Evolution and The Human Gene Pool

If evolution works by survival of the most adaptive to change (rather than the fittest), does that mean that some slight mutations of a species will survive, be stronger, and so evolve the species, while others will be weaker, not therefore survive?

If that’s the way evolution works, how does our approach to medicine affect that? The western approach at least is very much based on saving every life, at almost any cost. But what if we’re saving the weaker mutations, the less adaptive to change mutations, the ones that would naturally have faded out. Are we therefore diluting or weakening the global human gene pool? Would we be evolving faster, or better, if we were to allow nature to play a greater part in the evolution of the species. If nature were to play a bigger part in who lives and who dies.

Having said that, does it only apply to those that haven’t yet reproduced? If someone has alreay procreated, then their genes are in the pool anyway, and so it wouldn’t make such a big difference. How would that actually work? You get a lower level of medical intervention until you’ve procreated? That would certainly drive a pretty hard baby boom! Can you imagine people mating to stay alive? It would be hell of a party though…

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10 thoughts on “Evolution and The Human Gene Pool”

  1. hey,

    i came across your website when i was searching under “weakening human gene pool”. I’m a grade 11 biology student and we’ve been issued a written essay on the statement “medical intervention is weakening the human gene pool”. Is it possible for you to send me or direct me to a website that has peoples resposnses to your question that i could refrence? thanks very much.

    Jason Riddell

    1. I’m a Year 11 Biology student now and we are doing the exact same thing. My main point is that we are compassionate creatures who would do almost anything to save a life, whether or not we are weakening the gene pool, every life is worth saving.

      I do agree that we are weakening the gene pool, but because of how advanced we are, i don’t think we can go back to watching someone die just because we want a “stronger or better” gene pool to mate with. Things like mutations prevent us from ever getting “perfect DNA” in the entire population.

      1. we are compassionate creatures who would do almost anything to save a life

        Interesting statement. I think we have a strong compulsion to try and save the life that’s right in front of our noses, but we’re not so driven to save lives elsewhere. I think most people do little to save the lives of homeless people in the coldest parts of their own country. The children dying in Africa every day are a more common, and more extreme example. Peter Singer has written about some of these ethical dilemmas.

        It’s been a long time since I focused on this post. Thanks for bringing it back into my attention.

  2. Wow, I didn’t realise they were debating this stuff in school. I didn’t reference any web sites I’m afraid, I was just thinking out loud (in text!). Good luck.

  3. You absolutely correct, it is weakening our gene pool. The medical industry would be very upset that you realized this fact. The weaker our gene pool the more money they make.
    As far as your question regarding if it would apply to someone who has reporoduced already. You do pose an interesting question, but I would think that once someone has procreated and passed on the genes, then it wouldnt result in natural selection so it wouldnt strengthen the gene pool. Maybe an opposite strategy would be to only offer treatment if one would agree not to procreate. So you could be human but simulate natural selection at the same time.

  4. One day we may have genetic manipulation so that the current proliferation of ‘bad genes’ might really be of no negative consequence. In fact, the sheer variety of humans that exist as an effect of modern medicine probably increases the chances that a genius might appear who would lead us to the means of such manipulation. Stephen Hawking is a good example of that. He couldn’t win in a fight with a Siberian tiger but you gotta ask yourself, is that really a major concern when you look at your core aspirations for the human race?

    1. Thanks for the comment. It’s interesting to re-read what I wrote 4 years ago. You make an interesting point. By creating an environment in which a larger variation of humans survive, perhaps we are strengthening our gene pool. Perhaps a more diverse gene pool is stronger overall. I wonder if this might be related to the speed of human evolution. Interesting food for thought…

  5. By evolution you mean the pressures of natural selection which is the process that causes helpful traits – those that increase the chance of survival and reproduction – to become more common in a population and causes harmful traits to become more rare.

    Seeing as humans are in control of their environment they no longer have the need to adapt, except to problems largely of their own making;, check out the book at the end of this link: http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/1515661

  6. Humanity’s fussing with genetics will be tested by natural selection when future epidemics strike. We can speculate, but perhaps H.G. Wells said it best.

    “… to no germs do we succumb without a struggle… By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers;”

  7. Im currently doing the same topic as well, and we have to argue whether with medical intervention if we are weakening the human gene pool. However I haven taken the side that we aren’t weakening it because what determines a trait weak? The environment. However by allowing for these genes to be passed on we are increasing the genetic diversity in the population. Yes? With more variation this makes the gene pool stronger doesn’t it? That means genetic diseases that we think are weak in the gene pool, may actually be favoured with a changed different environment. So we are making the gene pool stronger with more variety aren’t we.

    Also I can see that we are producing bad genes, because we are allowing for them to survive with medical intervention. However that doesn’t change that these genes may not all be bad. Making gene pool stronger?

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