The one question I’m inevitably asked after lecturing on evolution to a general audience is this: “Are humans still evolving?” What they really want to know, of course, is whether we’re getting smarter, taller, handsomer, and so on. Well, with respect to those traits I always say, “I have no idea,” but humans are still evolving, albeit in ways that don’t excite most people.
New research shows the Bajau Laut people of Southeast Asia have evolved bigger spleens to store more oxygen-rich blood.
Despite our stable agrarian society and medical advances that help us live into old age, the effects of natural selection are still at work on the modern human species, researchers say.
It's often said that through our innovations in science, agriculture and medicine humans have become masters of our biological destiny. That we've seized control of our evolution, eliminating most of the causes of death and suffering experienced by our ancient and not too distant ancestors.
For much of nature, natural selection and ‘survival of the fittest’ still play a dominant role; only the strongest can survive in the wild. As little as a few hundred years ago, the same was true for humans.
It would seem that evolution is impossible now that the ability to reproduce is essentially universally available. Are we nevertheless changing as a species?
Even more evidence that we’re continuing to change.
Analyses of thousands of sequenced genomes show changes in as little as a generation
Our species—and individual races—have recently made big evolutionary changes to adjust to new pressures.
The question of whether we, as a species, are still evolving, sometimes inspires visions of a new-and-improved Homo sapiens, complete with super-sized brain, disease-resistance, and the ability to withstand the pollutants and toxins common in a techno-centric future. While science fiction writers have come up with imaginative and entertaining answers to the question of how humans might be evolving, the responses of the scientific community have been more staid.
Analysis of 215,000 people's DNA suggests variants that shorten life are being selected against.