Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hawks writes on recent human evolution, and comes up with a metaphor

Paleoanthropologist John Hawks reviews research into recent evolution , via an evaluation of a profile of geneticist David Goldstein, and questions the assumptions Goldstein makes regarding the evolution of intelligence. His conclusion:

The assumption here that I find the most troubling is that intelligence is somehow the purpose of recent human evolution -- so much so that populations could not be anything but identical. But nothing could refute that assumption more eloquently than the scans for recent selection. Yes, the brain is represented on those lists, but so are the testes. And the blood. And the gut. We know from functional genomics and gene expression that brain, gut, bone, and blood are often influenced by the same genes. Recent human evolution is not progress toward a pinnacle. The human population is a snowdrift where ten thousand trade-offs have blown together, mostly by the luck of mutations. [his emphasis]

"... a snowdrift where ten thousand trade-offs have blown together." I think he shows promise.

Hawks is almost always worth reading, so go give him an eye or two.

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