Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Is medicine bad?

The medical field creates a large amount of jobs for the general public. These jobs help the economy flourish, but what about the human species? Because of new medicine keeping people alive when they should have died out, and allowing them to reproduce, what problems does this pose on the evolution of the human race? This may be a very cynical view of medicine, but ultimately for evolution to work natural selection must occur - the ones not fit for survival must die out - and progress can be made. Another problem within medicine is the constant "arms race" between the doctors and pathogens. What methods/practices of medicine could eliminate or severely limit the ability of viruses and bacteria to mutate into stronger organisms. Also, due to medicine increasing lifespans and overall age, what are some potential implications overpopulation may have on the long term health of society and the Earth itself? Are there even any benefits overpopulation may have?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The medical field can be seen in two ways; as interrupting natural selection by allowing the weak to survive, or as a process that is now part of natural selection. People who would have otherwise died are kept alive by modern medicine and then they do reproduce which may seem to go against natural selection. This may seem to weaken the human race by letting the weak reproduce and interrupting natural selection. However, natural selection's clause of survival of the fittest no longer means the best hunter, it has to be adapted for today's society. In the society that we live in today humans no longer follow the old stereotypes of natural selection such as who is the best hunter gets the most food and therefore is the one to survive. Now natural selection is about money, intelligence, and survival in a modern society that does not revolve around dying out from simple sicknesses or lack of hunting ability. The people who are able to get medicine and get the right kind of treatment can now be looked at as the "fittest" since they are fighting to survive in society so they can possibly not be considered weak at all. Yes, they may reproduce and pass on unfavorable conditions through their genes but their children can also be treated just as their parents were and perhaps contribute more to society in other ways so that they are no longer the weak ones but in fact the fittest, hence why survival of the fittest still continues. For example, two people with the same disease which costs lots of money to treat, the poor person may not get the treatment and die while the wealthier person can afford the treatment and ends up surviving. This is survival of the fittest using modern medicine and money as the main factor. Natural selection must be looked at in these different ways now that society does not depend on hunting and gathering.

  3. Many methods are used to eliminate or severely limit the ability of viruses and bacteria to mutate into stronger organisms. As we try more and more of them the viruses and bacteria become stronger and stronger so more methods are necessary in this arms race because if we lose many people could die. For example, TB has been mutating into more and more resistant strains. They found two new ways to combat these mutations and once again destroy the bacteria. They damaged the DNA itself by knocking out a necessary gene and saw very effective results in destroying the bacteria. They also found that TB uses an alpha glucan pathway and a second pathway to synthesize the alpha glucans. The bacteria that cause TB need these alpha glucans so if both pathways were knocked out by a drug then this would leave the bacteria in a completely destroyed state that they hope cannot go on to mutate into another resistant strain. These methods and even simple ones such as hand washing and sterilization are all aimed towards killing bacteria.

  4. Since more and more medical discoveries are made people are living longer and longer. This creates overpopulation, a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. In this case it is that there are too many humans for the Earth to sustain in an efficient manner. The way that society is heading with people continuing to reproduce and with people living longer and longer the population is only going to grow and grow. The problems that come with overpopulation are already major issues in many parts of the world and they will only get worse from here on. The lack of fresh water and food are major issues. Africa is a prime example of a place where there are many many people that do not have daily access to fresh water. The contaminated water that many people are forced to drink causes lots of deaths. Food is a problem because it is very unevenly distributed throughout the world. The more developed and wealthy countries get more food than they need for their populations while places such as Africa and Asia get much less food yet they have a larger population. The other thing is that it is getting harder to find places to grow food since the population is increasing and cutting down the growing space to convert it into living space reducing the space that is available to grow food on. As the population grows the large gap between wealth and poverty only gets larger and more people are suffering. Also, our society largely depends on fossil fuels to operate and they are not a renewable source. At the rate that we are consuming fossil fuels and as they grow in demand due to the growing population we will run out and right now realistic alternatives have not been implimented. The environment is being destroyed by this overpopulation of human beings who are slowly killing species of animals who no longer have a place to live. There does not seem to be a positive side to overpopulation of Earth.

  5. I believe that medicine and using knowledge to survive is a distinctive feature that humans use in order to live. However, in some people's perspective, these advances in technology is going too far to try to save every human being alive. In terms of problems, one of the problem that people may face is the living capacity within an environment. According to the field of ecology, ecologists find that there are many factors that regulate the population growth. Out of the all factors, it seems that human population have learned to cope with predation (up to some point), Toxic Wastes, and disease( also up to some point). However, because of this, our competition and territoriality increase. Thus, we see people who are often homeless and without food. People can see that death due to disease is the only way for a natural selection to occur amongst humans, however, there are many other factors. For example, in modern day, it may be cynical but people value superficial points and the intelligence. This means that you have to be either really smart or really good looking to live really successfully in this world. This shows increasing competition for resources, such as foods, and territoriality, such as houses. This will still limit the population from overflowing. Thus, even though viruses do not kill the people, other factors might. This shows that a natural selection will give greater adaptive survival to people with good looks and smart brains, inferring that intelliences and superficial features are passed down the generation and it is highly correlated to the genetic code.
    In the second question, it is hard to state a process that limits the ability of viruses and bacteria to mutate. The reason is because the generation of bacterias, for example, is so short that they mutate faster than humans can follow with the technology. However, some viruses did not show any mutagenic genes that could not be countered by medicine, such as polio vaccine.
    This may be a bit political but, humans may not be directly affected by overpopulation. The reason is because wars and disease still have an effect on people themselves. This also includes the fact that other population regulating factors also attribute to the limitations of people. The only way to move above and beyond the population limitation is through the technological advances. When this happens, humans may increasingly overuse the natural resources until it is depleted. This causes problem to not only people but also other organisms. By depleting the natural resources, many species will be extinct under the environmental stress, for there MUST be some resources available in order to survive. Another way is that they may evolve, most certainly bacteria, to cope with that environmental stress. However, most animals and plants have longer life cycle than bacteria, the reason why they are so prone to extinction.
    Benefits of overpopulation of humans may be that people may learn to conserve. Just like with the natural resource of oil and gas, people may advance in technology where the natural resources that are limited is replaced with almost unlimited resource, such as solar power and electric power. In other ways, there are breeding of species, which may help them to survive.

    Campbell 8eth edition

  6. I have to agree that pharmacists or those who create pills and antibiotics make a lot of money for what they do. With bacteria changing and becoming resistant to current medicine, pharmacists are always right on track trying to replace it with another pill or injection. Furthermore, I can see your point with how natural selection could weed out a lot of diseases or harmful features of the human body. It is a very depressing way of looking at it, as it would be unethical to simply let someone die, but maybe the human race would be stronger. For example, we probably wouldn’t have a large appendix or an appendix at all if we let the laws of nature take control. After all, the appendix doesn’t do anything. Occasionally it causes appendicitis, the inflammation of the appendix, which can be fatal to the person if it is not removed. The appendix doesn’t help humans survive and reproduce, so if a mutation happened that caused the appendix to shrink, natural selection would favor it more than people who have a normal appendix. After many many many generations it wouldn’t be a worry anymore. Of course, with us interfering by removing the appendix, natural selection never has a chance. Another thing natural selection could make a past worry is genetic diseases. Some diseases like Hemophilia are carried on the X chromosome, which means it’s a hereditary disorder. Hemophilia prevents blood clotting, which is a huge need for the human body. If we can’t form clots when we get cuts we can bleed to death as clotting is almost like nature’s band aid. Hemophiliacs face this exact problem as well as bruises from bumping into things, internal bleeding, and bleeding into soft tissue such as the muscles. With such a terrible disease if natural selection were to have its way you’d believe that the gene carrying Hemophilia would disappear. After all, if hemophiliacs died before they had a chance to reproduce and pass on their genes, it wouldn’t be seen anymore. Fortunately (unfortunately for natural selection), Hemophiliacs can be given drugs that helps them deal with their symptoms. This is again, an example of how medicine is interfering with the strength of the human race.

    For your next question there are other treatments like bacteriophage therapy. Bacteriophage therapy deals with a virus attacking a bacteria. They do this by attacking to the bacterium cell, injecting their own DNA into the cell, destroying the bacteria’s own DNA, and using the now host cell to become a bacteriophage factory. Eventually the host cell lyses as it fills up with so many phages that it has to burst. This therapy has been discovered a long time ago and is seen as ideal compared to antibiotics as it’s harder for bacteria to become resistant too. Also bacteriophages are known only go after specific bacteria and won’t affect natural human body bacteria, like in our intestines, that helps us. Unfortunately, a drawback is that people who administer it need special training and the bacteriophages must stay refrigerated. Another simple way to avoid superbugs is to simply not overuse medicine like we do. For every little problem it seems like it must always be solved with a pill. If we take care of ourselves and avoid contracting these diseases in the first place (as when H1N1 was an issue, people were more careful about sharing food and making sure their hands were always washed) then we might possibly not have such a huge problem. Coyne talked about in his book how penicillin for the longest time was used for Staph, only for a mutation in Staph to make it more resistant. When doctors later on used methicillin to replace penicillin, Staph simply mutated again to become resistant. Obviously, other treatments like bacteriophage therapy must be discovered and we must take more precautions about our own health.


  7. Though we sometimes think we are above other animals, humans face the same predicaments as creatures like birds and big cats when it comes down to overpopulation. In the animal kingdom, when organisms face overpopulation they are endangered too competition for resources, territoriality, disease toxic wastes, and instrinsic factors. If you put this in our terms, we have to worry about competition for fossil fuels and food, war over land as cities and towns become full of more people, more illnesses and disease as we are more packed together, and containing all the garbage and sewage the increased population makes. Like liondrummer nicely put, there are some benefits. We’d learn, hopefully, to work together better as we are now facing the same types of problems. Instead of overpopulation being a countries issue, it becomes a global issue. We’d work to conserve more energy, waste less, and come together to make newer discoveries that might make medical breakthroughs.

    Why Evolution Is True
    Campbell Biology

  8. Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to only think about what benefits them now as opposed to how it will affect them in the future. We have seen this with rising concerns about the environment now that we are facing the threats of global warming and also in the medicine business. In class we watched a video about the ‘super bug’ and they said that medicine companies knew that viruses were becoming more resistant to antibiotics and they had the proper equipment to try and solve this issue. Yet, instead they continued to produce other medicine that were in high demand at the time instead of preparing for the future. Now that we are currently battling the ‘superbug,’ and a new medicine is in very high demand, they are finally working to find a solution. Why? Because it is profitable to sell this solution now whereas before it was not.

    In order to solve this problem, many scientists are turning to bacteriophage therapy as a welcome alternative to antibiotics. This method has been successfully used in the Soviet Union for decades. A bacteriophage is a virus that infects a bacteria. Therefore, in bacteriophage therap, the phages are introduced to the body where they then attack the invading bacterial cells. The bacteriophages then use the bacterial cells to make more phages which continue to travel throughout the body and kill the bacteria. Bacteriophage are specific which means that they will not affect other parts of te body. Unfortunately, even if this does solve the current, it is not the end of the road. Virus can still evolve to be able to handle the attack of the phages.

    It is currently estimated the there are over 6 billion people living on the planet. This over population is detrimental to the future health of our planet. First off all, there is more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. This is deteriorating the ozone layer and causing greenhouse gases to warm up the earth. In addition, a large number of people have even greater material demands. A result, we are consuming beyond the planet’s ability to provide. The thinning availability of natural resources, such as oil, has led to wars and political unrest within and among countries.


  9. Well, i had the same idea of medicine and natural selection. Being a medical student, i tried to convince myself that it is the survival that is important, and not how it is achieved. Medical science may be the reason for the rapid growth and sustainance of the human species, but it is just another tool like the stones and fire of early men.
    The humans have flourished even before the premedical era, and various tools and systems created by them have also aided in this. Medical science is pretty much the same.
    We will hang on to it as long as we can constantly changing it as the world changes.
    One day when a day comes where medicine is not the right tool, we might suffer and perish,
    or we might find another tool to weaken ourself in the future, or see a really small population survive and continue to our represent our species.
    Extinction Shouldn't be a surprise either. I am not against my species for saying that. If i am, then who are the people wearing those people sticking needles in everyone who passes by ??
    One thing is for sure, no matter what we think or what we are doing, we are no greater than the dinosaur or the bacteria. We are just another species, and having a large head and typing into computers does not make us greater than any alga waiting for the sun to rise. We happened, and are happening and lets hope we stay around for some more time. The earth is certainly not going to stop or care for us.