Evolution is happening around us all of the time, it is not a thing of the past. It is sometimes harder to notice happening in real time since it is not like studying how fossil remains changed and evolved over millions of years. Walking upright, the trend of increasing brain size, and shorter arms are all biological changes that took millions of years to form into our modern Homo Sapien form. Today we can study changes such as anti-biotic resistant infectious diseases, overall change in average height, and also new technologies such as genetic engineering to force new mutations and changes in the population.
In the past one hundred years alone our understanding of disease and the advances in technology have been tremendous, almost unfathomable to think about really. We have created a wide variety of antibiotics to help kill and treat a very wide variety of diseases, and have even managed to control or eradicate a number of them. However, there has become an every growing problem with antibiotic use, and that is the developing resistance to these anti-biotics. More people have access to these antibiotics, they are being prescribed in extremely high rates, and the bacteria are evolving to survive these antibiotic onslaughts. Studying the evolution of bacteria is really important as we think into the future because as they evolve, we too have to evolve our way of thinking and our methods on how to fight the spread of these bacteria. If they evolve and we don’t have a method to stop them, then that does not bode well for the future health of our species.
We can also see evolution in action when we look at our average height as a species over the last number of years. This is an effect of our environment because the change started to happen rapidly as we developed better food, health, and agriculture. Our nutrition and food availability has dramatically increased, and you can see the trend as heights slowly get taller as time passes. If you look at some long established European countries, they have an average height that is much taller than those of developing nations, or less established ones. You can notice the increasing height trend fairly easily.
The up and coming technology of genetic engineering has to possibility to change how mutations are created and their frequencies within the population. Genetic engineering works by changing the DNA that is located inside of an embryo, and it is changed into a new code. One example of this that we learned about was creating a more muscular beagle by changing one small part of its genetic makeup that controls muscle growth. So far this technology is expensive, and we are still learning how to use it. Eventually, this technology may be available to anyone who can pay for it, and we could see rapid evolution of assorted traits both in animals and humans. The study of its use on humans has yet to take root because the main experimentation has been used on animals and non-viable human embryos. It will be interesting to see where this technology will head into the future.