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Faster human evolution than previously thought

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  • Faster human evolution than previously thought

    Interesting read (forgive me if this has already been posted).

    "Many of the recent genetic changes reflect differences in the human diet brought on by agriculture, as well as resistance to epidemic diseases that became mass killers following the growth of human civilizations"

    This calls into question some of the assumed reasons on this forum around why people seem to be healthier with minimal grain intake. Personally, I feel better and almost never get sick when I eat primally, but to be frank I have never put much faith into the argument that it's due to the fact that we haven't evolved to our current diet at all. There are a lot of posts around how we imagine a person 30,000 years ago lived and ate, but very little rigor around looking at research simply because there isn't much- cavemen were terrible at keeping diaries.

    I may guess that people didn't eat many tubers, but I have no way of knowing that, and little to no real scientific research to back that up. I may also guess that we haven't evolved to eat any grain, but I can clearly digest it (unlike something like lactose intolerance which is clearly a real body issue). Using thought experiments ('if I were a caveman...&#39 to try to determine things like that, instead of hard, verified evidence, is how things like the the miasma theory of disease came into fashion in the 1800s- sick people often live in stinking areas, so stink must somehow cause disease.

    What I do have hard evidence on is that I have greater energy and feel better eating primally. I don't need to justify it via what ancestors may have dined on, or sweat eating the occasional tomato or enjoy my morning coffee (which people thousands of years ago *definitely* didn't do but no one seems deeply against that here). I'm very down with this lifestyle, but I thought the above article provided some nice food for thought.

  • #2

    Ok, just a few thoughts on this.


    "In fact, people today are genetically more different from people living 5,000 years ago than those humans were different from the Neanderthals who vanished 30,000 years ago, according to anthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin."

    I'd like to see the citation and research on this. Can't say the guy is wrong, but I'd like to see where it came from.

    Africans do have a gene that makes them resistant to malaria. It's fairly recent. But it also gives rise to sickle cell anemia if someone gets a double copy (one from each parent) of the gene. Possibly he means an allele, not a gene.

    Likewise with the Europeans and lactose tolerance. It's not the gene, it's an allele. It did, however, come up in the last 6000 years, though it is also my understanding that this allele is mostly prominent in northern Europeans, rather than all Europeans.

    We are definately still evolving. This is not a process that stopped, however the alleles seem to have arisen in response to a problem and it might not even be the one we think it is. I believe it has been mentioned elsewhere that there is more to the lactose tolerant allele, which might also involve pale skin and Vitamin D.

    Start weight: 250 - 06/2009
    Current weight: 199
    Goal: 145


    • #3

      I think this is the salient point:

      "The changes have been driven by the colossal growth in the human population -- from a few million to 6.5 billion in the past 10,000 years -- with people moving into new environments to which they needed to adapt, added Henry Harpending, a University of Utah anthropologist."

      Of course more diversity is going to produce more variation and change in genes quicker. However, this doesn't necessarily correlate with optimal or positive health--and there is a tipping point which I think we recently passed or are approaching. As a species, we could simply be producing sicker and dumber people.

      Quality, not quantity. Or in this case--quantity, not quality.


      • #4

        I tend to e very skeptical of articles like the above. While there are documented cases of human evolution ( ), I think some things should be taken into account before thinking of it in a bigger scale:

        - Mutations are random and can pose neutral, positive or negative effects on our ability to reproduce.

        - The mutations resulting in reproductive advantages would be positively selected, and the negative ones would be selected against

        - The result is that the gene pool of the population gradually changes until the "improved" trait replaces the previous one.

        In order to talk about human evolution we have to first identify random mutations that result in higher reproductive success.

        What comes to mind at first is money/status, so traits promoting them would be positively selected and increasingly common. But then, rich/well-educated/high-status people tend to reproduce less than the rest of the population...

        “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” -Oscar Wilde
        "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it." -George Bernard Shaw
        "The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass." -Martin Mull


        • #5

          That's his story, for what it's worth.

          Per mutations:

          I would recommend reading a really excellent book titled Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History by Gould (used available for 99 hot cents on Amazon currently).

          Mutations can and do occur to adapt very short term to an environment, and there's no generically positive gene or adaptation. The gene that makes you able to breath in brackish water becomes problematic when the salinity of your tide pools change.

          Not heavily on any side here, just thought it was an interesting tidbit.


          • #6

            AHAHA I love this:

            "As a species, we could simply be producing sicker and dumber people."

            I'm a librarian, & believe me, we are. ALL KINDS OF THEM.

            And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the wind longs to play with your hair
            Kahlil Gibran



            • #7

              This thread reminds me of the movie "Idiocracy".

              It's definitely no longer a case of 'survival of the fittest'. In Australia the Government pays people to have kids. The Government also pays low income earners an ongoing subsidy for each child.

              The smart, successful people can appreciate the long term costs (and don't get the subsidy), so don't usually have more than 2 kids.

              The less educated the people and the lower the income, the more likely they are to be tempted by the new TV and other fun stuff they can buy for having another child.

              The "Seven Deadly Sins"

              • Grains (wheat/rice/oats etc) . . . . . • Dairy (milk/yogurt/butter/cheese etc) . . . . .• Nightshades (peppers/tomato/eggplant etc)
              • Tubers (potato/arrowroot etc) . . . • Modernly palatable (cashews/olives etc) . . . • Refined foods (salt/sugars etc )
              • Legumes (soy/beans/peas etc)