November 16, 2007

New paper on the speeding up of human evolution coming

There will be a milestone scientific paper out soon on PNAS summarizing evidence that human evolution has been -- in contrast to the conventional wisdom -- speeding up over the last 50,000 years. It also offers a simple "Why-didn't-I-think-of-that?" theoretical reason why that would be likely. It's co-authored by a Murderers' Row of big names: Greg Cochran, Henry Harpending, John Hawks, Robert Moyzis, and Eric Wang.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let me guess:
larger human populations means more chance for advantageous mutations to develop

Henry Canaday said...

Uh, my guess would be that over the last 50,000 years, humans have 1) exposed themselves to a much greater variety of physical environments and 2) created a much greater variety of social environments.

dearieme said...

The quick eat the slow?

Anonymous said...

No, let me guess!

Larger human populations with more difficult problems to solve means more chance for advantageous combinations to arise!

Half Sigma said...

Actually, it's quite obvious to anyone who thinks that civilization represents a HUGE CHANGE in the environment compared to a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. So we should see a big increase in evolution since the beginning of civilization, because the genetic traits that confer a survival advantage in a hunter/gatherer society are obviously different than in an agricultural society.

Anonymouser said...

Non-hunter-gatherer lifestyles mean radically different selection pressures?

TJF said...

A fair point, but, more importantly, larger populations, at a certain juncture, entailed greater conflict/competition both within and between groups, ergo an accelerated pace for the evolution of certain characteristics, especially those deemed "uniquely" or "distinctively" human.

John East said...

I'll look forward to this counter intuitive revelation, but it seems clear to me that a risk averse society (nanny state) that taxes the rich to subsidise the poor and the feckless to breed is on a downward spiral.

However, on second reading of your post, why did I assume that faster evolution means an accelerated advance? Our species can just as easily evolve at a faster rate in an undesirable direction. Evolution, after all, has no desire to make us a better society according to our definitions, it just blindly favours those genetic traits that survive to breed.

I must be sounding a bit too pessimistic, but taking a longer term view I am an optimist. It is clear to me that we, as a species, are still in our infancy. Two steps forwards and one step back is how blind forces of nature have moved over the last billion years. That’s how it will surely continue.

Devolutionary forces such as socialism and the nanny state will occasionally come to the fore, to be overwhelmed and defeated by the new kid on the block (China?) which might satisfy evolutions prime requirement better – to breed the next dominant generation.

Proofreader said...

Anon:

larger human populations means more chance for advantageous mutations to develop

Because larger populations mean greater virulence of transmitable diseases, which accelerates natural selection, hence evolution? That´s my guess based on Cochran´s fondness for viral causations.

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculously! All humans are identical and have evolved equally. Anyone who suggests otherwise must be a racist.

Bill said...

Birth control?

Heh.

Actually, I think over the last 50k years it would be cultural influence. Language, law and all that. People can influence how their own societies breed through ideas and customs transmitted via language.

fifi said...

"Evolution, after all, has no desire to make us a better society according to our definitions, it just blindly favours those genetic traits that survive to breed."

Every time someone (Steve) brings up this topic, this is exactly what I've wanted to say but could never express the idea this eloquently. I wouldn't worry about it so much except that human societies being what they are the hegemonic group pressures everyone else to mimic their behavior and adopt their values. Fortunately, I think this can be seen as a cycle or one of Barzun's ages? Unfortunately, by the time the trend changes I'll either be very old or long dead.

Could you call it down-breeding when mating patterns change so that the emerging dominant population is less intelligent and less civilized than the population it replaces?

Anonymous said...

john east wrote:

Devolutionary forces such as socialism and the nanny state will occasionally come to the fore, to be overwhelmed and defeated by the new kid on the block (China?) which might satisfy evolutions prime requirement better – to breed the next dominant generation.

China indeed. As I think Steve has pointed out, China is currently engaged in one of the most massive human-engineered evolutionary experiments in history. Thanks to pre-natal screening, abortion, and the cultural preference for boys, the gender imbalance in China is becoming huge. The competition to find a mate and procreate is sharpening fast in China. We can expect the evolutionary consequences to show up in the next several generations.

Fred said...

"I'll look forward to this counter intuitive revelation, but it seems clear to me that a risk averse society (nanny state) that taxes the rich to subsidise the poor and the feckless to breed is on a downward spiral."

Perhaps, but that covers less than 100 of the last 50,000 years, so for the first 99.8% of the last 50,000 years, it wasn't a factor.

Bill said...

Thanks to pre-natal screening, abortion, and the cultural preference for boys, the gender imbalance in China is becoming huge. The competition to find a mate and procreate is sharpening fast in China. We can expect the evolutionary consequences to show up in the next several generations.

-anon


Nah, it isn't as big a deal as people make it out to be. Before Communism China was polygamous, so a lot of guys went without wives then, too. Also, in the 19th century female infanticide was so common in many parts of south and east Asia (mainly polygamous societies, counteruitively) that the gender imbalance was worse than it is today.

The Chinese compensate through prostitution, which is far more culturally acceptable there than in the West.

fifi said...

"The Chinese compensate through prostitution, which is far more culturally acceptable there than in the West."

Er, Bill, you've mentioned this before...

Bill said...

"The Chinese compensate through prostitution, which is far more culturally acceptable there than in the West."

Er, Bill, you've mentioned this before...

-fifi


Yah, it's relevant again.

But fifi, you kind of demonstrate the truth of it. I've noticed several times before when mentioning it to Western people (including Chinese Americans) who don't know what I'm talking about that it bothers them.

Old China hands, conversely, feel no such discomfort about the subject. Chinese don't have a hangup about it either. For me, it was probably the single most disturbing component of the culture shock that sets in when you really start to understand what's going on around you in a totally foreign culture.

I should add that other polygamous cultures frequently develop the same coping mechanism. Read Richard Burton's accounts of life in the Sindh.

Anonymous said...

Horizontal gene transfer...bacteria and viruses exchanging transposable chunks of DNA.

Desmond Jones

Proofreader said...

Bill, is homosexuality as prevalent in China as in the Muslim world? As a safety valve for repressed young men, I mean, not in a modern western "gay" sense.

Bill said...

Proofreader said...

Bill, is homosexuality as prevalent in China as in the Muslim world? As a safety valve for repressed young men, I mean, not in a modern western "gay" sense.


I don't think so. From what I saw, homosexuality was practiced by people with a lot of power, not the laobaixing (old hundred names -- means ordinary people).

However, there were brothels stocked with both boys and girls, which struck me as kind of odd, considering the usual separation of the two preferences over here. This may mean that there was more going on than I was aware of.

The only times I knowingly encountered homosexuals in China I was confronted by aggressive, extremely creepy and well-connected men who were apparently used to getting their way. After excusing myself from the presence of one such man, I had the uncomfortable feeling that I had barely avoided a very unpleasant experience.

I would imagine that homosexuality, for which certain Chinese cities were notorious in the early 20th century, is making a comeback due to the general breakdown of social mores, but considering the extent of straight prostitution, I wouldn't think lack of an alternative would be the reason.

Anonymous said...

Re "john east" comment: Some people talk about a societal split,with an elite ruling race presiding over a stupid low mass of men. Is that our future??