Scientists find evidence that humans are still evolving.

Every now and then some IDiot or Creationist will show up and ask one of their favorite questions: If we evolved from monkeys then why aren’t we still evolving into something else? The answer, of course, is that we are still in that process of change:

Providing the strongest evidence yet that human beings are still evolving, researchers have detected some 700 regions of the human genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection, a principal force of evolution, within the last 5,000 to 15,000 years.

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.

Under natural selection, beneficial genes become more common in a population as their owners have more progeny.

It’s a slow process but even within relatively small timescales there’s evidence of change that’s being found. If we manage to survive for a few million more years chances are humans will have evolved into something hard to recognize as human.

74 thoughts on “Scientists find evidence that humans are still evolving.

  1. Zilch, your story brings to mind these Mott the Hoople lyrics:

    Oh man, I need TV when I’ve got T. Rex

    Only more salacious, of course.

  2. Too bad I didn’t see this before.  I actually work with genetics and GM foods.  Granted my experience isn’t as much as I wish however it surfices for what I do.

    GM foods will only happen when we have completely exhausted the potential applications of the present gene pool.  Only then will major tinkering occur.  So far GM is confined as a specialized thing, like the pharmasutical industry (forgive my spelling).  We are NOT going to start human alteration anytimes soon, for more knowledge is needed to know the consequences.  Branches into Proteomic research and subsequent translations are needed before ANYTHING drastic is done.  Science isn’t a breakneck thing that races towards science fiction, we are more intelligent then that.  I’m hurt that you people are suggesting this.  Science is cautious by nature folks!  Give us 20 years and we may have something but me and many of my collieges are against the pandoras box of human alteration.  Eventually that will come, but not for maybe 80 years or something.

    So in other words, if you want to go splicing yourself with your pet cat, go on ahead but don’t expect us to save you form the super hairballs.

  3. Zilch: And you all thought I was weird before this…

    Mate, there’s weird and weird. You’re not weird, you’re just weird. LOL

  4. Enlightening little story, Zilch. I wonder how you and PZ match up – although obviously, if you’re after vertebrates he’s not going to empathize at all. On one side, your dream sounds strangely obscene and fit only for the hardcore fetishists, on the other side, cephalopods have beaks down there. Neither sounds overly pleasant. I’ll stick to humans thanks smile.

    Hussar, I did learn about our stuff being patented (and although the date’s right I don’t know why or how I failed to mention it as I learned of it in October after watching “The Corporation” and attending a seminar by Joel Bakan the following week. In fact, there was a Canadian farmer whose farm was contaminated by Monsanto seed, and he’s since fought Monsanto several times and, despite losing, iirc, he’s still been praised as a hero in several countries. Interesting story with genetic engineering, for sure.

  5. Thanks for your support, bastards and bastardettes.  I haven’t told anyone else- don’t know anyone else weird enough to tell.  There are obviously some pretty twisted agents running around in my subconscious.  Luckily for my physical side, they’re around 65 million years too late to indulge in that particular fantasy.

    Nice pic, Hussar.  Does your wife know who you’re kissing? LOL

  6. What a steaming load of taurus residue.  Technologically advanced cities are far more tolerant, open places than rural, pre-technological villages

    I beg to disagree.  “Technologically advanced” cities simply are larger, thus more diverse, and a given individual has an easier time finding a niche.  Technology does not, however, enable, or describe tolerance. 15 randomly sampled individuals from any time period will be as tolerant or intolerant as 15 sampled from any other.

    There are many cases where Technology has made a society or social group MORE insular, not less.  What most people fail to realise is that technology, ANY AND EVERY technology is INHERANTLY NEUTRAL.  How (or in many cases IF) it is used is what determines the relative morality.  Nuclear weapons, for example, are viewed as ‘negative’ technology, however, can, and likely will be instrumental in terraforming other planets or moons.

    The invention of the radio and the television brought about the ability to spread ideas from one end of the globe to the other, instantainiously, however, we reacted to them by becoming more insular, socialising less, and taking much of what we hear on them as an almost gospel truth, when, in reality, all information from every source must be taken ‘with a grain of salt.’

    I live in a province where there are two major cities, and a smattering of various other sized communities.  There are, however, more people working and living on farms and in farming communities than in the major cities. 

    I can assure you that a man or woman of any age, color, religious or political belief could walk into any establishment in any single one of those ‘rural communities’ and be treated with honor and respect.  If that indvidual chooses not to start anything, noone else will with him.  The same can not, in any way be said of the two major cities here.

    Technology does not enable tolerance in any way.  Culture enables tolerance, and if you are a true student of history, you will find that many of the most cultured societies thiw planet has, or has had, were among the least technologically advanced.

  7. Never said technology enables tolerance, MH.  Technology enables large cities, so people with various differences bump into each other.  Long-term, that means a certain percentage of people will learn tolerance, whether they like it or not.  Some won’t, of course.

    Example: I live in a small city smack in the middle of the North American continent.  On a daily basis I encounter first-generation visitors and immigrants from India, Japan, East Europe, Latin America, and Africa.  Their presence here is enabled by the jet airplane and the telecommunications industry that allows them to stay in touch with their relatives back home.  This has enriched my life tremendously and our community is much the better for it.

    Pre-technological rural villages have far tighter social controls because they can.  Your scenario where the ‘different’ person doesn’t ‘start anything’ just means they can live quietly as long as they stay in the closet.  That’s not tolerance, it’s fear.

  8. I did 25 years in Sarnia and this small town at the far end of Ontario was very intolerant because outsiders never came, or if they did they didn’t become part of the community.
    My dad and I were the VW Dealers and it took us almost 5 years to get accepted by the business community.
    I was never so glad to move to London in 2000. It’s civilized to the point it reminds me of Toronto 30 years ago.
    Unfortunately T.O. now has most of the problems of U. S. cities.and is just too nuts with crime, traffic, housing, house prices etc. etc.

  9. By the way did you hjear about the kid with three arms. (they removed the middle one)
    Could you call him tri-dexterus

  10. Hi folks,
    Just to post some of my thought on the evolution of humanity here i give 9 of my personal favorites why humanty is so freakin stupid.
    Look at point 7 , this will tell you why i don’t believe in the evolution theory.

    9 pieces of evidence why our so-called “sophisticated humanity” is more stupid then it appears to be.

    1-  We live in the year 2006 and we are still convinced that we really love to eat that piece of meat from a cow’s ass because when it’s “medium” we can suck the blood from it.
    2-  Every year we cut millions of trees from valuable forests, just so we can put a tree in our livingroom (yes, not the garden but the livingroom), to put 200 lights in there to celebrate something that most us don’t remember why, as long as that piece of cows ass is being served.
    3-  We are now being “warned” by our governments to be careful with the water we consume “because it’s running out,????”, while at the same time our governments are telling us that the global warming causes the icecaps on the north pole to melt “and thus causes sea levels to rise” (which means MORE WATER RIGHT!!!), maybe that t-shirt that says “save water, drink beer” is not so stupid after all then.
    4-  We escape to various religions just so we can feel safe and escape the world that this exact same religion (does not matter which religion it is) has created to live in fear, JUST SO WE CAN MOVE TO THIS RELIGION TO FEEL SAFE.
    5-  We all love to have money to show off and buy things we love to have and do things we love to do, while it is this very same MONEY that makes us all do something that 99% of the world (if not 100%) absolutely HATES to do, we call that “WORK”
    6-  Science says that we are only using 20% of our brains and we all believe this to be true (maybe this is true), But what made those science guys so smart if after all it’s also them who are only using 20% of their brain!!!
    7-  Thank god not all of us but still most of us have been seduced by our higher governments to believe that the evolution theory is to be true and that we all come from monkeys or man apes, WELL this goes against the very fact of evolution because this would mean that the monkeys we go visit in our zoo’s NEVER EVOLVED. After all, do you really believe that monkeys in china “evolved” to being black haired, black eyed weird talking china men while not TO far away in Sweden, Swedish monkeys “evolved” into tall, blond haired, blue eyed even more weird talking Swedish people, I REALLY DON’T THINK SO.
    8-  We invented all kinds of things that look so great but if you would really think about it certain inventions are so stupid. TIME for example is an invention that was created from thin air, we all think that we need it but is this not that very thing that we are fighting against as this also creates AGING. Hmm maybe this is the reason why old folks with grey hair love to buy that golden Rolex because it puts the two together OLD AGE and TIME.(keep up the balance)
    9-  As “Sophisticated Humanity” we go on judging drug addicts and there “addictions” ,We (members of the sophisticated humanity)would never do such a thing but we sure love those two glasses of wine every night “because science says its so good for your heart and bloodflow” (talking about using only 20% of that brain).We are also looking in disgust to the guy we call “the drugdealer” because this guy can of course NOT be a member of our Sophisticated Humanity, strange then that Mr Heineken was always invited to jet set party’s with royalties,Kings and Queens over the whole world if we al know that he produced and sold so much of the stuff that makes so many people addicted every day.

  11. 7- Thank god not all of us but still most of us have been seduced by our higher governments to believe that the evolution theory is to be true and that we all come from monkeys or man apes, WELL this goes against the very fact of evolution because this would mean that the monkeys we go visit in our zoo’s NEVER EVOLVED. After all, do you really believe that monkeys in china “evolved” to being black haired, black eyed weird talking china men while not TO far away in Sweden, Swedish monkeys “evolved” into tall, blond haired, blue eyed even more weird talking Swedish people, I REALLY DON’T THINK SO.

    Michael, no one has suggested that we evolved from monkeys. The theory is that both monkeys and humans evolved from the same common ancestor.

    Of course the difference will probably go right over your head, like everything else.

  12. If the human species is sufficiently stupid, it may expedite its own extinction. I’m not aware that the (scientific) theory of evolution says this cannot happen.

    As to 7) – everybody knows that if it weren’t for the regional chapters of storks, humans would look the same all over the world. One of these days the storks will get their supply chain globalized, just you wait and see.

  13. michael:

    1- I have no idea what part of the cow the beef I eat comes from.  I prefer my beef cooked rare.

    2- Christmas trees are not usually cut from “valuable forests”.  Christmas trees are planted, grown, and harvested specifically for this use.  In New Jersey, people raise christmas trees just so that they can get their property taxed as farm land.  What is your fixation with cows’ asses?

    3- Sea water is not drinkable and it can’t be used to irrigate crops.

    4- Not everybody “escapes to religion” for any reason.  I know that I don’t give a fuck about religion, except I know that fundies are bigoted assholes.

    5- I don’t get your point.  A substantial number of people probably would rather not work at a job, although I doubt that it is nearly 100%.  There are significant numbers of people who enjoy their work and would not quit if they could.

    6- Another point that is not really a point.  Also, some people disagree about the 20% figure.

    7- I am not sure who should be more offended; monkeys, the Chinese, the Swedes, or our common ancestor that existed in the Pliocene era.

    8- Yeah, many inventions are frivolous; so what?

    9- I’m not sure what you said, but I think that I may agree with you.  It is not the government’s business to tell us what substances we use to get high.

  14. Michael, that is without a doubt one of the funniest posts I’ve read in a while. I’m trying to refrain from bursting out into uncontrollable laughter, and my coworkers are beginning to look at me strangely.

  15. Just to be clear – that’s a different Michael.  You can tell us apart because he’s the funny one, and I’m funny too – but only inside my own head.

  16. Michael: Just to post some of my thought on the evolution of humanity … why humanty is so freakin stupid.

    I think you mean ‘the civilisation of humanity’ and ‘why Western Civilisation is so fucking uncivilised’.
    Reminds me of Ghandi once being asked what he thought of Western Civilisation … to which he replied: It’d be a good idea, wouldn’t it?

    Just because you don’t know enough to understand ‘the evolution theory’ doesn’t mean it is not so.
    For example, I have no idea how, let alone why, the human body works but I believe it does.

    This segues nicely to your statistics on how many people hate ‘work’.
    I know many people who love their work; in fact, to many people, work is their raison d’être.

    MichaelPeacock, unintentional funny is more akin to stoopid – you’re not.  smile

  17. i found this website that salutes those who help evolution by removing themselves from it in spectacular ways:
    http://www.darwinawards.com/
    I don’t see how anyone can deny evolution, it makes statistical sense that the more genetically probable to procreate will spread their genes further, though i do accept not everything’s genetic. What doesn’t make sense is why many animals still need to put both halves of their brain to sleep where for several hours they render themselves vunerable to being eaten, i believe there is an animal that can have one half concious while the other sleeps. also you would’ve expected a greater variety of animals would digest cellulose albeit with help of bacteria, because being able to is a tremendous advantage against starvation and cows manage without that fibre

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