Human Change We Can Believe In

Most people believe that, with multifaceted cultures and intricate technology, humans have freed themselves from the pressures of natural selection. Recent findings, however, suggest that, far from insulating humans from evolutionary pressures, culture can create new ones.

Montreal – A recent symposium on evolution in Montreal posed to high-school students and university professors the following question: “Do you think that humans are still evolving?” Approximately 80% of the audience answered “no.” Indeed, there is an almost universal belief that, with multifaceted cultures and intricate technology, humans have freed themselves from the pressures of natural selection.

Recent findings, however, show otherwise. Far from providing immunity against evolutionary pressures, culture often creates new ones. For example, the genes associated with digestion of lactose are more prevalent in populations that have traditionally bred cattle and consumed milk.

In scientific reviews in Nature Genetics and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the evolutionary biologist Stephen Stearns and his colleagues set out to demonstrate that natural selection operates on contemporary humans. Supported by extensive genealogies, including centuries of church and national health registries, their argument is convincing.

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