No More Evolution for You, Says British Scientist

By Nina Bai | October 8, 2008 12:14 pm

human evolutionThis is it. The evolution of Homo sapiens is complete, says British geneticist Steve Jones—not because we’ve reached some pinnacle of perfection, but because we’ve run ourselves into an evolutionary dead end. Jones argues that the structures of contemporary society have jammed the three main drivers of evolution: natural selection, mutations, and random change.

He spoke yesterday at the University College London, delivering a lecture entitled “Human Evolution is Over” (in case you had any doubts as to his hypothesis). Here are his three main points:

1) Fewer early deaths. If everyone lives to reproductive maturity (in the developed world, nearly 98 percent of people survive to the age of 21), natural selection can do little work.

2) Fewer elderly fathers. As a man ages, the likelihood of genetic mutations in his sperm increases dramatically. It used to be common for men to father many children with many different women well into old age, but this is less acceptable in today’s society.

3) Too many people. Because of agriculture, there are 10,000 times as many humans as there should be.Small isolated populations allow random change because some genes are accidentally lost. But today’s huge interbreeding global population reduces these random changes.

So there you have it! We’re stuck with what we’ve got, for the rest of human history. Jones may as well have entitled his talk: “The Case for a Few Promiscuous Old Men.”

Jones has been getting a lot of press for his talk but there’s little evidence to back him up. On the contrary, recent genetic studies show humans have been evolving rapidly in the last 5,000 years.

To read more on why Jones’ theories don’t stand up to scrutiny, check out the buzz over on ScienceBlogs here, here and here.

Image: flickr/whalt

  • Noel Boaz

    What drivel. In the first place the species name is Homo sapiens. I doubt seriously that there is 98% survival rate of individuals even in the “developed world” and even so what about most of the rest of the species? It is well known that evolution can and does occur in large populations, and data on recent human evolution shows that. As just one example, high population densities in the Middle Ages in Europe facilitated large-scale mortality during the Black Death, which was undoubtedly a major selective event in human evolution.

  • Travis Cottreau

    All his points mean is that selection criteria have changed. It doesn’t mean selection doesn’t happen. Natural selection isn’t just earth death, it is also why individuals choose certain mates. Look at humans today and tell me that they aren’t being picky. That is what would be required to stop natural selection from happening.

    As long as humans continue to reproduce and selection criteria are what they are, you will see shifts in that direction. It’s inevitable.

  • Arthur

    Sound much like a statement made I believe in the late 1800’s that nearly everything there was to learn in science was already known. And then we discovered the quantum world. Oops bet they blushed In their graves.

  • urif

    I really like your blog. I bookmark this blog.

  • Harish

    Man is a conceited being, and likes to believe he understands nature. Just like a surgeon who decides to operate the heart and internal organs and thinks he is in control of what is happening in the patient. A group of surgeons operated my wife for Budd Chiari, they cut open the heart, the IVC, liver and what not, they supplied many drugs and artificially controlled blood cltiitng , brain sustenance etc. How audatious! She died and Doctos in Columbia Asis yeshwanthpur never had a clue what went wrong. She died quickly. Play God! Man is NOt God. But man has the arrogance that he is God.

    Steve Jones might as well make a correction -‘evolution as it is traditionally known’. How can we miss the fact that evolution is adaptive in nature?

    It is perhaps too presumptious to assume that we can understand what goes on in nature especially in time periods beyond our comprehension. We can make a theory and present it, but nobody knows how true it is. Some things should be best left to God. or Nature.



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