Humans Have Stopped Evolving

“Human beings have stopped evolving after becoming the only species to “put halt to natural selection of its own free will”, Sir David Attenborough has said, as he predicts the “cultural evolution” of the future.” – From http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/evolution/10297124/Sir-David-Attenborough-Humans-have-stopped-evolving.html. The article is a great and thought provoking piece. According to Sir David Attenborough, a prominent English bio-anthropologist, humans are no longer evolving, in biological terms. Attenborough argues that humans are no longer bounded by the laws and constraints of evolution due to historically low infant mortality. Humans are now raising over 99% of the children born. We simply don’t need natural selection anymore. However, Attenborough also argues our evolution is now a cultural evolution. We, as a species, become more of a technologically advanced civilization by the day and we are becoming more aware of our actions and how they affect ourselves, others, and the natural world.

That being said, how does game theory and evolutionary stable strategies play into this? It seems the stable strategy was also the Nash equilibrium. Cooperating with our fellow man is what drives our prosperity and this strategy seems protected from outside, alternative strategies. However, if Attenborough is correct, then applying the concepts of Evolutionary Stable Strategies needs a bit of adjustment before applying it to humans. There is no reason to assume stable strategies can’t applied to humans anymore too; Attenborough argues humans are still evolving, just culturally and not in the biological or Darwinian sense.

We know there are human cultures (and many subcultures) that is bounded and set by commonly accepted rules, notions, tastes, beliefs, etc (although this is a very brutish definition). Then, we can now think of these boundaries and rules are now the driving force of human evolution. The Evolutionary Stable Strategy for humans is our culture. People who identify with the prevailing culture reproduce and those whom do not identify simply do not reproduce. More so, we can also label an alternative strategy as a new and emerging idea or belief or a belief or ideal held by an outside or splinter group not held or adopted by the people of the prevailing culture.

 

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4 thoughts on “Humans Have Stopped Evolving”

  1. In class we discussed evolutionary games and the stable strategies within that contribute to the natural selection that occurs. When analyzing human society as whole today, it is easy to see how natural selection amongst humans is no longer natural. In the case of nature versus nurture, nurture is winning hands down. This concept is supported in this posted article and blog post, which explains how humans culturally evolve instead of biologically or physiologically due to our evolutionary stable strategy being universally consistent and unchanged. Although not all countries in the world are as niched into a comfortable routine as advanced countries, all places around the world have experienced an enhanced quality of living over the past century. This results in the lack of infant mortality and the maintenance of the unhealthy.
    This was an interesting article to post as it examines the uniqueness that is humanity.

  2. This was an interesting read. However, to present another perspective, we have to consider that humans are reacting to these changes and evolving as a result. For example, yes infant mortality is lower, but that puts more humans into the mix for natural selection to take place. Even though most humans make it through infancy, they still develop characteristics that make them more evolutionary stable, which could be through physical fitness, appearance, or something on a cellular level. These characteristics that may be deemed attractive or unattractive by the opposite sex will contribute to people’s decisions of who to reproduce with. This is interesting to think about because society, and the networks people involve themselves in, have a large impact on what is found to be “attractive”. If one day in the far future, society deems that only males 5 foot tall and under are attractive, there could be potential for this gene to become a dominant gene in the population. Maybe eventually they will have to change the name from “natural selection”, to just “selection”.

  3. I’d like to add to the fray here. Yes, in this current environment, with ease of life, it might be easy to speculate that humans will not evolve continually. I just see a few flaws to this argument. It assumes that this equilibrium state, in which our stable strategies are performing, will exist into the future. Also, the changes that occur in evolution with natural selection take thousands of years to come to any minor fruition. Because we have had a relatively stable past few centuries, the evolutionary stable strategy did not require natural selection. But we are always evolving-be it fast or slow. Just now, our physical evolution may be negative evolution. muahahaha. I just wanted to be a devil’s advocate let me know what you think.

  4. This is a very interesting article. I believe Sir David Attenborough provides a great analysis of human development and evolution. Personally, I believe that our evolution will continue through further brain development and consciousness. This is proven through our development of technologies and the arts. Our technologies are simply enhancing our physical abilities. For example, we build cars to “extend” our legs, we have phones to expand communication, and we build machines to do heavy lifting and precise measurements that are not possible with the human body. There is, essentially, no need for humans to evolve physically; instead, brain development compensates for what we lack physically, and it does so at an extraordinary rate, as you can tell by the developments in technology through the last few decades. Furthermore, our ability to create art, such as music and paintings, reveals that our brains are capable of creating meaningful, thought-provoking pieces, unlike any other creature that we know of. This provides the evidence that our evolution has occurred through our complex brain development, and will continue to do so because it has proved to be beneficial for humans.

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