Blog Seven: Modern Human Evolution

Humans have evolved in many different ways over many, many years. From obtaining the ability to walk upright, to simply adapting teeth size and shape, we have come a long way in our physical, biological, behavioral, and environmental evolution.
There has not been much change physically within the human population for several thousand years – albeit some populations around the world have grown in average height by several inches. However, there are still many aspects in which humans have evolved.
Biologically we are less prone to disease and any other illness-related fatalities. Through the development of science, medicine, and technology, humans are able to live much longer and combat illnesses much more successfully than in the past. One great example of this evolution is the lower rate of infant/mother fatalities in childbirth. Less than one hundred years ago, the chances of death of the mother and the infant in childbirth could be as high as 50% depending on the location. Nowadays, the chance of fatality for either mother or infant is infinitesimal due to the progress in medicine and technology in pediatric care as well as no longer needing women to be as young as fourteen to have children because of short life expectancies.
Behavioral adaptations happen very frequently – sometimes in as little as a month. Consider Pokemon Go; three months ago, before the fad, it would have seemed strange to see a group of twenty-somethings huddled in a park after midnight. Nowadays, we all know exactly what they are doing and why they are there. It’s no longer a behavioral abnormality. Even social rules are a result of behavioral evolution. For example, the individual’s upset (slight or otherwise) response to dropping objects informs the surrounding public that he or she is not behaving in an abnormal way (to upset the social structure as it is) but rather, made a mistake. This “social norm” evolved as a way to maintain the status quo among humans so that individuals can still be dubbed as “socially normal” and can still be accepted into the human race. Behavioral adaptations can apply to much more important concepts as well – interactions between two people of different ethnicities, between two people of different genders, and even the development of caring for the sick and old rather than leaving them behind or letting them die. For the most part, our behavioral evolution has been an improvement from the past. And it continues to be.
It’s very easy to see the evolutionary strides humans have made in environmentally evolving. Most of the world no longer reside in caves and have evolved to conceptualize the construction of an outside shelter – from mud-huts to skyscrapers, humans are continuously adapting their environment to themselves. This can be very harmful in some cases, causing such global effects as greenhouse gases and an overproduction of octane emissions. But perhaps someday we will evolve from our primitive ways of making our lives more convenient into ways that help us as well as leave the planet unharmed.

3 thoughts on “Blog Seven: Modern Human Evolution

  1. Hi
    I found your blog post to be very interesting and well written. You argued however that we are less prone to diseases, where in my post I said that (for the very same reason you did) we are more prone to them. You discuss the low infant mortality rates which is a great point, and how science has given us the ability to live longer. Because of that though I argued that people who in previous populations and societies (but still the same species) would not have survived are now able to survive and reproduce to pass on their genes.
    However, I think your discussion of behavioral evolution was really well written, I had not thought about it as much as you did. You discuss the sick and the old in this part of your blog which I thought was really great point. The carry for the elderly and the sick is fairly new in the evolutionary line (as we learned in class). And we as a society have only further progressed that behavioral concept, which means evolutionary it should also have an effect on the future.
    Overall really good blog- Thanks.

  2. I disagree with your comments that evolution has made us less prone to disease. While we certainly do live longer than our ancestors, our expanded life is much more due to science than natural selection. We must remember that natural selection is based solely on reproduction. Traits thrive by increasing the individual’s ability to survive adolescence, reproduce, and ensure its offsprings survival. Once reproduction becomes overly difficult or impossible, our extended lives are completely due to our culture and our ability to control the environment around us. The childbirth example is actually very interesting. Our process is actually incredibly flawed. In order to be bipedal we had to make adjustments to the hips and spine. This has made childbirth a very dangerous event for both the mother and child. The mortality rate for mothers during childbirth was high for centuries. While this seems counterproductive, the advantages of bipedalism must have been greater than the advantages of easy childbirth. This can be seen as a way natural selection has actually favored a shorter lifespan for the sake of reproduction.

  3. Hi,
    Your Blog Seven made some interesting points that made me think differently about our human evolution. I agree that it takes thousands of years to develop in our bodies, but I am not sure improved child birth mortality is a result of a hardier infant or simply better and earlier medical care. I suppose that would be a cultural or social adaptation even if the latter was true. I never thought of short-term societal occurrences as evolution, but I think any change that could become permanent is one that is evolutionary in nature. I refer to your suggestion that Pokémon Go may be more than a fad and that this “social norm” has evolved as a status quo among humans to become a new “normal” within our species. I like that you have extended this behavioral activity on a larger scale to consider our ability to adapt to our environment. I hope we can evolve, as you say, to leave the planet unharmed.
    -Jaclyn Kyko

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