The key quotations in the article are
Douglas Ewbank, "Those changes we predict for 2409 could be wiped out by something as simple as a new school-lunch program."
Steve Jones, "Uniquely in the living world, what makes humans what we are is in our minds, in our society, and not in our evolution."
"Those changes we predict for 2409 could be wiped out by something as simple as a new school-lunch program."
Stupid. African nations have both the highest birth rates and the worst nutrition. If anything, expected good health after reproductive age negatively correlates with fecundity.
"Uniquely in the living world, what makes humans what we are is in our minds, in our society, and not in our evolution."
If Steve Jones knows of some supernatural force that excludes the operation of the human body from physical reality, he should describe that force and submit it to a physics journal. Otherwise, yes, minds are minds, but minds are not magic: they're meat.
This data specifically doesn't have a lot of power to generalize to populations outside of Framington. Additionally, making bold future predictions is not something that scientists like to show one another, just news reporters. What it does, though, is show support to already leading theories. Stearns is quoted in an NPR interview saying the real point that "the result that we have here is no surprise to any evolutionary biologist. It's exactly what we expected to see."
No matter what the possible confounding factors may have been, the fact that when decent statistical methods were used to control for and limit just to correlations that could be feasibly tied to evolutionary processes the remaining effect fits the predictions developed by theories made prior to this result means that the data provided some interesting justification.
Stearns also is quoted in that the study attempted to "lift the level of discussion and get everybody on the same page." It's not groundbreaking, it's just some solid human-based evidence for things long predicted. The hype is centered around news stories which pick up on the wide future predictions (an offhand, light comment in the interview) and the philosophical/moral implications of evolution playing police state on our futures (which is a suitable target for arguments about statistical weakness and Stearns himself brings up that only about 5% of the variability was involved in this evolution trend).
All the study really says is that, yes, like we thought, somewhere deep inside human cultural motion is a definite seed of evolutionary guidance. It takes 60 years of intense observation to see it, but it almost certainly exists and plays some tiny role.
Which is kind of a boring news story.
[NPR interview: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1140814...]
Do you have children? If not, then the people of the future will probably look less like you and more like the people who compounded faster than you did.
However society will play its pressures too. Access to adequate and nutritious food can be more important than healthy genes (after all you need proper nutrition for your genes to express themselves correctly during your development) so a 22 year old mother on welfare with 5 kids and no child support is going to have a problem raising healthy children.
In the US, access to healthcare will certainly play a huge part in the future (presuming it doesn't change vastly over a long time). An imbalance in access can give an unnatural advantage to the unhealthy.
The potential for the future of evolution in our species is amazing. We have so many more variables in play that will be tweaking us, instead of standard variables for hunter-prey relationships. It raises a lot of questions about what our species will be like in a few hundred-thousand years.
"confuse evolution with improvement" I agree.
"bastard science of eugenics" What an appropriate slur: "bastard". Well, whoever parented that bastard wins this debate ---whatever that debate might be--- when you and the children you didn't have all die. You can go sit in the ground with the Quakers and the Spartans.
"Although official Quakerism may not have abided the activities of many of these feminists, the Quaker belief that "in souls there is no sex," and the opportunities provided Quaker women to preach, hold meetings, and write epistles, gave rise to the high percentage of Quakers among the "mothers of feminism," including Angelina and Sarah Grimké, Lucretia Mott, Abby Kelley, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul."
Dec. 10, 2007 - Researchers discovered genetic evidence that human evolution is speeding up - and has not halted or proceeded at a constant rate, as had been thought - indicating that humans on different continents are becoming increasingly different.
"We used a new genomic technology to show that humans are evolving rapidly, and that the pace of change has accelerated a lot in the last 40,000 years, especially since the end of the Ice Age roughly 10,000 years ago," says research team leader Henry Harpending, a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Utah.
Harpending says there are provocative implications from the study, published online Monday, Dec. 10 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
"We aren't the same as people even 1,000 or 2,000 years ago," he says, which may explain, for example, part of the difference between Viking invaders and their peaceful Swedish descendants. "The dogma has been these are cultural fluctuations, but almost any Temperament trait you look at is under strong genetic influence."
For example new versions of serotonin transporters in both Europe and east Asia (such as SLC6A4). There are other neurotransmitter-related changes, also changes in genes that affect brain development. East Asians have a new version of DAB1, a gene involved in the development of the layers of the cerebral cortex, while there is a fairly common new version of NKX2-2 (a brain homeobox gene) in Europeans.
Despite the long-held view that natural selection has ceased to affect humans because almost everybody now lives long enough to have children
Uh, what? Do people actually think that?
I could see that reasoning giving rise to the phrasing used in the article.
I imagine there are some people who reason that way, but they'd be ignoring the obvious survival benefits of having parents (and extended family) to help raise a child.
But that makes me wonder, whatever mechanism antibiotics use to lessen the effectiveness, couldn't a small mutation use the same mechanism?
Related to the current discussion, women would quickly realize that their menstrual cycle is not lining up with the week of non-hormone pills.
It seems all he does is post dups: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=891137