1. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    Magic and Human Evolution?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ice Queen, Sep 10, 2011.

    Could special abilities have evolved due to a chronically oppressed society?- Human evolution striving to save itself?

    I have an idea for the story and one of the main focuses of it is how the society and the main characters deal with this advent of magic. It is a very new phenomenon so it is destructive and unpredictable. Those who possess these abilities are the very first to do so, this is good because they have to figure everything out on their own.

    Now, I don't quite have the specifics of how magic evolved worked out yet, but here's a look at why:

    The society is basically controlled by corrupt people, rich and selfish they view commoners and the poor as on a lower plane than they- they keep work-slaves, bed-slaves and yet they are always right because they control all military power. Dissidence is crushed, and those in charge can manipulate their subjects with confusion and blackmail and fear and so on- think animal farm.

    I'm curious, do you think the idea makes sense?

    (I'm not asking for validation or anything, because I love the idea and I'm excited to do something with it- I just wonder if you find the reasoining plausible)​
     
  2. Heather
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    Heather Contributing Member

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    Well, I think the idea behind evolution is that things evolve in a way to make them adapt to their surroundings better. I think the issue regarding evolution would be, the magic would have to be a specific type of magic. For example, if the bosses/rulers can maipulate people, people may evolve to have a certain type of magic which lets them become resistant to propaganda and blackmail. I don't personally think that they could evolve to just do any type of magic, so I suppose it depends on what type of magic you are on about, and you would have to closely relate it to how it helps them adapt to their situations.

    The other thing is, evolution takes places over thousands of years, and longer. I don't know how long your timescale is, but it's not like a country has been opressed for twnety years, and people will start physically evolving to adapt. Unless, and it's your story so you can do this, you are going to bend some of the rules to make it fit? It depends what you are comforable with and where you want it to go?
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with everything Heather says. Plus, keep in mind that evolution is a natural process that obeys natural laws of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. I think you could apply it in a very interesting fashion to show a rise of magic, but you'd have to do so with careful thought as to what an evolution-based magic system would look like. A system where "magic" is powerful and defies the physical laws of the universe would seem to me to be out of the question. By definition, what you're talking about wouldn't even really be magic, though it might take on such appearances in comparison to our world.
     
  4. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    The basic idea seems plausible to me, sounds like in such harsh conditions natural selection/survival of the fittest could come into play. Obviously the details are important, as the posters above have pointed out, but yes, i think the idea makes sense. :)
     
  5. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    Hmm, looks like I mightn't be able to use magic as evolution like I planned in that case...

    What I'm looking for is a way to develop these special powers that makes sense- the society hasn't always been like that, possibly around 200 0r 300 years or so.

    Perhaps it would be better to instead have some kind of anomaly happen that causes a sudden influx of magic; maybe magic was always there but dormant, and I'll just need to figure out a reason for it to have come to light so suddenly.

    See, the kind of magic the characters have is relatively subtle, but I suppose it's too much to be a product of evolution alone; to give an example here, there's a girl, Side Character A, who creates illusions to mess with people's heads, though she has to make eye contact with them first among other conditions.

    This might work if maybe magic has been used in the past, but fallen into disuse due to advancements in technology (I think they have a Victorian level of tech)- perhaps only to rise again when human beings are destroying themselves? XD

    Does this idea sound like it makes more sense? (sorry to be asking this, I just don't want an incoherent system or anything)
     
  6. colorthemap
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    colorthemap Contributing Member

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    Not evolution mutation.
     
  7. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    ^Perhaps mutation is a better theory.
     
  8. Hawwyboo
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    Hawwyboo Member

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    You could use the multiverse theory. Have two (or more) universes with alternative natural laws collide and merge as a result of some cosmic fluke. The matter, energy, forces and suchlike of the two universe could interact in a way which seems magical to their inhabitants, and over time existing lifeforms would adapt (evolve) in response to the appearance of this magic, thus being able to harness it. A system like this would have some (soft) science fiction elements, thus widening your potential audience.

    With regard to your society, I don't really see why magic would evolve in response to those conditions. Evolution is a tool of survival, not emancipation or oppression. However if it did occur as a result of mutation (and it would have to initially anyway, you can't inherit something from nothing) it would be more likely to occur among the oppressed masses, simply because there are more of them.
     
  9. Heather
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    Heather Contributing Member

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    The idea that magic was always there, and has always had the potential to be used, but hasn't, seems like a much more plausable and workable idea. Maybe it isn't even magic - maybe it is people learning to use more of their brain (humans only use a small percentage of their potential brain power, I think).
     
  10. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    Evolution and mutation go hand in hand. Evolution is a theory which says that random events just happen, and the useful ones stick around.

    Imagine if one day, one person was born with a severe mutation which allowed them to use magic (a simplified explanation, but bear with me). It was so useful that he was guaranteed to survive and reproduce. His offspring then carried the same mutation, thus extending the number of people who could use magic, tracing back to one mutated original source.

    That is how mutations become part of the evolution process.

    Now, generally one person wouldn't just "wake up" with magic abilities - it's a gradual process that might take hundreds of thousands of years in real life. But for the purposes of writing fiction, why not?
     
  11. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    I like your idea too.

    I've been thinking of something similar. My idea is not much like yours except for the evolution and the magic. Plus, my story takes place after the mutation is very common.

    It sounds like you are suggesting that only the lower class is inheriting (or newly mutating) this magical ability. This would normally have to mean that the lower class are reproductively isolated from the ruling class.

    If they were sharing genetics, then the ruling class would also be developing these same mutations unless the spreading of genes is only going one way, like the men of the ruling class are only impregnating women of the lower classes, but the babies are still considered slaves. And the women of the ruling class are only being impregnated by the men of the ruling class. Actually, this seems like how it would work anyway.

    How long have the ruling class and the working class been separated? Were they separate civilizations before that, but the working class were conquered?

    If so, you could also have the magical ability be something that evolved long ago in the prehistory of the working class. The colonies of America waged a cultural war on the indigenous people here. They took the children away from the elders and ensured that they were educated in European American ways. Something like that could have happened to your working class, so that even though their previous society might have understood and worked magic, that knowledge was destroyed and so the magic seems new to them.

    Also, if the two populations (working and ruling class) were previously genetically isolated, then you could mess with the idea that maybe it's the hybridization of the two distinct genetic populations that causes the enhanced magical ability. Perhaps the mixed children have a greater magical ability than either of their parents.

    I think it's a great idea too. Good luck.

    Edit: Hawwyboo:I like your multiverse idea. That might help me make sense of my story. Thanks for suggesting it.
     
  12. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Evolution is a slow process, and mutation a hit and miss one. Natural selection however, can be much faster. Just look at how quickly dogs have been bred into so many different breeds from what was originally a wolf.

    So assume that humans have always had some of these traits of magic. That they are scattered throughout the population like brown eyes or red hair. But they've never conferred any great survival advantage. Now assume that over two centuries (still a very short time scale) people with these traits started having more children, and their children survived in greater numbers to have more children. Now we get a vast increase in the proportion of society carrying these traits - but, and this is a big but, not necessarily having any greater ability. But if we then assume that the genes for this magic trait are carried on the normal human chromosomes, and are recessive, i.e. don't show up unless the offspring has the same gene on matching sides of chromosomes, then with more people carrying the genes, its more likely that children will be born who have the magic gene from dad and from mum. So no gene equals no magic. One copy of the gene means some slight magic, enough to present a survival / reproductive advantage but not stand out. But two equals magic squared!

    Cheers.
     
  13. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, really, the problem here is that it's a very... erratic idea. The only method of control humans would have would be if they found people with extraordinary powers and then mass-breed them. Men would naturally be better for this than women, since they could impregnate as many as would be possible. But the atmospheric shift would be slightly better. Think about the fact that Earth's atmosphere, millions and millions of years ago, had a lot more oxygen than it does now. All you're doing is introducing something different to the atmosphere. Perhaps something in the poor sectors (a factory or something) has a by-product causing this mutagen to enter the poor people's water supply.
    Just a few thoughts there.
    Remember that if you're going to use a scientific theory like evolution, your "magic" can't be illogical. Chanting and stuff? Stupid. Use simple ideas from particle theory and such. Like, there's no reason a "magical" character would be able to create fire out of nothing, but they might be able to heat the particles in the air like all buggery and very literally melt someone. But this sort of thing would require massive concentration.

    I don't think the OP's idea involves evolution of the phenome (physical characteristics). I think it's much more genomic in structure, changing what chemical balances and imbalances their bodies display, therefore allowing control over molecular shifts. As I said above, you might not be able to create fire, but you could heat the particles in the air to very high degrees.

    All of this, QFT. However, you do have to remember that humans are very far from evolution nowadays. As a society, we look at different people and think of them as strange. (This will sound insensitive, but...) We also allow obese and lazy and generally crap people to procreate. From a natural point of view, this is stupid. It doesn't happen in many animal packs. Only the strongest, dominant lion gets to root all the lionesses. Therefore, all the cubs will be stronger. That, in itself, is evolution.
    From a human standpoint, "magic" would be seen as dangerous and would be unlikely to be embraced with too much happiness. X-Men and Harry Potter show that side of things well.

    The recessive thing is used a lot. A better theory would be the same thing that explains why roughly an eighth of Mongolian men have the exact same Y chromosome. Genghis Khan was genetically superior to a large portion of other people, therefore, his genes in the form of his Y chromosome stayed in the exact same form as they were passed to his descendants. They were strong enough that the genomic structure of his Y chromosome did not have to evolve any further.
    Same thing can be used for the "magic". Instead of recessive genes, use genes that aren't defined by dominance or recessiveness. An entire chromosome can be passed on while being genetically superior to any other combination of genes in the same chromosome.
    If you want this to take over MASSIVELY from the "ordinary" human population, have it be the X chromosome. Women would carry two, men would carry men. But don't make the mistake of thinking that this would mean they'd be twice as powerful.
    "Power" would be defined by mental conditioning and mental genomic structure, mainly.
     
  14. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    Hmm, well you've all given me a lot to think about. I'm going to have to think about the practicalities a lot. I'm not writing a Sci-Fi so I suppose there doesn't necessarily have to be an exact, scientific justification to how people are the way they are. I've been going over what my original idea is, and I'm really just brain-storming about it at the moment.

    Evolution, natural selection and mutation... I may be able to include some of this as a basis.

    I'd say that the magic phenomenon is really something that theoretically anyone can do, though attempting to use or master this is incredibly difficult and dangerous, may permanently harm you in some way or even kill you. People can only develop skills with magic either by being taught it by an expert (costly and takes many years of dedication), or by developing it themselves, which can only happen accidentally, and only happens as a self-preservation instinct in a life or death situation. (These people often end up being unable to to have much control over their skills).

    Considerind the danger associated with magic, when the current opressive regime took hold around several hundred years ago; they destroyed those individuals who posessed the magic or the knowledge to use it- as well as destroying any books relating to to it. There was also much propaganda banning talk of such things, etc. (some rumours survived, as is expected)- but basically, hundreds of years down the line you get an opressed society where nobody knows magic ever TRULY existed, though there are stories like in our world.

    There's a start- but of course some people always managed to develop magicin life or death situations; but these were undeveloped and mostly quite subtle and negligable things. Some mysterious deaths happened; some legends arose of people who could do strange things etc; but nothing huge.

    Until now- because magic is a type of energy and if it doesn't have an outlet, well it just builds up until it bursts free (hence the increase in number and potency within the last 50 years).

    Bleh, that's what I'm going with so far, though I'm aware there is some tweaking and more explanation needed. As a rough idea I think it seems to fit better than my attempt at scientific realism xD;
     
  15. Incunubulus
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    Incunubulus New Member

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    Hi Ice Queen. First proper post from me on these boards.

    Have you considered drugs? The oppressive regime has some 'smart' drugs developed to pacify their slaves, minions or whatever. These drugs are meant to work by activating a part of the subjects brain that makes them feel happy and content to be submissive. It is badly designed or not tested thoroughly. It is found to activate some latent part of the brain, which once triggered off is easier to access again and again at will. Like developing a muscle. The problem is, frightening biological atavisms from earlier reptillian and mammalian evolution are also more available in the brain, giving rise to volatile or even psychotic episodes of behaviour at times in some of the afflicted/mutated people.

    Check out real life research into the so called 'Godspot' in the occipital region of the brain perhaps.

    Just a thought or two. ;)
     
  16. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you can get away with traditional magic (with chanting, mysticism, or whatever) if you just talk about "breeding" and "blood lines" instead of "genes" and "mutations". A fictional world only needs to be believable, not necessarily realistic.

    Or the slaves can learn to use magic because it's the only weapon they have against their oppressors. If you focus on one thing, you eventually learn to do it better.
     
  17. Heather
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    Heather Contributing Member

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    Yea, you are right, evolution does come down to selective breeding over a sutained period of time. Therefore (imo), you would need some variation of a magical gene present in the first place among some humans, and then the more they bred the more this gene became more dominant within humans. However, that would create the problem of, how do the humans know who was the bets to breed with for their magical gene to begin with, because you cannot physically see it, and that would also allow those in charge to breed so they got the magical gene too.

    I don’t know what a limbic system is, but as I suggested later down, maybe a more realistic thing would be to develop the humans using more of their brain. It would seem like ‘magic’ to humans now, because we cannot do that sort of thing, but then the author could explain it away as human biology, humans evolving in a way which allows them to use a greater proportion of your brain.

    Then perhaps it is the case that humans have worked out a way (through evolution and/or learning), to use more of their brains. Most people who are born cannot do it naturally, they need someone who has already learned how, to show them the way. And it is difficult/risky because humans were not necessarily designed to use all of their brain power. But then some people were automatically born with the natural ability to use more of their brain power, so they can almost teach themselves to do magic. (Sort of like some people are born natural painters, eg).
     
  18. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Crucificton,

    The effect you're speaking of with regard to the Y chromosome held by so many people of Mongolian descent is known as the Ian Ashworth effect (Wiki). The reason that particular chromosome survives is not due to any particular 'strength' of the chromosome. I'm not sure there even is such a thing. It's due to social selection. Khan and his male contemporaries, family members practiced a form of selective breeding wherethey had multiplewives and also mistresses, and also practiced rape of those they conquored. Equally the power structure they had, allowed them to kill off whole family lines of other males. In short, they bred like crazy and took out the competition.

    The point about the dogs is that the wide variation between breeds, think chihuahua's and great danes for size alone, is achieved purely through enforced selective breeding. In the original wolf like ancestor for the common domestic dog, the genes for both extreme size and extreme smallness existed and were dispersed right throughout their population, but were seldom expressed.

    As for humans, our species be we African or European is Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

    And the process of meiosis which is how two different genomes come together and seperate into new varients, i.e. making children, does not allow for entire chromosomes to be simply passed on. The genes on the two matching chromosomes are simply lined up and transcribed onto a new template fairly randomly. The offspring therefore has some of the genes of both parents. Where this variation is small its usually due to the high degree of similarity between the genes of both parents. Such as in the case where a megalomaniac has been wiping out people different to him (i.e. with quite different genes), and breeding like crazy so that the odds of finding partners with similar genomes increases enormously.

    Cheers.
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Ice Queen:

    Be leery of advice that simply says you can't do something. It is generally bad advice; a little creativity will take you where you want the story to go.

    For example, someone above mentions that with your type of magic system it would b e stupid to have chanting and that sort of thing. That's certainly not true, and right off the top of my head I can think of two reasons why you might have chanting, ritual, &c in your magic system: 1) humans tend to build social structure around people and tasks in society. Would make perfect sense for your people who are genetically capable of using magic to have built up a formal structure of ritual or invocation around it if that is what you want them to do; and 2) it could be that the magic is accessed (or better accessed) in a state of self-hypnosis of some sort, or requires a calm, clear-minded mental state, in which case developing meditation and chanting around it also makes sense. You could justify it in other ways if in fact you want to have those aspects to your magic system.

    I think one of the main challenges is establishing how the magic genes become fixed in the oppressed population. Do they confer an advantage in terms of reproduction? If so, how? If not, how to they establish themselves in the population (in other words, if their presence doesn't make an individual more likely to reproduce and pass them on, how are they selected for?).

    Also, keep in mind that while evolution happens slowly, it can happen relatively quickly as well. In any given population, it's not like you just have the most fit individuals running around, and as the environment changes the population slowly adapts. A fitness distribution can be considered like a bell curve (for the sake of simplicity). At the center of the curve you have the most fit members of the population, who also make up the greatest numbers. That's the high point in the curve. Around them on either side of the curve you have individuals that aren't quite as fit but are doing fine. The outlying areas of the curve have the least fit individuals. Now consider a sudden environmental change such that the most fit position in the curve shifts all the way to the left, where the outliers are. The population has a built-in ability to absorb the environmental change because their population has a lot of variety in it, as represented by the curve. Suddenly, the "center" of the fitness curve is where the outliers used to be. It doesn't take long for a good percentage of the population to suddenly be at the new center or to either side of it, because those individuals were there all along, just under-represented. The previously most-fit individuals reduce in relative numbers until they are outliers. If there is another big environmental shift, the curve can shift again.

    The upshot is, you can deal with relatively short time periods if there is some dramatic selective pressure. You aren't limited to extremely long time frames to make this work. You can also look at the phenomena of a genetic bottleneck to explain how a sudden or severe external pressure could very quickly lead to a total shift in the distribution of your genes in the population.

    I wouldn't abandon any of the ideas that you feel are important to the story. You can work up a plausible scenario for most of them, I bet. If you're going with the idea of evolution of magic, I think you should work up these plausible rationales because once a reader sees that you're going with evolution she is going to expect to see the rationale (and rightly so). But I would not start tabling ideas that you have under the impression that it would be plausible in an evolutionary system. That's probably not going to be the case.
     
  20. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    I think the definition of magic is really important. Although I don't think it has to be fully explained.

    If it is an energy source that is "building up" then where is it coming from? Or, do you mean that the energy source was always there, but since no one is directly using it, there is more to access?

    The kids could be becoming powerful because they have more talent in magic, or they could have found some ancient, secret text that was lost. Or perhaps they discovered magical education encoded in an ancient myth. They don't have to have a biological basis for their magical abilities if there are tools of accessing magic that could be re-discovered.

    Crucifiction, you said-- "... However, you do have to remember that humans are very far from evolution nowadays. As a society, we look at different people and think of them as strange. (This will sound insensitive, but...) We also allow obese and lazy and generally crap people to procreate. From a natural point of view, this is stupid. It doesn't happen in many animal packs. Only the strongest, dominant lion gets to root all the lionesses. Therefore, all the cubs will be stronger. That, in itself, is evolution."

    This is oversimplified. The only reason we have "obese and lazy" people is because of evolution. What was considered a "strong" trait in famine times is perhaps a weakness in times of food abundance.

    If the world becomes overrun with people with super high metabolisms, then humanity would be incredibly vulnerable to a serious famine. In fact, considering the likely-hood of famine over a lasting overabundance of food--it would be evolutionarily "stupid" to allow high metabolism genes to dominate the human gene pool.

    The other aspect of this is that humans EVOLVED to be socially complex. We evolved to have a sense of justice and fairness. We evolved to have many family units--not to be predominantly socially polygamous. These traits are products of our evolution, and they allowed us to become immensely successful.

    Evolution is not simply about "survival of the fittest" in a simple sense. Sometimes survival of the fittest means symbiosis (in fact, considering the endosymbiotic theory, symbiosis is a HUGE factor in evolutionary "fitness"), and sometimes it means complex social structures that focus on protecting the weak. Though I agree that our evolution is now being guided by other culling forces--not the same forces that our ancestors were exposed to.
     
  21. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A note of caution regarding feasibility: as someone noted near the beginning of the thread, evolution is a process that serves ADAPTATION, which is to say, survival. In order to adapt to difficult conditions, most forms of life adapt to the environment, not overcome it. If I understand the OP's notion, the concept of evolution would be used to explain the endowment of commoners with magical powers so that they could overcome their overseers. But their overseers are not in that condition because of natural superiority, but rather because accidents of birth and geopolitical history have rendered them as such. If they can understand the necessity of bonding together and resisting, then they can overcome their overseers.

    A process of adaptation would allow them to more passively accept their existence. Clearly, you don't want that.
     
  22. Hawwyboo
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    Thinking about slavery and evolution, take a look at domesticated animals. The fate of farm animals is almost entirely in humanity's hands, including whether or not any individual cow, pig, chicken, etc, is allowed to procreate. Humans mainly breed these animals for food, so they don't want skinny cows, pigs, chickens, etc. So if a cow, pig, chicken, etc, is born with a genetic makeup that increases the chance of the animal being skinny, it probably won't be allowed to pass those genes on. Hence, over thousands of years of unnatural selection, cows, pigs, chickens, etc, have become generally fatter than their feral counterparts even if they're fed the same amount. These 'slave' animals have genetically adapted to their master's whim for the survival of their species, albeit at the expense of their individual welfare.

    So if an oppressed section of society acquired magical powers, and this was noted by their oppressors, this could prove to be an evolutionary detriment to the oppressed as the oppressors would seek to prevent their magical powers from being accumulated in individuals in later generations. Of course, if the magical powers they gained were subtle enough to go unnoticed for some time, or if they were extremely potent as soon as they originated, then the oppressors could be overthrown which might prove evolutionarily beneficial to the oppressed.
     

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