Thursday, December 13, 2007

This one's for Phil U

The Guardian reports on a study finding not only that human evolution is still occurring, but has speeded up rather than slowed down since the rise of civilisation.

I must say I'm dubious about this bit:

"The widespread assumption that human evolution has slowed down because it's easier to live and we've conquered nature is absolutely not true. We didn't conquer nature, we changed it in ways that created new selection pressures on us," said anthropologist Dr John Hawks, who led the study.

It does seem likely to me that natural selection is hardly affecting modern Westerners, who have a low risk of not surviving to adulthood and reproducing, no matter how defective they are. But that's a feature of only one part of the world's population over only the last 100 years or two, so the fact that there have been a lot of genetic changes over the last 5000 years don't render the theory any less credible.

But anyway, why's this one for Phil U? Well, Phil's a staunch hater of dairy products - not even the fact that Paul McCartney's loony one-legged ex shares his hatred seems to disconcert him. So I have to point out this bit:

Some of the changes were tracked back to just 5,000 years ago, and "today they are in 30 or 40% of people because they [are] such an advantage," said Hawks.

Many Chinese and African adults cannot digest lactose in milk, but across Europe a lactose-tolerance gene is now widespread. One reason is thought to be that at northern latitudes sunlight is weaker, so people make less vitamin D in their skin. Vitamin D is crucial for absorbing calcium, so being able to digest milk throughout life made people in colder climes healthier.

So, it turns out that milk is good for whitey - helps make up for the inherent gimpiness of being white. Don't worry though, milk-haters - the sunlight ain't exactly weak around here...

6 comments:

Josh said...

There's more to evolution than just natural selection - I'd imagine the enormous increase in world travel in the last century or so would have had a big effect on our genetic makeup, for example.

David said...

Interesting also that McDonalds (thru the peddling of milkshakes and cheese-in-burgers)ably assisted by Dominos, Pizza Hut and Haagen Daz (amongst others) throughout Asia have markedly reduced the incidence of lactose intolerance in the younger population. It appears that through repeated exposure to lactose, the body's ability to handle this milk sugar is increased to levels we in the West would consider "normal".

Is that a good thing? Is it evolution or adaptation? Sort of much like Asian people are not necessarily genetically short, better nutrition has increased the average height quite dramatically since the 1950's.

Where is Whoar.co.nz? said...

Phil claims someone hacked his blog, but no evidence, and he just looks silly. In fact he's probably gone underground.

Is Phil allowed to comment here or is he banned?

Psycho Milt said...

Adolf banned Roger Nome from commenting on his posts, but no-one's banned from the blog.

I'd certainly never address a post to Phil if he wasn't welcome to turn up and comment on it.

Falafulu Fisi said...

I would add another point is that Phil's a staunch supporter of Global Warming proponents such as climate psychic Al Gore. Phil also a stronger follower of the TV2 program Sensing Murder, where psychics are supposed to solve the long standing NZ unsolved murder. Phil had expressed at DPF that the show amazes him, because of the accuracy that psychics in the show seemed to reveal. Phil doesn't know that each episode is filmed for about 6 hours (this fact is well covered on many NZ blog sites), but the suckers (Phil and all psychic believers) only see about less than half hour of filming (this excludes commercial break). This means that the wrong guesses (which are far more higher than psychics correct guesses) are edited out, and only the few correct guesses made it to the final production version, so the psychics appeared on the show to know everything about the dead spirits. This impresses Phil.

Psycho Milt said...

Well OK, but I didn't really intend to open a "Things I don't like about Phil U" thread...