Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Humans Evolving 100 Times Faster Than Ever 584

John Hawks writes "A new genomics study in PNAS shows that humans have been evolving new adaptive genes during the past 10,000 years much faster than ever before. The study says that evolution has sped up because of population growth, making people adapt faster to new diseases, new diets, and social changes like cities. Oh, and I'm the lead author. I've been reading Slashdot for a long time, and let me just say that our study doesn't necessarily apply to trolls."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Humans Evolving 100 Times Faster Than Ever

Comments Filter:
  • adaptation? (Score:5, Funny)

    by IAR80 ( 598046 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:39AM (#21653397) Homepage
    Is that implying evolution? 10,000 years!! I thought Earth is only 7,000 years old. I declare this article a heresy.
    • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @08:47AM (#21654179)

      Is that implying evolution?
      No, he was just using big words to say that we're being intelligently redesigned faster than ever.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by WingedEarth ( 958581 )
      The scientific aspects of evolution are irrelevant. The world is merely Nature being experienced by Self, and affected by Will. Evolution is the affect of Will upon Nature. Without Will being exerted, the material and mundane returns to Chaos. On the human level, this begins with degeneration of civilization, a cyclical event that has unfortunately affected us for the past fifty years.
  • Not anymore (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GeLeTo ( 527660 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:43AM (#21653425)
    Rapid evolution in the past 10000 years - maybe. In the past 50 years - no way. Nowdays everybody can have an offspring no matter what diseases, diets or social changes he is subjected to.
    • Re:Not anymore (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yetihehe ( 971185 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:53AM (#21653493)
      If everybody can have offspring no matter what, it means there is MORE genetic diversity. If people with weaker genes can have their own children, maybe there will be some beneficial mutation in two or three generations? Look how people with higher chance of hemophilia are less likely to suffer from malaria. Not every mutation beneficial in long term may be beneficial in short term and vice versa.
      • Re:Not anymore (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rezazur ( 677119 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:27AM (#21653691)
        I think you meant sickle cell anaemia where defective red blood cells are less prone to malaria infection.
      • Like being a really bad driver in combination with really bad social skill would perhaps reduce your chances of dying in car accidents. No license and no friends giving rides while drunk.
    • Re:Not anymore (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tlosk ( 761023 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:58AM (#21653515)
      Perhaps you don't understand what evolution means, it's simply change. The more change that takes place, the more something has evolved. It doesn't mean better or worse or closer to some ultimate goal.

      And what you describe allows lots of evolution to occur. Extremely high selective pressures will punish variability. But when everyone (or almost everyone) can reproduce and selective pressures are low (abundant resources and few dangers) then all those little mutations that would have been selected against get to be passed on to a new generation. Resulting in much faster rates of change over time, as well as much higher variability in the population.
      • Re:Not anymore (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Slashidiot ( 1179447 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @08:20AM (#21653983) Journal
        I do understand that evolution means simply change, and there is no forward or backward change. What I am saying is that some characteristics of individual that were a disadvantage a few thousands of years before, are now an advantage, so the change now happens in the opposite direction of the last few millenia. I'm not judging good and bad, I'm just saying that if conditions happen to move to "more agressive", due to a famine, a plague, or whatever, humankind will be less prepared than 3000 years ago, due to this "backwards evolution".

        This is perfectly normal, as conditions have changed, so has humankind, and now humans are worse prepared for some conditions, although better for the ones we have now. Thing is, the conditions we have now are created by humans, and not neccesarily in accordance with the real changes outside civilised areas. Therefore, we have evolved, moved by the conditions we have created, so if we cannot maintain these conditions, we will suddenly be far worse off than if they had never been created.

        It is some kind of artificial evolution, that is supported on changes made to the environment, which create more changes on the species, that change environment again. I think up until now, on evolution, environment has never been so much under control of the evolving species. I just don't know how good is that.

        I don't know if what I wrote is understandable, I'm not too good with long explanations in english.
        • Re:Not anymore (Score:4, Insightful)

          by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @08:32AM (#21654069) Homepage
          It's still not backwards evolution though. What you're saying is that 3000 years ago or whenever humans were specialised enough to survive the conditions they found themselves in. Now there is more diversity should similar hard times loom on the horizon we will as a species find it easier to adapt because we're starting off with a more diverse population which will find more ways of adpating and surviving.

          If you transplanted an indivdual back in time 3000 years ago then yes they may well have a hard time of it but that's nothing to do with evolution.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tuj ( 303347 )
            No one is talking here about REAL evolution. Mutations alone do not constitute real evolution. Random changes that serve no benefit over time are simply random. Natural selection pressures sort through this randomness and identify what's good and what's bad.

            That's all fine, except that for the last ~300 years or so we've slowly defeated natural selection through better medicine, health, and living. Thus with no pressures to kill off people like me who can't see without glass, I'm able to contribute my b
            • Re:Not anymore (Score:5, Insightful)

              by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @09:53AM (#21654737) Homepage
              Natural selection doesn't select for good or bad traits just ones which happen to be useful at the time so whilst you think that being short sighted is a negative trait it's not if it doesn't affect your ability to reproduce.

              The trouble with your argument is that you are pre supposing that at some point in the future we may no longer be able to manufacture glasses and therefore being shortsighted will be a disadvantage to those individuals affected. Based on that assumption you could implement your plan to guide evolution and prevent short sighted people from reproducing but then when the future turns out to be very different your meddling may well have artificially reduced genetic diversity and impaired our ability to cope with what may be radically different environmental circumstances.

              Perhaps global warming will spiral utterly out of control and somehow wreath the world in dense fog eliminating any disadvantage of short sightedness.
      • I dispute your point (Score:4, Interesting)

        by sentientbrendan ( 316150 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @08:32AM (#21654061)
        that selection pressure has decreased. People have *fewer* children since the invention of industry and medicine, not more. Virtually all industrialized nations including the US reproduce at or below replacement rate. Immigration is largely what keeps populations from dipping, and countries that lack significant immigration do see decreases in population.

        It is true that people are dying young less, but that doesn't mean that selection pressure has decreased, it has just changed.

        Think about what sort of basis people are allowed to reproduce on now, and ask yourself what the likely outcomes are. There are a number of factors. People who are too uneducated or dumb to practice birth control are reproducing at a significantly higher rate than the educated population. People who are more physically attractive are more likely to find mates in general. Now that second point isn't really a problem as attractiveness is connected to health. However, let's look at the things that are no longer selected for.

        While in the past people with wealth and power tended to be selected for, and poor families tended to slowly die off, especially in feudal societies, this is no longer true as the wealthy tend to be educated and thus practice birth control. This might be good from a social justice picture, but it also means that intelligence has virtually no way of being selected for any more. After all, if intelligence didn't select for itself by helping to acquire wealth in human society, how did it select for itself?

        The main question is now, is intelligence in any way still being selected for? If it isn't, then it seems likely that there will be a backwards slide in human intelligence until the situation changes.
        • by mestar ( 121800 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @09:34AM (#21654549)

          Nice post.

          "The main question is now, is intelligence in any way still being selected for? If it isn't, then it seems likely that there will be a backwards slide in human intelligence until the situation changes."

          Yes, human intellingence is still being selected for, by sexual selection. It is the women who do the selecting, and they are more choosy than ever. The proof of this could be the fact that people in rich countries have fewer children.

          Most of the posts here simply ignore the "sexual selection" part of the evolution. This doesn't make sense, since this could be the 60% of all the reasons for human evolution. In Darwin's work, sexual selection is side by side with "survival of the fittest", but after that it kind of gets ignored, at least until last 20 years.

          Human intelligence is basically shaped by sexual selection. Humas/monkeys survived just fine without super intelligence. Human brain is basically a giant sexual ornament, analog to peacock's tail. Many aspects of human intelligence like humor, music, language are a result of sexual selection. "Survival of the fittest" can explain none of those traits. Women always mention "sense of humor" when they talk about desirable men. Being bold might get you killed, being an arrogant rock star will get you laid like, well, a rock star.

          Selection for survival and sexual selection are often in conflict. One selects for a trait that the other selects against. Peacock's tail is a giant handicap. However, surviving despite having such a handicap sends a strong message that can't be faked.

          Ah, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that by having more humans, and increasing sexual selection pressure, combined makes for a faster human evolution.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by TEMMiNK ( 699173 )
        Exactly, human beings are 'evolving' into fatter, lazier, slower, blind, deaf and dumb creatures who won't even move out of their own filth and simply twitch to order more food from the ever expanding dispensing machine network and play counter-strike using only electronic impulses in their brains. Or something like that.
    • Re:Not anymore (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuickFox ( 311231 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:14AM (#21653603)
      This does not make evolution slower.

      Mutations that in earlier times were fatal are now viable. They may now lead to offspring. So these mutations will live on more than before. We have more mutations surviving and spreading, we have more diversity, not less.

      Among this diversity, a few will be a leap ahead. Just like we can have a mental genius with a physical disability, who could not survive in an earlier age but can survive today, similarly we can have evolutionary changes that are in some way a leap forward but come combined with disability, able to survive today. Later recombinations through procreation might keep the leap forward while overcoming the disability.

      The probability is of course low, but that's the case with all evolution through random mutations. You need long time spans.

      With a greater diversity we should have faster evolution.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tgd ( 2822 )
      Huh, what?

      Natural selection (the thinning of the gene pool based on external pressures) is not the same as rapid evolution (the exploding of the gene pool based on the rate of change).

      If anything the situation in the last 50 years has meant the human population can support MORE evolution at the genetic level, not less. In some areas this can be visibly obvious (people with physical or mental disabilities who can lead relatively normal lives, or at least... well... live), in most ways its safe to assume its
    • Nowdays everybody can have an offspring

      In your and my areas, maybe. In other places, it's still quite ... Darwinian: The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving- []
    • I do say now (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gerf ( 532474 )

      Every time this kind of discussion comes up, people tend to favor, mention, or joke about in frighteningly large numbers what is practically eugenics.

      Also, in the last 10,000 years, people have generally not reproduced outside of their own race, due to long distance constraints. As such, some racist groups will obviously use this report to show that their group is "superior" in some fashion, with this "science" to prove it.

      It's not that we should curtail research because of those problems, but it's some

  • by dwm ( 151474 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:54AM (#21653501)
    From the article:

    The researchers looked for the appearance of favorable gene mutations over the past 80,000 years of human history by analyzing voluminous DNA information on 270 people from different populations worldwide. (Emphasis mine)

    This is what I can't stand about science by press release (and yes, I'm a scientist). Pretty sweeping conclusion drawn from a miniscule sample size.
    • by smallfries ( 601545 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:58AM (#21653513) Homepage
      If the lead author on the study submitted the summary - why didn't he link to a proper paper rather than the press release junk?
    • Dear scientist, do you know what the Hapmap project is? Do you know how many variants are cataloged there? Here's a hint: it's 3.1 million SNPs, and 270 people. Did you also know that you can have "statistical sample sizes" with N ~15. Tell me what the p-value is of a coin being unbiased if you flip 14 heads and 1 tail. What kind of scientist are you anyway - I'm guessing neither a biologist nor a statistician.

      I've published a paper using the hapmap data as a backing for selection, and we had a few abs
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by John Hawks ( 624818 )
      The number of people sampled is more relevant when looking for smaller and smaller genetic changes -- things that presently are at very low frequency. In such cases we will miss rare things -- just like, if we sampled 270 Americans today, we would be pretty unlikely to find an NBA player in our sample, for instance. So that undersamples diversity.

      But we aren't looking at very rare things, we're looking at the most common ones -- things between 20 and 80 percent today. In this case, it's like measuring t
    • by flynt ( 248848 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @10:40AM (#21655227)
      Why does every single time someone mention 'sample size', they get modded up? Look, the reason you calculate sample size for a study is so that you have an adequately powered trial to show some hypothesized effect size. If their paper is well written, they will have a small section on what they were trying to prove, and why N=270 would give them enough power to do it. All you have is one number and a gut feeling. As someone else said, what should their sample size have been then? It's completely dependent on what they were measuring. If they were able to reach statistical significance on a prespecified hypothesis, then obviously N=270 was enough!
  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:57AM (#21653509)
    I've been reading Slashdot for a long time, and let me just say that our study doesn't necessarily apply to trolls.

    The irony of this statement is overwhelming.
    • Yeah, that's right. You trolls can find your own study, your own set of scientific rules, your own system of logic. Quit polluting ours!

      What? No not me! I'm no troll! I love evolving at 100x normal rate! I love it! Don't kick me out, I can change!
    • Would you say it's like rain on your wedding day?

      (Sorry BadAnalogyGuy, I can't help but feel you dropped the ball on that one.)
    • The irony of this statement is overwhelming.

      Seriously. You'd think they could get the point across without being nearly so ferrouscious.
  • by Harold Halloway ( 1047486 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:57AM (#21653511)
    Not only is human evolution speeding up, but so is self-promotion, apparently.
  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:58AM (#21653521) Journal
    Maybe it's all that pollution...

    And maybe Chernobyl helped ;).
    • Actually, you may not be that far off... From the article Unnatural evolution []

      "We see lots of mice [and voles] there, they look normal, they have babies, everything looks fine," says Ron Chesser, a population geneticist at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina, who is investigating Chernobyl's wildlife. "But these are the most contaminated animals I've seen anywhere. They're living on radioactive materials. How are they managing to survive?"

      To help answer

      • That's really interesting. That is a mutation rate of 100x the normal mutation rate (which is, per the article, 1 in 10e6). Now, 20 years have passed since Chernobyl. That is an equivalent time of 2000 years in "evolutionary" terms. Voles live, on average, 3 to 6 months (Wikipedia), so we are talking about 4000 generations, give or take. Surely there must have evolved some new species by now.
  • by El Yanqui ( 1111145 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @06:59AM (#21653529) Homepage
    OMFG! dat so kewl evolution is da r0xx0r! we r the 1337!!!11 LOLZ
    • "Today's Troll has a much harder task.

      Whereas before, in an age of highly restrictive religious environment, a Troll could be put to death for merely a casual remark about the authorities.

      Today's Troll had to evolve a much more sophisticated repetoire because his former target is likely to laugh off the response, as shown above. Generating true resentment now requires a much more sustained attack."

  • Time scales (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:00AM (#21653537)
    A question for Professor Hawks:

    An interesting result to be sure, and not far-fetched at all, considering things like Belyaev's silver fox research from the mid-20th century, where artificial selection was shown to greatly accelerate the evolutionary process in terms of behavior.

    My question, though, concerns the time scale of accelerated human evolution over the past 10,000 years versus the apparently much faster rate of "evolution" of technology. Some have argued that technological advancements stunt evolutionary change by reducing the severity of natural selection pressures such as the ability to provide food for oneself or to make contact with a mate. (For example, my vision, while corrected to normal levels through the technology of lenses, would have made my chances of reproduction several hundred years ago even lower than they are now.)

    Since technology progression has increased to such a fast rate in the past 100 to 200 years, has the rate of technological improvement outstripped the capability of evolutionary processes to keep up? Will we see a decrease in the rate of evolution during very recent history (and, er, future history) due to this increasing difference in time scales, i.e., was the accelerated evolution rate during the past 10,000 years due in part to technological advancement reaching a sort of "sweet spot" that has since been (or will be) surpassed?

    Not that any of this will matter once our new robotic overlords take over the planet, but it's still academically interesting.
    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      Since technology progression has increased to such a fast rate in the past 100 to 200 years, has the rate of technological improvement outstripped the capability of evolutionary processes to keep up? Will we see a decrease in the rate of evolution during very recent history (and, er, future history) due to this increasing difference in time scales, i.e., was the accelerated evolution rate during the past 10,000 years due in part to technological advancement reaching a sort of "sweet spot" that has since been (or will be) surpassed?

      As I recall, historically only about half of males have kids. Don't know what the numbers are like now, but each halving of the likelihood of having kids (for whatever reason) is basically a crude ceiling (as I understand it) of a bit on how much new genetic information averaged over the entire population can be added via evolution to a descendant. My take is that we're probably kicking out a bit of information per generation. Given that there's also wide variation in how many kids a person can have, so t

    • Re:Time scales (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mattpalmer1086 ( 707360 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:59AM (#21653839)
      Evolution is simply change - there is no purpose or progress to it. If more people survive to reproduce, there will be more genetic diversity, not less. In that sense, there will be more "evolution". By removing certain natural selection pressures through technology, it is true that the resulting changes will stop being directed towards fitness in a non-technological environment.
    • Re:Time scales (Score:4, Interesting)

      by John Hawks ( 624818 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @09:28AM (#21654491)
      Progression of technology:

      Here's the thing: that change that makes it OK for you (and me) to wear eyeglasses releases us from selection to some extent against myopia. But by itself that would only cause a very slow, slow response -- mutations that harm vision won't increase quickly under drift alone. But any genes that are selected for other reasons and have the side effect of myopia may increase much more rapidly. These new selected variants are what we are finding, and they relate to many so-called "diseases" of civilization.

      All selection cares about is mortality and fertility. Within the past 200 years, mortality variation has reduced in many human populations. But fertility variation hasn't -- if anything, it may be increasing. So selection for disease resistance -- one of the largest sources in the last 10,000 years -- has probably reduced in importance. But selection on fertility -- things like sperm production, for example -- may still be increasing.
  • by JumperCable ( 673155 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:01AM (#21653539)
    Are we really evolving faster, or are we, as a population experiencing a higher rate of mutations? Not all mutations are good, but with our advanced medicine, poor mutations are now survivable.

    I thought evolution, didn't occur until selective environmental pressure, weeded out the non-favorable traits. I really don't *think* that happening at a higher rate. I suspect we just have a giant gene pool with a lot of variability.

    So which is it John? Are we mutating faster or evolving faster?

    P.S. Fascinating work. Kudos.
    • The simple fact is that a mutation is a jump in a sequence. Evolution is a mutation that is now part of the genome, though not necessarily good. For example, sicle cell anemia was a minor mutation. But it stayed as part of our genome because it confers immunity to malaria. For the sub tropics that is a NEEDED mutation. OTH, those who had it, might be struck by the gods as they ascended Kilimanjaro. This shows that mutation are not good/bad, just needed at the time.

      As to the gene pool, I do not think that
    • by John Hawks ( 624818 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @09:21AM (#21654435)
      The rate of mutations per genome has not changed, as far as we can tell. What is happening is that the overall larger number of people has generated more potential adaptive mutations, and these have been captured by selection. As a result, the neutral genetic changes in the population have slowed -- these being inversely proportional to population size. The very small fraction of mutations that are adaptive have caused rapid change by selection. Great question, I'll put it in the FAQ.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wall0159 ( 881759 )
      Evolution is just change. that's why there's no word "devolution" -- although we might imagine it would imply negative evolution (regression), it's still just evolution.

      Recall that evolution is not working towards a goal -- it is merely a consequence of environmental pressure.
    • Speciation (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EgoWumpus ( 638704 )

      "Not all mutations are good, but with our advanced medicine, poor mutations are now survivable."

      Don't get me wrong - I'm a big fan of humans. But human arrogance is what makes you think you can identify the difference between a 'poor' mutation and a 'good' one. Way back in the day, as the story goes, some proto-humans started walking upright, causing all sorts of back problems that persist until today. Good or bad?

      Or that whole forebrain thing; and certainly the individual relative lack of strength and

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom ( 822 )
      Absolutely excellent point.

      On some of my anti-social days, I wonder if, as a species, we are really doing ourselves a favour with our support of disabled, mentally and physically ill and others who would be dead in days in the wilderness. Now let's get one thing out of the way: It might be advantageous from a social, moral or any other number of points, I'm not discussing these.

      I'm merely asking one question an evolutionary biologist who's not afraid of bad press can possibly answer: Are we breeding disabil
  • by Farmer Tim ( 530755 ) <> on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:05AM (#21653553) Journal
    You come down under my bridge and say that!
  • by Capt James McCarthy ( 860294 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:05AM (#21653555) Journal
    I know, it only seems like yesterday that I was an AC.
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:09AM (#21653575) Journal
    Evolution is most likely encouraged by viruses. The reason is that they will grab a snippet from one person (and other entity), and insert it into our genomes. Almost certainly we have only found a fraction of these viruses, and will find more once we start looking in the right places. The interesting thing is that as we get denser in terms of population, I believe it will increase even faster. Likewise, we will see interesting issues such as general increase in miscarriages (incompatable genes being spread around).
    • Evolution is most likely encouraged by viruses. The reason is that they will grab a snippet from one person (and other entity), and insert it into our genomes.

      So how about those humans who engage in behaviour which promotes the spread of viruses, and tend not to reproduce? Perhaps they are genuinely participating in evolution, appearances to the contrary.

      Kurt Vonnegut may have been right after all.

      • We all participate, one way or another. About the only one who does not, are those that are not born. Once we are born we will either reproduce (a massive shakeup of DNA using acceptable genomes i.e. able to create life), or will serve as a carrier of viruses that mix-in with tiny amounts of genome.

        The interesting question is how many diseases occur because of multiple viruses working in conjunction? IOW, assume you have some mutation that is too big for 1 virus to transfer. But multiple viruses could tran
  • I pray to God that we're still evolving!

    I see no conflict between science and my religion.

    • I pray to God that we're still evolving!

      I see no conflict between science and my religion.

      Amen, brother. Amen. And I mean that in the most non-ironic sense possible.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 )
      I have to be honest. Years ago (I'm 25 now), I was a staunchly against religion in all it's forms. I was all about pure science. I believed in things that could be proven, things that followed the scientific method. Not some silly sky wizard. As I've matured, I've come to believe there might be something more. God? Maybe. Maybe not. Silly as it sounds, I think Futurama nailed it on the head (the episode where Bender is floating through space and has civilization begin, survive, and then collapse on him).


  • Bad Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by giafly ( 926567 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @07:33AM (#21653717)

    Beneficial genetic changes have appeared at a rate roughly 100 times higher in the past 5,000 years than at any previous period of human evolution, the researchers determined ... but almost all of the changes have been unique to their corner of the world.
    There are more gene changes because there are many more people today than 5K years ago. This does not mean that the mutation rate has increased. The speed of evolution is how different the average person today is from the average person back then and nobody has more than a few of these new genes.

    people today are genetically more different from people living 5,000 years ago than those humans were different from the Neanderthals who vanished 30,000 years ago
    Nonsense. The only way this might be true is if you selectively bred a human with all these recent gene changes. Like the Kwisatz_Haderach [] out of Dune.
    • This does not mean that the mutation rate has increased.

      Correct, these researchers do not claim that the mutation rate has changed. As you say, this is entirely a population effect.

      The speed of evolution is how different the average person today is from the average person back then and nobody has more than a few of these new genes.

      Ever heard of natural selection causing a gene to go to fixation?


      Check out the paper. The number of recent selection events and their average age is well-know

    • Re:Bad Science (Score:5, Informative)

      by John Hawks ( 624818 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @09:34AM (#21654541)
      Good comment.

      Here's the answer: natural selection takes initially rare mutations and magnifies them to large numbers, spreading them to most of the population rapidly. Our survey was looking at things between 20 and 80 percent frequency in living populations. That means that the average person has around half the new selected mutations, even though each mutation is very recent. As a result, genetically today's people really are radically different than the average person living 5,000 years ago -- it's within the last 5000 years we are seeing the most rapid change in frequency of these new alleles.

      This rapid evolutionary change has also been skeletal -- bodies really have changed during this time period. But the skeletal changes are just the tip of the iceberg -- most of the changes are metabolic, or pathogen-host interaction, or brain development -- things we will never see from the archaeological record.
  • TFA: Human evolution has been moving at breakneck speed in the past several thousand years, far from plodding along as some scientists had thought, researchers said on Monday. (emphasis mine)

    And how is this an advantage if the system has emerged to only comfortably allow for a moderate change rate?

  • by jovius ( 974690 )
    Successful copulation advances evolution. The more sex the better chances to have offspring, which seek adaptation. We should all have sex with every suitable body. The more diverse the better. Now. Forget about the thought systems and public codes, this is for the human race! Let's hyperseed!! Woohoo!!! oh yeah.
  • In Asians, there is a gene that makes ear wax more dry.
    The selective advantage of this is what, exactly? And is it strong enough to make this gene spread through a large part of the population in only 40 thousand years?
  • What be happening mon?

    You concept of evolution is slow compared to our daily respec.
  • LIARS!!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by ocbwilg ( 259828 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @08:03AM (#21653865)
    It's not true! It's just that God has been intelligently re-designing us at a higher rate.
  • by headkase ( 533448 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @08:15AM (#21653947)
    We're not evolving faster, the increased population size just means we can explore a larger portion of the evolutionary search space at one time than we were able to previously. There is still the minimal time between reproduction(s) which currently stands at about ~14 years (not taking into account morality) which is needed to introduce change(s) into the population. And Evolution is based on negative feedback, we don't evolve towards something - everything that isn't suitable dies.
  • All of those big population expansions, with their requisite adaptations, are done and dusted. Epidemics and welfare states would seem to be the only remaining evolutionary/devolutionary pressures. How significant are they today?
  • maybe someone has been eating too many mushrooms?

    Sounds like McKenna's Novelty Theory []
  • by skintigh2 ( 456496 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2007 @11:40AM (#21656029)
    Ok, so maybe we are mutating faster, or there are more of us around so there are more mutations, etc. But as I understand: evolution = random mutation + non-random selection. Right now it seems there is no selection at all. Even the impotent and infertile can reproduce now. Unless one gets killed before they become a teen they'll most likely reproduce.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger