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Is Humanity Still Evolving? 374

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 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.
  • 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.
  • by Nemba ( 805178 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:21PM (#39851285)
    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 RichMan ( 8097 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:32PM (#39851419)

    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 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @06:44PM (#39851571)

    What if it causes the dependent to start popping out welfare babies instead?

  • 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 rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:19PM (#39853823) Homepage

    Humanity is a social species, You do not look at evolution the same for social species as for non-social species, the social structures of social species also evolve.

    Take for example the growth of psychopathy and narcissism (non-social genetic mutations) as a proportion of the population under certain types of human societies like capitalism. Where the focus changes from working together to preying upon each other. It is quite easy to see the logical consequence of that growth, the collapse of that society as those willing to work together are reduced to such low numbers they can no longer sustain the destructive parasites, the psychopaths and narcissists. As a consequence the whole society collapses, eliminating by far the majority of it's members and basically leaving only handful of those that want to work together.

    Evolution favours social groups that work together the best and cyclically eliminates self destructive groups ever where it was only a minority that developed psychologically unhealthy and destructive mutations.

    In fact you can see that trend developing quite clearly developing in human society, a couple of world wars as prime examples societal collapse and self destruction all driven by an extreme minority. Of course now the US is leading permanent state of war instigated by the greed driven insanity of a minority, the psychopaths and narcissists. As the majority continue to allow this to happen so the consequences will be inevitable as demonstrated again and again by history, the complete collapse of that human society. As this one has become a global one, regardless of masquerades of nationality and race, it will be quite a unique collapse (no longer localised) with a considerable risk of extinction.

  • haha!!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:13AM (#39854337)
    Holy shit, I just read your remark after the one I wrote. Then I realized that we probably both subconsciously wrote using vocabulary that would hopefully clearly differentiate ourselves from the "Walmart People" in the eyes of "our peers" haha. I'm tempted to go back and write it in Walmart English now that I realized it.

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