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Human Genes Still Evolving

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-know-a-few-missing-links dept.

810

MediumFormat writes "The New York Times is running an article that discusses the continuing evolution of human genes. From the article: 'The genes that show this evolutionary change include some responsible for the senses of taste and smell, digestion, bone structure, skin color and brain function.' Darwin Awards aside, what made people think that evolution stopped with the modern era?"

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Original paper (5, Informative)

lovebyte (81275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873403)

The PLOS biology article [plosjournals.org] is available to everyone via Open Access.

First Post (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873404)

We'll it would have been if it wasn't for this damned webbing between my fingers.

bleh, bone structure. (5, Insightful)

ashot (599110) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873406)

its not that its stopped, its that 5,000 years is an insignificant spec of time.

Evolution can be "fast" (3, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873504)

A few generations are enough, particularly in areas with high mortality rates, high levels of disease. It just doesn't apply to the individual.

Evolution and gaming (1)

Sting_TVT (959719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873412)

Does this mean that fishbelly white and absolute dependance on Jolt will create Morlocks? I always wondered where they came from....

Evolution stopped? (5, Insightful)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873413)

Darwin Awards aside, what made people think that evolution stopped with the modern era?

Applying natural selection as a template, lets look at what it really is. Natural selection is the phenomena of being removed from the gene pool prior to reproduction. Anything else that happens will allow your genes to carry on, which is how evolution works. People probably assumed that evolution stopped because they assume that most people manage to successfully reproduce prior to their death.

We evolve through our work. (0, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873482)

If you want to evolve, find or create a good job for yourself, make plenty of money, and this is called being strong.

If you don't want to evolve, then you simply won't make enough money or any money and you'll fall between the cracks. When we pritivize social security, and stop some of these social programs, then we will have an evolutionary market. Always follow the market, always support the economy.

Re:We evolve through our work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873512)

I would think that the result of mankind's work is more a revolution than evolution. Evolutionary results also tend to withstand time better. I think that genetic evolution is still the way to go for mankind. It doesn't require the heavy maintenance that all human products do. A real drag on the long term (1000 years say).

Working hard is weak, not strong. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873541)

Because all the evidence says that earning lots of money is an evolutionarily weak. When do you then have time to have the dozen genetic offspring? It isn't the few at the top of the heap who're having lots of children, they're busy paying for their lifestyle.

 

Cost of living (-1, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873569)

The few at the top can actually afford to survive. The few at the bottom have more children because they need more children to survive and work. If you are a farmer yes you'll have plenty of kids, but most of your kids won't live for very long, and with the current healthcare system and education system in America, explain to me why you think people living in poverty have any chance of survival. Sure people are surviving in poverty, but this is because the economy is strong. When and if inflation kicks in, and the price of gas goes up, this can change. Ultimately you can survive if you are individually weak, but this is why we have the church. We have churches to help those who are weak but who believe in a higher power.

As much as people like to talk bad about President Bush, he is actually funding churches. Let's give him credit, he does believe in faith based initiatives. If you want to be an athiest, then don't expect to be helped out, athiest make up like 1% of the population. America believes in God.

Re:We evolve through our work. (2, Insightful)

famebait (450028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873575)

If you want to evolve

Individuals don't evolve.

Re:We evolve through our work. (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873598)

Thats right, even devolution is evolution. The new path to enlightenment, greed?

Re:We evolve through our work. (0, Redundant)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873607)

Think more. Money is not only about greed, money is also love.
Of course you can love yourself, but no one says you cannot love others also. Point is, you need money. Money is love.

Re:Evolution stopped? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873490)

People probably assumed that evolution stopped because they assume that most people manage to successfully reproduce prior to their death.
Meaning that slashdotters - even though far superior - will become extinct in the near future. A sad time in history, the era where mankind peaked.

Re:Evolution stopped? (5, Insightful)

Florian H. (6933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873522)

Natural selection is the phenomena of being removed from the gene pool prior to reproduction.
Actually, no. Natural selection is about having comparatively more offspring than competing selection units. To die early is a hard limiting factor in that game, but not the only factor. Living long enough to take care for your grandchildren while your (now adult) kids are out hunting probably has a major influence on your overall reproductive success, too.

Re:Evolution stopped? (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873622)

Yes, certainly. I elaborated on these in a blog posting, but, well, this was really sufficient for what I had intended to say here. If you choose to have a bunch of kids, you're going to have a bigger impact on the gene pool. It almost goes without saying.

Since most people seem to have their 2.5 and pack it in as far as child rearing is concerned, these folks are in the minority, don't you think? Those having 3 having a bigger influence, the real studs with 100 kids having a huge influence, and the ones who have no kids, having no influence.

Re:Evolution stopped? (3, Insightful)

famebait (450028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873558)

Applying natural selection as a template, lets look at what it really is. Natural selection is the phenomena of being removed from the gene pool prior to reproduction. Anything else that happens will allow your genes to carry on, which is how evolution works.

This is a gross simplification. Sure, being killed off before reproducing is a very strong and effective form of evolutionary pressure, but not the only one. Reproductive success is also very important. Not just whether you reproduce at all: In species with sexual reproducion (where genes/traits relatively quickly can spread across through a population without the source being the sole ancestor), simply facilitating slightly more offspring that survive to reproduce will also eventually make a trait rise to prominence. This can be achieved in many ways, the most obvious ones being increased reproduction or superior nurture.

A lot of things seen in nature (and also some seemingly conflicting drives in human behavior) only make sense in the light of sexual selection, survival boosting between related individuals, and other complex and conflicting ways that can help a gene succesfully proliferate.

Re:Evolution stopped? (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873667)

Certainly. I was making am implicit assertion that most people aren't deciding to have particularly large families, so the guy who decides to have 3 kids is normalized out by those children only having 1 or 2, but, certainly, a real Cassanova could pass his horiffic mutations on to thousands of children with a good pick up line and some free time on the strip in Vegas.

Natural selection is not just survival. (2, Insightful)

nut (19435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873561)

Natural selection is the phenomena of being removed from the gene pool prior to reproduction.

That's exactly the mistake that most people make when they talk about evolution. It's not just down to the ability to stay alive long enough, i.e. not all selectors involve organism death.

Some people lead long, healthy active lives and never reproduce through choice, lack of opportunity or possibly just inadequate social skills. Isaac Newton famously died a virgin.

People may also reproduce but choose the best partner to reproduce with, thus ensuring their line dies out in the future. Or social fashions may influence the reproductive choices of generations, i.e. big is beautiful, or slender, Blonde or brunette etc.

And lets not even start on the concept of nations and other communal groupings competing with each other...

Re:Natural selection is not just survival. (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873647)

Sure, but even unattractive people manage to pair off and have kids, and nobody in the US is going to tell them "you have to stop at 2."

Re:Evolution stopped? (2, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873671)

Natural selection is the phenomena of being removed from the gene pool prior to reproduction. Anything else that happens will allow your genes to carry on, which is how evolution works.

Well, that's not the complete picture [economist.com] .

One word: (1)

c0l0 (826165) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873414)

Civilization.

(Not the Sid-Meier-game, actually.)

Civilisation vs Evolution (4, Interesting)

permaculture (567540) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873415)

Evolution involves the death of weaker individuals before they can breed. With soap (the yardstick of civilisation), surgery, rescue helicopters, dentistry, wheelchairs etc, weaker individuals aren't killed off so easily before they can breed.

Weak and strong are cultural. (0)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873435)

In our culture, the amount of cash you have decides how weak or strong you are. Genetically, we have a concept called races. Culture decides evolution, religion decides evolution, it has little if anything to do with genetics and never did.

So all of this pseudo science of genes wont really matter. Culturally we arent going to change. We have a concept already which defines evolution and we call these evolutionary tracks races. We also have classes which defines the rate of evolution inter-racially. If you want to track evolution, it's simple, if you are rich you are more evolved than if you are poor. If you are rich your genes have a greater chance of passing on, and if we want to evolve more efficiently then we need to focus on having a strong economy.

I think with a fast economy, the market will solve everything. Let the market figure evolution out, because science is just a bunch of theories, and ultimately no matter what science says, we arent going to change.

Except... (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873461)

That evolution doesn't give a toss about your concept of strength or of fitness, and guess what... poor people have more children than rich people do...

 

Having children means nothing. (0, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873496)

Just because you have 20 kids does not mean these 20 kids will all survive. You see, poor people in Africa are having kids. Poor people in the third world are having kids. Poor people in America are having kids. Most of these kids will not survive, because healthcare costs will rise, the cost of living will rise, the cost of education will rise, the cost of everything will rise. Sure some poor people will become rich, and some poor people will survive, but living in poverty means accepting greater risks, a harder life, and usually a shorter less healthy life. You will not have access to clean air, clean water, clean food, or healthcare. Society is not designed to help the weak poor, society is designed to help the strong rich.

So it should be obvious which genes our economy values most.

Um. Take a look at *American* demographics (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873614)

Or European for that matter. I wasn't talking about Africa...

Once the basic killers are covered, food, water, shelter, disease. People can breed to their heart's content, and that's exactly what they do. Unless of course they are driven by archaic competitive genes to be the number 1, the big cheese. Then they compete themselves right out of the gene pool. I find that particular irony highly amusing.

 

Human influenced evolution (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873546)

That evolution doesn't give a toss about your concept of strength or of fitness, and guess what... poor people have more children than rich people do...

That's not really the point. The point is that we are now at a level of scientific knowledge where we can begin to influence evolution at a genetic level. That means will soon be able, if we want to, to conduct eugenics at a molecular level thus pre-programming the genome of a child rather than achieving canges by slow and clumsy selective breeding like the Nazis and other eugenics enthusiasts of the 1930s had in mind. In the forseeable future we will be able to modify genes to make our children smarter, stronger, better looking etc... If you are rich you will be more easily able to afford this kind of treatment than if you are poor. Some poor people will not be able to afford it at all, which might lead to them becoming 'indentured' (in the historical sense) to a corporation who sponsors the gene modifications of their children. Some scientists have advanced the hypothesis that such developments may lead to two genetically distinct... I hesitate to use the word 'species', lets call them 'groups' of humans emerging resulting in a 'genetc upperclass' and a 'genetic underclass' of untouchables. As genetic modifications become more extreme these groups might even become unable to cross breed. This sounds like science fiction but there is no reason why it could not happen althoug perhaps what actually happens will not be quite so extreme as what I described. Even so, think about it, how would you feel if you lived to discover that your great grandchild in 50 years time will have the words 'Encoded by Microsoft Genetics' genetically etched into the skin behind it's left ear?

The meaning of life, the universe and everything. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873645)

Lesson 1: The meaning of life.

Is life itself... To have children, to pass your genes on to the next and all succeeding generations. That is the sole meaning of life. You can tack all the extra personal gubbins you like on to it but that's it.

So if you start mucking around with the genetic code of your kids... Whos genetic code are you passing on? It certainly isn't yours... Then even if you do have lots of kids, you've missed the point of passing your genes on. Either way the rich lose.

 

Re:Weak and strong are cultural. (2, Insightful)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873466)

Genetically, we have a concept called races.

No, we don't. Race is cultural, and is of little interest genetically.

Culture is all that matters. (0, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873525)

Science is bullshit, the only thing that passes on from generation to generation is culture.
The concept of race will not go away just because science disproves of it. The concept of race will never go away just like Christianity will never go away. The economy, the culture, the religion, these things matter more than science ever will. Science could say anything, but it will be explained in a cultural lense. Race will always exist, and if science says race is not defined by skin color and physical features, race will be defined by class, or by other features by those who are educated. Race will always exist because culturally people require it to exist. Religiously, race will exist, just like capitalism will always exist.

Cultural conservativism is the answer. The economy points toward a conservative culture. Always follow the economy. We are not going to wake up tomorrow, and have all of this science stuff be accepted, it's just too progressive to be acceptable. It is too much change too fast. Ultimately, change like this will only redefine the culture, it will put a new face on it, you don't like the current discrimination based on skin color and physical appearance? Great, prepare for the new discrimination by genes and class. The point is, this is our culture, it will not go away, it's in our genetic code to be this way, and simply by telling us its in our genetic code, or showing us our code, it's not going to change a damn thing because religion and culture are not defined by math equations.

Re:Culture is all that matters. (1, Insightful)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873655)

Science is bullshit.. Science could say anything

Right, you can use science to prove anything that's even remotely true. You've got a much freer hand wirth religion, hence it's not bullshit.

The concept of race will not go away just because science disproves of it. The concept of race will never go away just like Christianity will never go away.

Yeah, but don't we just wish that they would.

the only thing that passes on from generation to generation is culture.
Have we forgotten Einsteinian physics and Darwinian Evolution? Oh wait, you Americans almost have done that.

Cultural conservativism is the answer.

Must be the wrong question then.

Always follow the economy.

Make up your mind if you're a Christian or a capitalism. Morals or Money.

Re:Culture is all that matters. (1)

Imsdal (930595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873684)

Science is bullshit, the only thing that passes on from generation to generation is culture.

Oh, yeah, and of course that other thing called genes that TFA was all about. Didn't you get the memo?

The concept of race will not go away just because science disproves of it.

Probably true, as with most kinds of superstitions. That doesn't make it real any more than feng shui, crystals or healing is real. Somehow I'm not sure you understand the difference between something existing and the concept of that something haning on.

Race will always exist

No, this is patently false. See above.

Religiously, race will exist, just like capitalism will always exist.

Is this even supposed to mean anythig or is it just rambling?

Cultural conservativism is the answer.

What is the question? In science it is customary (actually, it's mandatory) to start with the question. However, since you don't believe in science, I can see why you would want to skip that part.

The point is, this is our culture, it will not go away, it's in our genetic code to be this way

What exactly do you mean by "this way"? Are you suggesting that society today has the same sets of mores and values we had 200 years ago? What about five thousand years ago? (Oh, I forgot. 5000 years ago was before we were created, so obviously we didn't have any values then. Silly me...)

Re:Weak and strong are cultural. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873687)

Culture decides evolution

So the US is going the way of the dodo, then? Oh, jolly good.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1, Insightful)

armondf (743161) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873436)

However, there are more things killing off the *weaker* individuals too: smoking (and drugs,alcohol,etc), car crashes, HIV/AIDS, and let's not forget Modern Weapons like SCUD missiles, Nuclear warheads, GW Bush, etc.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

80 85 83 83 89 33 (819873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873443)

With soap (the yardstick of civilisation)

i thought the mark of a trully civilised people was flushing toilets....

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873451)

What do you think makes it possible? The human brain responsible for high level social interaction and technological innovation is a major evolutional advantage. What does it say? Two things:

1. It is better to be in a society for higher survival chances.
2. Smart people have a better chance of survival collectively.

These remarks seem trivial, but these issues are complex if you look a bit closer.

Get real. (0, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873557)

Society is not a collective of smart people. Intelligence does not create unity. Religion creates unity. Intelligence creates colleges, and most people who go to college then go on to compete with each other for crap jobs. Unity comes from god, through religion, not through science and not through intellect.

Strength is money, the more money you have the stronger you become. Culture is more important than intellect, because if you just have intellect, without any religion, or culture, then you'll be a typical liberal.

This is what liberals don't seem to understand, America is culturally conservative. There was a time when I thought like you did, but look at reality. If your liberal ideas were correct, then the current reality would reflect this. In reality, America is religious, America is culturally conservative, and if you want to focus on something important, focus your science on the economy, because thats about the only thing that math and science can explain. People do not need science to tell them how to think, people have god, people have culture, and just because you get a team of scientists to tell them they are wrong does not change their minds on anything.

So lets put it this way, if you want to survive, you need a strong economy. If you are in a society, your society needs a strong economy to survive. Therefore the only thing that matters is the economy. Culturally we can be conservative or progressive, but if the economy isnt working, we cannot survive. America is currently culturally conservative, as long as our economy is strong we will be fine. Think and work within the conservative worldview and framework.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (5, Insightful)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873454)

You cannot stop natural selection, you can only change the selection criteria.

Small children are naturally scared of spiders, snakes and the like. This is no longer such an important criterion, so it is likely to wither.

For example, as the advertisments in London keep reminding us, colisions with cars is a a major killer of children and teens. Hopefully we'll eventually breed for kids that don't run out into the bloody road without looking.

And finally, your argument that "weaker individuals aren't killed off" by traditional perils like disease and conflict simply fails to apply in the third world, where the majority of the human race lives. Give them a few more generations, and they will be superior to your soft white first-world ass.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (5, Insightful)

Riktov (632) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873528)

And finally, your argument that "weaker individuals aren't killed off" by traditional perils like disease and conflict simply fails to apply in the third world, where the majority of the human race lives. Give them a few more generations, and they will be superior to your soft white first-world ass.

Third-worlders already are evolutionarily "superior" to white first-worlders -- by their selection criteria, i.e. the genetic makeup of a "white first-worlder" is likely to be disadvantageous when placed in the third-world environment. And vice versa. This almost goes by definition. Each adapted to their own environment, and it's meaningless to say that one is superior to another unless they are in the same environment.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (4, Interesting)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873633)

That may or may not be the case. The experiment to determine it would be to raise first-world children in the third world, and vice versa. A possible outcome is that the things that the first world children have that are no handicap in the first world (e.g. poor eyesight, correctable defects) are major handicaps in the third world, and the traits that third world children have (e.g. disease resistance) are no handicap at all in the first world.

This provides a criterion, notwithstanding that it is subjective, whereby you can say that the third-world ones are "superior"

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

AndrewStephens (815287) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873631)

Do not underestimate genetic drift [wikipedia.org] ; certain charactistics become more or less common in a population due to random chance even without the pressure of natural selection. Over time this can cause great changes in the average genetic makeup of a population.
Also, its possible that natural selection is still going on, even in the industrial world. There is an overall decline in fertility in most western nations. If was due to environmental chemicals (for instance), a certain percentage of the population would be less affected and hence more fertile and more likely to pass the genes for resistence to chemical infertility. This would happen even if the chemicals caused no actual deaths.
Finally, there is still sexual selection going on, although it is unclear how much effect this has in human society.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

famebait (450028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873636)

Hopefully we'll eventually breed for kids that don't run out into the bloody road without looking.

If you think through the implications once more, I don't really think you hope for that at all. At least I hope you don't.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873672)

Small children are naturally scared of spiders, snakes and the like. This is no longer such an important criterion, so it is likely to wither.

Depends on where you live. A person I heard of found a tiger snake under their bed recently. This was inside a house in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

I wonder how many snakes you need to have in your house before you find one under your bed.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

droptone (798379) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873459)

If you assume mere physical ability is the measure of one's evolutionary ability, then yes, this is the outcome. But it seems at least somewhat likely that with the evolution of cognitive thought that the human species should not be measured in its ability to have healthy teeth (via your citation of dentistry) or be able to walk naturally (via your citation of wheelchairs). If the human intellect can overcome these physical limitations, we have succeeded in being evolutionarily adaptable to not only our environment but the setbacks which are inherent within each of us.

Excuse me if your post was not meant to connote, a very naive concept IMO of, social Darwinism. I'll grant that surely there are idiots who are both physical incapable and mentally incapable of adaptability that survive via human inventions, but do you really think the net outcome has been negative?

Additionally, for those interested, here [timesonline.co.uk] is an fascinating article about people who naturally walk on all-fours discovered in Turkey. Even if the discovery does not amount to much scientifically speaking, it is fascinating to read about such oddities of the animal kingdom.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873473)

It just means that the environment changed, and therefore the definition of who is "weak".

There are still hereditary differences in people that have an effect on the number of offspring they're likely to have (e.g., intelligence is for a large part hereditary, more intelligent people are more likely to be highly educated, and birth rate is low for the highly educated in all rich countries), so evolution continues.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873475)

Just Add War.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873484)

But we are evolving towards a race that is resistant to contraceptives, and evolving away from shyness. We're also slowly eliminating those genes responsible for bad driving. If predictions about bird flu turn out to be true, we'll evolve improved resistance to flu. Civilisation has simply changed the survival traits.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873493)

Not really, strictly speaking. Evolution happens because in any environment some entities will survive and some won't. The 'weakest' are defined by their non-survival, simply. This distinction is critical to the understanding of evolution - evolution is not something that happens only to living organisms, it is a trivial consequence of the interaction between two opposite trends: a constructive trend and a deconstructive trend.

The same evolution happens in other systems - say, the system of 'scientific thought': new ideas are constructed and then subjected to an environment that tries to break them down by disproving them. Other examples are religion and political systems; evolution happens everywhere.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

clambake (37702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873551)

With soap (the yardstick of civilisation), surgery, rescue helicopters, dentistry, wheelchairs etc, weaker individuals aren't killed off so easily before they can breed.

EEEEP, WRONG! Weaker individuals still die off before they can breed... The definition of "weaker" just changed, that's all.

In civilization, weaker may mean "gay", "adventurous", "bad driver", or any number of lifestyles that lead to more deaths before babies. IT:s a fallicy to think that "fittest" mean the same thing as "24 hour fitness gym". Fittests is simply that which fites best...

A perfect example of this is sickle cell anemia in areas with malaria. In those places the HEALTIEST people are at a greater risk of dying before they can breed than those who are sick with sickle-cell, because sickle-cell peole are more immunune to malaria.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (3, Insightful)

nickco3 (220146) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873604)

Evolution involves the death of weaker individuals before they can breed. With soap (the yardstick of civilisation), surgery, rescue helicopters, dentistry, wheelchairs etc, weaker individuals aren't killed off so easily before they can breed.

This is a common misconception, evolution is not really about killing off the "weak" before they breed. Evolution involves two factors: changes to the genetic structure over time, and spreading those new genes as far as possible in the environment they inhabit.

The rate at which new changes are introduced is called the mutation rate and is independent of any level of civilisation we have acheived so far.

The second factor is spreading those new genes as far possible, that they be successful. But what determines a "successful" gene? The environment it finds itself in. When you move from a primitive environment to a civilised one the rules of the game change. A genetic hindrance in one environment may be neutral or beneficial in the other. For example, in it's original West African environment the gene that causes sickle-cell anemia is a beneficial one, offering a level of protection against malaria. In the people with this gene that were moved to the US, it just became a hindrance. In the absence of regular malaria epidemics the incidence of the sickle-cell gene has been observed slowly falling.

Favoured genes are not just about being stronger. Some genetic traits are highly successful because they are more sexually appealing to potential mates. The peacock's tail and the blue-eyed, blonde-haired northern European are both examples of this.

So evolution is alive and well, even for civilised beings. The mutation rate is constant and we are still adapting to our (civilised) environment.

Re:Civilisation vs Evolution (1)

QuestionsNotAnswers (723120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873610)

> Evolution involves the death of weaker individuals before they can breed.

That is only a small part of evolution. Evolution involves anything that affects the chances of reproduction of individuals, their kin, or their offspring.

Examples:
The trolling gene is likely to be eradicated over time because nobody likes a troll, so trolls are less likely to breed.
The high karma gene is likely to become more prevalent. Those that get high karma are showing that they are the fittest individuals in a community, which leads to more chances of fertilisation events.
The slashdot gene is likely to be eradicated, since the slashdot population is competing with a large number of other males for a small number of fit females -- also for slashdotters I would expect a reasonable correlation with laptop usage and monitor X-rays, both of which lead to increased risk of male sterility.

Psuedo Science! (-1, Troll)

elucido (870205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873418)

What ever happened to the theory of root races and our religious traditions? Adam and Eve?
What are the side effects of this science on religon and religous tradition?

Good troll (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873479)

Very funny. :)

 

Re:Psuedo Science! (0, Flamebait)

famebait (450028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873666)

What ever happened to the theory of root races and our religious traditions? Adam and Eve?

It was selected away beacuse it's totally weak, dude.

Of course! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873420)

Of course it's still evolving. But no one said the human race is actually advancing due to these changes.
Noting by the general population of the world the opposite is more likely.
In fact, I think that in no time we will be roaming the earth dressed with animal skins and holding clubs.

breeding longer lifespans (1)

80 85 83 83 89 33 (819873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873426)

of course, this would never be workable, and would run against personal freedoms, but we could increase lifespans just by increasing the minimum age to procreate. see, once an organism has reproduced and passed on it's genes, it no longer has a genetic "need" to stay alive. after awhile of gradually forcing people to wait before reproducing, we would automatically see health being "bred" into older ages.

Re:breeding longer lifespans (1)

ihuntrocks (870257) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873570)

Actually, if you will refer to Dr. Aubrey de Grey's work on Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/sens/ [cam.ac.uk] you will find that this is not entirely true. Also I feel that what everyone seems to be overlooking in this discussion is that evolution is merely the change in genes over time within a population. It is not inherently adventageous to the organism. That train of thought is called a "teleological assumption" which is a very nasty thing to make in the Biology community. "Evolution" doesn't necessarily make it any easier for an organism to survive, but it surely can. Deleterious mutations, while usually weeded out can and do get passed along, and that is evolution too.

Of course (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873427)

Of course human genes are still evolving; you just have to examine what it is these days that limits people in reproductivity, and what encourages them. It's obvious that we, as a species, should ever so slightly more alcohol-resistant, because drunk driving kills a lot of young people before they can reproduce. Also, the males will become more resistant to female-hormone-like substances in their food. Then there's work-related stress (adrenaline), and last but not least war, which takes, and has been taking out a huge number of ill-fated or aggressive young men.

Re:Of course (5, Informative)

mpe (36238) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873478)

Of course human genes are still evolving; you just have to examine what it is these days that limits people in reproductivity, and what encourages them. It's obvious that we, as a species, should ever so slightly more alcohol-resistant, because drunk driving kills a lot of young people before they can reproduce.

Humans of European ancestory are already more resistant to alchol than most mammals. Because for a long time brewing was the normal method of purifying drinking water. Cars have only been around for just over a century, where as water living pathogens have been around a lot longer.

Re:Of course (1)

Fengpost (907072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873543)

Good god! Is there anything beer can't do? It already fights cancer!

Are Journalist's all Classic Majors? (-1, Offtopic)

Quirk (36086) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873429)

"The New York Times is running an article that discusses the continuing evolution of human genes."

Hilariously funny. I see journalists as advertising sales people, while I read them as infrequently as possible. Their fashion sense seems to be the most keen of their senses. 'Serious' jounalists dress nerdy and wear bow ties to dissociate themselves from their advertising space sales force kin, but in doing so speak loudly to how superficially minded they are.

Nature is a process people. Life as we know it is an open non equilibrium system.

Likewise science is a process defined by thresholds such as those opened and imposed by inventions like the microscope and the telescope. I'm preaching to the choir, but maybe there's a classics major in the house.

Oh great! (-1, Troll)

pryonic (938155) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873434)

More evidence for the right wing religious nuts to ignore! Just what we need!

What's flaimbait? ;)

Re:Oh great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873535)

The funny thing is, evolution predicts that the individuals with more kids will see their traits passed on. So it's not simply that people who die young won't pass along their traits, it's that people who have lots of kids will see their traits predominate.

It just so happens that many of the right-wing religious nuts believe it's their holy duty to have big herds of kids, so these are the people who will be winning the game of evolution! So I predict we'll have ever more close-minded, superstitious, simplistic, wingnut, extremists spreading their seed -- it's a freakin' positive feedback loop that measures 10 on the Irony scale!

Re:Oh great! (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873680)

Actually, if you RT*A, you will see that this is solely talking about Natural Selection, which is a removal of genetic material. Us right-wing religious nuts believe in Natural Selection. The article gives zero evidence for molecules-to-man evolution, which was somehow missed by most of the respondents.

Interesting, but (4, Interesting)

Vlad2.0 (956796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873441)

I think it will be really interesting to see what happens to humanity (genetically) over the next several thousand years. The article makes it sound like bioinformatics could really take off in an effort to better ourselves by artificial selection.

A number of things have changed that will greatly impact our evolution that hasn't been experienced by our species before:

1. Ease of migration allowing for extreme mixing of previously separated social groups (this has been in decline over the last few thousand years, but now that you can travel between continents relatively quickly and cheaply, the impact will be much much greater.)

2. Knowingly allowing, accepting, and encouraging reproduction of individuals, who...shouldn't (No, I don't mean Bush). There's some bad genes out there. Some that shouldn't be passed on. While we're at a point where we can curtail some of this through prescreening parents for likely inherited traits, we continue to become more accepting of people with, well, bad genes. Aren't we effectively letting people piss into the pool?

3. Will this spawn a new race (as in car) by parents to "maximize" the brain genes described in TFA? Do I have to listen to soccer mom's brag about their kids DNA now?

4. How will this impact governments? And more importantly, dating websites?

I guess only time will tell.

Re:Interesting, but (1)

Bazzalisk (869812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873506)

2. Knowingly allowing, accepting, and encouraging reproduction of individuals, who...shouldn't (No, I don't mean Bush). There's some bad genes out there. Some that shouldn't be passed on. While we're at a point where we can curtail some of this through prescreening parents for likely inherited traits, we continue to become more accepting of people with, well, bad genes. Aren't we effectively letting people piss into the pool?

What's a bad gene? Something that causes multiple scleroses or suchlike might well count, but what about other things. By definition if a person with those genes can survive long enough to mate then the "bad" gene is no longer an evolutionary disadvantage.

Look at me, I'm short-sighted, slightly deaf, and slightly lame. Those would have been serious disadvantages at one time - genetic traits which ensured that I would not reproduce, nowadays they are nothing of the sort (and the only thing stopping me from reproducing is that I have no desire to have children, horrible smelly little things). In the end "good" and "bad" genes are relative to the current enviroment.

Re:Interesting, but (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873523)

Knowingly allowing, accepting, and encouraging reproduction of individuals, who...shouldn't (No, I don't mean Bush). There's some bad genes out there. Some that shouldn't be passed on.

Did you just read the last /. article [slashdot.org] too?

Re:Interesting, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873616)

"2. Knowingly allowing, accepting, and encouraging reproduction of individuals, who...shouldn't (No, I don't mean Bush). There's some bad genes out there. Some that shouldn't be passed on. While we're at a point where we can curtail some of this through prescreening parents for likely inherited traits, we continue to become more accepting of people with, well, bad genes. Aren't we effectively letting people piss into the pool?"

  A bit reminiscent of the third reich eugenics ideology...

Public Understanding Of Evolution (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873442)

remains to be about zero...

Please! Go read one Gould's short essays about what Evolution is, and isn't, or google around for five minutes.

I can't imagine what it must be like to be an evolutionary biologist and have to see articles like this here on Slashdot.

Re:Public Understanding Of Evolution (1)

ihuntrocks (870257) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873606)

Finally, somone who speaks the truth here. If you want to gain insight into evolution, Stephen Jay Gould (rest his soul) is the perfect place to check. Perhaps you will be fortunate enough to find the essay on bees, ants and termites, which taught me that saving one of your siblings from death is a nice thing to do, saving two is breaking even, and saving three is just plain selfish, from an evolutionary stance. (In essense, one sibling shares roughly half of your DNA, two siblings share between them 100%, and three siblings share 150% between them, thus actually giving "your" genes a better chance of spreading if all three live and you die in the process). Thought I'd throw that out there. Gould really was a brilliant man.

DID people actually think evolution had stopped? (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873447)

I mean really? Come on...

You go to college, work your arse off, earn lots of money, die without kids, the race doesn't get your genes. You're a single parent living on state benefit with 12 kids... big contribution to the gene pool.

 

Re:DID people actually think evolution had stopped (2, Interesting)

Bazzalisk (869812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873477)

Geneticly speaking the single mother is "fitter". Evolution is a brainless uncontrolled process - it selects for things that maximise reproduction - so after a certain point it starts to select in favour of stupidity.

If we want to preferentialy breed inteligence into future generations we're going to have to do it intentionaly, either by a direct process of eugenics (possibly by giving financial benefits to inteligent people who have children and heavily taxing less inteligent people who do ... which runs into the problem of how you measure inteligence reliably) or by human genettic engineering.

One interesting possibility would be to have everybody sterilised with reproductive material kept on ice, and then when a woman wants to have children give her artificial insemination with an embryo who's biological parents are of "aproved stock". Yeah, somewhat abusable by whomever has control over the system - not to mention the unfortuante problem of monoculture if enough genetic diversity doesn't get into teh next generation as a result.

Re:DID people actually think evolution had stopped (1)

Fire Dragon (146616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873621)

possibly by giving financial benefits to inteligent people who have children and heavily taxing less inteligent people who do ... which runs into the problem of how you measure inteligence reliably)

If that tax-form is normal state form, you have to be inteligent enough to be able to fill it.

Re:DID people actually think evolution had stopped (1)

Bazzalisk (869812) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873634)

Anywhere outside of the US that's not much of an issue. Heck, in Britain the vast majority of people never have to fill out a tax-return, and those that do don't tend to find it too difficult -- the US just has a ridiculously complicated tax-system.

Re:DID people actually think evolution had stopped (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873511)

Maybe I'm misunderstanding your sentiment, but how does what you say contradict evolution? Evolution isn't about making humans smarter, stronger, or any other attribute that you think of as 'better'. To evolution the better person is whomever passes their genes on.

When speaking on the survival of a species, that welfare mom is a hell of alot more important than some wealthy smart person who keeps their genes to themselves.

Re:DID people actually think evolution had stopped (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873679)

Wow - you almost sound like you think the "single parent living on state benefit" has life incredibly easy.

So tell me, would you be willing to pursue that lifestyle? If not, then stop trolling. The vast majority of people on welfare are victims of society - they never had the opportunities afforded those of us who were luckier to have been born middle class or higher.

Your view is typical of someone who has never been in that situation. Learn a little empathy, and try to look beyond your own particular life.

modern era? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873448)

5,000 - 15,000 years ago is not the "modern era". Besides the "modern era" is not only determined by time.. certainly some primitive peoples back in some undeveloped country even now are under evolutionary pressures that aren't acting on those in first world countries.. whose main cause of death for young people is suicide rather than environmental effects. And the reason people don't think evolution happens in the modern era is because young people do not die enough.. meaning natural selection at least has to slow down dramatically. Finally people might say that 5,000 years is "way to short" to see any evolutionary effects. That does not mean that it's totally impossible if you try hard enough - obviously evolution must always take place for it to happen at all. It's just that the effects you see at 5,000 years will be pretty undramatic compared to the effects after millions of years.

Adapting to the Environment (2, Insightful)

Wrataxas (745719) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873450)

Part of evolution is adaptation to the environment. We are changing the environment (civilization, medicine, technology, etc.) far faster than evolution can react to it, so to speak, given the length of a human generation. We are seriously adapting the environment to us, rather than the other way around.

Re:Adapting to the Environment (1)

zenmojodaddy (754377) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873545)

It's a pet theory of mine that evolution works in three stages, and we're just embarking on the third stage:

1) Environment changes species. The species responds to its environment until it reaches a certain point, which leads us to:

2) Species changes environment. Tool-handling gives us the ability to shape our environment to our own benefit. This reduces the need to adapt to the environment, so natural evolution slows down, until:

3) Species changes itself. Genetic engineering/screening/manipulation gives us the ability to modify ourselves... and, for good or bad, the pace of change will increase again.

Changes in DNA being made by both diet and habitat (4, Informative)

manon (112081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873463)

Yesterday, I read this [guardian.co.uk] in the Guardian [guardian.co.uk] . It's a very interesting article about how, over the last 10.000 years, our DNA has been altered by what we eat and where we live.

evolution stopped? (1)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873465)

[QUOTE]Darwin Awards aside, what made people think that evolution stopped with the modern era?[/QUOTE]

The confusion is over the lay usage and the scientific usage of evolution. Lay usage usually implys an 'improvement' in the genome, whereas scientific usage is 'a change in allelle frequency over time' which can be due to 'selective pressure' resulting in differential reproductive success (and hence likely an 'improvement') or due to genetic drift, etc.. Selective pressures resulting in 'differential reproductive success' are not much of a factor for many modern humans. So if you are using evolution in the lay sense it has 'largely stopped' (though not completely see for instance what is likely to happen in Korea or China where the male to female ratio is hugely out of balance; or in Africa with HIV), even if it will inevitably continue to 'evolve' in the scientific sense.

LetterRip

Can you say "moot point"? (1)

Cybert14 (952427) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873470)

We'll be beyond DNA quite soon. Kurzweil may have been a bit optimistic on timelines for brain-machine integration, but he's been quite right before. I give it 64 years or so.

Still going strong (4, Insightful)

nnnneedles (216864) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873474)

I hate to see all these comments talking about how evolution mechanisms are failing in the modern world.

We can't escape natural selection, no matter how many pills and safety mechanisms we introduce into society.

Women just tend to become more and more picky with whom they mate. And while things like good eye sight become less important, other things take their place. Things like having lots of money, social skills/social network, an athletic body, cooking skills and so on.

Here in Europe, the number of babies born per adult keep falling. This means it is actually getting harder to reproduce than it was in a past, poorer Europe.

Re:Still going strong (1)

ihuntrocks (870257) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873624)

As you brought up, more and more we are actively selecting for our traits when we reproduce, and these are not necessarily genetic traits. Since we have introduced this form of artificial selection upon ourselves, selecting for phenotype rather than genotype we have violated a basic assumption of the Hardy Wineburg Principle (for the love of science, please Google that if you don't know what it is). We are still continuing to evolove, in the sense that we are seeing shifts in allele frequency, and can't do anything about that. However, we are not so much evolving in the more natural sense anymore, due to our violation of one of the basic assumptions of the Hardy Wineburg principle. Just food for thought that may provide better insight into this discussion.

Re:Still going strong (2, Insightful)

El Sordo (917587) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873625)

You're right that the number of babies born per adult is falling in the wealthier nations, but the survival rate of the babies is also a lot higher so I'm not convinced it is actually "harder to reproduce" than it was in centuries past.

But certainly the stagnation in population growth is a major concern for many Western nations. It seems an increasingly popular trend for governments is to dangle incentives for having more babies. It is amazing how much impact a once off "baby bonus" from the government can have on birth rates. If people are willing to have another baby to collect an extra $1000 it makes me wonder if they are having the baby for the right reasons (and of course the $1000 will be insignificant compared to the costs of raising the child).

Evolution and Jerry Springer (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873476)

Watching a Jerry Springer Show gave me these conclusions:
- the humane genes are still evolving
- they are evolving at a rapid rate
- they are evolving in the wrong direction

Oh yeah, and:
- it's not 'designed'
- it's certainly not 'intelligent'

Re:Evolution and Jerry Springer (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873581)

I have no desire to outlaw birthcontrol, but in developed countries it clearly renders the stupid, the lazy, the irresponsible, and the superstitious more reproductively fit relative to the everyone else.

pretty obvious (3, Interesting)

idlake (850372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873509)

I think that article isn't seeing the forest for the trees.

In fact, natural selection has clearly operated at a huge scale, when Europeans settled every corner of the globe, while indiginous populations have disappeared or mingled. Genes associated with those Europeans have spread, while many others have nearly disappeared.

This is an example of group selection, and it has selected many genes at once; some of them may have helped Europeans in their conquests, others may have just been along for the ride.

On the flipside, medical and environmental advances probably are causing us to lose functions at a massive rate: no need to deal with food-born pathogens if you don't encounter any.

Evolution isn't as neat and simple as "better mammal wins" or "better gene gets selected".

The Chinese are illustrative of another interesting development in evolution: limiting population growth in the absence of high child mortality and in the presence of modern medical technologies and genetic testing. Whatever policies nations adopt in that environment, they'll end up acting as "natural" selection as well.

Inherent egoism (1)

Rado.hr (856015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873553)

It's about inherent egoism of human race. First we were thinking that gods created universe just to make home for us, then we were sure the Earth is flat and everything revolves around Earth (read: us), then we thought we're just so perfectly evolved that evolution is obsolete and we can handle ourselves just as good as the nature does. In fact, there's evidence that humans still evolve - at least, we're getting taller each generation. ;-) We have achieved great advances in science, but still we're thinking everything revolves around us, and we're sooo perfect indeed. Evolution - shcmolution, who needs you these days? We have medicine, we have genetics, we don't need you, just go away, we're taking over the world, drill this and bulldoze that, and we're going to make it a hell of a place! :-)

Fancy words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873567)

"...what made people think that evolution stopped with the modern era?"

Perhaps the fact people felt smart that they could run around shouting buzzwords without having a clue what they mean - people have been doing this forever, its just now the buzzwords actually sound cool with made up words like blog and all the rest of the words people made up with the repopularization of the web...

:O (1)

Wizzandabe (936513) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873596)

So what has this become? its going to stop evolving just because some of us have big heads, like to blow things up or try and destroy others work? Course not; sooner or later we would have evolved, yet we probably wont notice it.

ID (0, Flamebait)

wwmedia (950346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873599)

[insert Intelligent Design joke here]

Just wait until the avian flu pandemic hits (1)

scottme (584888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873626)

...then we shall see some natural selection, as people without some kind of resistance to it die in their millions.

Impasse (1)

SlashSquatch (928150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873638)

what made people think that evolution stopped with the modern era?

Hmmm, let's see:
Bill and Hillary -> Chelsea
Ronald and Nancy -> Ron Jr.
George and Barbara -> George Jr.

Conclusion: Evolutionary dead end was reached and we are reversing quickly out of a bad neighborhood. Don't make me cite Kennedys.

Evolution produces strange fitness functions... (0)

archeopterix (594938) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873643)

Hm... to be the fittest, given the current environment, a man should spend his life depositing his sperm in sperm banks all over the world.

Somehow I don't feel like doing that. Or like doing anything else at all - which brings another interesting question: is laziness hereditary, and if so, how does it contribute to the fitness function?

We're Screwed! (2, Funny)

Anyd (625939) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873649)

Just look at the average football player's chance to reproduce compared to the average /.er's chance...

I challenge everyone here to do their part in raising the IQ of humanity (go get yourself laid damnit!)

Obligatory Women's Day comment (2, Interesting)

coffeechica (948145) | more than 8 years ago | (#14873662)

Evolution happens when those too weak/unable to adapt to their surroundings don't get to breed, so only the successful genes survive. Straightforward, and of course we aren't going to stop evolving just because Darwin was wrong and God is bored with the game after a few thousand years.

Now I know this is a short-term perspective, but who knows how long this will go on - look at women these days (and for the last century). If women want to work and have a career, then they'd do well to be smart enough not to have children. So essentially, modern society removes a good deal of good genes from the gene pool. Female academics have much fewer children, they're pickier about who they marry/have those children with. And there's very little sign that this is going to ease up anytime soon It's much easier for you guys - when you're an academic and successful, picking up a woman isn't that hard, so you'll get to pass on your genes. Just watch out you don't have daughters, because if they inherit your intelligence, your genes may be in a dead end there.

Irrelevent to modern evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14873675)

Well we wont evolve in the old ways for one good reason. Our fates are too entwined. Evolution requires the more vigorous individual exhibit an advantage over its competitors. Humans jumped ahead partly because of opposable digits, partly because of our large brains but most of all because we are social pack animals that work together. Or rather we did. SInce about 2 million years ago we've been evolving as a group rather than individuals. Despite the benefits of hybrid vigour brough about by interracial breeding in the modern age the recent appearance of globalised capitalist economics turns this on its head. We have created a faux substitute for real evolution that actually threatens we may REGRESS. The modern evolutionary state is governed more by our intelligence in selecting leaders who wont wipe us out (collectively - wipe out the entire race) and we seem to be getting poorer at making those choices. Other posters have suggested that war will breed out naivity, compliance, foolish patriotism, perhaps even greed. But the ones who instantiate war and benefit from it are never the ones doing the fighting. Perhaps genetics will uncover a common factor in the Bush and Blair types sequences which we can eradicate with drugs or something. I'm all for eugenics if we can eradicate tin pot dictators leading us to nuclear armageddon. Although these individuals are robust as "lone wolves" their social pathology threatens the wider group. Read Dawkins perhaps.
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