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viernes, 22 de mayo de 2009

The 10,000 Year Explosion: Has Human Civilization Turbo Charged Our Evolution?

“It was the failures who had always won, but by the time they won they had come to be called successes. This is the final paradox, which men call evolution.”

Loren Eiseley -The Immense Journey

According to most theories of human evolution, the species became “behaviorally modern” some 50,000 years ago and has not evolved much genetically since then. But according to a controversial new book, The 10,000 Year Explosion, human civilization has actually turbo changed our evolution.

Gregory Cochran and Henry dispute the late Stephen Jay Gould’s assertion that civilization was “built with the same body and brain” Homo sapiens has had for 40,000 years. Humanity has been evolving very dramatically for the last 10,000 years, they say, spurred by the very civilizational forces launched by that evolution.

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The 10,000 Year Explosion* is actually a work of genetic history that gives full treatment to the evolutionary power of natural selection in shaping human history. The last 10,000 years really have seen an explosion of evolutionary change. For example, how did the Indo-European language family get to be so geographically expansive? There is the story of how lactose tolerant Indo-Europeans spread milk-drinking with blood and fire, why the Ashkenazi suffer from crippling genetic diseases at an unexpectedly high rate while winning 25% of Nobel Prizes in the last century, and how the Spanish really brought down the Aztecs and the Incas. The real accidents of history are matters of gene flow and chance mutation.

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