (Because stupid people have more kids I predict that mankind will not suffer from a malady of our own undoing, it'll be a malady of our own stoopiding.) Cultural selection, or that group of rules that individuals adhere to, is also a factor in selection. The Spartans passed laws to kill "weak" babies. The result could have been stronger men and women. Eugenics tried to produce blonder Germans and higher IQs in the Swiss (both purportedly or only attempted).

Let us not forget that we can only enjoy yesterday's selection and today's environmental pressures. Our adaptations are inherited, good or bad, and are passed down along with new adaptations. This might be rounder, more beautiful faces, or it could be Roman/Greek culture which, like a wave, spread throughout the entire west and out is still practiced today. Combine that with Puritanism, capitalism, democracy, and Victorianism and you've got yourself an American.

So I propose three main types of selection that act on humans. First natural selection, at the level of the cell. Weak, but still a factor. Cultural selection, acting on some thing yet to be identified. And sexual selection, the most prominent and important type of selection.

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