Thanks to Sex, Humans Are Still Evolving
We humans tend to think we’re perfect. We rule the world, produce more food than any other time in history, posses the ability to kill every plant and animal out there (often to the point of extinction), and can harness the power of both simple atoms and the sun itself. It’s all thanks to our prodigious development of technology—most notably, in the survival sense, is the Agricultural Revolution, which has allowed us to far surpass the capabilities of our doughy bodies alone. That fact has led some to posit that humans are no longer evolving in the Darwinian sense.
The idea that we’ve somehow insulated ourselves from the most elemental process of nature has gained popularity in the computer age. However, as new research suggests, that’s not the case. Instead, humans, like most living things, are continually changing to adapt to our environment and smooth out our rough edges.
The study, published today in PNAS, looked at the church records of around 6,000 Finnish folk born between 1760 and 1849, when farming started going (relatively speaking) high-tech. The authors focused on Finland because of the country’s long obsession with genealogy, which made for great records, and because during that period few people were moving in and out of the country. Thus, those records provide a detailed set of data encompassing Finland’s agricultural revolution.
That’s the period during which humans’ most basic evolutionary quandary—finding food to survive—was being most quickly resolved. The fact that the populace was becoming more removed from food struggles than ever before suggests a fundamental shift in pressures affecting our natural selection. Why would we need to evolve to be faster, stronger, and more efficient if we no longer need to chase down our food? That question, along with the common misconception that all of human evolution happened sometime way long ago in the caveman/Neanderthal days, is the basis for people assuming we’re simply not evolving any more.
Neither are true. According to the report, we may have incredible access to food and healthcare these days, but we’re still evolving, and it’s all due to sex.
Read the rest at Motherboard.TV.com