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Evolving Ourselves

Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans

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If Darwin was here today, the changes he would notice: no soot, horse manure or squalor. Tall, clean, well-fed people, with all their teeth.

For the past few billion years, life forms adapted by randomly mutating so that at least a few hit the jackpot and survived as environments changed.

Darwin wrote extensovely on the changes to plants and animals wrought by human intervention, but didn't go to the next step and examine how humans have evolved as they were domesticated.

There have been at least 125,000 generations since first hominins started walking around. (Homonins are all human specues, incl extinct ones; homonids is same + great apes). Our domestication has mostly occured over just the past 10 generations as we became urban society.

(We worry about shark attacks, but deer crashing into cars kill 11 times as many as sharks do.)

Although the news tells us of constant viloence, in fact a long term trend toward peaceful domestication. And we had to. If historical levels of violence had persisted, all our cities would be war zones.

Overall trend of greater acceptance of people who are different, particularly among the young and educated.

In 1900, about half of Americans blue-eyed. By 1950 that was down to a third. By 2000 it was 1 in 6. Marriage is smothering a recessive trait. Where people used to marry among their cultural group, now they tend to marry based on where they went to school.

None of our food is 'natural' any more. Everything -fruit, veges, meat, milk and cheese, even flowers, come from stock that has been heavily manipulated by humans.

We're all familiar with the idea that humans are driving many species into extinction. But the corollary of that is that other species invade the vacated habitat, and then evolve rapidly to cope with the different conditions.

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