Why is the human evolution still going on?

Answered on January 06, 2012
Created January 06, 2012 at 7:50 PM

Hi folks,

inspired by Mark's article about the genetic changes that happened to our genes within the last ~10000 years, I have a short question about human evolution.


It is obvious that some nasty little DNA variations tried to keep up with our changing human lifestyle and "invented" such things like:

  • lactase persistence
  • salivary amylase production
  • etc.

But how can those mutations establish, even though there is no evolutionary pressure anymore? Nobody has to die, if he's lactose intolerant. And nobody has a reproductive advantage, if he's able to pre-digest starches with his saliva.

Has the human evolution come to an end, because there's no "survival of the fittest" in today's society anymore? But how is it possible that (obviously sensible) DNA changes still occur? (Like the ones above)




on January 06, 2012
at 08:07 PM

this question will be closed



on January 06, 2012
at 08:06 PM

prepare for shutdown. they don't allow for evolution questions on PaleoHacks.

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3 Answers



on January 06, 2012
at 08:18 PM

Typically you are looking at the cumulative effect over a very long period of time to see the theory of evolution become practise. I for one wouldn't be all that confident calling an end to 'survival of the fittest' based on our circumstances right at this moment. And even in the unlikely event things continue as we might expect at present, we're well on the way to genetic modification of our own species. We may be taking control of the process, but that doesn't mean evolution is dead as a concept.



on January 06, 2012
at 08:12 PM

I wouldn't say it has stopped, but it is a blind force, so any evolving that is being done is likely evolving to better fit into an artificial environment. The children who flourish best under fluorescent lights shall prosper, until those lights go out. No, evolution doesn't work that fast, which is why we aren't particularly well adapted to grains, despite them being around for all of recorded history, but it is a good example because of the image it evokes.



on January 06, 2012
at 07:58 PM

For other species, it's frequently either evolve or go extinct. And only the strongest, most adaptable individuals survive and reproduce.

For us, in general, many variations survive so we aren't limited to one or a few viable options. The positive spin is that it's kinder for those who would otherwise be too weak to reproduce and the overall species may be enriched by the diversity of mutations that are kept. The neutral spin is that our species could become multiple species or, more likely, more and more diverse with both positive and negative consequences. I suppose a negative spin would be that our species could become less "fit" for the world we have created with our technologies and practices.

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