Humans are still evolving

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Humans are still evolving

Postby Omegaton » Tue Oct 20, 2009 6:22 pm UTC

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 162933.htm

Spoiler:
Are Humans Still Evolving? Absolutely, Says A New Analysis Of A Long-term Survey Of Human Health

ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2009) — Although advances in medical care have improved standards of living over time, humans aren't entirely sheltered from the forces of natural selection, a new study shows.

"There is this idea that because medicine has been so good at reducing mortality rates, that means that natural selection is no longer operating in humans," said Stephen Stearns of Yale University.

A recent analysis by Stearns and colleagues turns this idea on its head. As part of a working group sponsored by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC, the team of researchers decided to find out if natural selection — a major driving force of evolution — is still at work in humans today. The result? Human evolution hasn't ground to a halt. In fact, we're likely to evolve at roughly the same rates as other living things, findings suggest.

Taking advantage of data collected as part of a 60-year study of more than 2000 North American women in the Framingham Heart Study, the researchers analyzed a handful of traits important to human health. By measuring the effects of these traits on the number of children the women had over their lifetime, the researchers were able to estimate the strength of selection and make short-term predictions about how each trait might evolve in the future. After adjusting for factors such as education and smoking, their models predict that the descendents of these women will be slightly shorter and heavier, will have lower blood pressure and cholesterol, will have their first child at a younger age, and will reach menopause later in life.

"The take-home message is that humans are currently evolving," said Stearns. "Natural selection is still operating."

The changes may be slow and gradual, but the predicted rates of change are no different from those observed elsewhere in nature, the researchers say. "The evolution that's going on in the Framingham women is like average rates of evolution measured in other plants and animals," said Stearns. "These results place humans in the medium-to-slow end of the range of rates observed for other living things," he added. "But what that means is that humans aren't special with respect to how fast they're evolving. They're kind of average."

Additional authors on the study were Sean Byars of Yale University, Douglas Ewbank of the University of Pennsylvania, and Diddahally Govindaraju of Boston University.
The team's findings were published online in the October 19th issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is an NSF-funded collaborative research center operated by Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.


Considering I also had the assumption that humans weren't really undergoing natural selection, I thought that this was pretty interesting. Humans are still evolving, yes, but I thought it would primarily be through random drift rather than natural selection.

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby The Reaper » Tue Oct 20, 2009 6:45 pm UTC

Egh. Breeding faster? -sigh-

EDIT: by faster I mean they start out younger, and go for longer, so a larger period of time in which baby-making can happen, potentially resulting in more children.

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby philsov » Tue Oct 20, 2009 7:00 pm UTC

Considering I also had the assumption that humans weren't really undergoing natural selection


Oh, we still are. "Fitness" is just being re-defined.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:12 pm UTC

This isn't actually a surprise to anyone is it? If people with X trait make more babies than people without it, then eventually the majority of humans will have X trait. And there's no way you can argue that humanity is homogenous in all traits. That's evolution. X can be anything; high charisma, relatively non-obnoxious BO, big willy/jugs, humour (not sure that one's genetic though), etc.

I've had to argue before with folks who watched Idiocracy and complain "the human race isn't evolving, it's DEvolving". GAH! There's no such thing as devolution (political contexts notwithstanding). If being dumb increases reproductive fitness (which, in the long term at least, I fail to see how), and the human race goes dumb as a result (I actually think it more likely that that situation would result in an evolutionary fork rather than an overall dumbing down), that's still evolution.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby iop » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:32 pm UTC

Omegaton wrote:Considering I also had the assumption that humans weren't really undergoing natural selection, I thought that this was pretty interesting. Humans are still evolving, yes, but I thought it would primarily be through random drift rather than natural selection.

Actually, natural selection becomes more important compared to drift the larger the population. This is no different for humans.

It's just that as the environment changes, the traits that are under selection change as well.

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Darkscull » Tue Oct 20, 2009 8:57 pm UTC

I thought that the argument was not that natural selection no longer applies, or that evolution had halted completely, but rather that artificial selection of various flavours have become so dominant that the affects of other things are negligible.

As in, being healthier may be a positive trait in terms of survival, but what if you're sexually attracted to overweight people who smoke, and also don't believe in birth control?
Put that alongside an intelligent, healthy, successful and gay couple, and what does natural selection have to do with anything anymore, really?

Of course, those are not typical cases, but the whole point is that there aren't any typical cases any longer, and not everyone is after the same thing, therefore there is not the same competition, and there is not the mating of 'best' pairs that there is in the animal world still.

This is assuming (as, I believe, most people should) that evolutionary psychology is mostly bollocks when it comes to things like this.

I'm not sure whether I agree with everything I've said in this post, but I'm fairly sure that's the standard idea, not that natural selection has ceased completely.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby icanus » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:56 pm UTC

I've always seen the artificial selection vs natural selection divide as... well, artificial - any choices we make just form part of the environment against which fitness is determined. If you can say that we select for, say, milk yield in cows, you also have to say that insects select for nectar yield in plants, and plants for pollen carrying ability in insects.

The only difference is that we can exercise concious foresight ("artifice") in our choices, but I can't really see it as fundamentally any different for us to choose a mate on the basis of fashion sense, dancing ability, or even genetic sequencing than for a songbird to choose a mate on the basis of its singing ability - we're both using the information available to choose the best mate, based on an arbitrary metric for fitness - our metrics may be better, but the only truly accurate metric of reproductive success is reproductive success itself. If we choose mates with attributes that affect their well-being or life expectancy (overweight, smoker, etc), that's really no different from peahens choosing mates with gigantic tail plumage that makes it far more likely they will be killed by a predator.

Even if they have the side effect of producing stupid, wheezing, blind offspring who invariably die by age 20, any inheritable attributes that are successfully passed on to our descendants will have demonstrably improved reproductive success compared to those attributes that aren't successfully passed on.

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Maseiken » Tue Oct 20, 2009 11:42 pm UTC

This is such a ridiculous subject.
Evoluton doesn't stop, in the same way gravity doesn't stop, it's not some kind of ongoing project to make things better, it's just a byproduct of the way Biology works. Anywhere that you have Living Creatures inahbiting an an environment (Not sure what else they COULD inhabit) there will be an evolutionary process.

Animals don't improve themselves through evolution, they just... change. very slowly, and according to context, which is also usually changing.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby joshz » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:20 am UTC

HUMANS ARE STILL EVOLVING!!!!

Next up, water is still wet, and fire is still hot. News at 11.

Why is this worthy of anyone writing an article about it?
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Zeroignite » Wed Oct 21, 2009 3:58 am UTC

Because many, many people genuinely believe that, because modern medicine is sort of ok at keeping us alive for a while, there are no selection pressures at all.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Telchar » Wed Oct 21, 2009 5:57 am UTC

Certaintly a lot of what spurred evolution has become muted by modern technology. Isolation being a big one.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Goplat » Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:18 am UTC

SlyReaper wrote:I've had to argue before with folks who watched Idiocracy and complain "the human race isn't evolving, it's DEvolving". GAH! There's no such thing as devolution (political contexts notwithstanding). If being dumb increases reproductive fitness (which, in the long term at least, I fail to see how), and the human race goes dumb as a result (I actually think it more likely that that situation would result in an evolutionary fork rather than an overall dumbing down), that's still evolution.
Just because the word "devolution" isn't actually used to mean bad evolution in biology (well, of course it isn't - biology is a science, it doesn't include moral judgments), doesn't mean that bad evolution doesn't exist. In modern human society, where having children is a huge burden, the main types of people who have high "fitness" are:

  1. welfare recipients (more kids -> bigger handout)
  2. religious fundamentalists
  3. people who are just too dumb to understand birth control
So, humans are evolving towards being lazy, crazy, and stupid. If that's not a bad thing, I don't know what is. Saying "no matter what direction it's in, it's still just evolution, so it's all good" is a blatant example of the naturalistic fallacy.

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:08 am UTC

Goplat wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:I've had to argue before with folks who watched Idiocracy and complain "the human race isn't evolving, it's DEvolving". GAH! There's no such thing as devolution (political contexts notwithstanding). If being dumb increases reproductive fitness (which, in the long term at least, I fail to see how), and the human race goes dumb as a result (I actually think it more likely that that situation would result in an evolutionary fork rather than an overall dumbing down), that's still evolution.
Just because the word "devolution" isn't actually used to mean bad evolution in biology (well, of course it isn't - biology is a science, it doesn't include moral judgments), doesn't mean that bad evolution doesn't exist. In modern human society, where having children is a huge burden, the main types of people who have high "fitness" are:

  1. welfare recipients (more kids -> bigger handout)
  2. religious fundamentalists
  3. people who are just too dumb to understand birth control
So, humans are evolving towards being lazy, crazy, and stupid. If that's not a bad thing, I don't know what is. Saying "no matter what direction it's in, it's still just evolution, so it's all good" is a blatant example of the naturalistic fallacy.

You seem to be under the impression that evolution cares whether a change is good or bad.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby joshz » Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:27 am UTC

Goplat wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:I've had to argue before with folks who watched Idiocracy and complain "the human race isn't evolving, it's DEvolving". GAH! There's no such thing as devolution (political contexts notwithstanding). If being dumb increases reproductive fitness (which, in the long term at least, I fail to see how), and the human race goes dumb as a result (I actually think it more likely that that situation would result in an evolutionary fork rather than an overall dumbing down), that's still evolution.
Just because the word "devolution" isn't actually used to mean bad evolution in biology (well, of course it isn't - biology is a science, it doesn't include moral judgments), doesn't mean that bad evolution doesn't exist. In modern human society, where having children is a huge burden, the main types of people who have high "fitness" are:

  1. welfare recipients (more kids -> bigger handout)
  2. religious fundamentalists
  3. people who are just too dumb to understand birth control
So, humans are evolving towards being lazy, crazy, and stupid. If that's not a bad thing, I don't know what is. Saying "no matter what direction it's in, it's still just evolution, so it's all good" is a blatant example of the naturalistic fallacy.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:55 am UTC

joshz wrote:[citation needed]

Idiocracy, perhaps. :P
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Diadem » Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:31 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
Goplat wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:I've had to argue before with folks who watched Idiocracy and complain "the human race isn't evolving, it's DEvolving". GAH! There's no such thing as devolution (political contexts notwithstanding). If being dumb increases reproductive fitness (which, in the long term at least, I fail to see how), and the human race goes dumb as a result (I actually think it more likely that that situation would result in an evolutionary fork rather than an overall dumbing down), that's still evolution.
Just because the word "devolution" isn't actually used to mean bad evolution in biology (well, of course it isn't - biology is a science, it doesn't include moral judgments), doesn't mean that bad evolution doesn't exist. In modern human society, where having children is a huge burden, the main types of people who have high "fitness" are:

  1. welfare recipients (more kids -> bigger handout)
  2. religious fundamentalists
  3. people who are just too dumb to understand birth control
So, humans are evolving towards being lazy, crazy, and stupid. If that's not a bad thing, I don't know what is. Saying "no matter what direction it's in, it's still just evolution, so it's all good" is a blatant example of the naturalistic fallacy.

You seem to be under the impression that evolution cares whether a change is good or bad.

Evolution does not. We do. That's the point Goplat is trying to make I think, and I agree with him.

No matter what direction change happens in, it's evolution. But that does not mean we can not say "Hmm, this direction is an undesirable one". And then we can call those bad directions devolution. Devolution then is not the opposite of evolution, devolution is evolution in a direction we don't like.

The big question I think is: In what direction are we evolving? Obviously there are still selection pressures in our modern society. But what are those pressures? Are they desirable ones? Those are interesting and relevant questions.

I don't know if humanity is devolving in the direction of 'lazy, crazy and stupid'. But on the face of it this looks plausible. So it's worth investigating, because if it's true we need to do something about it.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby GoC » Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:48 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:I don't know if humanity is devolving in the direction of 'lazy, crazy and stupid'.

If you include memetic "evolution" in there then the answer is yes. Otherwise the answer is no.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby luketheduke » Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:54 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:I don't know if humanity is devolving in the direction of 'lazy, crazy and stupid'. But on the face of it this looks plausible. So it's worth investigating, because if it's true we need to do something about it.

We need to do something about it? Really? Why?
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:54 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:But on the face of it this looks plausible.


See, I don't think it does. I cannot see how such a situation could persist in the long term. We've only had a welfare state for a very short time, less than a hundred years iirc. Sooner or later, something will happen. It might be another fascist-type government which sterilises those deemed to have unfit genes, it might be the collapse of civilisation as we know it, which would deprive the lazy and stupid of their payouts. It might be as simple as tax payers getting fed up of seeing their money going towards "leeches". Either way, you need a certain number of clever successful tax payers to sustain a welfare state, if too many people become leechers rather than seeders, the whole system collapses, after which, intelligence and initiative would become "highly fit" traits once again.

Even if it does persist in the long term, I think it more likely this would result in an evolutionary fork rather than a general dumbing down. This is because clever successful people tend to make babies with other clever successful people. And unintelligent unsuccessful people tend to make babies with other unintelligent unsuccessful people.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Jessica » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:11 pm UTC

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:15 pm UTC

Exactly
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby iop » Wed Oct 21, 2009 1:39 pm UTC

Goplat wrote:
  1. welfare recipients (more kids -> bigger handout)
  2. religious fundamentalists
  3. people who are just too dumb to understand birth control
So, humans are evolving towards being lazy, crazy, and stupid. If that's not a bad thing, I don't know what is. Saying "no matter what direction it's in, it's still just evolution, so it's all good" is a blatant example of the naturalistic fallacy.

Let's look at this a bit more closely
1. Welfare recipients. Are you really claiming that the government handouts cover all the cost of raising kids and leave over something for the parents? If not, then more kids means the family gets poorer still.
2. Religious fundamentalists. All throughout the history of the US there have been groups of religious fundamentalists who tended to have lots of kids. This is why the Amish, for example, have taken over the country, right? Or maybe you think that today's fundamentalists have accumulated so many crazy genes that their families will stay religious fundamentalists with lots of kids for at least 20 generations?
3. Birth control. Err, you realize that today, birth control is a lot easier than it was 100 years ago, right? If anything, it has reduced the pool of people who is too stupid to use it.

Furthermore, evolution is more about things like keeping fertility high despite being exposed to a range of novel chemicals, or responding well to modern medicine than about mate choice (even if mate choice was as selective as you pretend).

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Telchar » Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:50 pm UTC

Please please please please quit using the term de-evolution. It's not a word and makes no sense.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Omegaton » Wed Oct 21, 2009 3:40 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:Even if it does persist in the long term, I think it more likely this would result in an evolutionary fork rather than a general dumbing down. This is because clever successful people tend to make babies with other clever successful people. And unintelligent unsuccessful people tend to make babies with other unintelligent unsuccessful people.

This reproductive isolation that you speak of suggests the possibility of speciation into intelligent, "successful" people and unintelligent, "unsuccessful" people if this is maintained. Of course, I admit that's taking what you said to quite an extreme.

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby The Reaper » Wed Oct 21, 2009 5:12 pm UTC

Omegaton wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:Even if it does persist in the long term, I think it more likely this would result in an evolutionary fork rather than a general dumbing down. This is because clever successful people tend to make babies with other clever successful people. And unintelligent unsuccessful people tend to make babies with other unintelligent unsuccessful people.

This reproductive isolation that you speak of suggests the possibility of speciation into intelligent, "successful" people and unintelligent, "unsuccessful" people if this is maintained. Of course, I admit that's taking what you said to quite an extreme.

And then the intelligent ones EAT the unintelligent ones, amiright? Time Machine, eh?

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Felstaff » Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:14 pm UTC

Goplat wrote:So, humans are evolving towards being lazy, crazy, and stupid.

You know what? You're right. As you sit there staring at your flat-screen, 16-billion colour LCD monitor, which is capable of visually representing trillions of fragments of data, acquired through wireless and wired technology, from places that up until this century may well have remained unexplored, as over one-thousand satellites, launched in the last 25 years, hover some six miles above your head transferring more information per second in the last minute than the entire latter half of the twentieth century, and you sip from a drink that has spent the last few hours happily refrigerating from a constant power source that almost never fails, whilst safe in a warm secure blanket of possibly the longest period of relative peace and prosperity any civilisation that has ever existed--ever--has encountered, I'm inclined to agree with you; humans are just getting fucking stupid, aren't they?

Goddamn biology. You take a process that takes practically one million years to show any sign of alteration, and then these pesky humanoid creatures show up, (for only a few thousand years at that!), with no perception of time outside of the length of their own life, and use this process to explain the phenomenally non-existent phenomena of social entropy.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby G.v.K » Wed Oct 21, 2009 11:45 pm UTC

Felstaff wrote:
Goplat wrote:So, humans are evolving towards being lazy, crazy, and stupid.

You know what? You're right. As you sit there staring at your flat-screen, 16-billion colour LCD monitor, which is capable of visually representing trillions of fragments of data, acquired through wireless and wired technology, from places that up until this century may well have remained unexplored, as over one-thousand satellites, launched in the last 25 years, hover some six miles above your head transferring more information per second in the last minute than the entire latter half of the twentieth century, and you sip from a drink that has spent the last few hours happily refrigerating from a constant power source that almost never fails, whilst safe in a warm secure blanket of possibly the longest period of relative peace and prosperity any civilisation that has ever existed--ever--has encountered, I'm inclined to agree with you; humans are just getting fucking stupid, aren't they?

Goddamn biology. You take a process that takes practically one million years to show any sign of alteration, and then these pesky humanoid creatures show up, (for only a few thousand years at that!), with no perception of time outside of the length of their own life, and use this process to explain the phenomenally non-existent phenomena of social entropy.


beautifully said. i hope those researchers at Yale are reading this :)

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby The Utilitarian » Thu Oct 22, 2009 12:59 am UTC

Well sure but we're still just talking about microevolution. If evolution exists in a state of punctuated equilibrium, we're definately in the equilibrium at the moment. We're a long ways off from the kind of signifigant environmental changes that would need to occur for our species to experience any kind of macroevolution.

If you want a more concrete example of natural selection in action on the human species, look at the explosion of people who are heterozygous for sickle-cell trait in parts of africa where malaria is common. Normally a severe or mild genetic condition that causes blood cells to store less oxygen (the homozygous trait is usually fatal before maturity), it's actually being selected FOR rather than against in areas of high malaria because the sickled blood cells are actually resistant to malaria. Nifty.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:31 am UTC

Just a note: the "microevolution" versus "macroevolution" thing was invented by creationists to weasel out of having to admit that "real" evolution happens in the face of all the evidence.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby The Utilitarian » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:40 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Just a note: the "microevolution" versus "macroevolution" thing was invented by creationists to weasel out of having to admit that "real" evolution happens in the face of all the evidence.

What? No it isn't. I have Physical Anthropology textbook and professor who would disagree.

Microevolution is simply the smaller changes within a species due to factors like genetic drift and flow, or a founder effect. it represents minor changes in the common allelles present in a given population over time during equilibrium. Macroevolution is a larger, faster evolutionary process generally due to an extreme change in the environment over a relatively short period of time (short in evolutionary terms mind you). This is the larger kind of change that can create speciation.

Together the form the idea of Punctuated Equilibrium.

I think some creationists try to argue that macroevolution couldn't happen except by a creator or something like that, but the terms and the ideas behind them are certainly not intrinsically related to creationism.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Omegaton » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:47 am UTC

Macroevolution has nothing to do with rate and has everything to do with the degree of change. It can happen fast or slow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macroevolution

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Dauric » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:51 am UTC

The Utilitarian wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:Just a note: the "microevolution" versus "macroevolution" thing was invented by creationists to weasel out of having to admit that "real" evolution happens in the face of all the evidence.

What? No it isn't. I have Physical Anthropology textbook and professor who would disagree.

Microevolution is simply the smaller changes within a species due to factors like genetic drift and flow, or a founder effect. it represents minor changes in the common allelles present in a given population over time during equilibrium. Macroevolution is a larger, faster evolutionary process generally due to an extreme change in the environment over a relatively short period of time (short in evolutionary terms mind you). This is the larger kind of change that can create speciation.

Together the form the idea of Punctuated Equilibrium.

I think some creationists try to argue that macroevolution couldn't happen except by a creator or something like that, but the terms and the ideas behind them are certainly not intrinsically related to creationism.


You're both right in a way.

Utilitarian has the correct usage of the terms, however gmalivuk's observation is correct in that creationists misuse the labels to justify why we routinely observe evolution in bacteria and insects (them all being "Micro creatures"), but that "Macro" evolution is a evil-utionist fallacy.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby The Utilitarian » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:05 am UTC

Omegaton wrote:Macroevolution has nothing to do with rate and has everything to do with the degree of change. It can happen fast or slow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macroevolution

Alright fair enough I should have been stressing the level of change, but Macroevolution does occur quickly in evolutionary terms, generally quickly enough that it doesn't show up in the paelentological record much, which has been one of the difficulties in studying it.

Also perhaps I should have pointed out that I was arguing that creationists didn't create the terms, not that they didn't use them (incorrectly)
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:11 am UTC

I stand corrected on a bit. But it's still true that Creationists have misused and also popularized the terms as disjoint phenomena, instead of matters of degree that more or less merge into one another as most things in the real world do.

Am I correct that microevolution is like the growth of twigs and leaves on a tree, and macroevolution is like the growth of new branches? Because then the point that needs to be made is that all new tree growth starts out twig-sized.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Omegaton » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:19 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Am I correct that microevolution is like the growth of twigs and leaves on a tree, and macroevolution is like the growth of new branches? Because then the point that needs to be made is that all new tree growth starts out twig-sized.

Macroevolution CAN occur in this way, but there are also other ways macroevolution can occur, assuming the micro-/macro- distinction is placed at the species level (ie. macroevolution is above the species level, microevolution is within a species). Whether macroevolution occurs primarily through this gradual build-up or through rapid jumps is up to the gradualism and punctuated equilibrium debate which so far I have not paid much attention to. It gets a little more complex in that the rate of twig growth (to use our analogy) can also be fast, which if I'm not mistaken could still result in punctuated equilibrium.

An example of a rapid jump might be a mutation in a hox gene, which generally makes big changes in the development of the body that could result in a new species.
Last edited by Omegaton on Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:29 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Philwelch » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:25 am UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
Goplat wrote:Just because the word "devolution" isn't actually used to mean bad evolution in biology (well, of course it isn't - biology is a science, it doesn't include moral judgments), doesn't mean that bad evolution doesn't exist...humans are evolving towards being lazy, crazy, and stupid. If that's not a bad thing, I don't know what is. Saying "no matter what direction it's in, it's still just evolution, so it's all good" is a blatant example of the naturalistic fallacy.

You seem to be under the impression that evolution cares whether a change is good or bad.


He isn't, and he all but said he isn't--he said that the mechanism of evolution could produce changes that we subjectively view as bad. I don't think there's any real evidence that it will, though.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby The Utilitarian » Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:38 am UTC

Omegaton wrote:Whether macroevolution occurs primarily through this gradual build-up or through rapid jumps is up to the gradualism and punctuated equilibrium debate which so far I have not paid much attention to.

I concede that I wasn't giving the gradualism theory any credit in my earlier points, I've really taken to the idea of punctuated equilibrium (obviously) so I didn't think to meantion the contrasting viewpoint. Omegatron has presented a more unbiased examination of the terms and ideas.
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Whitebeard » Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:41 pm UTC

I agree with the statement that humans are still evolving, but doesn't natural selection imply survival of the fittest? As other people mentioned evolution can be either good or bad, but as long as we have technology and medicine on our side, that would help us counter most problems, I don't see how this makes any difference.
Slight genetic variations mean little if the entire species is prospering. Natural selection would be a scenario similar to the one in the movie "I Am Legend" in which the entire human race is destroyed by plague except for a small percentage that is immune.
In conclusion evolution yes, natural selection no.

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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:08 pm UTC

If anyone is more likely to find a mate and reproduce due to inherited traits (which they are), then natural selection is still happening (so it is).
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Re: Humans are still evolving

Postby Jessica » Thu Oct 22, 2009 2:14 pm UTC

Just because humans today aren't selecting mates based on their ability to beat up sabertoothed tigers, doesn't mean they aren't selecting mates based on a "survival of the fittest" model.
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