Monday, April 1, 2024

How do we save humans, an endangered species?

Old and useless tools cannot solve the ethical issues threatening humanity's survival. On the other hand, without new tools, our species is close to a collapse that will have nothing to do with its internal struggles or climate change. The combination of demographic ageing and infertility (or birth suppression) is, in the long run, fatal for any species.

The recently disappeared John Tooby (1952-2023), founder of evolutionary psychology, wrote an enlightening text on this subject.

The Race Between Genetic Meltdown and Germline Engineering

By John Tooby

The most remarkable breaking news in science is that I exist. Well, not just me. People like me who, without technology, would have died early. Of the roughly 5 ½ billion people who survived past puberty, perhaps only one billion would be here were it not for modern sanitation, medicine, technology, and market-driven abundance. Ancestrally, the overwhelming majority of humans died before they had a full complement of children, often not making it past childhood. For those who live in developed nations, our remodelled lifetables are among the greatest of the humane triumphs of the Enlightenment—delivering parents from the grief of holding most of their children dead in their arms or of children losing their parents (and then themselves dying from want).

But there is hidden and unwelcome news at the core of this triumph. This arises out of the brutal way natural selection links childbearing to the elimination of genetic diseases. 

Genetic repair would replace the ancient cruelty of natural selection, which only fights entropy by tormenting organisms because of their genes.

One can find this micro-essay and other John Tooby's critical reflections at Edge.