12284Stephen Hawking: "Human Evolution is About to Mimic Evolution's Big Bang"
- May 21, 2014URL to an interesting post in The Daily Galaxy bloghttp://tinyurl.com/p36tjtjSo we are ready to go from an "an external transmission phase" to "self-directed evolution' I wonder what we'll make of ourselves?.Comments?Chris
Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?
For billions of years, simple creatures like plankton, bacteria, and algae ruled the earth. Then, suddenly, life got very complicated. Recent discoveries from Canada's Burgess Shale Deposits, Greenland, China, Siberia, and Namibia document clearly that a period of biological creativity known as the Cambrian Explosion occurred in a "geological instant" over 500 million years ago virtually all around the globe -an explosion of life that continues to puzzle evolutionists.During the Cambrian explosion animals as diverse as arthropods, molluscs, jellyfish, and primitive vertebrates all appear within a time span of only 5-10 million years with no ancestors and no intermediates.
Recent discoveries have narrowed the time frame from over 70 million years to less than 10 million years. The same basic body plans that arose in the Cambrian remain surprisingly constant ever since. Apparently, the most significant biological changes in the history of the earth occurred in less than ten million years, and for 500 million years afterward, this level of change never happened again.
Harvard's Stephen Jay Gould once said, "Fast is now a lot faster than we thought, and that is extraordinarily interesting."
Fast forward to the present: although It has taken homo sapiens several million years to evolve from the apes, the useful information in our DNA, has probably changed by only a few million bits. So the rate of biological evolution in humans, Stephen Hawking points out in his Life in the Universe lecture, is about a bit a year.
"By contrast," Hawking says, "there are about 50,000 new books published in the English language each year, containing of the order of a hundred billion bits of information. Of course, the great majority of this information is garbage, and no use to any form of life. But, even so, the rate at which useful information can be added is millions, if not billions, higher than with DNA."
This means Hawking says that we have entered a new phase of evolution. "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."
But what distinguishes us from our cave man ancestors is the knowledge that we have accumulated over the last ten thousand years, and particularly, Hawking points out, over the last three hundred.
"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," Hawking said.
In the last ten thousand years the human species has been in what Hawking calls, "an external transmission phase," where the internal record of information, handed down to succeeding generations in DNA, has not changed significantly. "But the external record, in books, and other long lasting forms of storage," Hawking says, "has grown enormously. Some people would use the term, evolution, only for the internally transmitted genetic material, and would object to it being applied to information handed down externally. But I think that is too narrow a view. We are more than just our genes."
The time scale for evolution, in the external transmission period, has collapsed to about 50 years, or less.
Meanwhile, Hawking observes, our human 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 we are now entering a new phase, of what Hawking calls "self designed evolution," in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA. "At first," he continues "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."