Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009: Keep Evolving

From Steven Pinker "Have Humans Stopped Evolving?":
New results from the labs of Jonathan Pritchard, Robert Moyzis, Pardis Sabeti, and others have suggested that thousands of genes, perhaps as much as ten percent of the human genome, have been under strong recent selection, and the selection may even have accelerated during the past several thousand years. The numbers are comparable to those for maize, which has been artificially selected beyond recognition during the past few millennia.
We're still evolving, fast as maize in fact. All of which suggests that maize mazes will pose little trouble in the future. But don't get too excited:
The other is the empirical fact that human races and ethnic groups are psychologically highly similar, if not identical. People everywhere use language, get jealous, are selective in choosing mates, find their children cute, are afraid of heights and the dark, experience anger and disgust, learn names for local species, and so on. If you adopt children from a technologically undeveloped part of the world, they will fit in to modern society just fine. To the extent that this is true, there can't have been a whole lot of uneven psychological evolution postdating the split among the races 50-100,000 years ago (though there could have been parallel evolution in all the branches).
This is from the Edge World Question Center with the question "What have you changed your mind about?" These books are always great reads, here is the link.

(image credit: Maize Maze, bbc.co.uk)