Are We Evolving?

By now, we all know that sapiens evolved from simple organisms. It took millions of years for evolution to take root and change was incremental. Just losing the hairy look of our ancestor’s may have taken several million years alone. It is therefore difficult to track even through modern science if we are still evolving. Are we?

Strictly speaking, due to the slow nature of evolution, there is little to show as evidence. The laws espoused by Darwin seems to suggest that we should be evolving. In the past hundred years especially, as modern science has developed the capacity to measure progress perhaps, we have simultaneously also acquired a lifestyle driven by medication and comfort that might be making us less prone to evolution. Why would a part of you evolve to eliminate headaches, when a pill will do just fine, thank you very much.

In order to find out, scientists at Columbia University studied the genomes of over 200,000 people in the UK and USA. They found that individuals who had longer lives showed a marked reduction in genetic mutations that make you vulnerable to heart diseases, obesity, and asthma. These mutations were then likely to be passed on to your offspring, giving them a better set of genes. Researchers also found a drop in the frequency of ApoE4 which was linked to Alzheimer’s in women above the age of seventy. Given the short duration of the study, these are of course only weak signals of the possibility of genetic mutation or evolution.

However, the study suggests that living a good healthy life helps your offspring be healthy; much like Darwin suggested – the survival of the fittest. Survival in biological terms obviously transcends generations. You may not find evidence of this in your gene pool but the anecdotal evidence is apparent. Healthy parents have healthy children, don’t they?