“I think it is legitimate to take a broader view, and include externally transmitted information, as well as DNA, in the evolution of the human race.” -Stephen Hawking
This statement comes from Stephen Hawking’s lecture, Life in the Universe, where he posits that while the Darwinian line of evolution, the passing of DNA traits from one generation to another, is still in effect (though progressing very slowly), it may be time to broaden the scope of what we consider evolution, as the Daily Galaxy reports. As the good doctor continues:
“At first, evolution proceeded by natural selection, from random mutations. This Darwinian phase, lasted about three and a half billion years, and produced us, beings who developed language, to exchange information.”
However, for the past ten thousand years (since the development of said language), according to Hawking, the human race has been in what he terms, “an external transmission phase,” where information is passed down via media (books, television, the internet) besides the internal genetic database we get from our ancestors. As Hawking puts it, “We are more than just our genes.” By the by, I wish I could see my college biology professor’s face after reading this article – I made the same argument years ago, only to get shot down. Sanctimonious British twit.
Given the rapid development of these external media, the timetable of evolution has been crunched – from millenia to as little as fifty years…or less. Tack onto that the development of the Human Genome Project and the purposeful manipulation of our and other genetic code(s), and this new evolution has a two-pronged progression.
As Dr. Hawking points out, human evolution on the traditional Darwinian model has stagnated, saying:
“[The brains] with which we process this information have evolved only on the Darwinian time scale, of hundreds of thousands of years. This is beginning to cause problems. In the 18th century, there was said to be a man who had read every book written. But nowadays, if you read one book a day, it would take you about 15,000 years to read through the books in a national Library. By which time, many more books would have been written.”
But with said medical technologies advancing, humanity will see further adaptation in the laboratory, via what Hawking terms, “self-designed evolution.”
“At first these changes will be confined to the repair of genetic defects, like cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. These are controlled by single genes, and so are fairly easy to identify, and correct. Other qualities, such as intelligence, are probably controlled by a large number of genes. It will be much more difficult to find them, and work out the relations between them. Nevertheless, I am sure that during the next century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence, and instincts like aggression.”