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Scientist Says Humans Are Still Evolving, And Possibly More Rapidly Than Ever

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Modern humans are still evolving, with cultural and technological innovations being the main drivers of adaptation.

Genetic drift and natural selection continue to affect the species, leading to ongoing evolution.

Factors such as access to healthcare, birth control, and demographic differences among populations are influencing human evolution. (Trending: Democrat Found Guilty In Corruption Trial)

According to Newsweek, Michael Granatosky, an evolutionary biomechanist at the New York Institute of Technology, said, “I don’t think [the question of whether humans are still evolving] is fully appreciated by the general public.”

“Perceptions of evolution tout the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, which automatically recalls epic battles between fighting individuals vying for a mate, or a ragtag bunch of animals surviving a cataclysmic event beyond all odds,” he continued.

“With these images, it is tempting to assume modern populations are no longer under selective pressures,” said Granatosky.

“However, evolution simply means a change in a population’s gene pool over successive generations. With this broader definition, I do not believe there is considerable debate among evolutionary biologists that humans are still evolving,” explained the scientist.

Jason Hodgson, an anthropologist and evolutionary geneticist at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, said, “Some generations a genetic variant will increase in frequency, some generations it will decrease in frequency. However, it is always occurring.”

“The strength of genetic drift depends on the size of the population, with small populations experiencing more drift and large populations experiencing less. The ultimate fate of any genetic variant evolving through genetic drift is either to go extinct, or to completely replace all other variants in the population and become fixed,” continued Hodgson.

Notable examples of recent human evolution include changes in brain size, the ability to tolerate milk into adulthood, skin color adaptations, and resistance to diseases.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has also created evolutionary pressures on the human species.

“The ultimate fate of a variant evolving through natural selection is to replace all other variants in the population,” explained Hodgson.

“Perhaps counterintuitively, natural selection is a stronger force in larger populations. This is because in large populations selection is not countered by genetic drift,” said the researcher.

“The census size of humans has now surpassed 8 billion people. In a population this size, genetic drift should be almost negligible. However, in reality humans are subdivided into much smaller groups, within which people are more likely to choose their mates,” said Hodgson.

“This means that in practice evolution occurs in much smaller groups, and genetic drift does still operate,” concluded the researcher.

Nick Longrich, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom said, “In terms of pressures, several things are happening. For one thing, the pressures that used to drive our evolution in hunter-gatherer societies—resistance to disease and parasites, strength to defend yourself from lions or else kill someone from a rival tribe, or kill someone over a woman (traditionally, one of the leading causes of murder in hunter-gatherer societies)—have largely been removed. Basically, the things that used to cull us from the population largely aren’t operating.”

“You might think this would end natural selection, but instead it does two things. One is that it alters the direction of selection: if selection isn’t operating on these things, it increasingly operates on other things, or might select against features that were once useful adaptations,” continued Longrich.

“Not all evolutionary change is to do with things like death from disease, or risks faced from a harsh environment,” explained Hodgson.

“Anything that creates variation in birth rates among groups, so long as there are differences in allele frequencies among those groups, will create evolutionary change. Because allele frequencies vary among human groups, any difference in reproductive rate among those groups will cause evolution if we are considering the human species as a whole,” added Hodgson.

“It is my belief that cultural variation with respect to things like preference for large families or small families will drive much of the evolution of humans in the near future,” said Hodgson.

“Lots of the evolution we see on a species-wide scale will be driven by demographic differences among populations that happen to correlate with differences in gene frequencies among those populations. Genes that are common in populations that are expanding will increase in frequency, and genes that are common in populations that are contracting will decrease in frequency,” added the evolutionary geneticist.

According to Longrich, “Humans are evolving rapidly—maybe more rapidly than we’ve ever been evolving before.”

“Our brain size is evolving—[they] have actually become smaller over the past 10,000 years since we started living in civilization,” claimed the paleontologist.

“Brains seem to be smaller now than even in Greek or Roman times,” he added.

“During the pandemic, we learned that there is natural variation as to how individuals responded to infection,” Granatosky explained.

“Such variation serves as the basis for evolution to act. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the COVID-19 pandemic was its global nature. Rarely do such events affect an entire species so dramatically,” he continued.

“We’ve definitely evolved in 2020-2023,” claimed Longrich.

“There are a lot of negative consequences associated with non-lethal infections—fatigue, depression, brain fog, etcetera, and currently it seems like the virus is just going to keep circulating indefinitely, which increases the odds that sooner or later people get an adverse reaction,” he continued.

“We probably won’t know the effects for another 50 years, but people with an innate resistance to the virus are at a distinct advantage relative to everyone else, and people whose genes make them vulnerable are at a disadvantage, and it’s hit pretty much every person on the planet. I don’t think it will radically reshape us as a species, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t leave a lasting imprint on our genetic diversity that will be detectable for generations,” concluded the researcher.

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