David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

How is modern medicine changing the way humans evolve?

Question:How is modern medicine changing the way humans evolve?

Neil Schluger: Well, that’s an interesting question. Evolution--  I would say modern medicine has probably affected it very little up until now and that’s because first of all evolution occurs very slowly and most of the things that modern medicine have- has accomplished really affect people’s lives when they’re finished reproducing. Right. So most people are having kids between the ages of let’s say 20 and 40 and that’s a very healthy population so most of those people don’t really get the benefit of modern medicine. You don’t start taking Lipitor and aspirin and having colonoscopies and all that stuff until you’re sort of 50 and you’re finished contributing to evolution at that point and you’re finished having kids so I don’t think now. The potential though is there because now we have tools where we can tinker around even before people are born and select babies who have certain genetic characteristics. We can diagnose things in utero and choose not to have those children so- but that’s just beginning but I think that’s where the impact of modern medicine on evolution is, and that’s a tricky thing.

Question: What might we look like in 100 years?


Neil Schluger: Well, I just read something the other day that predicted that in a relatively short time there’s going to be 9 billion people on earth, up from 6 billion, and I think that’s scheduled to happen something- within the next 25 years or so. So that’s an enormous increase in population and of course most of that is going to be in poorer countries. Birth rates in countries like the United States and other developed countries are pretty low so most of that increase is going to be in countries where there is a lot of TB and HIV infection and things like that, and so I think the population growth that’s predicted if health is not provided to those populations that population growth could actually consign those countries to poverty and disease for many, many years to come. It’ll just put more people in to situations where less things are treatable so to me again it’s one of the great motivations to try and increase the health of the planet.


Recorded on: 04/25/2008



What will we look like in 100 years?

LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

The mind-blowing science of black holes

What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.

  • When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
  • A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
  • Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."

Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Keep reading Show less

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less

Your emotions are the new hot commodity — and there’s an app for that

Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Personal Growth

Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.

Keep reading Show less