Are Humans Still Evolving?

17,538
7,139
It may seem like civilisation has removed all of the selective pressures faced by wild animals, but Natural Selection acts on a lot more than superficial characteristics. Natural Selection is an omnipresent force shaping everything, even the things that we think we are choosing...

http://physicspost.com/articles.php?articleId=172 [Broken]
 
Last edited:

Njorl

Science Advisor
245
10
I would disagree with the author in one way. I think that humans are not evolving very much. Because our environment is changing so rapidly, what is advantageous to one generation is often not advantageous to the next. Even in the developing world, where they don't have all the modern miracles of medicine and agriculture, they face different environmental challenges each generation.

It is not so much the ease of modern life that nearly precludes evolution, but the rapid pace of change that does so. Evolution is too slow to keep up. The exception would be in areas that are always advantageous. As far as I can tell, being more intelligent is always useful.

Njorl
 
95
0
As the first teacher I made friends with at my new university said: "progress is always happening. just have to figure out where it is going".
 

Monique

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,104
63
Does evolution need to be a positive thing? I mean, with our technological advances we have placed biological improvement outside of ourselfs.

Humans, normally destined not to reproduce are now getting children, passing on genetic defects that would normally have been selected against. I think humans are evolving, but not in a good way..
 

Monique

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,104
63
Originally posted by Njorl
The exception would be in areas that are always advantageous. As far as I can tell, being more intelligent is always useful. Njorl
Njorl, how does being intelligent give someone an edge at better reproduction? In this society being intelligent actually decreases the number of children taken by such a person, right?
 

Njorl

Science Advisor
245
10
Originally posted by Monique
Njorl, how does being intelligent give someone an edge at better reproduction? In this society being intelligent actually decreases the number of children taken by such a person, right?
You are confusing advancedness with intelligence. Those who have access to all the modern amenities of life have fewer children because they are not as dependent upon them in their old age. Also, their children's lives are at less risk, so they need fewer of them to maintain their legacy. There are plenty of stupid people born with silver spoons in their mouths who fit in this catagory. There is probably little or no difference in intelligence between highly developed and third-world countries.

Intelligence always helps though. All other things being equal, an intelligent subsistance farmer or herder will do better than a stupid one. An intelligent businessman will probably be more successful than a stupid one. Economic success does help propogation. While it is rare that a successful businessman will be so repellant that he can not marry, it might happen, but a little more money makes it less likely. Also, some very wealthy men divorce and start new families with young "trophy wives". Lastly, wealth allows more attempts at fertility procedures like invitro fertilization.

Njorl
 

Monique

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
4,104
63
.. I don't agree ..

In order to look at this you need to evaluate people from the same culture, they are all at the same level right? Intelligent people who do well with their education and land good jobs will choose for smaller sized families. First of all, who takes care of the kids when both are working? Second, they are smart enough to use protection the right way.

Ofcourse, this is a hard thing to really assume, some statistics would be needed.
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by Njorl
I would disagree with the author in one way. I think that humans are not evolving very much. Because our environment is changing so rapidly, what is advantageous to one generation is often not advantageous to the next. Even in the developing world, where they don't have all the modern miracles of medicine and agriculture, they face different environmental challenges each generation.
But doesn't that just increase the variation (which is the first part of the definition of evolution put forth by the author)? Wouldn't the new challenges that humans have to face cause greater variation, and even greater selection pressure (what with all the new illnesses that can be contracted and the over-population of many regions, as well as the rapid loss of resources)?
 

Njorl

Science Advisor
245
10
But doesn't that just increase the variation (which is the first part of the definition of evolution put forth by the author)? Wouldn't the new challenges that humans have to face cause greater variation, and even greater selection pressure (what with all the new illnesses that can be contracted and the over-population of many regions, as well as the rapid loss of resources)?
Yes, but evolution takes more than a generation or two. If a challenge comes and goes faster than a generation, evolutionary changes have no effect. Black plague was rampant in Europe for 300 years. Even though a rare gene gave significant protection from it, that gene did not spread to the majority of the populace even over more than 10 generations.

Njorl
 
3,754
2
Originally posted by Njorl
Yes, but evolution takes more than a generation or two. If a challenge comes and goes faster than a generation, evolutionary changes have no effect. Black plague was rampant in Europe for 300 years. Even though a rare gene gave significant protection from it, that gene did not spread to the majority of the populace even over more than 10 generations.

Njorl
And what about the fruit flies that evolve an immunity within one generation to certain toxins? This has been experimentally verified.

Also, what about the so-called "super bacteria" that can evolve when one constantly uses antibacterial soap?
 
9
0
I definitely believe humans are still evolving. The question is: How are we evolving?

This may be slightly off topic, but I believe that as with other natural occurrences, humans are beginning to replicate the process of evolution. If we momentarily set aside the notion of natural evolution, we can see that technology is itself changing human roles and identities. As humans have done with most other aspects of nature, we are beginning to take control of our own evolution. It may not be long before natural selection plays a lesser role in evolution than personal choice.

I believe that we are standing upon the fringe of a cybernetic age. It may not be long before we see the dawn of a new human form: one, which contains mechanical, and even robotic parts. Certainly we are almost there, with our current prostheses and organ replacements. Indeed the time may soon come when such mechanical replacements are made through choice, rather than medical necessity. Granted this may not constitute classical evolution, as such mechanical traits are non-hereditary, however it does establish a change in the species. Of course, with regard to technology, this does not even scratch the surface of possibilities for human controlled evolution. Control over classical evolution can be established with such concepts as gene therapy and human cloning, not to mention the ever-controversial designer baby.

Although I do believe that humans are still naturally evolving, I feel that our own technology poses a greater opportunity for change. With the aforementioned technologies of the coming age, we must take measures to safeguard that such human controlled alterations of the species does not become relegated to matters of the trendy and fashionable. As such human modification becomes viable, improvements to one’s genetic self must not be limited to one’s socio-economic status. So in the end, the real question is not about whether or not we are evolving, but whether or not we are doing so responsibly!?
 

Another God

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
974
3
hehehe....'the author'....hehehe

Originally posted by Njorl
Yes, but evolution takes more than a generation or two. If a challenge comes and goes faster than a generation, evolutionary changes have no effect. Black plague was rampant in Europe for 300 years. Even though a rare gene gave significant protection from it, that gene did not spread to the majority of the populace even over more than 10 generations.
The point of the essay was largely to point out that it is for this reason, combined with the fact that we can't judge the standards upon which NS works, we are most likely still evolving. You say that there is too much change for evolution to get a trend built up, but how can u say that when no one has any real idea what it is that NS is selecting?

NS is much more pervasive than just our fitness, and our intelligence. These superficial traits may mean nothing when some new HIV mutant hits which makes it airborn (to create an exagerated possibility).

The point is: We don't know what NS is selecting, but it is always doing it; and Evolution takes effect over thousands of years. Although we may not be noting any net directional change right now, the variation is building up, shifting and moving around, waiting for the moment of mass directional selection to hit.
 

Another God

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
974
3
Originally posted by Reddhawk
Control over classical evolution can be established with such concepts as gene therapy and human cloning, not to mention the ever-controversial designer baby.
Gene therapy is my real interest RE the control over future human evolution. I think Mechanical additions to the body have nothing over a genetic manipulation of the body. Even the designer baby idea is only a one of thing, while the gene therapy idea is an idea that can be applied ot anyone at anytime.

With time we will understand genetics to the point where we can not only do perfect gene therapy, but we will understand how developmental control is acheived and how growth is regulated etc. We will then be able to design new limbs, new attributes etc, and just administer them to ourselves in a syringe or something. And then wait for a year or two as the new parts grow. (PS: True gene therapy (with retroviruses) incorporate the DNA into our genome, so they will be passed to the next generation)


As such human modification becomes viable, improvements to one’s genetic self must not be limited to one’s socio-economic status. So in the end, the real question is not about whether or not we are evolving, but whether or not we are doing so responsibly!?
I don't know how you could stop the genetic modifications being limited to one's social status: Everything else is. What makes bodily modifications different to anything else?

One of the truley strange side effects of being able to control the very make up of our own body, is that we have the potential to change everything about ourselves, including our desires, our likes, our dislikes, what causes pain and what causes pleasure etc. We have the potential to re-wire our brains so that 'hurting ourselves' feels good for instance.
I think this will destabilise society (since our society is really only a result of evolution creating us to desire being in a society) as people alter themselves, no longer desiring to be in society, and...well, yeah, all hell breaks loose.
 

nautica

Back to the original question about evolution of humans. Evolution is certainly more predominant in novel environments,due to selective pressures. So, in the case of humans in civilized nations, a change in allele frequencies will be very unprobably.

But, what about reverse evolution or "devo". People are fat today b/c that is what humans needed to survive. But it would seem with the rise in obesity in children, their chances of reproduction will be slightly lower. So will obesity dissappear???

Yes, I know that medical advances will never allow this to happen, but what if medicine was left status quo???

Nautica
 

Phobos

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,927
6
Originally posted by nautica
But, what about reverse evolution or "devo".
No such thing as de-evolution. Evolution is simply Change, with no preferred long-term direction.

People are fat today b/c that is what humans needed to survive. But it would seem with the rise in obesity in children, their chances of reproduction will be slightly lower. So will obesity dissappear??? Yes, I know that medical advances will never allow this to happen, but what if medicine was left status quo???
Given enough time (generations), yes, it is conceiveable that fat storage mechanisms/tendacies can change. But only a small portion of the world's population benefits from new medical advances. And a significant fraction of the world's population is still more worried about finding food than keeping off weight.
 

nautica

Originally posted by Phobos
No such thing as de-evolution. Evolution is simply Change, with no preferred long-term direction.



Given enough time (generations), yes, it is conceiveable that fat storage mechanisms/tendacies can change. But only a small portion of the world's population benefits from new medical advances. And a significant fraction of the world's population is still more worried about finding food than keeping off weight.
I realize that there is no such thing as de-evolution - evolution is only a change in allele frequency within a population - but considering the fact that at one time humans survival was based on be able to store energy or fat - now what once was an advantage is now a disadvantage.

As far as your second statement - I am only speaking of industrialized nations and especially the US and Great Britain - within our population - be able to store fat is a major disadvantage, which will only get worse until we find the "magic" pill.

Nautica
 

Phobos

Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,927
6
Originally posted by nautica
... now what once was an advantage is now a disadvantage.
Agree (under current circumstances of our abundant wealth/resources)

As far as your second statement - I am only speaking of industrialized nations and especially the US and Great Britain - within our population - be able to store fat is a major disadvantage, which will only get worse until we find the "magic" pill.
Two things will probably be needed (1) US/UK isolates itself reproductively from other peoples (currently not the case), (2) lots & lots of generations living under the same conditions of abundance (here's hoping...)
 

FZ+

1,550
2
Good paper on this:

http://www.complexity.org.au/vol09/dopazo01/

From the perspective of a general description of complex systems, learning and biological evolution can be regarded as being the same process but taking place in two different hierarchical levels. Ech of these are in turn associated to two widely different timescales. Learning can well be pictured as an evolutionary process that takes place during ontogeny. Through this process unsuccessful behaviors are progressively discarded in favor of those that are more beneficial for survival. The timescale of this process is of the order of the lifetime of the individuals. Biological evolution through allelic substitution cause that traits that pay less in reproductive success are discarded in favor of others that offer the possibility of a greater number of descendants. The timescale of this process has to be measured in generations and results in the adaptation or organisms to the (perhaps changing) surrounding environment.The results of experiments, observations and models that have been discussed above put the accent in the mutual influence of these two levels of organization across widely different timescales.
Within this picture, the Baldwin effect can well be regarded as the result of the mutual influence of two evolutionary processes pertaining to two different hierarchical level of organization of life systems.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Related Threads for: Are Humans Still Evolving?

  • Posted
Replies
12
Views
3K
  • Posted
Replies
20
Views
4K
Replies
3
Views
3K
  • Posted
2 3 4
Replies
77
Views
14K
  • Posted
Replies
9
Views
3K
  • Posted
Replies
6
Views
3K

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving

Hot Threads

Top