Friday, August 24, 2012

Are humans still evolving?

A recent symposium on evolution in Montreal posed to high-school students and university professors the following question: “Do you think that humans are still evolving?” Approximately 80% of the audience answered “no.” Indeed, there is an almost universal belief that, with multifaceted cultures and intricate technology, humans have freed themselves from the pressures of natural selection.
Recent findings, however, show otherwise.
Project Syndicate
Human Change We Can Believe In
Denis Réale | Chair of Research in Behavioral Ecology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Québec.


Roger Erickson said...

It's a silly question, but the answer is revealing none the less.

As a social species, the rate of change of components (i.e., us) may be expected to slow, but never stop.

Bigger issue is that our human cultures sure as hell are evolving ... faster all the time.

Have the same 80% never heard the term "Future Shock?"

Really, you have to wonder about humans. Not just sometime, at least 80% of the time! :)

Leverage said...

Yes ofc we are, but evolution is not equal to 'more adapted' neither to 'better'. All these qualities are circumstantial. Sexual selection can, for example, be usually coutner-adaptive in the natural world (leaving a specie helpless against some predators).

There still are strong natural pressures (pathologic and ambiental factors) in some places (specially in some parts of Africa and Asia) which are favouring a part of the population over other. And social and cultural factors will make reproduction rates of a part of the population higher than others. This all works to make the specie evolve.

Along what lines, is an other question.

Adam1 said...

Evolution is like risk in banking. You can move it around, but despite what others may claim you really can't ever get rid of it.

Dan Kervick said...

Natural selection is only one of the forces involved in evolution. There are also other forces, like genetic drift, right? Even if there were no selective environmental "pressures" driving evolutionary change, there would be continued evolution.

But no matter what kinds of organisms you have and what kinds of environment, there are going to be fitness differentials among organisms in that environment.

I suppose the more interesting question is whether humans are able to generate powerful enough evolutionary forces through their own built environment to generate unintended but artificial biological selection in addition to natural selection.

jrbarch said...

I would say that I have 'evolved' evey single day of my life and it has absolutley nothing to do with the 'spacesuit' (the human body); nor the consciousness that 'I am' (the persona) where this evolution shows up as an effect, not a cause (the same effects show up in the human-animal body as it adapts to higher energy impacts). People simply confuse the vehicle with the Self; their 'heart' - the center of all evolutionary energies within the energy unit man, with mind (the window into the outside world).

But then, who is going to measure that .... and with which tool?

Just thought I'd be 'alternative' ....