Friday, October 15, 2010

Are Humans Still Evolving?

A potential argument against the anarcho-primitivist agenda is that humans are no longer the same physical beings that we once were.   Researchers have found evidence of numerous genetic changes that have occurred in the last several thousand years, many of which have occurred within just the last five millennia.  Our DNA has apparently been altered by civilization.  Some scientists go so far as to suggest that civilization itself is a result of critical changes in our DNA.  Either way, we have evolved beyond our foraging ancestors and can no longer be expected to flourish as hunter-gatherers.

There are numerous things wrong with this argument—not the least of which is the implication that evolution is progressive.  Here’s just one other minor problem:

Anyone who claims that humans have evolved within the last 5-10 thousand years is limiting their definition of “human” to exclude the indigenous inhabitants of Australia and New Zealand and other groups of people who have until recently been living in isolation from the populations of Africa, Asia, and Europe—an isolation that predates the agricultural revolution.  If we include Australian aborigines, then the changes in human DNA being cited as evidence of recent human evolution are really just changes in the DNA of subpopulations of humans, and represent fluctuations in the genetic variability between subpopulations (which happens all the time in virtually all species), not changes in humans as a species.  And the changes we are talking about are really not all that substantial.  I suspect that there are far more profound genetic differences between poodles and cocker spaniels. 

And, further, I would argue that the (relatively) recent changes in human DNA are a result of artificial selection, not natural selection.  They are side-effects of the “domestication” of the human species. 

And as far as the question of whether our changing DNA prevents us from flourishing in the absence of civilization’s oppressive omnipresence, it is perhaps most informative to note the seamless ease with which highly trained domestic dogs revert to their pack-scavenging ways when given the opportunity.           


  1. Hmm, yes. I wonder if it would make sense to say we (in civilization) are today still much, much closer genetically to our hunter-gatherer ancestors than to some hypothetical human perfectly adapted to industrial civilization.

    I think we share a lot of views. See my recent article, Agriculture: Ending the world as we know it:

  2. Great article, John. I was a fan of the growth is madness site. Good to see you are still hammering away.

  3. Hey thanks, Old Dog. Nice to hear that about the old GIM site. Small world/internet! :)