05 August 2007

The best it’s going to get

Here’s a thought:

“…human populations are now being constantly mixed, again producing a blending that blocks evolutionary change. This increased mixing can be gauged by calculating the number of miles between a person's birthplace and his or her partner’s, then between their parents’ birthplaces, and finally, between their grandparents’.

In virtually every case, you will find that the number of miles drops dramatically the more that you head back into the past. Now people are going to universities and colleges where they meet and marry people from other continents. A generation ago, men and women rarely mated with anyone from a different town or city. Hence, the blending of our genes which will soon produce a uniformly brown-skinned population.”

The above paragraphs are from a 2002 Observer article, titled ‘Is human evolution finally over?’, by Robin McKie, commenting on the future that awaits us all.

“However,” adds McKie quickly to his comment, “such arguments affect only the Western world – where food, hygiene and medical advances are keeping virtually every member of society alive and able to pass on their genes. In the developing world, no such protection exists.”

In the article about human evolution (in the Western world), Robin McKie explores some of the points of view expressed by scientists.

One, according to Professor Steve Jones of University College London, this is the best it’s going to get. Human evolution has, apparently, reached stagnation. “Things have simply stopped getting better, or worse, for our species.”

Another, by Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London, states, “You simply cannot predict evolutionary events… Who knows where we are headed?”

Still one more, from biologist Christopher Wills of the University of California, San Diego, argues, “There is a premium on sharpness of mind and the ability to accumulate money. Such people tend to have more children and have a better chance of survival.”

“In other words,” clarifies McKie, “intellect – the defining characteristic of our species – is still driving our evolution.”

In the end, writes McKie, “Some scientists believe humans are becoming less brainy and more neurotic; others see signs of growing intelligence and decreasing robustness, while some, like Jones, see evidence of us having reached a standstill. All base their arguments on the same tenets of natural selection.”

So, where does that leave us? And, who can tell what evolutionary changes will dominate the developing world?

[Citation: ‘Is human evolution finally over?’, Robin McKie, Observer, 3 February 2002, Guardian Unlimited archive.]

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