Are human beings still evolving in response to any recognizable factors?

(Steve Schaffner) #101

If another Carrington Event occurred and no one took any precautions, then yes, we would be in big trouble. But since we should have advance warning of power surges, and the precaution is as simple as turning everything (including the power grid) off, I don’t see any reason to panic.

(Steve Schaffner) #102

Pedant qualifier: only one human disease. (We’ve also wiped out rinderpest.)

(Lynn Munter) #103

We should probably drill that just like any other emergency procedure, instead of waiting till it’s happening.


Thanks… googling that one made me nervous. :stuck_out_tongue: (right up there with the Yellowstone supervolcano).

(Lynn Munter) #105

Evidence for Persistence Hunting in early Homo
(Jay Johnson) #106

I would differ with @Lynn_Munter on that interpretation. Stone tools appear 2.6 Mya, and control of fire 1.0 Mya, but the earliest possible evidence of spears is ~500,000-year-old stone points from South Africa (link is here, for anyone interested), and the earliest certain evidence is this 10-ft. long wooden spear from Schoningen, Germany, dated around ~300,000 years ago and attributed to H. heidelbergensis.

(Steve Schaffner) #107

I hope we are – but I have very little confidence that we are.

(Lynn Munter) #108

I’m not sure where the point of disagreement lies? The whole point of persistence hunting is that the animal is so exhausted by the end that no specialized weapons technology is required. You could walk up and hit it with a rock or a club or whatever, a sharpened stick is just something I brought up because I know chimps use them so it would be mildly improbable if H. erectus didn’t.

(Jay Johnson) #109

I misunderstood. It sounded like you were saying H. erectus was hunting with spears even before the invention of fire a million years ago.

(Lynn Munter) #110

We always do this thing where we wait for predictable disasters to hit once before we do anything to prepare for the next one. :confused:


Your article doesn’t say that Homo erectus did endurance hunting, which is what you claimed. And there’s no evidence for this. Scavenging? That seems likely. Unarmed H. erectus would really need to drop the carcass and run like hell when surprised by giant hyenas. Many H erectus skulls have been found with carnivore puncture wounds.

Evidence for Persistence Hunting in early Homo
(Robin) #112

This sounds like a very speculative issue. If you believe in macro or micro evolution, then either process is so slow that how would you know?

On the other hand, here is another thought: I watched a news blurb today about “terror by drone.” I turned to the man next to me on the treadmills at the fitness center and said “Interesting how, whenever we invent something new, we find a way to use it for violence.”

He told me that this was needed to get the bad guys. Well, yes…but really, whatever changes for the better you are expecting MarkD will be something we are not around to see — if they at all occur. We seem to move in God’s grace more than anything else.


Did you look into whether this guy was really trying to take credit for Jane Goodall’s discovery that chimps go to war? Is this a conspiracy theory, perhaps? People did try to discredit her. She was a young, untrained woman when she was sent out into the wild.

(Mark D.) #114

It just seems to me that in principle there is no linkage between change and breeding success any longer where humans are concerned. Change will continue of course but apart from a segment of the population with immunity surviving some deadly disease, it is hard to see how any new traits get selected for. I think we’re out of the loop we used to be a part of with every other organism.

(Jay Johnson) #115

No, I thought you were going to do it. Sorry. But, just a brief glance at Richard Wrangham’s wiki confirmed that he began his career as Goodall’s research assistant, and he definitely has never tried to take credit for her work. The only real question was whether he documented the warlike behavior while working for her, or whether that part is a figment of my imagination. From wiki:

He is co-director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project,[1] the long-term study of the Kanyawara chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda. His research culminates in the study of human evolution in which he draws conclusions based on the behavioural ecology of apes. As a graduate student, Wrangham studied under Robert Hinde and Jane Goodall.[2] Wrangham is known predominantly for his work in the ecology of primate social systems, the evolutionary history of human aggression (culminating in his book with Dale Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence), and most recently his research in cooking (summarized in his book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human) and self-domestication.


Well, I did contact the library and they pointed me to this article.
But I thought you would want to research your claim.

I grew up watching Jane Goodall on television. I loved the recent documentary about her, and posted about it, but hardly anyone here was interested.

(Lynn Munter) #117

I would say the evidence is circumstantial, yet suggestive. Sorry about the brevity of my previous response; I had to drive across the state today.

The problem with supposing our running ability was primarily driven by the need to run away from hyenas is that it just plain wouldn’t work for that purpose. Hyenas are going to be faster over short distances; prey animals that suck at sprinting get eaten. (Witness all those teeth marks you mention.) And we suck at sprinting; again, chimps are better at it than us. We evolved away from fast-twitch muscle fibers because there was some compelling reason for us to want to have a lot of staying power. So what was it?

Scavenging is part of an explanation, but not wholly sufficient, I don’t think. A fast walk would probably mostly suffice for scavenging purposes. The most interesting aspect of the adaptations we can look at is the capacity for dumping excess heat, and that doesn’t have nearly as much purpose in a scavenging scenario as it does in a persistence hunting one. Plus, scavenging is an unreliable source of meat, and I think smarter people than I have concluded that H erectus most likely was getting the extra calories necessary to explain increases in height and brain capacity from a meat-based diet.

I’ll try and look up some more links for you when I have more time later, there’s a lot of material out there on this subject!

(Jay Johnson) #118

It isn’t that hard to see. Human mating patterns are not random. And, even with modern technology and medicine, a large part of the population can choose to delay parenthood, have fewer children, or forego parenthood. As well, we can change by losing existing traits, as my previous example of culturally-driven evolution was meant to show.

I just looked, and the first chapter of Wrangham’s book does spell out how he documented the “war” as Goodall’s research assistant in 1974. (By the way, Wrangham’s book was published 20 years ago.) There doesn’t seem to be any controversy anywhere around any of this, so the whole “taking credit for Goodall’s work” thing looks like a dead end to me.


I didn’t say that our running ability was primarily driven by the need to run away from hyenas. I was making a joke about what your article’s claim:
Another possibility is that early humans and their immediate ancestors ran to scavenge carcasses of dead animals – maybe so they could beat hyenas or other scavengers to dinner, or maybe to "get to the leftovers soon enough,

In other words, running to a carcass and arriving at the same time as hyenas wouldn’t be good. It would certainly inspire running fast to get away. Perhaps this explains the origins of religion. But we do know that archaic humans scavenged animal carcasses. Finding the evidence of butchering on top of evidence of animal predation is how we know this.

You don’t have to find internet articles for me. I have a superb library and have access to Academic Search Premier. I’m a member of the American Museum of Natural History. I visit often and have viewed the actual fossils many times, and have attended their programs.

(Lynn Munter) #120

Just because our population is currently expanding (or exploding, if you prefer) doesn’t mean that it’s a situation that will continue indefinitely. A population crash due to any number of issues that people write speculative doomsday movies about could dramatically increase the amount of natural selection being applied to the human population.

In this sense, we could come up with many examples from the animal kingdom of population booms, for example when expanding into a territory without predators, followed often (but not always) by busts.

Maybe the real test is if we can come together on a societal level to deal with potential threats, starting with not overpopulating ourselves too much more than we already are and dealing with other issues as they arise.