Modern Human Evolution: Is It Working Against Us?

i-8c66c4d51330345ea25f9764619ec10e-human-evolutionIn the vein of discussion recently on disinfo regarding how politically correct (or morally obligative) it is to address a person’s stupidity, Nicholas Wade writes a challenging and frank article for Time.com to promote his book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes Race and Human History.

…Racism and discrimination are wrong as a matter of principle, not of science. That said, it is hard to see anything in the new understanding of race that gives ammunition to racists. The reverse is the case. Exploration of the genome has shown that all humans, whatever their race, share the same set of genes. Each gene exists in a variety of alternative forms known as alleles, so one might suppose that races have distinguishing alleles, but even this is not the case. A few alleles have highly skewed distributions but these do not suffice to explain the difference between races. The difference between races seems to rest on the subtle matter of relative allele frequencies.

…The genes specially affected by natural selection control not only expected traits like skin color and nutritional metabolism, but also some aspects of brain function. Though the role of these selected brain genes is not yet understood, the obvious truth is that genes affecting the brain are just as much subject to natural selection as any other category of gene.

Anything that has a genetic basis… can be varied by natural selection. The power of modifying social instincts is most visible in the case of ants, the organisms that, along with humans, occupy the two pinnacles of social behavior. Sociality is rare in nature because to make a society work individuals must moderate their powerful selfish instincts and become at least partly altruistic. But once a social species has come into being, it can rapidly exploit and occupy new niches just by making minor adjustments in social behavior. Thus both ants and humans have conquered the world, though fortunately at different scales.

…Behavioral changes in the English population between 1200 and 1800 were of pivotal economic importance. They gradually transformed a violent and undisciplined peasant population into an efficient and productive workforce. Turning up punctually for work every day and enduring eight eight hours or more of repetitive labor is far from being a natural human behavior. Hunter-gatherers do not willingly embrace such occupations, but agrarian societies from their beginning demanded the discipline to labor in the fields and to plant and harvest at the correct times. Disciplined behaviors were probably evolving gradually within the agrarian English population for many centuries before 1200, the point at which they can be documented.

[Gregory] Clark has uncovered a genetic mechanism through which the Malthusian economy may have wrought these changes on the English population: The rich had more surviving children than did the poor. From a study of wills made between 1585 and 1638, he finds that will makers with £9 or less to leave their heirs had, on average, just under two children. The number of heirs rose steadily with assets, such that men with more than £1,000 in their gift, who formed the wealthiest asset class, left just over four children.

Read more at Time.com

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  • Matt Baen

    Gregory Clark’s thesis is pure pseudoscience. Wade’s book isn’t brave truth-telling; it’s evidence-free ethnic stereotyping.

    review of Wade
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/07/awaiting-new-darwin/

    review of Wade with why Clark’s thesis doesn’t work
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2014/05/21/on-the-origin-of-white-power/

    review of Clark
    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/10/001-economics-as-eugenics

    • kowalityjesus

      I welcome dissenting opinions, because they may very well become my own. I concede that the final cited empircal statistic is almost certainly a case of finding evidence to fit a preconceived framework…

  • aaron

    Your human evolution picture is a little off. Let me correct it for you

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ndlmYiwvzCU/Ta_7AoxksJI/AAAAAAAAAc8/WHEEGAavdbk/s1600/Monkey+to+sheep.jpg

  • BuzzCoastin

    fyi
    there was a mini ice age between 1300 & 1840ish in England & Europe
    farming was difficult and farmers naturally gravitated to the factory 1750ish
    as the climate warmed
    existing farms became more productive
    and those whom had abandoned farming stayed the new life
    which was less exhusting than old school farming

  • Kjvyn Koldt

    We are “evolving” into robots; it’s the way of the Greys, the beings directly responsible for our primary technological advances of the past 5+ decades.

    • Mr B

      Yep, I was charged £1.79p for an 89p can of peas recently, and the woman at the till, had to use a calculator to determine the correct refund amount.

      • aaron

        Sadly I have witnessed similar events. I just sigh and a little more of my faith in mankind dies every time

        • kowalityjesus

          I am the snorax, I speak for the sleeping intellect of all my un-stimulated higher primates.

          Allow two of my favorite inspired hominids to shatter your preconceived notions of materiality. Please skip any advertisements encountered. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0OKuobtPOQ

  • Ted Heistman

    I think its safe to say that there must be some interplay between culture and genetics.

    One thing I do know is that a gene associated with ADHD is almost nonexistent in China. I think it may have been removed from the population through a type of artificial selection. In other cultures this gene is extremely prevalent.

    Anyway, Good to see you posting articles Rudy!

    • aaron

      There also might not be a gene associated with ADHD. It might be caused by some environmental factors maybe one of the vaccines or pharmaceuticals american kids are exposed to or a chemical in foods or caffeine and higher sugar diet exposure at a young age. Not saying its not a gene but it is possible its not because im sure American children are more exposed to these things than the average chinese child is.

      • Ted Heistman

        Its called the DRD4 7R allele. the so called “novelty seeking gene” the “7R” stands for 7 repeat. Its a mutation caused by a gene being repeated 7 times. It most certainly spread through the gene pool through natural selection. Meaning that it conferred some type of benefit. It seems to benefit nomadic people, such as herders and hunter gatherers. It could be a “dispersal gene” So the further you get away from Africa, the more prevalent it is. Its really high in South America, because that the last place humans migrated in pre-history as they colonized the planet.

        I think sedentarty populations of farmers, that plant rows of rice all day, for example, have no use for this gene, so it gets weeded out. I mean think of a person with ADHD having to do long tedious routines all day. It doesn’t work. It works better for Herders who wander around and switch things up. More Americans have it than Europeans, because people who left Europe for America tended to be adventurous.

        • kowalityjesus

          Incredible fact, Ted. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, would call it “The Relentless Cult of Novelty,” and it is most likely a cultural reflection of Western genetics and tradition, notably the ancient Greeks having a disposition to continuously pursue one idea after another.

          It is a remarkable thing that the Chinese had created an empire at the historical time that most European peoples were walking around the forest. Thus any parameters of sexual selection which existed in their culture were permutated to a much more thorough degree than in the West. I think this idea can be observed (as an analogy was drawn in the article) in the more ‘ant-colony’ attitude many East Asians have towards their position in society.

          How long would it have taken China to invent for example the internal combustion chamber? or any of the magnificent European discoveries/inventions since the dawn of the Enlightenment? It’s this dynamic ADHD quality of the West which led to its rise, but IMO might very well be its downfall.
          Perhaps this aspect of European history also gives us some bizarre but enjoyable atavisms like Shane Macgowan http://youtu.be/SsbFEwTjMDY?t=10m33s

          • Ted Heistman

            I am all about the bizarre atavism!

  • kowalityjesus

    “Thank you, China!”

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