In a recent book entitled The 10,000 Year Explosion: How civilization accelerated human evolution, anthropologists Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending of Utah University explain why they think humans are evolving, and at an accelerated rate. This theory is raising eyebrows as many evolutionary biologists think human kind has reached a plateau from an evolutionary point of view.
The scientists drew upon a database that contains patterns of human genetic variation and also on the Human Genome Project. Cochran and Harpending say that one of the factors that increased evolution’s pace was rapid cultural changes, brought forward by the invention of agriculture and urbanization.
New Scientist Magazine reports on the book:
“They found strong evidence that advantageous alleles in these regions [i.e. Europe and Africa] are sweeping through the human population – evidence of natural selection at work. These sweeps began earlier in Africa than in Europe, perhaps 80,000 and 40,000 years ago, respectively.”
“The evidence the authors present builds an overwhelming case that natural selection has recently acted strongly on us and may be continuing unabated, though the authors’ estimate of a 100-fold increase in the rate of recent evolution seems too high.”
You can read a full review of the book on the New Scientist website here.
For more information about the book