The Future of Human Evolution


Authors
Russell Powell
Boston University
Abstract
There is a tendency in both scientific and humanistic disciplines to think of biological evolution in humans as significantly impeded if not completely overwhelmed by the robust cultural and technological capabilities of the species. The aim of this article is to make sense of and evaluate this claim. In Section 2 , I flesh out the argument that humans are ‘insulated’ from ordinary evolutionary mechanisms in terms of our contemporary biological understandings of phenotypic plasticity, niche construction, and cultural transmission. In Section 3 , I consider two obvious objections to the above argument based on the growing literatures related to gene-culture coevolution and recent positive selection on the human genome, as well as a pair of less common objections relating to the connection between plasticity, population size and evolvability. In Section 4 , I argue that both the ‘human evolutionary stasis argument’ and its various detractor theories are premised on a fundamental conceptual flaw: they take evolutionary stasis for granted, since they fail to conceive of stabilizing selection as a type of evolution and drift as a universal tendency that dominates in the absence of selection. Without the continued operation of natural selection, the very properties that are purported to reduce the evolutionary response to selection in humans would themselves drift into non-functionality. I conclude that properly conceived, biological evolution is a permanent and ineradicable fixture of any species, including Homo sapiens
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axr027
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The Language Instinct.Steven Pinker - 1994/2007 - Harper Perennial.
Rules and Representations.Noam A. Chomsky - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (127):1-61.
Consciousness Explained.William G. Lycan - 1993 - Philosophical Review 102 (3):424.

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Homology Across Inheritance Systems.Russell Powell & Nicholas Shea - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (6):781-806.

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