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Darwinian Selection Continues to Influence Human Evolution - Comments

Just a thought...'s Avatar Comment 1 by Just a thought...

I've always wondered what the catalysts would be for evolution in an advanced society. With our ability to control nearly all aspects of our environment, from food production to heating and cooling, etc., it seems like the environmental concerns that would lead to adaptation through environmental forces are largely offset by our ability to control these things. We have gained so much in terms of treating diseases and providing for those whith developmental deficiencies that we are largely unaffected (or at least much less so) by those aspects of nature that would have ravaged certain members of our population in the infancy of our species. When you no longer have to worry about things (that we would now consider trivial) like dental problems, common viruses and bacterial infections, what is left to drive that natural selection? Even things that routinely kill people at a relatively young age (cancer, heart disease, etc.) often don't occur until after the childbearing/siring age. Those items would seem to have very little impact on the passing on of genetic traits, and would therefore not be very powerful forces for evolution due to natural selection. I think it is ineveitable that there will be a worldwide economic collapse sometime in the not-so-distant future...and that will likely lead to a rapid increase in observable evolution of our species due to the effect it would have on our abilities to control our environment.

Tue, 01 May 2012 19:07:07 UTC | #938772

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 2 by Neodarwinian

Evolution, the change in allele frequency over time in a population of organisms, does not stop unless Hardy-Weinberg conditions are met and they are not met in the wild. Many think modern advances would ameliorate natural selective processes, but they forget that natural selection is " looking " for the most minor beneficial variation to select and variation is always there. Then there is always sexual selection which is especially powerful in humans.

The environment is much wider than our amelioration of selection can cover.

Tue, 01 May 2012 19:38:32 UTC | #938781

yalcin-izbul's Avatar Comment 3 by yalcin-izbul

"Natural and sexual selection is still taking place in our species in the modern world" -- claim based on "records of about 6,000 Finnish people born between 1760-1849"??? Past-times is no guarantee for the capitalistic present or a future which is even-the-more-likely-to-be-manipulativistic. Just check the matter with the Hollyworld concoctions featuring soccer studs and fashionable maids.

Tue, 01 May 2012 19:56:33 UTC | #938790

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 4 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Is it not logical to conclude that as a species we will still evolve if an increasing number of us are selected to reproduce, just as we would evolve (differently) if fewer of us were selected to reproduce? There has been a huge change to the environment in which many humans live over just a couple of centuries. Surely it is expected that this sudden change in environment will produce relatively sudden evolutionary change.

Tue, 01 May 2012 20:04:43 UTC | #938796

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 5 by Reckless Monkey

Comment 1 by Just a thought... Even things that routinely kill people at a relatively young age (cancer, heart disease, etc.) often don't occur until after the childbearing/siring age. Those items would seem to have very little impact on the passing on of genetic traits, and would therefore not be very powerful forces for evolution due to natural selection. I think it is inevitable that there will be a worldwide economic collapse sometime in the not-so-distant future...and that will likely lead to a rapid increase in observable evolution of our species due to the effect it would have on our abilities to control our environment.

Interesting, on the other hand, more and more the West is intervening in childbirth from extremely pre-mature babies some of whom may carry genes making pre-mature birth more likely. Illness in childhood causes signification childhood death in the third world increasing selection pressure. However, I suspect that the huge proportion of the worlds population that live a harder life and the immigration of numbers of those to the West may well buffer us in that event.

Tue, 01 May 2012 20:36:51 UTC | #938799

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 6 by rod-the-farmer

I was always curious about the drawings of people in the popular press in the days of Dickens. Either these were deliberate attempts to satirise or insult, like gargoyles often were, or they were fairly close representations. Speaking as gently as I can, many of them were not what we might consider attractive these days. I feel sure sexual selection was at work in that period as well as any other, and the human race is selecting for attractiveness to the opposite sex. That might mean our current population would appear of such wondrous beauty as to dazzle the ancients. But then you see Greek statues, and say there were good looking people way back then, too. I certainly don't claim that for myself, you understand.

Tue, 01 May 2012 20:40:36 UTC | #938802

GreatWhiteShark's Avatar Comment 7 by GreatWhiteShark

Comment 6 by rod-the-farmer :

I was always curious about the drawings of people in the popular press in the days of Dickens. Either these were deliberate attempts to satirise or insult, like gargoyles often were, or they were fairly close representations.

But with names like Volumnia Dedlock what would you expect!

Tue, 01 May 2012 21:17:45 UTC | #938809

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 8 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 6 by rod-the-farmer

I was always curious about the drawings of people in the popular press in the days of Dickens. Either these were deliberate attempts to satirise or insult, like gargoyles often were, or they were fairly close representations. Speaking as gently as I can, many of them were not what we might consider attractive these days. I feel sure sexual selection was at work in that period as well as any other, and the human race is selecting for attractiveness to the opposite sex. That might mean our current population would appear of such wondrous beauty as to dazzle the ancients. But then you see Greek statues, and say there were good looking people way back then, too. I certainly don't claim that for myself, you understand.

An example of such would be contemporaneous images of Cleopatra VII...she was no Liz Taylor.

Tue, 01 May 2012 22:02:57 UTC | #938816

dandelion fluff's Avatar Comment 9 by dandelion fluff

Our environment these days is controlled in a significant amount by money. This makes it still harsh in many ways, and I would think that would provide plenty of pressure for natural selection.

Tue, 01 May 2012 22:57:12 UTC | #938833

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 10 by Schrodinger's Cat

Of course we're still evolving........the latest full latin name for mankind is now.....Homo ipad u-tube-ius digitalis obesitus paracetamolitus

Tue, 01 May 2012 23:52:02 UTC | #938852

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 11 by Agrajag

Comment 8 by Ignorant Amos

An example of such would be contemporaneous images of Cleopatra VII...she was no Liz Taylor.

Now we see why they call it "striking" a coin!
She looks like she was struck...
;-)
Steve

Wed, 02 May 2012 00:32:59 UTC | #938867

GreatWhiteShark's Avatar Comment 12 by GreatWhiteShark

Comment Removed by Author

Wed, 02 May 2012 01:26:48 UTC | #938892

GreatWhiteShark's Avatar Comment 13 by GreatWhiteShark

Comment 8 by Ignorant Amos :

An example of such would be contemporaneous images of Cleopatra VII...she was no Liz Taylor.

Thats the most convincing proof there is no god Ive seen yet

Wed, 02 May 2012 01:28:04 UTC | #938896

alaskansee's Avatar Comment 14 by alaskansee

@Comment 6 by rod-the-farmer

Love the article but I am disappointed that it wasn't some Canadian news, like the recent study in Scotland about the more that expected diversity. Thanks.

But surely your sample of "caricatures" is as accurate as "portraits"? both are deliberate measured attempts to belittle or aggrandise, none are representative.

I always hoped that you were better looking that your avatar too! ;-)

Wed, 02 May 2012 01:46:36 UTC | #938904

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 15 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 13 by GreatWhiteShark

Thats the most convincing proof there is no god Ive seen yet

I've just been studying Cleopatra VII. It's amazing how her image has transformed over 2000 years to keep up with the zeitgeist. There are parallels with religion.

Modern actresses playing the part are chosen to be politically correct in ethnicity. Strange, considering she was a Hellenistic queen of the Ptolemy dynasty that came from a line of mostly inbreds. But history has a way of shaping things.

Wed, 02 May 2012 02:23:41 UTC | #938919

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 16 by Carl Sai Baba

people born between 1760-1849
....
"It is a common misunderstanding that evolution took place a long time ago,"

I don't think the state of civilization between 1760 and 1849 is quite what people normally think of when they wonder if modern medicine has fitted evolution with a ball and chain. If they want to talk about technology and medicine, 1849 is a long time ago.

Wed, 02 May 2012 05:29:49 UTC | #938938

Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 17 by Functional Atheist

Comment 16 by Carl Sai Baba :

people born between 1760-1849
....
"It is a common misunderstanding that evolution took place a long time ago," I don't think the state of civilization between 1760 and 1849 is quite what people normally think of when they wonder if modern medicine has fitted evolution with a ball and chain. If they want to talk about technology and medicine, 1849 is a long time ago.

Yes. I've read that 1900 is the approximate cut-off point, when medicine became sufficiently advanced as to do, on average, more good than harm to the typical patient. In 1849, the quackish state of medical care was still killing many more people than it saved.

Wait until there are designer babies. Human evolution will eventually become supercharged by technology, rendering puny whatever natural evolution has occurred during recent centuries.

Wed, 02 May 2012 07:12:12 UTC | #938949

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 18 by justinesaracen

I had the same reaction as Carl Sai Baba. The natural selection that might have still been working in the 18th and early 19th centuries pretty much predates modern anti-biotics and high-tech medical intervention. While children in 18th century Finland might still have been dying of premature birth, weak hearts, rubella, tuberculosis, and ordinary infections from weak immune systems, they don't now, at least not in the developed countries.

It seems self evident to me that the very existence of prevention of natural childhood deaths would be an immediate blow to one of the basic evolutionary processes. Now, in the west, the 'less fit' can reproduce. I know, I'm asthmatic and my son and two of my nephews are asthmatic, and they have children.

Wed, 02 May 2012 07:13:01 UTC | #938950

dandelion fluff's Avatar Comment 19 by dandelion fluff

Don't forget, our brains are products of evolution. So if our technology is affecting our continued evolution via our brains, well, it's still evolution working, no?

It may seem like we are moving into stasis by removing evolutionary pressures, but I don't believe it would be a stable state. We are also creating superbugs, pumping the environment full of estrogens, affecting the climate, killing off some species and permanently changing others, etc. We are changing the world, and at some point we may reach a tipping point that may certainly affect at least the less advantaged among us.

I think just saying that modern medicine enables people with all kinds of problem genes to reproduce, and therefore evolution will stop with us, is too narrow a view. I don't think we can control things, ultimately, as much as we think we can.

Wed, 02 May 2012 11:10:53 UTC | #938979

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 20 by SaganTheCat

understanding evolution is accepting we are not likely to ever stop it. the success we have in improving individual lives changes the environment in which genes can express.

many people argue that thanks to farming, medicine, improved quality of life etc there's no "need" for us to evolve. were evolution acting on the individual there might be a sliver of truth there but from a gene-centric viewpoint our improvements we've made to our own wellbeing change nothing in the fact we are all carrying genes that are competing for survival.

if we want to stop evolving we need to do the following:

  1. stop reproducing
  2. stop dying

Wed, 02 May 2012 11:33:09 UTC | #938983

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 21 by QuestioningKat

Considering the size of the population, could it be that there are "pockets" of evolutionary change going on in select areas/groups while the majority of the population remains the same? If so, would these more evolved people risk being "swallowed up" genetically into the pool like a drop of a chemical into the ocean?

Wed, 02 May 2012 11:59:52 UTC | #938987

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 22 by crookedshoes

Very interesting. Comment #2 by Neodarwin nails it.

Hardy Weinberg equilibrium is the measuring stick here. There are five generalized conditions that must be met for a population NOT to evolve. The population must be very large in size. It must be isolated from other populations. (no gene flow) No mutations. Random mating. No natural selection.

These conditions are never met in a naturally occurring population; hence evolution by natural selection marches on.

Wed, 02 May 2012 12:03:59 UTC | #938988

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 23 by Alan4discussion

Comment 15 by Ignorant Amos

Modern actresses playing the part are chosen to be politically correct in ethnicity. Strange, considering she was a Hellenistic queen of the Ptolemy dynasty that came from a line of mostly inbreds. But history has a way of shaping things.

... ... ... . .But there's history - and then there's "Hollywood History". Never confuse the two!

Wed, 02 May 2012 13:52:13 UTC | #939011

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 24 by Neodarwinian

  • crookedshoes
  • Took another biologist to see the obvious. Bemusement is what I feel when reading the " man had stopped evolving " comments generally banded about, here and elsewhere. dandelion fluff seems to understand this also. Along with Daniel Clear also. Still a lot of misunderstanding of evolutionary processes here.

    Wed, 02 May 2012 14:01:38 UTC | #939013

    crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 25 by crookedshoes

    Neodarwinian, I know, I always shudder when talk of humans "being outside natural selection" because of technology or whatever gets thrown around. I also shudder when I hear of "microevolution" being true and "macroevolution" being impossible. Many creationists who I have spoken with take this stance and it drives me nuts.

    Wed, 02 May 2012 14:14:12 UTC | #939016

    Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 26 by Ignorant Amos

    Comment 23 by Alan4discussion

    Modern actresses playing the part are chosen to be politically correct in ethnicity. Strange, considering she was a Hellenistic queen of the Ptolemy dynasty that came from a line of mostly inbreds. But history has a way of shaping things.

    ... ... ... . .But there's history - and then there's "Hollywood History". Never confuse the two!

    Oh the change started way before Hollywood got their hands on the tale Alan...., Cicero, Plutarch, Cassius Dio, Shakespeare and Blaise Pascal have all put in their tuppence worth in over the past 2000 years...to name but a few.

    Even within the century of 'Hollywood History' the image has been transformed from the days of the likes of Claudette Colbert through Liz Taylor to the up-and-coming new movie with Angelina Jolie, and the plethora of various actress types in between.

    But I digress.

    Wed, 02 May 2012 14:49:54 UTC | #939024

    Son of Mathonwy's Avatar Comment 27 by Son of Mathonwy

    Comment 20 by Daniel Clear :

    understanding evolution is accepting we are not likely to ever stop it. the success we have in improving individual lives changes the environment in which genes can express.

    many people argue that thanks to farming, medicine, improved quality of life etc there's no "need" for us to evolve. were evolution acting on the individual there might be a sliver of truth there but from a gene-centric viewpoint our improvements we've made to our own wellbeing change nothing in the fact we are all carrying genes that are competing for survival.

    if we want to stop evolving we need to do the following:

    1. stop reproducing

    2. stop dying

    I think 1. is all we need to do to stop evolving.

    But 2. would be nice. :)

    Of course, our ability to augment ourselves biologically, mechanically or electronically may soon make Human evolution irrelevant.

    Wed, 02 May 2012 14:58:53 UTC | #939029

    Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 28 by Alan4discussion

    Comment 27 by Son of Mathonwy

    Of course, our ability to augment ourselves biologically, mechanically or electronically may soon make Human evolution irrelevant.

    ... ... .. But only if increasing dependence followed by mechanical/ technical breakdowns cause our extinction!

    Wed, 02 May 2012 15:31:19 UTC | #939040

    Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 29 by Stafford Gordon

    Perhaps the different norms for beauty at any given time influence the appearance of people in that era, and as "fashions" change so will the general appearance of the population. An individual who would have been successful at breeding at one time because they were thought of a attractive, wouldn't necessarily find it as easy to have sexual relationships at another time.

    During Victorian times pale skin was highly thought of, but not now.

    After the mass slaughter of WW2, huge numbers of immigrants were needed to build back up the depleted work force, and they came from former colonies; in the case of France from Morocco, Germany, Turkey, Holland, The Dutch East Indies, Britain, The West Indies and the Indian Subcontinent.

    Such events must surely influence populations, even if only by increasing the stock in the gene pool.

    Wed, 02 May 2012 15:36:25 UTC | #939042

    crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 30 by crookedshoes

    Again, It doesn't matter how much technology we develop, we will still evolve. Human evolution will never be irrelevant. The only constant is change. Alan4discussion is dead on (no pun intended) right. The only way to escape evolution is to go extinct!!!

    An interesting side note is the speed of evolution and whether technology speeds it up or slows it down.... Also, the rate that technology evolves is amazing.

    Wed, 02 May 2012 15:44:48 UTC | #939046