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Thread: Is it possible for the human race to out evolve smoking?

  1. #1 Is it possible for the human race to out evolve smoking? 
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    This is a subject which has been driving me mad recently, I was wandering, is it possible, that by smoking, over many generations, that people could develop an ''immunity'' to its effects. Could the human body develop a genetic restance to its effects? And if so, could smoking be good for the human race in the long run?

    Here's the example I use to demonstrate it's plausibility; if a black man moved to the north pole, his descendants would adapt over generations to take in more vitamin d from the sun;hence the existence of white people. Can the same principles not be applied the chemicals in smoking?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    To the unholy one.

    Answer : why not?

    However, conditions apply. For example, enough people must smoke over a long enough time - enough generations - for its effects to have a significant effect on survival and reproduction. Serious evolutionary develoments can take hundreds or thousands of generations.


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    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Another limiting factor is that most reproduction occurs BEFORE the ill effects of smoking take place. So, for that reason, it's much less likely that sexual selection would act on smoking... You can still reproduce rather successfully after 20 years of smoking even if after 30 years you die from lung cancer or emphysema.
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    thanks guys that clears things up
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    i think that thanks to the negative effects of smoking on human health, it is more likely that people would develop a dislike for the drugs involved over many generations. of course there is an issue with this as well, namely that the negative effects still don't occur early enough before evolution(in most cases) for there to be quickly realized evolutionary consequences.
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  7. #6  
    Reptile Dysfunction drowsy turtle's Avatar
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    If you consider that the children of long-term smokers are often lighter at birth and more likely to be born prematurely than those of non-smokers, it's certainly possible that there are selection pressures. But in our society, where being small is not a disadvantage and medical care is readily available, I doubt these pressure are very great.
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  8. #7  
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    Maybe it would work if a trend emerged where lots of people were having kids in old age. Then the contribution of older non-smokers to the gene pool would be slightly higher than that of older smokers at least.

    And it has other good benefits: It would tend to extend our general longevity, and lead to a shift in society where retirees were doing more of the child rearing, leaving the younger folk more available to join the work force. So... I'd be all for it.
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Just a comment on age factors in evolution.

    This is reasonably well understood. There are certain harmful mutations that enter the human gene pool from time to time. I am talking of harm that strikes at various stages in the human life. Examples include :
    - Progeria. Strikes in childhood and is 100% fatal. This is removed from the human gene pool in no less than 2 generations.
    - Haemophilia. Assuming no use of modern medicine, mostly kills off the victim before reproductive age, but in rarer cases will permit life till early 30's. This mutation can take up to 12 generations before being removed from the human gene pool.
    - Huntingtons chorea. Nasty fatal mutation that strikes in the 40's or 50's. Since most people have reproduced before being killed by this, it can take 100 or more generations before being removed from the human gene pool.

    This general principle would imply that evolution to either stop people smoking or confer resistance to the harmful effects of smoking will operate very slowly, for the simple reason that the harm of smoking does not strike till after normal reproductive age, as with Huntingtons. Thus, this evolution will take a large number of generations.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    This general principle would imply that evolution to either stop people smoking or confer resistance to the harmful effects of smoking will operate very slowly, for the simple reason that the harm of smoking does not strike till after normal reproductive age, as with Huntingtons. Thus, this evolution will take a large number of generations.
    The problem - It's not something that people do constantly on average. Most people don't smoke these days, and I'm certain that it's on some sort of cycle/trend. If everybody were smoking, with a VERY low death rate before reproduction, then it would take around 2-400 generations, judging from Skeptic's post. As it is, it'll take a few thousand generations. Likely so long that we'll have already found something more addicting than Tobacco on a distant Earth-like planet.
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  11. #10  
    Time Lord
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azereiah
    It's not something that people do constantly on average.
    Not now, and not tobacco. However, air polluted by smoke was a pressure since humans started huddling in cramped shelters and making fire within. We used all kinds of noxious fuels too including moss, bones, dung, green wood, grease, and coal. Those who couldn't tolerate the smoke of primitive fires, starved or froze.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Freshman doomsday2012's Avatar
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    Maybe the lungs will evolve to filter out the carbon monoxide...or the hemoglobin concentration in the blood will increase
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  13. #12  
    Forum Ph.D. Leszek Luchowski's Avatar
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    As intelligent beings, we can react to threats by adjusting our behavior much faster than our genetic makeup would.

    Within two or three generations, in the developed world, it will dawn on people that inhaling mass-produced carcinogens and puffing them into other people's faces is not the best way to express your independent thinking and intellectual protest against the government, the corporate establishment, organized religion, and oppressive potty training.

    In the developing countries, for about ten more generations the tobacco companies will continue to manipulate people into thinking that smoking is cool and the only pleasure a poor man can afford (apparently, breathing clean air with healthy lungs is an expensive fad of the rich). And an expression of freedom - the ultimate irony, as many of those people will die a horrible death for no other cause than serving the selfish interests of ciggy capitalists.
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