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Austin Cline

Human Evolution is Still Occurring

By April 9, 2008

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A popular objection to evolution involves saying "if evolution is true, why aren't humans still evolving?" Anyone who asks such a question reveals a great deal of ignorance about what evolution is and how it works, but buried in there is the kernel of a legitimate inquiry: are humans still evolving? If not, why not and if so, how? Recent research has demonstrated that humans are not only evolving, but that the rate of change has sped up.
The researchers put this acceleration down to two things. First, the human population has expanded rapidly during that period, which increases the size of the gene pool in which mutations can occur. Second, the environment in which people find themselves has also changed rapidly, creating new contexts in which those mutations might have beneficial effects.

That environmental change itself has two causes. The past 80,000 years is the period in which humanity has spread out of Africa to the rest of the world, and each new place brings its own challenges. It has also been a period of enormous cultural change, and that, too, creates evolutionary pressures. In acknowledgment of these diverse circumstances, the researchers looked in detail at the DNA of four groups of people from around the planet: Yoruba from Africa, Han Chinese and Japanese from Asia, and Europeans.

Various themes emerged. An important one was protection from disease, suspected to be a consequence of the increased risk of infection that living in settlements brings. In this context, for example, various mutations of a gene called G6PD that are thought to offer protection from malaria sprang up independently in different places.

A second theme is response to changes in diet caused by the domestication of plants and animals. One example of this is variation in LCT, a gene involved in the metabolism of lactose, a sugar found in milk. All human babies can metabolise lactose, but only some adults can manage the trick. That fact, and the gene involved, have been known for some time. But Dr Moyzis's team have worked out the details of the evolution of LCT. They suspect that it was responsible for the sudden spread of the Indo-European group of humanity about 4,000 years ago, and also for the more recent spread of the Tutsis in Africa, whose ancestors independently evolved a tolerant version of the gene.

The pressures behind other changes are less obvious. In the past 2,000-3,000 years, for example, Europeans have undergone changes in the gene for a protein that moves potassium ions in and out of nerve cells and taste buds. There have also been European changes in genes linked to cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Chinese, Japanese and Europeans, meanwhile, have all seen changes in a serotonin transporte

Source: The Economist

Evolution, as a science, is something that can make predictions, be tested, and be studied in an objective, scientific manner. Research like this is the fruit of making testable predictions and further demonstrates just how little creationists tend to know about the subject. Creationism, even in the modern guise of Intelligent Design, fails to make any testable predictions and so of course fails to produce any new knowledge about our world. Intelligent Design and creationism are religious ideologies, not scientific theories, no matter what religious apologists try to say. That creationists are unable or unwilling to accept this simple reality is a real problem for the future of science in America.

Comments
April 9, 2008 at 7:52 pm
(1) Tom says:

You know, it’s not just that creationism/ID is wrong, it’s also that it’s a lot less interesting that real science.

April 9, 2008 at 10:25 pm
(2) Ron says:

Yes, Tom, real science is more interesting, but, more work. It is so much easier,less challenging to take the lazy route, and say “God did it”

April 10, 2008 at 10:37 am
(3) Vannie2 says:

You nailed it, Ron. If you have seen the show “Lil Bush”, there’s an episode where lil George W becomes a Christian just he can get out of having to study evolution. Very funny episode.

January 14, 2009 at 8:35 pm
(4) Tom says:

I am amazed at the simplicity of thinking on here and the pedantic and empty arrogance that accompanies it. To say that the “lazy” way is to believe in God and creation is an idiotic comment.

October 13, 2009 at 10:56 am
(5) Nic says:

As a creationist I am still at a loss to understand. Your theory made no sense & didn’t even attempt to explain why we don’t see evolution happening today. I’ve heard this before and it’s so true…Evolution is just another pagan religion masquerading itself as science. You think if the word “science” is attached to it, people will believe it bc EVERYONE knows scientists can’t be wrong! It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

April 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm
(6) Krystal says:

First of all, scientists CAN be wrong; what scientist would want to intentionally produce bad science? You can’t see evolution happening because it is a very, very slow process, over millions of years. If you have the right knowledge and equipment you can see minor changes in DNA but these would be very hard to see on a phenotypic level in one’s own lifetime. One of the major arguments of creationism is that there are lots of gaps in the fossil record. This is simply because the geological conditions for fossilisation are very rare! For fossilisation, you require a low-energy, sedimentary basin with a perfect balance of sedimentation to cover you over. Seeing as not all land surfaces have this type of material, you can easily see that this is rare. Also, quite simply, we have only been looking for fossils for 100 or so years and probably HAVE NOT FOUND THEM YET. Also, Christians believe they are always right and are unwilling to budge just one bit on the issue of evolution. If creationists had evidence that was decent I would consider it, but the simple fact is that there is NO evidence for creationism.

November 7, 2011 at 1:30 am
(7) Gerald says:

A very simple example is seen in each generation of our children, as technology advances our children grasp the concepts quickly and advance them, our growth in technology has improved 10 fold since 1900, and yet we have not even hit the hockey stick curve yet as to our ability to advance our society and grasp concepts that were unthinkable 100 years ago. If there was no evolution, our kids would come out and stay at the caveman mentality that lead to the simple minded belief that an entity created planets and controls all we do.
I could write a book based on historical events and embelish them and call it a religion, it would only become one if people choose to believe that which I wrote. normally that is when they feel the reward I state in the book is worth their time to read and fall for it.

October 13, 2009 at 11:10 am
(8) Austin Cline says:

As a creationist I am still at a loss to understand.

Understand what, exactly?

Your theory made no sense & didn’t even attempt to explain why we don’t see evolution happening today.

That’s because we do see evolution happening today. There is no need to have a theory to explain something that isn’t true.

I guess what you were at a loss to understand was… well, everything above. After all, the entire piece was about how evolution is still occurring.

I’ve heard this before and it’s so true…Evolution is just another pagan religion masquerading itself as science.

Evolution is as scientific as plate tectonics. There’s nothing “pagan” or “religious” about it.

You think if the word “science” is attached to it, people will believe it bc EVERYONE knows scientists can’t be wrong!

No one thinks that scientists can’t be wrong; that sort of attitude is only seen extensively in religion.

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

That evaluation is best applied to religious dogmas masquerading as science, like creationism.

October 20, 2009 at 6:27 pm
(9) John Hanks says:

Science is superior to religion because it can be wrong and it can trace the steps that caused it to go wrong.

October 20, 2009 at 8:21 pm
(10) Tom Edgar says:

Nic.

May I ask sincerely.
1 What is your verifiable evidence for God’s existence.?
2 What is the verifiable evidence for “Creationism” ?

These are simple questions, if you have a testable,
believable set of positive proofs for either, I assure you that atheism will die overnight.

Actually I think Nic, as usual, will cut and run, then we will hear no more of his/her childishness.

October 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm
(11) Tom Edgar says:

Nic
As a P S. A Why do you go on about atheism/evolution?

Atheism is just not believing in the existence of a God.

Atheist do not, necessarily, have a stance on, nor understanding of, the evolutionary theory. that many do is purely coincidental. It isn’t essential any more than being right wing or left wing politically, celibate or profligate, hetero or homosexual. Atheist come in all colours and philosophies. The only common factor is that atheists think for themselves without the mumbo jumbo of religious indoctrination from the cradle.

October 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm
(12) Dave y. says:

Nic, my I refer you to Rons post, you’ve chosen the lazy way”God did it”.
And to the notion that you can’t see evolution now, you see it right here, the tossing to the side of slavery, as in atheism, your church was founded by slavers buddy, as in the Romans, and those that followed the religion were their slaves, if you didn’t believe, they gave you a torturious death, the hell in your bible!!

October 25, 2009 at 3:49 am
(13) Tom Edgar says:

DAVE… Sorry sport Nic, as so many others, has nicked off.

When the heat in the kitchen is too hot they melt away.

Many years ago, as a mariner, I, along with the rest of the crew, would gather around the galley door, slowly encroaching on the “Cooks” territory (and the warmth). Inevitably he would sprinkle a heap of pepper on the stove driving us all out.

I see A G B as our “Cook” The blighter keeps driving out the lesser minions, peppering them with his knowledge. His concoctions, may cause acute indigestion for the “Funn(d)ies. But we can certainly feel replenished and ready for the next, very brief, foray by those whose taste buds are more restricted. Probably too much seasoning.

Bon Appetite

September 5, 2012 at 9:05 pm
(14) Scott says:

I can not dismiss intelligent design until science has thoroughly explained certain issues pertaining to the development of the Universe and how everything came to be. I believe in a cause and effect sort of way on how life exists. Maybe there was no God and that we were an accidental experiment of some sort in a petri-dish. Maybe those scientist was trying to discover how their universe came to be and just walked away and forgot were they stored the dish and turned off the lights!

September 6, 2012 at 12:47 pm
(15) Austin Cline says:

I can not dismiss intelligent design until science has thoroughly explained certain issues pertaining to the development of the Universe and how everything came to be.

Why? Without any evidence favoring it, why treat it as any more credible than fairies?

Maybe there was no God and that we were an accidental experiment of some sort in a petri-dish.

Or maybe it was fairies.

September 19, 2012 at 6:32 am
(16) Sarah says:

I’m Wiccan (born & raised) and yes, it was fairies.

Seriously though, some of these comments are really funny. Evolution is a Pagan religion? I’m not sure whether to laugh or feel honored. Yes, I was “Coven Schooled” and taught evolution…along with mathematics and English grammar. Our creation myths remain strictly in the religious realm, with the word “myth” appearing in every third sentence. Scientists cannot be wrong? Until 1972 homosexuality was considered an illness. This brings up another point – science constantly challenges itself, new discoveries are made, and theories are adjusted accordingly, unlike “set-in-stone” religious beliefs.
And then there’s (paraphrased) “I cannot dismiss ID until science figures it all out.” Yeah, you do that. But don’t be “lukewarm” about it. Eschew antibiotics; their development takes bacterial evolution into account, as illnesses become drug-resistant. So long as everyone in your local area is straight and saved, ignore those tornado/hurricane/flood warnings. God’s design will protect you. Forgo cooking; you have an intelligently designed digestive system! Though not an atheist, for facts I’ll take science, even if it hasn’t “figured everything out”. The cool thing about science is that being based in reality, it can make accurate cause/effect predictions about our world – and I don’t mean “prophesies”. Myth has its place in the heart if one wants/needs it; science belongs EVERYWHERE.

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