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Biotech Science

Geneticist Claims Human Evolution Is Over 857

Posted by samzenpus
from the flame-on dept.
GogglesPisano writes "UK geneticist Steve Jones gave a presentation entitled Human Evolution Is Over. He asserts that human beings have stopped evolving because modern social customs have lowered the age at which human males have offspring, which results in fewer of the mutations necessary to drive evolutionary change. Apparently the fate of our species now depends upon older guys hooking up with younger woman. I, for one, welcome this development."
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Geneticist Claims Human Evolution Is Over

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  • by rk (6314) * on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:29AM (#25309333) Journal

    Imagine that. Old guy scientist claims that old guys should bag young women. "But, baby, it's scientific!"

    I immediately thought of this:

    General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

    Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

    Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.

    • by idonthack (883680) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:11AM (#25309625)

      MEIN FÜHRER! I CAN WALK!

      • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @06:49AM (#25311419) Homepage

        One way of seeing this is that a man that has become older and is still healthy means that the genes provides less risk of inherited disabling diseases and therefore is a better mate from that perspective. An older man is also likely to have gained a better position in society.

        Evolution is still going on, but it is also circumvented by modern medicine. I would rather claim that medicine is the limiting factor for evolution.

        Today we have a large number of diseases that is caused by our lazy living and sugared diets. So evolution will pick off the ones that aren't able to live lazy by heart attacks and similar defects.

        • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @09:12AM (#25312429) Journal

          The problem is always that people assume that the only evolution is disease/lifespan related.

          Healthcare that removes selectors like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc, just pushes selection in a different direction, and it becomes more about who you can convince to mate with you, rather than whether or not you'll be picked off by a disease.

    • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:18AM (#25309669) Journal

      It's difficult to see how a geneticist could actually make such an absurd statement. I suspect either there is major misrepresentation going on, or he's about to have his proverbial testicles handed to him by any number of researchers showing that the claim is factually false and conceptually retarded.

      All sorts of species evolve in spite of any particular start or length of reproductive capacity. Since the vast majority of what diversity between members of a population happens during conception, the evolutionary engine is largely fueled at that point.

      • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:58AM (#25309929)
        As far as I can see, following this "story" from the start in different news reports - it has evolved from "evolution in humans is slowing down" to "evolution has stopped". I expect that in a couple of days the news will be that evolution is slowly reversing...

        As an FYI even the original claim is incorrect as the number of mutations in the population is overall increasing, due to the fact that the effect of natural selection is reduced. If anything we should be worried that the increase in harmful mutations in the general population is going to result in increased birth defects / genetic diseases.
        • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by isBandGeek() (1369017) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:41AM (#25310179)
          Well, at the current rate, with technological advances keep more people alive that wouldn't have otherwise survived (that's a good thing, except in the case of Paris Hilton and her gal pals), genes will not matter as much. Our evolution will certainly slow, and maybe even stop.

          But if anything, mutations should be increasing with all the potential nuclear devices. That should keep the evolution going.
          • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:48AM (#25310219)
            If you mean with genetic engineering then I agree - otherwise I think there is a limit to how much you can fix from the outside, if things are badly broken on the inside. Diabetes and such are liveable, but what if you are missing (broken) an enzyme for making ATP? Or one of the main positioning marker proteins is broken meaning your body parts are all in the wrong places! So at the very least there will be natural selection pressure there.
            • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

              by HungryHobo (1314109) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @03:50AM (#25310541)

              but you're missing one important point. Say that someone comes up with a treatment for some serious problem with the atp cycle (for an extreme example). Sure it would mean that when civilisation falls a lot of people who need the drugs will die but there's also a chance that you can get a 2 stage mutation which otherwise would never have been possible.
              Think in terms of
              Change X: you die.
              Change Y: you die.
              Change X and Y: new extra effecient solution to a problem.You live.

              It doesn't really matter if 99% of the population dies after civilisation crumbles due to genetic problems etc since 1% of 6 billion is still loads.

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by TheLink (130905)
                Yeah like switch from ATP to cold fusion - only problem is you need to drink heavy water and have palladium implants in your muscles.

                Benefit? You can run for hours at sprint speeds and your tendons or joints will wear out first ;).
              • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

                by electrictroy (912290) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @06:30AM (#25311311)

                >>>"modern social customs have lowered the age at which human males have offspring"

                That makes no sense. Men have been marrying later (or not at all). Heck Romeo married when he was 16, and that was customary at that time... in the 1800s most americans married at 22.... you don't see that happening today. A lot of people are waiting until their 30s.

            • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Informative)

              by rtb61 (674572) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @05:50AM (#25311145) Homepage

              The biggest driver of evolution will always be catastrophic changes to the environment. Evolution advances rapidly when space in made available for mutations develop into empty spaces within the food chain in specific locals. It is very likely that the biggest driver for human evolution has been the relatively frequently recurring ice ages in recent geologic history.

              Just as in future, the major drivers for human evolution will be those same ice ages recurring or, on own impact upon the environment being so great as to alter the environment sufficiently from the conditions under which we evolved as to force evolutionary adaptation to the new altered environment. Other changes in bacteria or viruses could also force associated changes in humans and, of course not to forget catastrophic impact.

              Although evolution occurs across millions of years, there will be numerous periods, millennia, where evolution is accelerated fro particular species due to particular environmental conditions, so not much gradual change, but periods of relative stability interspersed with periods of accelerated change.

              So as it has occurred in the past, a catastrophic event will either accelerate human evolution or end it, extinction being the only reason for a species to cease evolving. Crazy short haired rock throwing monkeys are really going to have to get over the idea that this universe needs or wants them to survive ;D.

        • Re:How convenient! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by umghhh (965931) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:01AM (#25310589)

          No amount of evolutionary changes will remove the basic trait of human being - stupidity. From that perspective it does not matter whether evolution actually stopped, accelerated or reversed - we will continue to be stupid, gullible species and it is enough to look in the news any particular day in a year to see that it is so.
          Gosh, maybe it is actually better for survival of the species if they are stupid and gullible. Now if mr Scientist clarified that - I would be impressed.

          TFA is just confirmation that humans are stupid and this including mr scientist - fact that we reach maturity earlier does not mean we procreate earlier too in fact the opposite seems to be true. He mentioned Glasgow in his article which well says a lot...

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by feepness (543479)

          I expect that in a couple of days the news will be that evolution is slowly reversing..

          Q: Are we not men? A: We are DEVO!

        • you never saw this? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by way2trivial (601132) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @06:16AM (#25311247) Homepage Journal

          http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6057734.stm [bbc.co.uk]

          we are also apparently splitting into two sub-races.. I call them the morlocs and the eloi
          (as I tend to represent the morloc heritage more closely)

      • Re:How convenient! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lysergic.acid (845423) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:22AM (#25310087) Homepage

        and with ever greater populations and intermingling of cultures, i think it's safe to say the human species has plenty of genetic diversity at the moment.

        there's also no shortage of genetic illnesses and cancers which are the direct results of genetic mutation. heck, people are probably exposed to more carcinogenic influences today than ever in human history. just look at all the mutant three-legged frogs that are turning up here in America.

        biological reproduction is inherently imperfect, thus creates copying errors that introduce genetic mutations. the lack of mutations is not something that we'll ever have to worry about. and i'd argue that it's unethical to try to conceive children after a certain age just as it's unethical for closely related individuals to have children since their children will be at much higher risk of having congenital illnesses or other health problems.

        • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Peeteriz (821290) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:48AM (#25310211)

          Well yeah, the mechanism by which evolution has always worked is having lots of mutations; and ensuring that the 'faulty' mutations don't reproduce.

          Nowadays our advanced medicine is ensuring that people with many of possible genetic defects are able to live a more or less normal life. It is very good for those people and their relatives; but it does mean that such defects will be becoming much more common in future.

      • by Kleen13 (1006327) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:26AM (#25310101)
        I'm sorry... I truly don't mean to post OT, but... "conceptually retarded" Can I use that?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jonaskoelker (922170)

        And here a few ways one might go about handing him his... wrongness.

        There was a time where the life expectancy was my current age, and I don't have kids (yet). We are getting older. In fact, put yourself in the shoes of a male homo ergaster whose balls have just dropped; you walk around, suddenly you see a girl crawling around on all four, with a good rear wiev of her pussy. Do you (A) get horny as hell and fuck her will she nil she; or (B) don't do anything?

        Also, our collective cognitive skill (as measu

        • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Weedlekin (836313) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @06:29AM (#25311305)

          "There was a time where the life expectancy was my current age"

          There was a time when _average_ life expectancy was your current age, because average life expectancy is calculated on figures that include infant mortality, which was (and still is in some parts of the world) around 90% for much of our history. Those who survived to the age of twelve years did however live just as long as people do today.

          "We are getting older"

          We're getting older _on average_ because birth rates in nearly all Western countries (and some Eastern ones such as Japan) have dropped below the levels required to maintain historic age ratios, so their "native" populations are declining. This does not however mean that our typical maximum ages are longer than they were historically, hence the Old Testament passage which says that men (no figures are given for women) live 70 years, and some reach 80 or more, "but they have little joy of it", i.e. men who live more than 70 years were likely to suffer from age-related health problems, just as they do today.

          "Also, our collective cognitive skill (as measured by IQ) is steadily increasing."

          IQ tests only measure the ability to pass IQ tests. There is a correlation between that ability and intelligence, but it's nothing more than a correlation, so an increased IQ in a population over time could just as easily be due to changes in the tests themselves as changes in those being tested.

          "IQ is influenced by environment to some degree"

          But intelligence isn't, otherwise we'd be able to produce environments that turned every child into a genius (note here that I'm referring to true geniuses such as Newton and Einstein, not those who fall into an arbitrary statistical IQ region).

          "I'd rather we go along with slow evolution until we can do some genetic engineering on ourselves."

          There's no such thing as "slow" or "fast" evolution, because organisms only change permanently when doing so makes them better at surviving in their environment than those without the new traits. There's a distinct body of evolutionary theory (based on evidence) which suggests that it actually happens in distinct spurts rather than by the slow accumulation of changes, which if true, would mean that the next phase in human evolution will be a distinct "jump" whose nature cannot be predicted by our current knowledge of genetics.

          "by using our hands and frontal lobes, we have this great ability to adapt our environment to us instead of the other way around."

          And this may be the ultimate result of evolution, whose only goal is after all to perpetuate a bunch of genes. What better way of doing this is there than by evolving an organism that can first make its environment suit it, and later come up with ways of changing itself at will to suit new environments? So perhaps it's time for geneticists to consider human technology as being a part of evolution just like our genes are, because it's those genes which produced our technological capability, including the emerging science of genetic engineering which will eventually allow us to modify our genetic makeup in a single generation in ways that would take millions of years otherwise.

          So perhaps we should stop thinking of human technology and evolution as being separate things, something that's IMO hypocritical when we treat the technology of other animals such as species of ant that farm crops or livestock as being an evolutionary adaptation.

      • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by easyTree (1042254) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:58AM (#25310267)

        It's difficult to see how a geneticist could actually make such an absurd statement. I suspect either there is major misrepresentation going on, or he's about to have his proverbial testicles handed to him by any number of researchers showing that the claim is factually false and conceptually retarded.

        You think that's absurd? Read some of the comments. From a quick reading of about twenty, there were four or five who simply don't believe in evolution at all!

        Here are a few examples (because I *know* you're not gonna RTFA):

        Why doesn't the eminent scientist come out and admit that evolution has been the ultimate of hoax's. There is not a single scrap of transpeciation in the fossil record, not one on this entire earth that has been recorded. Just a couple examples of micro adaptation - thats it!

        David, Smithers,

        That anyone believes in this made up religion of evolution still amazes me. So little evidence, so much faith required to buy in. Does anyone not notice how often evolutionists change their stories to fit the latest finding? Study creation, it makes sense and fits the same evidence. I dare you.

        John, WR, USA

        Pathetic. Anyone who in this day and age of genetics believe we humans evolved from ape's (sic) need to wake up.

        Caroline Carter, London, UK

        One problem is that the academic elite is completely sold out to Darwinian evolution, and to oppose it is academic death because Darwinism is a religion that will not tolerate dissent.
        Robert Moore, Canton, U.S.A.

        It seems that there's still lots of randomness of _belief_.

        • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Rob Kaper (5960) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @04:31AM (#25310775) Homepage

          Read some of the comments.

          Pathetic. Anyone who in this day and age of genetics believe we humans evolved from ape's (sic) need to wake up.

          Caroline Carter, London, UK

          That is of course true. Humans did not evolve from apes but from a common ancestor.

          If you think I'm nitpicking, I find this common misunderstanding to be one of the best ways to tell whether I'm going to have a useful discussion with someone or whether I shouldn't bother in the first place.

      • Re:How convenient! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cp.tar (871488) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @03:03AM (#25310305) Journal

        Not to mention that nowadays boys do not regularly become fathers as soon as they start maturing sexually; if anything, the onset of reproduction is moving forward, to mid- or late twenties.

      • Re:How convenient! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by peterofoz (1038508) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @03:24AM (#25310419) Homepage Journal

        If genetic mutations is all that is required for evolution, there is more than age that can cause this.

        Nearly every month there seems to be a new discovery that some virus or environmental factor causes genetic mutations that result in cancer. Those are just the ones that kill us.

        Perhaps there are also some benign or beneficial mutations occurring because of disease or dirty environment. I, for one, believe kids (and adults) should play outdoors and get dirty to help boost their immune systems and reduce the likelihood of allergies.

        Eat more dirt

        • by rts008 (812749) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @05:33AM (#25311083) Journal

          "I, for one, believe kids (and adults) should play outdoors and get dirty to help boost their immune systems and reduce the likelihood of allergies.

          Eat more dirt"

          I happen to agree 100% with you, but I could not resist...Sorry!

          If you want to grow a strong, healthy child, you need a lot of dirt, fresh air, and sunshine to allow for strong roots.
          It also was way cool to grow up on a farm with room to explore and discover my world on my own.

          Sadly, this is becoming a rarity for kids now.

          I guess times change though, and before I start a 'Get off my lawn!' rant...
          I have always kept in mind something my grandfather used to tell me:
          (rough paraphrase)' Life is like a river- water and life are connected for a reason- a river has falls, slow pools, eddies, whirlpools, boulders, sandbars, rapids, all of those things and more. Remember, stagnant water breeds mosquitoes. Who wants that?'

          That wisdom he passed to me has enabled me to keep faith in the good overall fate of the human race lately.

  • Ugh (Score:5, Funny)

    by areusche (1297613) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:29AM (#25309335)

    "I for one welcome our old men banging young women overlords."

    Keep on dreaming buddy.

  • Darwinian evolution? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cowclops (630818) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:30AM (#25309339)
    Even if this guy turns out to be wrong for the reasons he gave, I wouldn't be surprised if modern society is messing with the evolution of humans compared to most other species in the past. Modern medicine may SAVE people that "should have" died and not passed on their genes. For better or worse, this is different than what happens outside of human society.
    • by Alexandra Erenhart (880036) <.saiyanprincess. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:41AM (#25309413) Homepage
      I agree, but usually those "saved" people don't breed or become uncapable of.

      And I don't know about "de-evolving", but for me it seems like people "with low IQ" (I don't know how to say it without being offensive) are breeding more than smart people, because usually smart people leave having children for later, or even not even have them, for the sake of their careers. I don't have anything against pursuing what you wanna do with your life, but I'd rater have more smart kids being born.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:45AM (#25309439)

        Your radical new ideas have already occurred to Mike Judge.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiocracy [wikipedia.org]

      • by Amiga Trombone (592952) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:14AM (#25309651)

        Yes, but OTOH smart people have more opportunities to meet each other that they didn't have in the past. If you were born on a farm in 1900, chances are you'd stay there all your life, even if you had an IQ of 160. Now, most reasonably smart people have the opportunity to go to universities, and work in environments where they're going to meet other smart people. Of course, the children of smart parents tend to regress toward the mean, so genetics may play a lesser role in intelligence than you might think.

        • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:06AM (#25309987)
          Due to how genetics works - having two above average IQ people as parents will only have about 1/4 (on average) of having a smart kid. It needs to be done for generations before you get consistent effects.

          A shout out to Mendel for this tidbit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Indeed, I mean here all these people with high IQs are hooking up, yet the average IQ remains at 100!

        • by bussdriver (620565) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @03:06AM (#25310325)

          -its hard to measure 'smart' and there are multiple kinds of 'smart'

          -'smart' parents may be poor at bringing up children properly

          -'smart' may require certain things to 'trigger' it which differs as well as the age range etc

          -many genetic traits we know about skip generations etc. This could be more complex than the simple stuff we know about now

          -developmental problems could contribute; where infant health could inhibit brain development or indirectly impact it

          -'smart' people could just be lucky and there are more than we realize (even they don't realize it) I'm not just suggesting environment, but also luck, and timing. There are plenty of physically capable people who just lack the diet, exercise, motivation, where there is clearly SOME genetics but its also other factors

          -LONG TERM trends were what got us here

          • Mod parent up. (Score:3, Interesting)

            by plasmacutter (901737)

            This is exactly right.

            For anyone interested in examining the topic of stupidity, I highly suggest looking up, and obtaining in whichever way you choose, a recent CBC documentary on stupdity [imdb.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I agree, but usually those "saved" people don't breed or become uncapable of.

        1000 years ago, a child who developed diabetes would probably die long before they were able to reproduce. If they were lucky, and had parents wealthy enough to afford the best medical care the times could provide, they might live into their early twenties. Now, of course, a diabetic child can grow up to live a happy, healthy, normal life, including raising a family.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:51AM (#25310227) Journal
        If the economy gets worse then having a lot of kids might not seem so silly when you reach old age.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Merusdraconis (730732)

        Yes, but that's balanced by the possibility of smart kids being born from dumb parents via genetic mutation. How else did the smart parents become smart?

      • by niktemadur (793971) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:59AM (#25310277)

        People "with low IQ" are breeding more than smart people.

        That could be a matter of memetics, instead of genetics.

        Here's the brunt of it: many children grow up in a family and social environment lacking in intellectual stimulation, where even asking questions and/or searching for answers may be taboo.

        I'll keep it apolitical and mention a friend who, when caught at a very early age reading comic books by his mother, was chastised for "reading garbage". Well, guess what, that person has never read for the sheer pleasure of it, his intellectual curiosity was stomped lifeless by his stupid fucking mother, who probably had the TV on all the time, and probably "thought" the proper thing for her offspring was to start reading on their own with The Illiad, The fucking Book Of Acts, Milton's Paradise Lost, or not at all.

        This may more common than one thinks, in varying degrees, through different circumstances. In my twenties, in vacation from college, my fundamentalist mother tried to take Hesse's The Steppenwolf from me, but I told her she would have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. Later that summer, I noticed my Philip K Dick paperbacks had disappeared from my bedroom.

        So, to reiterate my point: nascent memes in individuals collide with established memes in others, sometimes the "willfully ignorant" memes persevere in the end.

        I'd rater have more smart kids being born.

        Yeah, that's quite a painful paradox, isn't it? It comes down to "memes of openness" to new ideas, found in the educated segments of the population, embracing contraception, while "memes of closed-mindedness", found in most religious segments, repudiate birth control. Guess which segment's gonna have more babies.

        If the religious establishment had accepted contraception when it came out, things would have be a whole different shade today, yet what the educational system currently reflects is exactly the opposite. The viewpoint that contraception begets immorality has resulted in a spike of teen pregnancies as well as venereal diseases like gonorrhea, syphilis and herpes in the Bible Belt and beyond, go figure, like they went straight from the nineteenth century to the twenty first, and the twentieth never happened.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tom (822)

        I don't have anything against pursuing what you wanna do with your life, but I'd rater have more smart kids being born.

        Given that as a species we still have an overpopulation problem, wouldn't less dumb kids being born work the same, just better?

      • people "with low IQ" are breeding more than smart people

        ...Oh, I don't know, I think there's also alot to be said about occupied having less children than unnocupied people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      Modern medicine may SAVE people that "should have" died and not passed on their genes. For better or worse, this is different than what happens outside of human society.

      Seems to me that just results in selecting for genes that improve the odds of getting modern medical treatment, same old darwinian evoluation.

    • by StarKruzr (74642) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:47AM (#25309867) Journal

      we are looking, within a few generations at the ability to edit our own DNA. We will start selecting ourselves.

    • by fyoder (857358) * on Thursday October 09, 2008 @02:54AM (#25310257) Homepage Journal

      Modern medicine may SAVE people that "should have" died and not passed on their genes.

      Hell, I do that all the time when I slam on the brakes for idiot pedestrians. I feel like such a traitor to Darwin. I'm screwing up the whole system.

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:30AM (#25309345)

    Women are definitely having children later. So late in many cases that there is a significant chance of genetic abnormalities like Down's Syndrome.

    Are males really having children younger? Enough to offset women having children later?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by adamchou (993073)
      I don't see how his claim for men having children earlier can possibly be true.

      According to the article, he cites one guy who was a ruler at his time so obviously that person had lots of women to foster children.
      If anything, men today are living longer than they were before due to better health care and medicine.

      I don't have quotations on this, but I remember reading that in the olden times, if they lived past 50, that was amazing.

      I call bullshit on this guy. He's just trying to hook up with young girls
    • by Trip6 (1184883) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:48AM (#25309463)
      It used to be that you had your kids within a year after reaching puberty. And you died by 40. Today society outlaws this behavior, and even people having kids in their 20s are deemed "too young." So what is this guy talking about?
      • by solanum (80810) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:40AM (#25309801)

        Not really true if you look beyond the recent past. Humans evolved as hunter-gatherers and in pre-agrarian hunter-gatherer communities reaching 70+ wasn't uncommon. There's plenty of documentation on the health and lifespan on Australian Aborigines (prior to the almost entirely negative effects of Westerners spreading through their country). Plus, the general rule was that the culturally more powerful older men had most of the women with the younger men largely having to wait their turn. You're right about the women having kids young though.

        Personally, I don't know about the changes to this system affecting evolution, but I suspect there isn't much going on in humans. Look how we're breeding fertility problems into our species by the use of IVF (not that I oppose the use of IVF). Plus, most evolution is mainly viewed as a punctuated equilibrium these days, so we need a major change in our environment to push significant evolution.

    • I have to wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Moraelin (679338)

      Well, I just have to wonder, though.

      I mean, cats on the average live 14 to 20 years if kept indoors and well taken care of, or a _lot_ less out in the wild. Most humans don't have children at the age at which cats die. I don't think it stopped cat evolution.

      Squirrels have a life expectancy of a couple of years. Humans would still be a toddler by the age when a squirrel dies, and thus stops reproducing. I don't think that was a big problem for evolution.

      Mayflies live between 30 minutes and a whole day as an

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I see what you are trying to say - but your point doesn't apply as you think it does. As creatures get longer dna / live longer (note: these two are not related but both increase mutations), their dna correction mechanisms improve, a necessity to avoid mutational meltdown (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutational_meltdown). So in essence the amount of mutations that humans would pass onto the next generation at their (pre-civ) average breeding age is the same as for cats or squirrels at their average breedin
  • by JWSmythe (446288) * <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:30AM (#25309349) Homepage Journal

        I accept my fate. I will propagate with younger women, if for nothing else than to save our species. :)

  • by Tenek (738297) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:40AM (#25309407)
    Clearly, since rabbits breed at a much earlier age than humans, they don't evolve at all? Please. Evolution occurs when you have an imperfectly reproducing population with finite resources. Modern social customs have an effect on evolution, to be sure, but they absolutely do not stop it completely. Any attribute which increases the expected number of successful offspring will be selected for, just as it has been for the past few billion years with every single species on the planet. It's one thing to assert that a couple factors may slow it down, but "stopping" evolution by breeding earlier is right up there with "stopping" gravity by building a floor. It all becomes part of the system.
  • by caller9 (764851) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:41AM (#25309415)

    If human evolution is slowing, it isn't because of old dudes having mutated sperm.

    * Historically most people and any animal I've heard of reproduced as soon as possible, old fart mating doesn't really make sense. People are actually reproducing at an older age(TRUE)...we get autism(*WILD SPECULATION*).

    * Stupid people have more kids, raise them to be stupid.

    * Smart people have fewer kids, raise them to reproduce responsibly(less).

    * Health care, safety measures, and social medicine keep stupid people alive to the age of reproduction.

    This guy is waaaay off. We're devolving...at least mentally, has nothing to do with saggy old balls.

    • by tibman (623933) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:54AM (#25309507) Homepage

      It's not devolving, there's no such thing. People will evolve to best adapt to the environment over a long period of time. If the best way to survive is have the "talking shit and lying out your ass" trait then you'll start to see it more. If rich & smart people aren't reproducing as much then apparently there is a level of stupidity and poverty required for reproduction. Though that is not necessarily a bad thing. Nature doesn't give a fuck about money or intellect, only the ability to survive the longest and create the largest amount of progeny.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      To be fair, if it gets really bad, there's always the chance that the stupid people will get so stupid, and the smart people will get so smart, that the smart people can easily solve the problem by herding the stupid people off a cliff (real or metaphorical).

      And in a postapocalyptic world, you don't really have to worry so much about earning a wage, so it makes sense to have as many children as you want. (Plus, it's not as though condoms will be easy to come by, if it truly was apocalyptic.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jagdish (981925)
      very true. If anyone disagrees, I suggest you watch the first five minutes of Idiocracy. In fact, you should watch the rest of the movie as well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Drasil (580067)

      Historically most people and any animal I've heard of reproduced as soon as possible, old fart mating doesn't really make sense. People are actually reproducing at an older age(TRUE)...we get autism(*WILD SPECULATION*).

      My son was born when I was 24 and he's autistic. From the information I have available it seems the rise in autism is caused by a combination of increased diagnosis and some as yet undiscovered (probably man-made) environmental factor.

      Stupid people have more kids, raise them to be stupid. Sma

  • Dysgenics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Scarbo27 (1150965) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:46AM (#25309441)
    I agree with the thesis, but not the cause. The problem is that modern welfare programs protect the stupid, lazy, and generally incompetent; and allows them to breed without regard for the fact that the parents are not capable of providing for their children. The most basic and immutable law of economics is that you get more of what you subsidize, and less of what you tax. In America, and other first-world countries, we subsidize illegitimacy and tax work. I am not suggesting we do away with welfare, but we shouldn't ignore the consequences of a welfare system that doesn't either encourage birth-control, or discourage unrestricted breeding. Let the hating begin.
  • by Ruke (857276) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:50AM (#25309475)
    It's not like evolution just stops because of technological advances. We're just evolving within a different environment, with different selective pressures. Remember, evolution isn't driving us towards a "best," it's driving us towards a "works for now."

    Besides, society and technology have only been around for a few thousand years. If you're an optimist, the future of the human race looks really hot, and is fairly promiscuous. If you're a pessimist, society collapses, and we're back to the good ol' fashioned try-not-to-die for a while.
  • Feh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Relic of the Future (118669) <dales@digitaFREEBSDlfreaks.org minus bsd> on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:52AM (#25309491)
    Biological evolution is for chimps; real men are all about memetic evolution!
  • by Pinckney (1098477) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:53AM (#25309497)
    The author makes two additional points that the summary doesn't mention. Firstly, children born in the west are dramatically more likely to survive. They experience significantly less natural selection. Secondly, our large populations make any genetic fluke less likely to survive. Think of inbreeding here; with a small population, otherwise rare genes can become common. We're experiencing the reverse trend.
  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:53AM (#25309501)
    Bacteria, for example, reproduce at age 1 hour, say, and have no trouble evolving. This thesis is just another example of denying we are animals [wordpress.com],
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Graff (532189)

      Bacteria, for example, reproduce at age 1 hour, say, and have no trouble evolving.

      Bacteria also reproduce in an exponential fashion, given an adequate supply of food. In one day a single bacterium will turn into 2^24 bacteria for a total number of 16,777,215 divisions per day or 6,123,683,475 times per year. That's far more than the 300 or so divisions for the 29-year old mentioned in the article, a rate of around 1 per year. This means that a single bacterium mutates around 6 billion times faster than a human.

      Yes, this is an extreme (and simplified) estimate but it does give you an i

  • Idiot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrSkwid (118965) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:53AM (#25309503) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, were under no evolutionary pressure. The world is in stasis. There will be no more pandemics like Spanish Flu that wiped out tens of millions of us a couple of generations ago.

    What a fucking tool.

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:59AM (#25309547)

    This is absolute garbage science of the highest order and I'm surprised it is even mentioned here.

  • Idiotic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xonstantine (947614) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:03AM (#25309569)

    Evolution of a species only stops with extinction. Period.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by steevc (54110)

      I've thought for some time that evolution in humans must be stagnating. There is very little natural selection if most humans are likely to grow up and reproduce regardless of their intelligence or physical attributes due to medical advances and states caring for their citizens. This probably means that many genetic disorders will not die out as they might have in the past.

      You start wondering if some people should be allowed to reproduce, but that gets into dodgy territory.

      Are their any societies where 'sel

  • He is almost right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Plutonite (999141) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:21AM (#25309683)

    Disclaimer: IANAEB

    This has nothing to do with older men and younger women.

    I say we will stop evolving any significant changes fairly soon because:

    A) We have interracial mixing on all continents and in almost all genetic populations due to advances in human transportation.

    B) Our other technological advances mean that we are highly capable of surviving due to the nature of our innovations as opposed to radical changes in our bodies (that in other species' histories may have been the major factor of eliminatig the unsuitable). This includes fighting natural disaster, possible predators, and food supply/type changes (industrialized production of food).

    C) Welfare. We have organised the distribution of our resources. The weak will not flourish, but they won't die.

    D) We are highly selective physically (males at least, females to a much lesser extent) due this time to communications technology and the entertainment industry broadcasting good genes everywhere, so we are less forgiving in terms of physical absurdity that may occur in our corner of the world.

    E) He just wants to bang young girls. The hypothetical secretary in his office, to be exact. Slashdot is being used. Again.

  • Intensely wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by horatiocain (1199485) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:44AM (#25309833)

    I call shenanigans. The process of evolution has not stopped in the least.

    What has happened is that the criteria for fitness in our population has changed. No longer do we select for the strongest, cleverest, fittest individuals.

    The criteria for selection is now much less genetically determined. Those who survive to adulthood, elect to have children, and raise their children to grow up to be adults who have children are more likely to pass on their genes.

    Those who live in safer areas with better access to healthcare are more likely to survive to have children will experience some benefits to selection, but those who live in areas with pro-breeding cultures (where children are more desired or birth control is not present) will be vastly more selected for.

    In short, we're experiencing artificial selection to a much greater degree than that of natural selection. But so long as human beings are reproduce and are born with mutations, we will continue to undergo evolution in some form.

  • Natural Selection (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @12:23PM (#25315769)

    Although not quite the same thing, I have often wondered what our current culture is doing to us through natural selection. Now I know it takes many generations to make a difference. However one has to think that those with certain genetic problems may not have had a chance to propagate as they would likely die.

    For instance, do you think 500 years ago as many people has bad eyes, or asthma or, other conditions or mental problems? It kind of makes me think what we well all be like in a 1000 years from now, 5000 years.

    Also as an extension of that principle it isn't the number of years that matter, but rather the number of generations. So in the distance past when life expectancy was like 40 and people normally had kids when they were like 14 generations were short. Now with people living till 80 and having kids in their 30's, the generations are longer... would this mean that by default we would be less effected by the Darwin's principle? Again expand that out a couple hundred years from now, and things start to get interesting. We start to stagnate, change slower over time, but that change is generally negative. So unless selective breeding and/or we gain the technology and the will to genetically alter our offspring, we are headed down a downward spiral abet a slow one. (Tho I suppose we could become cyborgs of a sort replacing defective parts, however this would seem a negative sum system, however who knows what technology will bring)

    Not to even mention:

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/ [imdb.com] :)

  • by fugue (4373) on Thursday October 09, 2008 @01:34PM (#25317011) Homepage

    This is hardly news. It's been obvious for many years. But it's interesting to see someone famous talking about it.

    It's still not quite right--there are selective pressures. For example, in 1000 years the genes associated with the ability to use contraceptives will have been purged from the population. For example, all of humanity might have an innate terror of taking a pill every day. And then they'll release the new horror movie, "Condoms On Planes"!

"We are on the verge: Today our program proved Fermat's next-to-last theorem." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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