October 24, 2009


Are Humans Still Evolving? (Eben Harrell – Fri Oct 23, 2009, TIME)

Stearns' team examined the vital statistics of 2,238 postmenopausal women participating in the Framingham Heart Study, which has tracked the medical histories of some 14,000 residents of Framingham, Mass., since 1948. Investigators searched for correlations between women's physical characteristics - including height, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels - and the number of offspring they produced. According to their findings, it was stout, slightly plump (but not obese) women who tended to have more children - "Women with very low body fat don't ovulate," Stearns explains - as did women with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Using a sophisticated statistical analysis that controlled for any social or cultural factors that could impact childbearing, researchers determined that these characteristics were passed on genetically from mothers to daughters and granddaughters.

If these trends were to continue with no cultural changes in the town for the next 10 generations, by 2409 the average Framingham woman would be 2 cm (0.8 in) shorter, 1 kg (2.2 lb.) heavier, have a healthier heart, have her first child five months earlier and enter menopause 10 months later than a woman today, the study found. "That rate of evolution is slow but pretty similar to what we see in other plants and animals. Humans don't seem to be any exception," Stearns says.

Douglas Ewbank, a demographer at the University of Pennsylvania who undertook the statistical analysis for the study, which was published Oct. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), says that because cultural factors tend to have a much more prominent impact than natural selection in the shaping of future generations, people tend to write off the effect of evolution. "Those changes we predict for 2409 could be wiped out by something as simple as a new school-lunch program."

Evolution and Equality: What do Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, and the Freedom Riders have in common with each other? (Terence Monmaney, February 2009, Smithsonian magazine)

Darwin and Lincoln might have had more in common than we thought. Lincoln, of course, was motivated by the cruel injustice of slavery, but recent scholarship suggests that so was Darwin, whose family was staunchly abolitionist. "He was disheartened to see advocates of slavery justifying their position by saying that white European humans and black African humans were not the same species," Hayden says. "One of the animating thoughts in the young Darwin's mind as he set out to understand the world was his conviction that all humans were one."
Of course, the problem for Darwinists is that if humans are all one species then you have to abandon the notion that the variety of beaks differentiates finches into separate species, etc. Alternatively, if you take Darwinism seriously, as Darwin did, then slavery is just a function of inferior species of humans meeting superior. Posted by Orrin Judd at October 24, 2009 9:07 AM
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