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Science

Is Humanity Still Evolving? 374

Posted by Soulskill
from the survival-of-the-fit-ish dept.
sciencehabit writes "In a world where we've tamed our environment and largely protected ourselves from the vagaries of nature, we may think we're immune to the forces of natural selection. But a new study finds that the process that drives evolution was still shaping us as recently as the 19th century (abstract). 'The finding comes from an analysis of the birth, death, and marital records of 5923 people born between 1760 and 1849 in four farming or fishing villages in Finland. ... Natural selection was alive and well in all of the villages the researchers surveyed."
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Is Humanity Still Evolving?

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  • by abroadwin (1273704) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:03PM (#39851031)
    What do you think is happening any time someone gets killed by disease? Heck, even when someone is run over by a semi. Natural selection will shape us forever unless we conquer death itself.
    • by bolthole (122186) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:22PM (#39851297) Journal
      That being said, it was a LOUSY article, scientifically speaking.

      From the records they had, the researchers could not tell which traits were being selected for, but the variation in the number of offspringâ"from zero to 17â"indicates there was a large opportunity for selection to occur.

      paraphrase, "well, we cant actually prove anything, but we're really hopeful that it coulda-shoulda happened!! Partyyyy!"

      yeeesh. Go back to undergraduate studies.

      • by Nemba (805178) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:27PM (#39851369)
        No. The article was poorly written, but you missed the point of this research. They were looking at historical records, OF COURSE they didn't expect to actively identify where evolution was taking place. The point is, they can establish that the same conditions which are necessary for evolution everywhere else, were also present in this relatively agricultural/industrialised society, and hence that unless the entire way we think about evolution is wrong, it was also happening here. That's actually more proof than you get in most studies. It's correlational, sure, but the association between sex selection and evolution is so strong that it's stupid to think that this is being "really hopeful that it coulda-shoulda happened".
        • A: "Not at these prices, pal."

        • by icebike (68054) * on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:13PM (#39851805)

          Variance in mating success explained most of the higher variance in reproductive success in males compared with females, but mating success also influenced reproductive success in females, allowing for sexual selection to operate in both sexes.

          OK, So during that time, successfully obtaining a mate generally lead to children. Got it. Thanks.

          Any trip to Walmart will convince you that the situation today seems less clear, and obtaining children seems entirely disassociated with the ability to attract a mate.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:33PM (#39851999)
            The fact that natural selection isn't favoring traits you like doesn't mean natural selection isn't happening.
            • Sadly, agreed (Score:4, Insightful)

              by LostMyBeaver (1226054) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:11AM (#39854329)
              People still think that "Survival of the fittest" or "Only the strong will survive" is the entire premise of natural selection. These are obviously over simplifications which completely fail to describe natural selection but has been adopted by many that in theory should have been selected out long ago to boost their egos. I am not referring to anyone that has posted thus far as opposed to making a simple observation, so please don't see this as bait.

              If I were to provide my 2 cents on this topic (which it appears I will), I would postulate that to a certain extent, we are going through a transitional period. While the specimens of humanity that are clearly most suited for environmental adaptation have focused on meeting the market demand to prolong life and attempt to eliminate natural death, people classically selected out through illness, disease and general stupidity on their own behalf are being protected from these dangers and surviving. It is believed that the human race will reproduce more rapidly in areas of higher mortality rates. This is to guarantee the survival of the race. People who were classically at the highest risk of death from disease would also reproduce at the greatest rate in order to perpetuate the race. So, families who have a long history of dieing off from any number of any number of environmentally induced issues will produce a gaggle of children with the hopes that one or two will survive. But since we have eliminated most of the environmental threats to these people, they are living through all these former perils. However since their instinct of survival of the race convinces them to reproduce more rapidly without proper consideration to the lower mortality rate, a great deal more of what formally was considered fodder, are surviving, hence the previous poster's comments to Walmart people.

              Women who are pregnant read magazines that educate them as to how to protect their wombs. The articles they read state things like "Doing this increases the chance of first trimester spontaneous abortion by 300%". I can't possibly imagine how a comment like that can be made, there are an infinite number of variables that are involved in gestation, to suggest any single event can increase the risks of spontaneous abortion in the first trimester is just plain rubbish. What is worse, are we talking about 1 in a million to 3 in a million? Are we talking 1 in 10 to 3 in 10? It doesn't say, just says by 300%. Yet, women will instantly stop doing whatever it says they shouldn't do to avoid that.

              Nature is no longer selecting out "Walmart people" since we have averted most of the dangers they have faced in the past. In fact, we have even reached a point where people such as my sister (a typical Walmart patron) now survive and bring additional offspring into the world where she attempts to protected them from everything to an extremity. For example, her children were not allowed to play with wooden toys like Lincoln Logs since they might get a splinter from them. She is entirely incapable of rational and intelligent thought, but thanks to medicine and excessive warning labels, her line will perpetuate. Don't get me wrong, I love my sister, but I am a realist in this regard.

              We have protected these people to extreme levels and they are still reproducing at a rate that would protect their line against extinction. The "adapted" member of the species on the other hand reproduce at a more conservative rate since their instincts tell them that they'll experience a level closer to 95 out of 100 offspring surviving in their sub-species.

              As a result, what is actually happening is that the "Walmart people" are actually in a major transition period of evolution. They are reproducing at a rate based on the fact that until less than 50 years ago, their chances of survival were much worse. It will require a few more generations before their over-reproduction becomes directly detrimental to their chances of survival and they will either be selected out or they will decrease their rate of repro
              • by ultranova (717540)

                She is entirely incapable of rational and intelligent thought, but thanks to medicine and excessive warning labels, her line will perpetuate. Don't get me wrong, I love my sister, but I am a realist in this regard.

                No, you are not being a realist. You are engaging in absurd hyperbole. Unless, of course, you're implying that your sister managed to continue her line while institutionalized.

                Though I have little more than a strong feeling and some broken logic to back up that comment.

                Yet you still made it. It'

          • "Any trip to Walmart will convince you that the situation today seems less clear, and obtaining children seems entirely disassociated with the ability to attract a mate."

            Yes, going to Walmart to watch WT is a mistake. Even as a social experiment. Don't get me started on dirt blondes with pimples still clinging to their chain smoking mothers begging for booze. But also, look at the the thai and filippino girls. They don't necessarily have the beauty of air hostesses, either. Go to Brooklyn and you'll see mor

    • by Mithent (2515236) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:23PM (#39851313)
      Yes... provided that they die prior to reproducing. In the Western world, few people die of disease before they reach reproductive age, what with modern medicine, so there's not a lot of selection pressure exerted there.

      Automobile accidents, on the other hand...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RichMan (8097)

        If the death of a parent results in a lack of resources(or sickness or anything else) for an offspring causing the offspring to have fewer dependents than otherwide would happen, then evolution is still working. Just at a lesser rate.

        • by tixxit (1107127) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:42PM (#39851551)
          I wouldn't count on a positive correlation between "resources" and "# of offspring." On a world-wide scale, it actually appears to be the opposite ( http://www.indexmundi.com/g/correlation.aspx?v1=67&v2=31&y=2004 [indexmundi.com] ).
      • provided that they die prior to reproducing

        Actually, I don't think that's an absolute requirement. Take the black plague for example. Many people who died already had children. But, many of the survivors went on with their lives, married, and had additional children. These children now have the genetic benefits of their surviving parents. A benefit they wouldn't have had until after both their parents lost their previous spouse in a previous relationship.

        • by AK Marc (707885) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:08PM (#39851769)
          But in today's world, if you can't care for your children, then there are resources to help with that, pushing them to reproductive age, even if their parents and grandparents were "genetically inferior" and all died of heart attack at 20. These safety nets support the reversal of evolution - Idiocracy (the movie where the dumbest people reproduce at the greatest rate, making the planet dumber and dumber).
          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            It's not a "reversal of evolution." It's the species evolving in response to changes in its environment.

          • There's no such thing as reversal of evolution, nor any way to escape it. I did a lot if simulated evolution in the 1990's and I think I gained some insights. For example, evolution is not smooth even progress. It's no progress at all for far too long and then great leaps forward, if all goes well. Sometimes, a trait that can prove highly useful winds up destroying a species. If you suddenly give a predator sight, it might drive it's only prey extinct.

            Humans are at such a cross roads. Our superior in

            • by VoidCrow (836595)

              > Our superior intelligence has yet to prove useful for our survival.

              Population 7 billion - the largest population of *any* large animal in the history of the planet. By far the most dangerous apex predator in world history. Capable of unprecedented levels of complex technical collaboration. Okay, on the edge of a major but not insurmountable hurdle with the looming energy crisis. The only species with any hope whatsoever of gaining a foothold off this world.

              I'm sure I missed a few things, but all of the

      • few people die of disease before they reach reproductive age

        Not so. Infant mortality may be very low in modern countries, but abortions and miscarriages are not, also there is the growing number of people who have fertility issues.

        Yes the ever present automobile makes an excellent replacement for large preditorial carnivors. If anything we should help natural selection along by making it mandatory for predrivers to walk to school and post drivers ride scooters until they are 25. That should help fl

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        But countless numbers die before reproducing, even if they're at reproductive age. Ie, dying in wars before marriage. Also there is more to evolution than merely reproducing. Those who don't reproduce are still a part of the environment, they may help or hinder offsprings of others. Ie, ants in a colony, most will never reproduce but they will feed and care for the colony as a whole. For humans, someone coming up with a cure for a disease may influence the evolution of humans to a vastly greater degree

      • Dying before the end of your fertile life, infertility, lack of success finding a mate etc all help. Education seems to select you out of the gene pool to since education is negatively correlated to birth rates. You don't have to die, you just need to have less than replacement level births and things will work themselves out over a few dozen generations.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Doesn't work if they procreated first.
    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:19PM (#39851857)

      Too many people misunderstand evolution and natural selection. There are a lot of myths and sayings that just don't fit with science. As in "humans are more evolved than cockroaches" doesn't really mean anything; or in thinking that there must be a "purpose" to all physical, mental, or social characteristics. So the very subject of this summary is just more of the same thing. The "I don't know anything about the subject but I am willing to talk about it at cocktail parties" sort of science.

      Of course there is still natural selection! People still die while still being able to reproduce, thus evolution would still be occurring. Diseases have a high rate of change so humans are adapting to this. We still have wars that kill off a huge number of fertile people and which create environmental and social stress. People are moving to new environments all the time, more are in cities than before, more people are in professions where you sit all day long, nutrition is changing quite a lot, etc.

      Why would anyone who knows anything about evolution think that it stops with all the variability? A more sensible question would be to ask is the rate of change slowing down or not.

      • I'd say that cockroaches are more evolved than humans. They have a shorter generation time, which means that they should evolve faster. So cockroaches are probably better adapted to do what they do than we are to do what we do. Of course, the microorganisms have us all beat. It's no surprise that we slow-evolving large beasts inherited most of our fundamental protein designs from our microorganism ancestors (or perhaps swiped them from viruses). The much faster evolution of microorganisms means that they ar

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      What do you think is happening any time someone gets killed by disease? Heck, even when someone is run over by a semi. Natural selection will shape us forever unless we conquer death itself.

      Yeah, it's a pretty safe bet that as long as we are around, natural selection will be also.

      But I believe that we are at a point where some amount of unnatural selection is happening too.

      Given the progress in combating disease, and even seemingly minor things like eyeglasses, and hearing aids, we are allowing people to reproduce that in much earlier times would not have survived to do such.

  • Evidence (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:03PM (#39851037) Homepage

    Of course we are! [darwinawards.com]

  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordGr8one (1174233) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:05PM (#39851051) Homepage

    Yes, we're still evolving. The things being selected for may change, but we are evolving.

    • But do we really want the traits that mean the most offspring today in "civilized" societies (I use the term loosely here) to propagate? When I look around myself and ponder who of the people I know breed like rabbits, it ain't exactly the Nobel Prize material...

      • by Kidbro (80868)

        What- and whenenver did "want" have anything to do with it?

      • It is not as simple as, "whoever has the most babies wins." What evolution will do is produce ratios of geniuses to average humans that best fit the selection pressure. Our survival depends on our intelligence, or more precisely, our ability to produce the occasional genius whose intelligence will benefit everyone else.
  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:07PM (#39851087) Journal
    Survival is just one evolutionary pressure. As long as we will use inheritable criterion for choosing mating partners, evolution will continue.
    • by butchersong (1222796) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:16PM (#39851223)
      I would say the trend is opposite of that at least in the US and Europe. Take a look at the most successful people from a biological point of view these days. It tends to be the poorest educated and least equipped to care for themselves and these aren't the pretty plastic people. These are the people that exist essentially as a dependents of the welfare state.
      • Go back 100 years and you'd say the same thing, except your grandparents would be part of the "poorly education and least equipped to care for themselves" section.

      • by poppopret (1740742) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:14PM (#39851823)

        Evolution doesn't have a value system that prefers education, a comfortable life, or the ability to exist without government help. Personifying the inherently unthinking force of evolution, we might say that evolution cares about exactly one thing: the number of creatures in the Nth generation with similar DNA. Adapting to the environment is key, and note that our current environment does include government services. Fit organisms take full advantage of the environment to maximize reproduction.

        Fitness can mean screwing up the birth control or deciding that God would disapprove. Fitness can mean a non-reproducing individual (gay, elderly, too ugly, whatever...) finding dates for siblings and cousins. Fitness can mean getting the kids taken away by the government (they'll survive) so that time can be focused on activities that might produce more.

        It's only in a difficult environment, like Finland a few centuries ago, that fitness means the traits that most of us respect: hard work, planning ahead, faithfulness, etc. We have changed the environment, and now it will change us.

        • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @05:10AM (#39855061) Homepage

          Evolution doesn't have a value system that prefers education, a comfortable life, or the ability to exist without government help. Personifying the inherently unthinking force of evolution, we might say that evolution cares about exactly one thing: the number of creatures in the Nth generation with similar DNA.

          Exactly, this [huffingtonpost.co.uk] is the evolutionary winner of this generation. Only the passing of the genes matter, doesn't even matter if it's a rape victim unless she gets an abortion or the child is killed. The genes will live on to try reproducing again while those who didn't reproduce won't.

    • More and more earth citizens are choosing sex partners than mating partners. People are having more sex but less children. Look at Japan, they do not have a sustainable birthrate. Then you have religions that force their people to have more babies so they become the majority only so their religious practices can be protected.
      • Worry not; my country is proof that you can go from "God - Homeland - Family" and heavy Church influence to "Yeah, we're Catholics, but contraception is fine (95%) and abortion shouldn't be a crime (54%)" in a few decades.

    • As long as we will use inheritable criterion for choosing mating partners, evolution will continue.

      No, as long as not all people reproduce, evolution will continue.

  • Is this the same as asking if their genetic makeup influences a person's chances of having kids?

  • K-rist! (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:07PM (#39851097) Journal

    If you have to ask the question, then you don't know what evolution is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:07PM (#39851099)

    Now down to those that can best shape their environment to suit their needs.

    Of course, we could be left with generations of Brawndo drinkers.

    • Oddly, those are also the ones that don't really propagate too broadly. I mean, take a look around the super rich and powerful. Do they have more than maybe 2 kids? If that?

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Nobody is really sure. A lot of kids' fathers aren't who they think they are. Rich men could well have lots of illegitimate kids. They certainly did in the past.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:08PM (#39851111)

    Of course it is. Evolution is determined by who reproduces, not (just) by who dies. Some believe evolution to actually be accelerating, as global mobility increases the mixing of genes from different populations.

  • by TheLordPhantom (2527654) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:09PM (#39851121)
    Why on Earth would natural selection ever stop? That makes almost no sense. Even if people are not dying at the same rate that they once were (or even if immortality was ever discovered), the reproduction of humans are still based on selection. Perhaps selection is no longer determined by the ability to resist disease, but there are new forces controlling selection. The only way that there would be no such thing as selection, is if humans reproduction was literally, and absolutely, random. Even geography and spatial relationships could not influence reproductive partners. Obviously, human reproduction is not even remotely random, thus reproduction is still being influenced by evolution.
  • Duh! (Score:5, Informative)

    by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:10PM (#39851131) Homepage

    Considering our environment is changing at a radical pace, I'd think it obvious that we're still subject to evolutionary pressures. Now more than ever.

    No, not just climate change -- that's going at a much slower pace than the change in diet, access to medical care, exercise habits, and the rest.

    (What, you thought that a higher proportion of people with genetic diseases surviving to reproductive age somehow doesn't contribute to the change in allele frequency in the human gene pool?)

    b&

  • I know some crazy people like to claim that Humanity stopped evolving because of our technology, but only fools actually believe it. We've just be evolving to use our technology better. Unless you stop random mutation though some sort of Genetic Purity process their will always be Evolution.
  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:14PM (#39851199) Homepage Journal

    Natural Selection is alive and well in the 21st century.
    If anything, mankind's crowning achievement is the creation of a vast variety of new and innovative ways to remove ourselves from the gene pool.
    Darwin would be proud

  • Faster Than Ever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by retroworks (652802) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:16PM (#39851221) Homepage Journal
    If the death rate reduces, and population increases, then evolution will be faster than ever, as no unique DNA trait goes extinct. Of course, all bets are off in the event of nuclear war etc. catches us up in the "natural selection" department. But assuming natural variance is continuing, and if anything society protects the "differently abled", then we could spawn several new species in even fewer hundreds of millions of years than "we" did last time.
    • Mmm... I don't know what's going to trump in the end. The higher chance of mixing due to mobility or our much later onset of propagation, often doubling the age compared to a millennium ago, essentially halving the amount of generations per time frame. I'm uncertain whether the lower birth rates will have more of an effect than our ability to keep much more variety alive (unlike the aforementioned 10th century where only people of a certain "robustness" could survive).

      So whether evolution continues faster o

  • by Atzanteol (99067) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:19PM (#39851261) Homepage

    It doesn't make sense that we wouldn't be. Did people stop dying or competing sexually?

  • Devo (Score:4, Informative)

    by fwarren (579763) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:20PM (#39851273) Homepage

    Question: Are we not men?

    Answer: We are not men, we are Devo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRguZr0xCOc [youtube.com]

  • I don't know who started spreading the idea that we're not still evolving but this needs to stop; evolutionary processes by their nature act on all living things (on earth etc. etc. etc.). If we actually thought it wasn't happening anymore then we would have to look quite seriously at the possibility that it never happened in the first place, which is clearly not true.
  • by rickb928 (945187)

    "Courtiol is not certain how strong natural selection is today, particularly in the developed world"

    Well, I would guess it's just as strong. The criteria and effects may be hard to discern, unexpected, undesireable, or any combination of these and other conditions, but why would you think natural selection is anything but strong.

    Now, if he meant to express ihis uncertainty as to how current natural selection is either improving the human race or not, and geographic distributions of these effects, well, tha

  • by Epell (1866960) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:27PM (#39851351)
    Anybody who studied introductory biology/genetics class knows that for a population to NOT evolve: 1. Mating must be completely random. 2. There must be no selection. 3. There must be no mutation. 4. There must be no migration. 5. Population size must be pseudo-infinitely large. Selection may be arguably weaker (the article argues otherwise) and population size may be big enough, but mating is obviously not random and mutation and migration still happens. Thus, humanity is evolving.
  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:29PM (#39851383)
    Natural selection doesn't mean what most think. Fertility rates among the more intelligent members of society have dropped like a rock while birth rates are still high among the lower third. It can be argued that intelligence is a poor survival trait. Social factors create a form of evolution even if environmental ones are largely removed. What is seen as attractive socially is influx so evolutionary pressures created by society is also in flux. We aren't environmentally adapting so much as socially adapting. If society collapses the downside is it may leave us poor candidates to survive our environment.
    • by roeguard (1113267)

      Fertility rates among the more educated members of society have dropped like a rock while birth rates are still high among the lower third. It can be argued that education is a poor survival trait.

      I think its important to point out that it isn't intelligence that is being selected against -- there are plenty of intelligent (albeit ignorant) people breeding up a storm.

      It bothers me tremendously that this is the case. I believe the following to be true:
      1) Natural Selection / Evolution are true, and select for "better" traits over "worse" ones.
      2) Knowledge is power, and Education is a good thing.

      So when I see what appears to be a selection against education in birth rates, my conclusion is that somethi

  • Just look at the buffoons in our current congress and state legislatures, and the oblivious masses living on bread and circuses, and I would say that perhaps we are now naturally deselecting.
  • I sure as hell hope we are, if not I am left asking where all the idiots come from.
  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:32PM (#39851437) Homepage

    some people have more grandchildren than others - evolution favours those people. Some ''traditional'' pressures physical are not so important (eg: resistance to polio, the ability to run fast & catch a meal, ...) others have become more important (ability to live while grossly overweight).

    The mental pressures (ie differences) are often overlooked, eg: ability to produce lots of kids in a high pressure urban environment. Good mental ability seems selected against: those with good education tend to have fewer kids. The need to feel to work hard to produce much needed food for the family is not important, the ''social'' will provide the food if you don't; in fact since (in countries like the UK) the more kids you have the more money you have thrown at you: I fear that we are breeding people who are ignorant and don't work.

    I expect to get flamed for the above: unfortunately the numbers seem to support my thesis.

  • by Galestar (1473827) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:34PM (#39851449)
    3rd time this week

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_Law_of_Headlines [wikipedia.org]

    Betteridge's Law of Headlines is an adage that states, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'no'".
    • Betteridge's Law of Headlines is an adage that states, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'no'".

      Let's try that out with some current CNN headlines.

      Gergen: Bin Laden death overplayed? "No."
      Cafferty: Do you fear another Bush? "No."
      How will the BCS be replaced? "No".
      Self-defense or murder? "No."
      Women: What's driving your vote? "No."
      UPDATE: Where in the world ... ? "No."
      Is al Qaeda on its last legs? "Yes."

      • Damn, I stopped too soon.

        What is male menopause? "Nooooo!"
        Is it time for a new joint? "No.. actually yeah, if you've got one."

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      A better statement of the law (which I came up with myself before hearing of Betteridge) is that if a headline asks a question, the correct answer is the obvious one. They're insinuating its the non-obvious one to get more viewers, but if it really were the non-obvious one, they'd be announcing it as fact.

      Doesn't fit on a bumper stick quite as nicely, but it works better in practice.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:53PM (#39851655)

    Just because today's evolutionary pressures are harder to define, it doesn't mean they are not there. For instance, natural selection will favor people with fast reflexes and better depth perception because most of us drive cars. College graduates are favored because they typically get higher paying jobs and therefore better healthcare.

    Keep looking. Evolution isn't done with us yet.

    I also have a sneaking suspicion that Autism/Aspergers is partially a function of evolutionary response to a technological lifestyle rather than an agricultural one. Name another genetic disease [wired.com] that occasionally provides benefits. [computerworld.co.nz] I'll betcha Autism spectrum disorders are nothing more than Mother Nature trying out new ideas for human brain version X+1, currently in beta and still a little buggy.

    • by TheSync (5291)

      For instance, natural selection will favor people with fast reflexes and better depth perception because most of us drive cars. College graduates are favored because they typically get higher paying jobs and therefore better healthcare.

      The only selection factors that matter are ones that lead to your genes getting to your children. College graduates tend to have fewer children, so they are selected against.

      Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the US among those age 5-34, which is prime

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:57PM (#39852829)

      "Name another genetic disease [wired.com] that occasionally provides benefits."

      Sickle cell anemia. Obesity. Wisdom teeth. The CCR5 d25 mutation. High melanin production in the skin.

      The mutation for sickle cell anemia also conveys resistance to malaria. Various genes linked to obesity helped our ancestors survive variable food supplies. Wisdom teeth used to be able to kill, but once upon a time would have helped us eat. The CCR5 d25 mutation conveys resistance to bubonic plague and HIV, but susceptibility to West Nile. High melanin production in the skin protects you from sunburn and skin cancer, but, especially if you live at high latitudes, decreases vitamin D production which is associated with a variety of diseases from cancer to multiple sclerosis.

  • The finding comes from an analysis of the birth, death, and marital records of 5923 people born between 1760 and 1849 in four farming or fishing villages in Finland

    So the headline might better have been "Was humanity still evolving 250 years ago in Finland?"

    From TFA:
    "Almost half of the people died before age 15, for example, suggesting that they had traits disfavored by natural selection, such as susceptibility to disease."
    "the variation in the number of offspring—from zero to 17—indicates there was a large opportunity for selection to occur. "

    So at least two of the properties they observed in the study from a fishing village 250 years ago in Finland are n

  • the intersection where genetic evolution, while continuing, has become less important than the new and more important kind of evolution: memetic evolution

    the words we say and the ideas we have now shape the world more than the genes we carry

    genetic evolution is not over, it's just passe

    memetic evolution is the new more important story on this planet

  • An important factor in the current evolution of mankind is improved healthcare. Now that healthcare is improved, many more people survive their childhood, which actually mean that we as a species are becoming weaker and weaker. It seems that intelligence is a negative selection factor, because people with a high intelligence tend to have less children (or non at all) than people with an average intelligence. When healthcare improves even further, the effects may become even stronger. Who knows in 200 years
  • The science-mag article says "the variation in the number of offspring—from zero to 17—indicates there was a large opportunity for selection to occur."

    However, whether this "opportunity" resulted in any actual change is not mentioned. For example, if they found some feature change that correlated with the number of offspring, then you might say that is evidence that evolution is happening, but even only then if the correlation corresponds to some environmental pressures. Do they have statistics

  • If evolution had its way I would have been dead a long time ago. Fortunately for me I have great corrective lenses so I can see the lions trying to kill me.

    Take that, evolution! I may even procreate!

  • Evolution ! bah! It is so last billion years ago. We have already peaked and we are well on to devolution. Want evidence? If you are a Dem (or Rep) in USA, Rep (or Dem) in USA is all the evidence you need.
  • Has anyone noticed that certain advances seem to happen in widely diverse locations at approximately the same time? Regardless of nationalistic bragging, major advances tend to occur independently within just a few years.

    Circa 600 BC saw the beginning of Greek Science, Lao Tzu, Confucius, The Babylonian Talmud, Zarathustra, The Persian renaissance, Mayan mathematics/astronomy!

    10,000 BC, Worldwide, agriculture, domestic animals.

    Circa 15,000 BC, Worldwide, The bow!

    Circa 125,000 years ago all over the old wor

  • by Surt (22457)

    Not everyone has biological children. People dies of a whole host of issues, for example:

    Drug overdose (resistance will gradually arise).
    Choice (the choice not to have children will weed itself out).
    Homosexuality (now that they can generally adopt, their genes won't get the alloparenting boost, so homosexuality is going to go into decline).

  • Natural selection has nothing to do with the implication of the word "evolve," that we're somehow becoming more advanced. In natural selection, two sometimes contradicting forces; ability to reproduce and survivability compete to make you more able to pass on your genes in a specific environment. All the girls might swoon over the deadbeat guitarist or they might want to hook up with Bill Gates because he's worth billions. Girl moose might love a huge set of antlers so big that it makes it difficult for

  • by PPH (736903)

    And probably more rapidly than in the past. Given the increased mobility of populations, the degree of genetic variability [wikipedia.org] is increasing. And with that variability, the possibility of adapting to new environments increases and susceptibility to inbreeding decreases.

    The jury is still out on natural selection of the fittest of these new combinations. Our society doesn't seem to be willing to weed out the weak.

  • Applied social science is reversing evolution. We're getting more stupid as a species.
  • Humans, as biological entities, are evolving too, but the selection process is given by the culture, everyone can survive, but to reproduce odds are better for culturally acepted ones, no matter if is less smart, or capable to dealing with predators or facing a wordwide climate change. Thats the evolutionary pressure, and it is changing too.

    We aren't alone, a lot of animals (i.e. cows or dogs) and plants had some sort of directed evolution, also driven by human culture. If we fall,they could too.

  • by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:22AM (#39854745)

    In a world where we've tamed our environment and largely protected ourselves from the vagaries of nature

    Yeah right. Except for peak oil, AGW and other minor stuff, we live in perfect harmony with our environment, and there's simply no way we could get in trouble from the vagaries of nature.

  • by jandersen (462034) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @05:30AM (#39855111)

    It is a strange thing that we - still - look at ourselves as something apart from "nature". It is a false world-view: the sphere of human activity and culture is not somehow separated from nature; our cities, our technology, our intellectual achievements, though impressive, are part of nature. We haven't escaped the forces of evolution any more than the force of gravity.

    Evolution is not "something in nature kills you" - evolution is the interaction between the environment and the capabilities of each individual, and the fact that we have a huge influence on our environment doesn't change that. The fact that we are now capable of curing many diseases etc just means that we evolve in a direction where many, who would have died before, now survive - so we become more diverse as a species.

    Furthermore, we are not the only species, or even the first, that has had a big impact on the environment; life has always shaped the local and even the global environment; just take the fact that the oxygen in our atmosphere is produced by photosynthesis.

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