Wednesday 2 March 2011

Evolution and humans

1 March 2011
Are humans still evolving by Darwin's natural selection?
By Olly Bootle Producer, Horizon
n 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, a book which transformed our understanding of how life on Earth developed - but ever since then, scientists have wondered whether humans were resourceful enough to remove themselves from the grip of natural selection.There is no question that humans are unique in the animal world. We have developed technologies that shelter us from the harshness of the environment in a way that no other creatures have managed. While polar bears evolved thick coats of blubber to insulate them from the Arctic cold, humans could skin that polar bear, and use the pelt as clothing to keep warm. Does this mean that, at some point, technological advances have stopped us evolving? Much of the story is in our genes and the sequencing of the human genome has helped unlock the answers.By comparing the genes of people from all around the world, scientists can see how different we all are, and therefore how much we have evolved apart from each other since our species first appeared. 

We see rapid evolution when there's rapid environmental change and the biggest part of our environment is culture, and culture is exploding," says Prof Stearns."That's I really think the take-home message of the Framingham study, that we are continuing to evolve, that biology is going to change with the culture and it's just a matter of not being able to see it because we're stuck right in the middle of the process right now.

When I was asked by my psychology students were we changing/ evolving , I would suggest they thought about their toilet habits. We now like to sit on a toilet alone with the door shut, once it would have been a much more communal affair. It may be our culture that drives these changes but changes they are.However that also begs the question why have some cryptids have seemingly not evolved but are described as still being prehistoric etc. It may of course be that isolation would stop evolution in its tracks but climate changes cannot be avoided and they surely must have some effect? It is a question I muse about in the wee small hours.

No comments: