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Thread: The pace of human evolution

  1. #1

    The pace of human evolution

    http://www.efluxmedia.com/news_Human...ens_11655.html


    How much wisdom (sapientia) would humans be able to accumulate? Homo sapiens sapiens is on the point to add another “sapiens” to its scientific title: according to a new study released yesterday, not only that human evolution seems not to have ended, but the process’ pace has been increasing in the past 40,000 years.

    The recent study was conducted because a team of researchers rightfully wondered how the abstract term of “evolution” would look like in figures. The team of anthropologists studied as well the major differences that appeared between early people and the current Homo sapiens sapiens. Findings were astonishing, as they showed that our species is still in a hurry to evolve.

    According to this recent study, it seems that the pace of human evolution has been increasing at an amazing rate since our ancestors started spreading through Europe, Asia and Africa about 40,000 years ago. People evolved because their number had also started to increase and thus, offered more opportunity for genetic mutations to take place.

    Scientists estimated that in 9000 B.C. our whole planet was populated only by five million people. Today, we are no less than 6.5 billion and still counting. Because of this astonishing numerical increase from the past 10,000 years, people evolved like no other species. According to anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin, nowadays people are genetically more different from ancestors living 5,000 years ago than those humans were different from the Neanderthals, who had vanished 30,000 years ago.

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  2. #2
    Will we continue to evolve in the same sense as previously?
    For the last hundred years or more, the unintelligent and otherwise less fit seem to be as likely to live to reproduce as anyone else now, throwing a sabot into the wheels of natural evolution. However, to try to prevent that is morally repugnant.
    - Richard

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by rfbdorf
    Will we continue to evolve in the same sense as previously?
    For the last hundred years or more, the unintelligent and otherwise less fit seem to be as likely to live to reproduce as anyone else now, throwing a sabot into the wheels of natural evolution. However, to try to prevent that is morally repugnant.
    - Richard
    Richard,

    Is it possible that the incredible obesity trend that is occurring in the United States is not due to the food that we eat but due to selection of genes? I was also thinking about the enormous longevity increases that has occurred in just the last five decades. Perhaps, due to the increased toxins and drugs in our environment, the only babies that survive are the longest lived (and possibly fattest) individuals?

    I don't know... For the first time, the deep sequencing technology that is no revolutionizing genetics will be able to answer these questions. For example, there are machines that just brute force sequence all the DNA that you give them, giving you a huge database of DNA fragments that you can then match to a database to reconstruct into the original genome map. These technologies will soon allow us to take cells for individuals and pull out all differences of sequences between them.

    We are in a new age of science. I really wish that we would be lucky enough to find the cure for spinal cord injury research so that I can go play in the other areas of science that are opening up.

    Wise.

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  5. #5
    Senior Member Wesley's Avatar
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    this thread reminds me of how China systematically screens its population for athletic abilities. maybe there really are girls that weigh less than 70 pounds at the age of 16! Perhaps the upside of having this huge world population is that there will be extraordinary individuals that will be able to advance civilization and overcome the seemingly impossible challenges that the world faces.

  6. #6
    There are undoubtedly many, many Mozarts and Einsteins in the world's population, but their environment is not conducive to them developing to a fraction of their potential. In a crude way, the Chinese are trying to discover them. But I'd far rather that another "Zauberfloete" be written or photoelectric effect be explained (or cure for SCI be developed!) than another world record be set in the long jump!
    - Richard

  7. #7
    Wise, if that's the case I too certainly hope you'll get a chance to play in other areas, and soon!

    I was never under the impression that evolution would/could just stop, I mean we have such a short lifespan we can't really get a grasp on how gradually things move.
    Our environment is obviously changing, quite rapidly at that, so it would make sense that we are continuing to evolve.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Wesley
    this thread reminds me of how China systematically screens its population for athletic abilities. maybe there really are girls that weigh less than 70 pounds at the age of 16! Perhaps the upside of having this huge world population is that there will be extraordinary individuals that will be able to advance civilization and overcome the seemingly impossible challenges that the world faces.
    Wesley, I found it very interesting... extreme athleticism causes loss of fertility in women. A number of other women athletes said that they were inspired by Dara Torres not just because she broke the world record at age 41 but because she had a child just two years before.



    I was thinking that if more women continued with their athleticism through their 30's and 40's, they would have less children and are less able to pass their athletic genes to children while women who are not as athletic would have more children. We might have a case of reverse Darwinism at work, i.e. more children by less atheletic women?

    Wise.

  9. #9
    Senior Member rdf's Avatar
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    Wise, what new science most intrigues you? Which do you believe is the most interesting? I'm getting bored, and I've dallied around thinking about law school for too long...I can't make myself passionately defend the guilty nor prosecute the maybe innocent. And I'm getting tired of helping run a business, it's boredom personified any more.

    So what field of science do you believe is the most interesting, or just plain fun? If a person has a BS in Business MIS/Finance, could said person get a science degree in just a couple of years? I've taken all Math offered up to differential equations, and I'm curious what the gen ed courses/core courses are for a science degree.

    Thanks for any insight.
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by rdf
    Wise, what new science most intrigues you? Which do you believe is the most interesting? I'm getting bored, and I've dallied around thinking about law school for too long...I can't make myself passionately defend the guilty nor prosecute the maybe innocent. And I'm getting tired of helping run a business, it's boredom personified any more.

    So what field of science do you believe is the most interesting, or just plain fun? If a person has a BS in Business MIS/Finance, could said person get a science degree in just a couple of years? I've taken all Math offered up to differential equations, and I'm curious what the gen ed courses/core courses are for a science degree.

    Thanks for any insight.
    Interesting question.

    A lot of the coursework is just to give you the language and vocabulary. There is so much information and discovery coming out that there is no way that one can absorb even a tiny fraction of it. For example, as you know, I have developed an interest in lithium and what it does to cells. In order to understand it, I wrote a 70-page (single-space) review of 380 selected papers that were published on the subject in 2008. It took me about 3 months to put it together. While I was reading it, I was musing about what experiments I would and saw many of these ideas already coming out in papers the next week. In certain subjects, when it is mature and there are enough groups working on it, progress comes pouring out seemingly effortlessly and it is a beauty to behold. The reason why lithium is so fascinating is because it seems to have so many effects on so many systems that I am convinced that lithium is a natural messenger (like calcium) that cells evolved their enzymes for. It turns out that lithium stimulates stem cells but suppresses growth of cancer cells. The question why is leading me to read papers that are quite distant from spinal cord injury but, every once is a while, I find a paper that jerks me right back.

    I would love to spend some time studying the role of stem cells in cancer. I have this theory that some cancers are providing a niche for circulating stem cells, telling the stem cells to make more cancer cells. This explains why chemotherapy that kills stem cells effectively reduce tumor size but does not kill the tumor cells. In fact, many tumor cells are quite resistant to chemotherapy and stem cells are most sensitive to chemotherapy. As the chemotherapy is stopped and circulating stem cells recover, the tumor grows again.

    What I am saying is that there are a lot of really interesting biological problems that I would love to tackle. I would love to know why the eyes of flukes always migrate from the right to the left side, and why the eyes of flounders always migrate from the left to the right. How do cells know that they are on the right or on the left? I would really like to spend a year or two studying the neurophysiology of neuropathic pain in rats after spinal cord injury, to see if I can find the mechanism so that we can develop drugs rationally for that condition instead of just throwing drugs empirically at the problem. It goes on and on. I guess it is good to have a lot of ideas but too little time to do it all. For many years, I had never thought about not having enough time to do it all. Now, of course, I realize that I only have perhaps 10 or so years of active science left inside me and I would like to focus on something.

    Wise.

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