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Geneticist Claims Human Evolution Is Over

samzenpus posted about 6 years ago | from the flame-on dept.

Biotech 857

GogglesPisano writes "UK geneticist Steve Jones gave a presentation entitled Human Evolution Is Over. He asserts that human beings have stopped evolving because modern social customs have lowered the age at which human males have offspring, which results in fewer of the mutations necessary to drive evolutionary change. Apparently the fate of our species now depends upon older guys hooking up with younger woman. I, for one, welcome this development."

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How convenient! (5, Funny)

rk (6314) | about 6 years ago | (#25309333)

Imagine that. Old guy scientist claims that old guys should bag young women. "But, baby, it's scientific!"

I immediately thought of this:

General "Buck" Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn't that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious... service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.

Re:How convenient! (5, Funny)

idonthack (883680) | about 6 years ago | (#25309625)


Re:How convenient! (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 6 years ago | (#25309669)

It's difficult to see how a geneticist could actually make such an absurd statement. I suspect either there is major misrepresentation going on, or he's about to have his proverbial testicles handed to him by any number of researchers showing that the claim is factually false and conceptually retarded.

All sorts of species evolve in spite of any particular start or length of reproductive capacity. Since the vast majority of what diversity between members of a population happens during conception, the evolutionary engine is largely fueled at that point.

Ugh (5, Funny)

areusche (1297613) | about 6 years ago | (#25309335)

"I for one welcome our old men banging young women overlords."

Keep on dreaming buddy.

Re:Ugh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309363)

"I for one welcome our old men banging young women overlords."

Keep on dreaming buddy.

Yeah, like a young woman could be an overlord... (not counting if McCain wins and has a heart attack)

Re:Ugh (4, Funny)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | about 6 years ago | (#25309601)

Yeah, like a young woman could be an overlord... (not counting if McCain wins and has a heart attack)

No, we're not counting a 44-year-old bit^H^H^H as a "young woman".

First! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309337)

Ahahaha! First post!

Darwinian evolution? (4, Interesting)

Cowclops (630818) | about 6 years ago | (#25309339)

Even if this guy turns out to be wrong for the reasons he gave, I wouldn't be surprised if modern society is messing with the evolution of humans compared to most other species in the past. Modern medicine may SAVE people that "should have" died and not passed on their genes. For better or worse, this is different than what happens outside of human society.

Re:Darwinian evolution? (5, Interesting)

Alexandra Erenhart (880036) | about 6 years ago | (#25309413)

I agree, but usually those "saved" people don't breed or become uncapable of.

And I don't know about "de-evolving", but for me it seems like people "with low IQ" (I don't know how to say it without being offensive) are breeding more than smart people, because usually smart people leave having children for later, or even not even have them, for the sake of their careers. I don't have anything against pursuing what you wanna do with your life, but I'd rater have more smart kids being born.

Re:Darwinian evolution? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309439)

Your radical new ideas have already occurred to Mike Judge. []

Re:Darwinian evolution? (4, Insightful)

Amiga Trombone (592952) | about 6 years ago | (#25309651)

Yes, but OTOH smart people have more opportunities to meet each other that they didn't have in the past. If you were born on a farm in 1900, chances are you'd stay there all your life, even if you had an IQ of 160. Now, most reasonably smart people have the opportunity to go to universities, and work in environments where they're going to meet other smart people. Of course, the children of smart parents tend to regress toward the mean, so genetics may play a lesser role in intelligence than you might think.

Re:Darwinian evolution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309423)

What needs to be addressed is human morphology. What mutations are important? Big eyes, long fingers, and more brain capacity for logic based though perhaps? Current old men are "neanderthals". I think the article has merit in about 200 years give or take.

Re:Darwinian evolution? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309525)

Also, our global society and rapid global travel means the entire species is a single breeding population. Speciation is nigh impossible, and genetic drift is (ISTM) unlikely due to the incredibly large population.

Re:Darwinian evolution? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 6 years ago | (#25309687)

There is no extant population on this planet, even prior to current speed of travel, which is more than 10,000 to 15,000 years separated from any other. Even a small amount of genetic exchange is sufficient to stave off speciation.

However, just because populations don't diverge doesn't mean speciation isn't happening. There is more than one form of speciation.

Re:Darwinian evolution? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 6 years ago | (#25309711)

Also, our global society and rapid global travel means the entire species is a single breeding population. Speciation is nigh impossible, and genetic drift is (ISTM) unlikely due to the incredibly large population.

All this means is, the human species will evolve in unison, rather than splintering off into different daughter species. How is this a bad thing?

Also, keep in mind that genetic engineering is coming online, so the human species can effectively take control of its own evolution. Personally, I don't see this as a bad thing, either. Getting rid of genetic conditions such as Taye-Sachs, color blindness, sickle-cell anemia, and hemophilia is a good thing. Why not breed this stuff out?

TFA also states:

"Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be, according to the rules of the animal kingdom, and we have agriculture to thank for that. Without farming, the world population would probably have reached half a million by now - about the size of the population of Glasgow.

More individuals means more chances for the species to survive. Wasn't there an article a month or so ago that said the human race got knocked down to like 2,000 members or less and almost became extinct?

More from TFA:

"Small populations which are isolated can evolve at random as genes are accidentally lost. World-wide, all populations are becoming connected and the opportunity for random change is dwindling. History is made in bed, but nowadays the beds are getting closer together. We are mixing into a global mass, and the future is brown."

The future is 'brown'? What kinda white supremacist shit is this?

Seems a little strange (4, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 6 years ago | (#25309345)

Women are definitely having children later. So late in many cases that there is a significant chance of genetic abnormalities like Down's Syndrome.

Are males really having children younger? Enough to offset women having children later?

Re:Seems a little strange (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 6 years ago | (#25309409)

Yeah, he's trying to convince me that people had children later / after having more mutations then the average life spann was what? 20? (Though some wasn't grown enough when they died I assume, which makes more of the people who actually got kids older than that, but anyway.)

Isn't it much more likely that it happens slower because we live longer? (Or well, would had been if the amount of people on the earth was constant, as it is now it doesn't matter how long we live since we just get kids anyway and they get new kids and so on even if we aren't dead ourself yet =P)

Re:Seems a little strange (4, Insightful)

davolfman (1245316) | about 6 years ago | (#25309621)

I thought the average lifespan was so low mostly because it was a mean with high infant mortality.

Re:Seems a little strange (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309411)

I agree with this. Not only are very few traits actually causing people to die early and thus be selected out (can't see? glasses. Can't walk right? No problem.) but the ones that do, like they said, don't kill you for a while, ala Huntingtons disease. So people can still reproduce. Our technology has far outpaced nature and we are in fact done evolving in the genetic sense.

Re:Seems a little strange (3, Insightful)

adamchou (993073) | about 6 years ago | (#25309419)

I don't see how his claim for men having children earlier can possibly be true.

According to the article, he cites one guy who was a ruler at his time so obviously that person had lots of women to foster children.
If anything, men today are living longer than they were before due to better health care and medicine.

I don't have quotations on this, but I remember reading that in the olden times, if they lived past 50, that was amazing.

I call bullshit on this guy. He's just trying to hook up with young girls.

Re:Seems a little strange (1)

shawb (16347) | about 6 years ago | (#25309455)

And then there's Viagra.

Re:Seems a little strange (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 6 years ago | (#25309529)

50 year old don't marry 14 year old as often these days, though...

Re:Seems a little strange (2, Interesting)

adamchou (993073) | about 6 years ago | (#25309449)

Ok, not the best source, but this is probably more reputable than that guy in the article. Life expectancy has more than doubled so what he's talking about is nonsense []

Re:Seems a little strange (5, Insightful)

Trip6 (1184883) | about 6 years ago | (#25309463)

It used to be that you had your kids within a year after reaching puberty. And you died by 40. Today society outlaws this behavior, and even people having kids in their 20s are deemed "too young." So what is this guy talking about?

Re:Seems a little strange (2, Funny)

cborg (197926) | about 6 years ago | (#25309537)

You could call this the cougar syndrome.

Re:Seems a little strange (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309599)

"Women are definitely having children later. So late in many cases that there is a significant chance of genetic abnormalities like Down's Syndrome."

Wrong, the odds of Downs Syndrome decreases with age.

I have to wonder (2, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | about 6 years ago | (#25309609)

Well, I just have to wonder, though.

I mean, cats on the average live 14 to 20 years if kept indoors and well taken care of, or a _lot_ less out in the wild. Most humans don't have children at the age at which cats die. I don't think it stopped cat evolution.

Squirrels have a life expectancy of a couple of years. Humans would still be a toddler by the age when a squirrel dies, and thus stops reproducing. I don't think that was a big problem for evolution.

Mayflies live between 30 minutes and a whole day as an adult, though, to be fair, we must add 1 year worth of larva and nymph stage to that. Does that prevent mutations and natural selection. I don't think so.

Basically _most_ species out there have a life expectancy lower than the age at which humans reproduce. If that stopped evolution, then we wouldn't be here in the first place.

Re:Seems a little strange (2, Insightful)

courseofhumanevents (1168415) | about 6 years ago | (#25309677)

Are males really having children younger?

I don't know about you, but I'm worried that men are having children at all.

At least we're not devolving... (1)

lag10 (667114) | about 6 years ago | (#25309347)

At least we're not devolving [] ...

Otherwise, we'd all be so Devo we wouldn't know what to do.

I accept my fate (4, Funny)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 6 years ago | (#25309349)

    I accept my fate. I will propagate with younger women, if for nothing else than to save our species. :)

Umm... (1)

renegadesx (977007) | about 6 years ago | (#25309357)

Apparently the fate of our species now depends upon older guys hooking up with younger woman. I, for one, welcome this development

Correct me if I am wrong but isn't there laws against that?

Re:Umm... (1)

ROMRIX (912502) | about 6 years ago | (#25309533)

Correct me if I am wrong but isn't there laws against that?

"younger woman" No.
younger girls. Yes.

Re:Umm... (1)

RuBLed (995686) | about 6 years ago | (#25309647)

What about older girls?

or younger hags?...

evolution through technology.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309361)

I disagree with this.

Our genes are constantly mutating due to effects from medicines, microwave radiation etc. Despite this being a positive or negative effect, it is still an evolution of our genetic code.

Also, the eventual blending of organic and synthetic elements will be a type of evolution all in its own. It is already happening, with things like implants...

If this is true (1)

kamikazearun (1282408) | about 6 years ago | (#25309369)

Go Ashton Kutcher!

Re:If this is true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309551)

You're doing it wrong

This just ain't so (1)

Centurix (249778) | about 6 years ago | (#25309371)

Although I am seeing more fat ladies taking singing lessons...

My choices for the species (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309383)

I am a young guy. Unfortunately, all I get hit on is by gay guys and old women.

Not evolving because why? (1)

gringer (252588) | about 6 years ago | (#25309387)

This seems... odd.

We're not evolving because we're reproducing earlier. So what happened back in the day, when you'd be lucky to live past 30, and it was a good thing to produce offspring as early as possible?

Anyway, why does evolution need to be based on death? I would certainly prefer an evolving species based on mate selection, resulting in people with the preferred aspects (intelligence, humour, etc.) becoming more common in the population. Death is so last millenium.

Re:Not evolving because why? (1)

gringer (252588) | about 6 years ago | (#25309425)

Okay, so after skimming through the article, it looks like he's arguing that there's not enough mutation for evolution to happen. I don't think this is a good enough reason, because recombination [] plays a much larger role in introducing variation into a population. Our population is large enough that even with a population of young maters, the number of new mutations in the species as a whole will be large enough to make a difference.

There's a little caveat regarding the relationship between time to fixation and population size (or more correctly in this case, change in population size), but I'll choose to ignore that for now....

Re:Not evolving because why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309629)

recombination will only create more average people, is ISOLATION in small populations what makes the genes change a lot.
I have plans for buying a far away island and bring a little population of young women to continue the human evolution, but this crisis rips all my stock value.

Re:Not evolving because why? (4, Informative)

Kandenshi (832555) | about 6 years ago | (#25309541)

There's a blog post from PZ Myers on Pharyngula that addresses this statement from Steve Jones fairly well I think. Read it in full here []

This[the idea that older men have more mutations in their sperm] is true, but it makes no sense. It's not as if younger fathers produce no mutations -- they generate plenty. It's a difference in degree, nothing more, so we still have plenty of new mutations percolating into the population. And of course, over most of human history parents have been relatively young, since you couldn't count on living to the age of 35.

And then there's this odd argument.

        Another factor is the weakening of natural selection. "In ancient times half our children would have died by the age of 20. Now, in the Western world, 98 per cent of them are surviving to 21."

That makes even less sense. Natural selection is going to eliminate variants; by reducing its effects, we permit more mutations to persist in the population. One moment he's complaining that fewer mutations are being produced, the next he's complaining that the mutants are thriving. Which is it?

tl;dr = Steve Jones is full of wacky.

Re:Not evolving because why? (5, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | about 6 years ago | (#25309739)

One moment he's complaining that fewer mutations are being produced, the next he's complaining that the mutants are thriving. Which is it?

It's not that the mutants survive, it's that everyone survives, so there's no basis for any one mutant having a better chance of survival. Which means we'll just have a lot of mutants.

Evolution can't work if "survival of the fittest" really means "survival of everyone". It looks like we'll either stagnate or evolve completely randomly, in all directions that don't outright kill us. Probably some combination -- all these random mutations won't get really exaggerated, because they'll just be absorbed back into the population.

Of course, that's not really the end of human evolution, it's more the end of meaningful human evolution. Idiocracy is an example of how humanity could (or already has) evolved in a direction we probably don't want, and don't think of as "progress" -- but Darwinian evolution does not necessarily equal progress.

I'm not really sure what the endgame is. I really only see three outcomes: Idiocracy (we stop caring about real science, and fall back on Darwinian evolution); MAD (we blow ourselves up (selecting ourselves out), and science dies with us); or posthumanism (science continues at roughly the pace it has, which means we'll use technology to enhance ourselves).

de-evolution (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | about 6 years ago | (#25309401)

When people with deathly genetic mutations can just get treatments for like a half million dollars (and magically raise everyone else's health care costs) and then they have kids and suddenly oh look, there's 1000 people carrying the gene and suffering horribly because one couple couldn't just adopt a damn kid or something. Plus in general, you can be pathetically unathletic and you have crappy survivability traits, you can still be sucessful and have kids these days. That's why on slashdot like 2 years ago there was a story about how humans are going to split off into degenerate neanderthals and superior, smart people. And of course people posted stuff like "oh yeah, and some already work at my office, HA HA HA" but seriously, I think in a couple decades there will be a slashdot story (on my holographic visor with wifi) about the first set of humans were found taht have been determined to be too genetically dissimilar to have offspring.

Re:de-evolution (2, Interesting)

shawb (16347) | about 6 years ago | (#25309581)

Dude... a couple of decades is about one generation. You'd need a LOT more generations of isolation to become genetically incompatible. IIRC, the amount of gene flow needed to indefinitely stave off speciation is on the order of one or two individuals every five generations. Considering that the length of time Native American populations had been geographically isolated from European populations wasn't enough to cause speciation, this is no something you are going to see in your lifetime. It would take a MASSIVE gap of time with essentially zero gene flow between populations to get anywhere near the point where offspring are non-viable. If there is a set of humans found that is genetically incompatible with normal people, it would most likely be in some newly discovered isolated tribe rather than an Eloi/Morlock type split.

Re:de-evolution (2, Funny)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 6 years ago | (#25309751)

but seriously, I think in a couple decades there will be a slashdot story (on my holographic visor with wifi) about the first set of humans were found taht have been determined to be too genetically dissimilar to have offspring.

And when we kill them, the neocon menace will finally be over. Too bad we'll have just killed the last Neanderthals.

The Problem is Natural Selection (1)

AngrySup (1003688) | about 6 years ago | (#25309405)

At the point society started protecting those who should be at a natural disadvantage, evolution stopped. Eyeglasses were an early contributor, but certainly not the first. Why should we let hemophiliacs breed? To breed more hemophiliacs? If a man is laying face down in the street, apparently the street has beaten him. By preserving these people and allowing them to breed, we have effectively short-circuited survival of the fittest.

Re:The Problem is Natural Selection (5, Insightful)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | about 6 years ago | (#25309521)

Utterly wrong on so many levels. Natural selection is going along just fine and dandy, thank you very much. The human environment has simply changed. The hemophiliacs now are fit, because their environment no longer kills them. Evolution is only ever relative to a species' environment, and many traits formerly selected against due to lethality are no longer relevant in this brave new world.

Re:The Problem is Natural Selection (4, Insightful)

happyDave (155169) | about 6 years ago | (#25309673)

Oh my. Someone on the Internet understands evolution through natural selection, and the definition of fitness in relation to environment. The world's about to end.

It's so frustrating to see so many other comments that treat "fitness" as something that exists outside of any context, as if what they value as fitness is what the selection process used.

Re:The Problem is Natural Selection (3, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | about 6 years ago | (#25309709)

Actually, I have this theory:

Most of us nerds are terribly low regarding competition to get females. However, we are more apt at improving society as a whole (or gaining power from society a-la-Billy-Gates).

So what if... mankind has evolved to develop a classes system - you know, like ants, bees and other social insects?

We have the kings and queens (leaders, apt for government)
We have soldiers - very strong and apt for defending us against other dangerous species (even ourselves).
Nerds go here, in the "research and development" class. Let's call ourselves the "pathfinders".
We also have workers. Not very intelligent people, but who can provide goods for everyone. Let's call them "sheeple".

Together, we fight as a whole, for the survival of the species.

Of course, this isn't a valid scientific theory. Just a thought.

Steve has some issues. (3, Interesting)

Tenek (738297) | about 6 years ago | (#25309407)

Clearly, since rabbits breed at a much earlier age than humans, they don't evolve at all? Please. Evolution occurs when you have an imperfectly reproducing population with finite resources. Modern social customs have an effect on evolution, to be sure, but they absolutely do not stop it completely. Any attribute which increases the expected number of successful offspring will be selected for, just as it has been for the past few billion years with every single species on the planet. It's one thing to assert that a couple factors may slow it down, but "stopping" evolution by breeding earlier is right up there with "stopping" gravity by building a floor. It all becomes part of the system.

Right for the wrong reasons (4, Insightful)

caller9 (764851) | about 6 years ago | (#25309415)

If human evolution is slowing, it isn't because of old dudes having mutated sperm.

* Historically most people and any animal I've heard of reproduced as soon as possible, old fart mating doesn't really make sense. People are actually reproducing at an older age(TRUE)...we get autism(*WILD SPECULATION*).

* Stupid people have more kids, raise them to be stupid.

* Smart people have fewer kids, raise them to reproduce responsibly(less).

* Health care, safety measures, and social medicine keep stupid people alive to the age of reproduction.

This guy is waaaay off. We're least mentally, has nothing to do with saggy old balls.

Re:Right for the wrong reasons (5, Insightful)

tibman (623933) | about 6 years ago | (#25309507)

It's not devolving, there's no such thing. People will evolve to best adapt to the environment over a long period of time. If the best way to survive is have the "talking shit and lying out your ass" trait then you'll start to see it more. If rich & smart people aren't reproducing as much then apparently there is a level of stupidity and poverty required for reproduction. Though that is not necessarily a bad thing. Nature doesn't give a fuck about money or intellect, only the ability to survive the longest and create the largest amount of progeny.

If evolution has stopped... (1)

SirLars (871223) | about 6 years ago | (#25309435)

... how come I can fly, heal myself and time travel... and my brother can slice people's skulls open like grapefruits to see how they work? Phhht scientists... next thing they'll be telling us is that you can't just take an injection and mutate.

Re:If evolution has stopped... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309483)

Skulls aren't very complicated to understand. I understand how they work pretty damn well, and I've never sliced any open.

Dysgenics (4, Interesting)

Scarbo27 (1150965) | about 6 years ago | (#25309441)

I agree with the thesis, but not the cause. The problem is that modern welfare programs protect the stupid, lazy, and generally incompetent; and allows them to breed without regard for the fact that the parents are not capable of providing for their children. The most basic and immutable law of economics is that you get more of what you subsidize, and less of what you tax. In America, and other first-world countries, we subsidize illegitimacy and tax work. I am not suggesting we do away with welfare, but we shouldn't ignore the consequences of a welfare system that doesn't either encourage birth-control, or discourage unrestricted breeding. Let the hating begin.

Re:Dysgenics (1)

Relic of the Future (118669) | about 6 years ago | (#25309591)

Great idea; while we're already getting outpaced in labor capacity, let's cut the workforce! Or, let's cut all support to the hated, idiot hordes and see how long it takes before there's a violent revolution!

Or, you know, we could invest in education. Unless you think that's ivory tower elitism; maybe you don't subscribe to the whole right-wing platform?

Re:Dysgenics (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | about 6 years ago | (#25309619)

I would hope against all evidence to the contrary that human beings' lives will eventually be valued by society and most humans in general more than their ability to create money.

Re:Dysgenics (1)

hefa (133288) | about 6 years ago | (#25309679)

Even if you were right, you're talking about society and not species. Maybe encouraging "the stupid, lazy, and generally incompetent" is not good for our society, but the individuals who take advantage of the system and produce the most offspring are the successful ones as far as the evolution of our species goes. I think evolution is still going strong.

Re:Dysgenics (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 6 years ago | (#25309753)

I'll wager you can't even provide a single citation showing welfare recipients are genetically inferior to the wealthy. You're just your average Social Darwinist moron, incapable of understanding what evolution is, and actually so fucking retarded that you think socioeconomic status is a genetic trait.

Riiiight (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 6 years ago | (#25309443)

...human beings have stopped evolving because modern social customs have lowered the age at which human males have offspring, which results in fewer of the mutations...

Which completely ignores Chromosomal crossover [] , changes to the environment, food supply, etc., and ignores the notion that most big jumps occur in small, isolated populations. Yes, with the world population and density at what it's at, with intercontinental travel so easy, we're at a reasonably homogenous genetic plateau just now. Wait until small groups of us move off to the asteroids and wait a few generations, then we'll talk again about how human evolution is "over".

Re:Riiiight (1)

PCM2 (4486) | about 6 years ago | (#25309653) say nothing of the influence of external agents -- viruses, in particular, which are now believed to have played an incredibly important role in evolution throughout history. Remember, viruses can only grow and propagate inside of host cells. Retroviruses often integrate portions of their own DNA with the host genome, and retrovirus material is in fact believed to constitute at least 5 percent of the human genome.

My new mission is to save our species (0, Troll)

the_other_one (178565) | about 6 years ago | (#25309445)

All I have to do is to convince my wife to allow me to quit my job. She can provide the income for the family. I will do my duty to save our species by opening a non profit impregnation clinic.

More to it (1)

eebra82 (907996) | about 6 years ago | (#25309447)

Humans also defy darwinism. It is no longer a survival of the fittest, since the benefits of our sociological and technological society provides comfort to unintelligent beings, disabled people, ill people and so forth. Maybe they won't be living the American dream, but it doesn't stop them from reproducing.

And at the same time, we are less than 200 years away from being able to genetically customize our own children. I exaggerated the time frame, because I think it is bound to happen within 50-70 years.

Lack of natural selection (1)

rhyder128k (1051042) | about 6 years ago | (#25309457)

Disclaimer: I didn't read TFA.

I suppose a lower number of mutations might reduce the rate of evolution, but wouldn't the lower mortality rate of modern be a bigger factor in side-stepping natural selection?

Re:Lack of natural selection (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | about 6 years ago | (#25309567)

I would argue that the rate of mutation may in many cases be *higher* than it was when most of humanity was still a hunter gather species with all the chemicals and UV people are exposed to on a daily basis... though O.T.O.H. natural selection isn't at all likely to go away... that's something a lot of people do not understand, natural selection always works- it doesn't just stop working even if we did halt most of the selective forces working on humanity [or did we...? considering all the third world countries and a vast array of selective forces that still exist as not everyone actually has good medical care, those and a number of other reasons suggest that natural selection still applies] oh and we've got economic systems that vary widely in what they are actually selecting for as well... from capitalism to hard communism... that definately selects for something in people depending on the system and any intervention by the presiding government... then there's war an ever present strong selective force... there's even some evidence suggesting that it played a role in the development of humans in regard to egoism and altruism

Evolution doesn't just "stop"... (5, Insightful)

Ruke (857276) | about 6 years ago | (#25309475)

It's not like evolution just stops because of technological advances. We're just evolving within a different environment, with different selective pressures. Remember, evolution isn't driving us towards a "best," it's driving us towards a "works for now."

Besides, society and technology have only been around for a few thousand years. If you're an optimist, the future of the human race looks really hot, and is fairly promiscuous. If you're a pessimist, society collapses, and we're back to the good ol' fashioned try-not-to-die for a while.

Feh! (2, Funny)

Relic of the Future (118669) | about 6 years ago | (#25309491)

Biological evolution is for chimps; real men are all about memetic evolution!

The article is worth reading. (4, Informative)

Pinckney (1098477) | about 6 years ago | (#25309497)

The author makes two additional points that the summary doesn't mention. Firstly, children born in the west are dramatically more likely to survive. They experience significantly less natural selection. Secondly, our large populations make any genetic fluke less likely to survive. Think of inbreeding here; with a small population, otherwise rare genes can become common. We're experiencing the reverse trend.

Re:The article is worth reading. (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 6 years ago | (#25309655)

We've really undermined the natural selection mechanisms that have shaped human development up to now. People who wouldn't even be alive if it weren't for modern medicine are now able to have kids. You don't have to be as smart as before. You don't have to be fit or healthy anymore to survive and reproduce. You can even have a severe metabolic disorder and still bear children.

We'll see what happens when the earth is 6 degrees hotter by the end of the century. Humans are quite good at isolating themselves from selective pressure, and there's not much time to adapt. If we're smart we'll start breeding ourselves to have arms shaped like fins so our descendants can swim through the underwater ruins of our cities.

Oblig: Buckminster Fuller (1)

PCMeister (837482) | about 6 years ago | (#25309499)

[Fuller] Do to a recent scientific breakthrough on human evolution, it seems we have to do our part and have some offspring!

[Younger woman*] OMG! So you're like some scientist or something!?

[Fuller] Something like that. Back to the matter at hand...

[Younger woman*] I'm willing to go through with it for the sake of science and human evolution, but WTF are those things hanging!?!

[Fuller] Those are just my bucky balls extremely magnified!

* = 18+ of course..

This is absolute rubbish (4, Insightful)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 6 years ago | (#25309501)

Bacteria, for example, reproduce at age 1 hour, say, and have no trouble evolving. This thesis is just another example of denying we are animals [] ,

Re:This is absolute rubbish (1)

m1ss1ontomars2k4 (1302833) | about 6 years ago | (#25309743)

Actually, this is completely unrelated. Bacteria for one thing have a significantly smaller genome, but are present in significantly higher quantities. Thus the capacity for them to evolve is always going to be greater than that for humans.

The main problem here is not that mutations aren't occurring; it's that they're not occurring frequently enough to be acted upon by natural selection. In fact, there is very little selection going on nowadays, as any innate problems are simply taken care of by modern medicine. There is also very little artificial selection (probably less than before, even), due to globalization. Without selection there can be no evolution.

Far from denying that we are animals, this thesis relies on the fact that we are just like every other organism in existence in our reliance on selection to evolve.

Idiot (5, Insightful)

DrSkwid (118965) | about 6 years ago | (#25309503)

Yeah, were under no evolutionary pressure. The world is in stasis. There will be no more pandemics like Spanish Flu that wiped out tens of millions of us a couple of generations ago.

What a fucking tool.

should change the title (1)

Mcavity (962581) | about 6 years ago | (#25309511)

"UK geneticist Steve Jones gave a presentation entitled Human Evolution Is Over" This should be renamed "UK geneticist Steve Jones gave a presentation entitled I am an Idiot." The simple fact that travel is easier now is have an effect on the genome. How many people here are of "mixed race"?

We'll have little mutants (1)

exa (27197) | about 6 years ago | (#25309515)

Oh, I need to think of a better reproductive line

Sentience... (1)

PhasmatisApparatus (1086395) | about 6 years ago | (#25309517)

...tends to change everything. Any natural evolution would be insignificant compared to the genetically-engineered self-evolution that is becoming increasingly possible.

What a pile of nonsense (1)

sam_handelman (519767) | about 6 years ago | (#25309519)

Okay, firstly, the average adult male at birth of last child is now well above the average *life expectancy* for much of human history.

  Secondly, evolution is not driven by mutations - it's driven by *natural selection*. The already existing genetic diversity could continue to allow evolution for some time without any mutations at all.

  Our new environment, in which reproduction is largely unlinked from sexual activity, means that genes associated with child bonding and child rearing will be favored in future generations, and genes associated with fucking like bunnies will probably be selected *against*. Or you could come up with some other plausible scenario.

  As new mutations arise in the population - and let's pretend we buy his argument that such mutations are less frequent now than they were 250,000 yrs ago - they will confer fitness (in a biological sense) not because they confer better survival; in industrial societies, few people literally die before reaching childbearing age. They will confer biological fitness if they are associated with a strong reproductive drive.

  Obviously this could change drastically in the event of some major shift in our society or the environment.

  Anyway, these claims are rubbish.

Surely he's missing something (1)

sysusr (971503) | about 6 years ago | (#25309539)

How can we be having children earlier when men used to live to the age of 30, back when we were scared of our own shadow?

Anonymous Coward (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309547)

This is absolute garbage science of the highest order and I'm surprised it is even mentioned here.

Idiotic (5, Insightful)

Xonstantine (947614) | about 6 years ago | (#25309569)

Evolution of a species only stops with extinction. Period.

Less mutations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25309575)

Are they sure about that? In these modern days, IMO there are many more mutation sources for human than the old days, like pollution, dioxin etc...

pseudoscientific clap trap (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 6 years ago | (#25309593)

wy do people give these low iq ideas a soap box?

More generations (1)

immakiku (777365) | about 6 years ago | (#25309595)

Doesn't younger people reproducing mean there are more generations? When people think of mutations, they generally think of the number of generations it takes to proliferate a trait, right?

Ah, late night Slashdot never fails to amuse (1)

freeweed (309734) | about 6 years ago | (#25309613)

Plenty of eugenicists come out of the woodwork at night, it appears.

Here's a hint, kids: human society and civilization IS PART OF OUR EVOLUTION.

Its Evolution, but not as you know it (1)

kzieli (1355557) | about 6 years ago | (#25309615)

Yes modern medicine changes the rules a little. However it does not stop young males (in particular) from engaging in various hi risk activitites like base jumping street racing etc. which do serve to remove some individuals from the gene pool. It is also a very western perspective. Sure in OECD countries we have gernally low child mortality rates but this isn't true everywhere in the world. Evolution is still going on in less advanaged parts of the world. Evolution is till going on in 3rd world countries, particularly the industrialized ones where pollution goes unchecked and people who can't handle contaminated air and water have a good chance of dieing in childhood. If I recall correctly Communities which have engaged perpetuated the model of older fathers having many children (ie the Mormans) have an increased incidence of some congenital conditions due to their genetic makeup being dominated by a dozen or so of the religions founding fathers. Heck even they have moved away from polygamy for the most part. Humans have a complex social life and the definition of fitness in a complex society is different to what it is among other mammals. having greater physical strength is not necessarily a deciding factor. And we still have a lot of social groups which self select to remain isolated from the broader human population. PS short sightedness has been shown to be largly caused by environmental factors and not genetics. If you live in a city, and very rarly get to look at anything further away then accross the street, you have much higher changes of needing glasses than your twin, who is brought up in the country. and gets to look out to the horizon every day. K

With most of the 'Great Apes' this is the norm. (1)

ratzmilk (137380) | about 6 years ago | (#25309637)

With most of the 'Great Apes' this is the norm. The younger males have to drive off or kill the older males to get access to the females.

The only exceptions I can think of are humans and the solitary orangutan. And for humans, jail is a good incentive for suppressing animal desires.

Superficial (1)

EnsilZah (575600) | about 6 years ago | (#25309641)

I haven't RTFA but I assume it's just a title to stir up controversy and the guy is not an actual idiot.

The point is, sure our current environment may reduce the survival pressure for biological evolution, but now that we have this brain with its various capabilities to play around with we have evolution on a different level, we'll probably even use it to modify ourselves genetically in the future.
I think it's about time biologists stopped hogging the concept of evolution and realized it's a general principle with much wider application.

I fail to see the relevence in this world (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | about 6 years ago | (#25309643)

The truth is that the majority of the planet has access to the necessities, food, water, and shelter. With those three things almost everybody can survive long enough to have children. Even enormous genetic benefits do not necessarily constitute an increase in the likelihood of survival.
It would appear to be the opposite in fact, dumb people have more children faster than smart people.

Clearly the only solution is for all the intelligent people of the world to unite and have numerous children.

Evolutionary Timeframe (1)

Software Geek (1097883) | about 6 years ago | (#25309649)

Evolution is a slow process, taking many generations. To claim that evolution is "over" based on the behavior of a single generation (ours) is remarkably shortsighted. Jones cites as an example an 18th century man (10 to 15 generations back) who fathered 888 children. This example is supposed to demonstrate how men in his generation fathered children later in life than men of our generation. But how does the example compare with men 2500 to 5000 generations back (50000 to 10000 years ago), a period when humans were rapidly evolving? Those men rarely lived into their 50s. I doubt they were fathering many children at that age.

No "evolution affecting" behavior pattern that we see today has been constant for even the last 20 generations, or is likely to continue for the next 20.

Re:Evolutionary Timeframe (1)

Software Geek (1097883) | about 6 years ago | (#25309675)

Correction: Should read "(50000 to 100000 years ago)", not "(50000 to 10000 years ago)"

Steve Jones!? (1)

Xaemyl (88001) | about 6 years ago | (#25309657)

What does the guitarist for the Sex Pistols know about evolution!? Well, old dude hook up with young chick ... I guess he knows loads about that ...

I still need a firmer argument (1)

exa (27197) | about 6 years ago | (#25309659)

to prove how awesome jailbaits are :D

Clarence Thomas was right! (1)

mbstone (457308) | about 6 years ago | (#25309663)

He ain't evolvin'!

The guy must be smoking something funny (1)

2Bits (167227) | about 6 years ago | (#25309671)

Human evolution is grinding to a halt because of a shortage of older fathers in the West, according to a leading genetics expert.

I read the first paragraph of TFA, and I thought, either the so-called leading geneticist is smoking something funny and speak through his behind, or the so-called reporter should be hanged for doing such a terrible job.

This is as if only the western hemisphere has human beings, or only the beings in the western hemisphere do evolve. Either way, at least one of these two is a dipshit, or both.

Secondly, people are bearing offspring more and more at a later age, males and females alike. It used to be that, by the age of 25, most people were done with their procreation job, as they get married in their teenage or early 20's and the first thing after marriage was to get as many children as possible. Now, procreation job has been delayed further and further. It's not uncommon that people have their child in their late 30s or early 40s. And this is pretty much a general trend all over the world. So, I wonder under which rock had these two been hiding all these times?

He is almost right (4, Insightful)

Plutonite (999141) | about 6 years ago | (#25309683)

Disclaimer: IANAEB

This has nothing to do with older men and younger women.

I say we will stop evolving any significant changes fairly soon because:

A) We have interracial mixing on all continents and in almost all genetic populations due to advances in human transportation.

B) Our other technological advances mean that we are highly capable of surviving due to the nature of our innovations as opposed to radical changes in our bodies (that in other species' histories may have been the major factor of eliminatig the unsuitable). This includes fighting natural disaster, possible predators, and food supply/type changes (industrialized production of food).

C) Welfare. We have organised the distribution of our resources. The weak will not flourish, but they won't die.

D) We are highly selective physically (males at least, females to a much lesser extent) due this time to communications technology and the entertainment industry broadcasting good genes everywhere, so we are less forgiving in terms of physical absurdity that may occur in our corner of the world.

E) He just wants to bang young girls. The hypothetical secretary in his office, to be exact. Slashdot is being used. Again.

Re:He is almost right (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 6 years ago | (#25309723)

A) We have interracial mixing on all continents and in almost all genetic populations due to advances in human transportation.

This has been going on long before modern transportation. Even oceans haven't prevented some gene flow. The Americas, for instance, were never cut off for more than a few millennia from Eurasia and Africa. All it takes is a small amount of flow of genes, as neighboring populations interbreed.

B) Our other technological advances mean that we are highly capable of surviving due to the nature of our innovations as opposed to radical changes in our bodies (that in other species' histories may have been the major factor of eliminatig the unsuitable). This includes fighting natural disaster, possible predators, and food supply/type changes (industrialized production of food).

What precisely constitutes a "radical" change? I'm not too sure what you're even trying to say. And even if we're somehow altering who survives and who doesn't, evolution is not something that happens on individuals, but rather populations, and natural selection is but one means of evolution. Genetic drift, which happens even if a species is in a supposed stasis (stasis really does not exist per se), pushes things along. Evolution never stops, not even in asexual species where offspring could be considered clones.

C) Welfare. We have organised the distribution of our resources. The weak will not flourish, but they won't die.

And now we have the ludicrousness of Social Darwinism wielding its ugly head. Economic status is not an evolutionary trait. You can't genetically inherit being poor, that's a social construct.

D) We are highly selective physically (males at least, females to a much lesser extent) due this time to communications technology and the entertainment industry broadcasting good genes everywhere, so we are less forgiving in terms of physical absurdity that may occur in our corner of the world.

Last time I checked, you can't broadcast genes over a TV. Human sexual selection really hasn't changed in any substantial way in tens of thousands of years.

A real biologist says... (1)

fcanas (1134381) | about 6 years ago | (#25309697)

1) Mutations can happen before you're born. There's no need to worry about anyone running out of mutations any time soon.

2) Plenty of animals with similar genetic systems reproduce before the age of 20... before the age of 10... etc. and they're having no trouble evolving.

3) In the ever-so-referenced and poorly conceived "plastic period" when we were "evolving on the savannah," anyone over the age of thirty-five would have been a grandfather, or nearly one. So old-age as he's talking about it is really just a construct of the last few thousand years.

He talks about periods where powerful men would have hundreds of children, well into old age (60), and how now fathers are younger now, and can carry fewer mutations. But given the above points, that's no reason to think that humans have stopped evolving. Some dynamics may have changed, but that's it.

flaimbait indeed.

Well, duh. (1)

Zelda Death (1228000) | about 6 years ago | (#25309717)

I had this same thought a few months ago, except it has very little to do with men's age. Think about it: if a caveman is born with seven arms, he can kill a lot more woolly mammoths than a two-armed caveman can. This leads to his kills impressing the cave-ladies as well as him living longer, giving him more opportunity to breed, and eventually all humans have seven arms. But if a seven-armed person were born today, our perceptions of beauty would prevent us from breeding with them, no matter how many woolly mammoths they can take down. They'd probably get thrown in a circus for life, and they'd only breed if the guy running it wants a replacement for when The Amazing Seven-Armed Man dies. "Necessity is the mother of invention" - nowadays, our necessity is beauty, not strength, and so the invention of a better human is stalled.

Natural Selection (1)

Samah (729132) | about 6 years ago | (#25309727)

I think you'll find a large contributor to the slowdown/halt of human evolution is that natural selection now plays very little part. Viruses and diseases are by design killers of the weak. Progressions in science and medicine have allowed us to cure these viruses/diseases, such that those most susceptible (ie. weaker genes) are permitted to contribute to the gene pool.

The alternatives of course are to let diseases to run rampant, allowing only the highly resistant to be "naturally selected", or to sterilise the weak. This renders progress in medicine useless, and raises all kinds of moral issues.

In my opinion, Mankind's only real hope of continuing the evolution trail is by gene manipulation and/or augmentation.

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