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Evolution

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    Posted: 03 Nov 2009 at 11:48
Assuming that the theory of Evolution is 100% spot on, I have a question; Are humans still evolving today? Evolution is a very slow process, taking place over millions of years, I know this, so could Humans be still evolving, only it is such a gradual thing, and society is so young that it is hard to notice? It might be obvious, but I am curious on this subject.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Nov 2009 at 12:21
Human gentic evolution is a rather slow process because of our long generations, but some kind of evolution will probably occur. Because we are in the middle of it it can be hard to discern. Also the direction of it we can not always foresee, since evolution is not directed in a special direction but instead to the best adaptation to given circumstances.
 
Among humans cultural and genetic evolution also interact with each other.


Edited by Carcharodon - 03 Nov 2009 at 15:53
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Nov 2009 at 14:57
I've heard that human evolution is accelerating!
There was once an article on the papers about this. Evolution is driven by mutation and natural selection. Right now, with all modern medicine, there is little natural selection, but due to changes in living enrionments, lifestyles, chemicals, and air pollution; mutations are occuring at a faster rate than ever.

Human evolution has certainly not been linear. It has been found out that the bulk of the genetic diversity between human populations today has occured in the last 10,000 years, after the development of agriculture that led to lifestyle and diet changes.
For example; before 10,000 years ago the only blood type of 0; type B and A evolved much later rising through mutations. Blond hair and light eyes also evolved less than 10,000 years ago.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Nov 2009 at 15:29
There's more than one theory of evolution. Evolution itself is not a theory but an observation. Evolution is like the sun rising and setting. It's not a theory, but something that people invent theories to account for.
 
As for people evolving, I know that I've evolved considerably myself: I even find it difficult to recognise myself in pictures. Evolution goes on and will continue to go on unless or until the whole universe descends into the finality of heat death.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 04:31
Evolution work like this. If a new mutation survive, and give an advantage it will spread to the rest of the population and will become dominant.
Now, if populations are small, the spread can be done quite fast. In populations of a thousand or less, a beneficial mutation could be become dominant in a few hundred years.
In a population like ours, with 7 billion people, it will take billions of years to do the same!
Therefore, for all practical purposes, natural evolution was suspended a while ago. The only way humans retake evolution is with artificial selection of genes, which is way into the future.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 09:14
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Evolution work like this. If a new mutation survive, and give an advantage it will spread to the rest of the population and will become dominant.
Now, if populations are small, the spread can be done quite fast. In populations of a thousand or less, a beneficial mutation could be become dominant in a few hundred years.
In a population like ours, with 7 billion people, it will take billions of years to do the same!
Therefore, for all practical purposes, natural evolution was suspended a while ago. The only way humans retake evolution is with artificial selection of genes, which is way into the future.
Perhaps You have misunderstood a thing or two!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 10:11
We are still mutating, and some of those mutations (a minority) assist the carrier to survive and reproduce. So the answer is simply yes.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 11:57
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

...Perhaps You have misunderstood a thing or two!
 
I don't agree.
 
Look at farm and domestic animals. They have changed relatively fast because they suffer human artificial selection.
 
In the modern world, humans have suspended almost all survival presures upon people. Besides nobody select the children to be born. Therefore there isn't evolution at all.
 
By the way, the only way to measure the "speed" of evolution -if any- is to make really large and detailed studies of the genoma of really large populations. Something it is out of reach by now.


Edited by pinguin - 08 Nov 2009 at 12:00
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 12:24
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Evolution work like this. If a new mutation survive, and give an advantage it will spread to the rest of the population and will become dominant.
No it won't. The rest of the population will be totally unaffected. Only the descendants of the person in which the genes mutated will have it. Also whether it is dominant or recessive will depend on the mutation itself, not on any evolutionary advantage it goves.
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Now, if populations are small, the spread can be done quite fast. In populations of a thousand or less, a beneficial mutation could be become dominant in a few hundred years.
Only if it was dominant to start with. Moreover the smaller the population the more likely it is to die out completely.
 
Don't forget that at the moment of conception a beneficial-to-survival gene has exactly the same chance of being included in the new gene set as its less beneficial twin.
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In a population like ours, with 7 billion people, it will take billions of years to do the same!
Therefore, for all practical purposes, natural evolution was suspended a while ago. The only way humans retake evolution is with artificial selection of genes, which is way into the future.
What helps suspend 'normal' evolution is modern medical technology that keeps alive and active (and in the reproductive mainstream) people who otherwise would not have reproduced. It's not actually beneficial-to-survival that drives the process, but 'beneficial- to-reproduction.'
 
Additionally, the history of the evolution of species seems to indicate that the rate of creation of new species varies considerably from time to time for reasons we don't understand. One such reason may be increase in radiation exposure, which might just indicate that we can expect human mutation to increase in the future (or be increasing now).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 12:29
The rate of creation of species is in function of the size of the groups. Manking evolved quickly when we were few.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 13:03
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

...Perhaps You have misunderstood a thing or two!
 
I don't agree.
 
Look at farm and domestic animals. They have changed relatively fast because they suffer human artificial selection.
 
In the modern world, humans have suspended almost all survival presures upon people. Besides nobody select the children to be born. Therefore there isn't evolution at all.
 
By the way, the only way to measure the "speed" of evolution -if any- is to make really large and detailed studies of the genoma of really large populations. Something it is out of reach by now.
In my opinion what You wrote above is an entirely different argument than Your previous about small vs. big numbers! So I am not completely sure what Your explanation is really about (numbers, missing Selection pressures or something entirely different). Are You?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 13:21
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Additionally, the history of the evolution of species seems to indicate that the rate of creation of new species varies considerably from time to time for reasons we don't understand. One such reason may be increase in radiation exposure, which might just indicate that we can expect human mutation to increase in the future (or be increasing now).


Other reasons for increased speciation is changes in environment which can vary through times. Speciation can also increase heavily when there are many ecological niches that are not occupied (perhaps because earlier environmental changes that lead to partial extinctions, thus freeing niches).

Some environments are hotspots for speciation, as for example many islands and places like the great lakes of Africa with a high and fast rate of fish speciation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Nov 2009 at 16:47
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

The rate of creation of species is in function of the size of the groups.
Not true. A group of a thousand can split into two just as fast as a group of 100000.
 
However, it is true that a small populatiion is more likely to die out than a large one, certainly in the same environment.
 
Quote
Manking evolved quickly when we were few.  
Where do you get that from?
 
 
PS: what I meant above was that the rate at which an individual may mutate, thereby passing on the mutation, is independent of the size of population.


Edited by gcle2003 - 08 Nov 2009 at 21:14
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TingTong Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 02:16
Is it possible that given circumstances that humans could devolve and become more primitative again?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 05:16

No that is not possible.

That is not to say that we won't become hunter gatherers or that future generations will have better apitutde than us in all things. That is to say that what ever happens it will be an improvement with respect to our enviroment. There is no such thing as primitive or devolution.
I am adapted to live in an agricultural setting, and not a hunter gatherer one. I would struggle to survive in their enviroment, and they in mine. Neither is more primitive than the other.


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 14 Jun 2010 at 05:16
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 05:36
Of course a species can become more primitive. Though when we speak of evolution, I do want to make clear that I am referring to Darwin's theory of natural selection.

If an individual enjoyed a greater chance of reproducing and surviving due to being more primitive than their peers, then the species as a whole should become more primitive with time.

Though for this to happen you need an environment where less complexity and sophistication are advantageous.

A good example of where this nearly occurred was 70,000 years ago when homo sapiens were nearly wiped out due to changing climate. Our very large and energy demanding brains seemed to be a burden rather than a help, as our population dwindled to perhaps 2-3,000 individuals. Had conditions been more acute, we may have seen the disappearance of homo sapiens with their unjustifiably energy demanding brains. Instead, the more simple and primitive apes would have survived and filled our niche. Thankfully this did not happen.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 09:49
Quote Of course a species can become more primitive. Though when we speak of evolution, I do want to make clear that I am referring to Darwin's theory of natural selection.

If an individual enjoyed a greater chance of reproducing and surviving due to being more primitive than their peers, then the species as a whole should become more primitive with time.
What's primitive? Something better adapted to its living conditions is surely better in Darwinian terms.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 10:12
I think of primitive as being simpler, less complex and sophisticated.

For example, I would regard the brain of a homo floriensis to be more primitive than a homo sapien, due to it being both smaller and less capable of the more advanced types of thinking we can engage in.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 11:42
Work on ravens and pigeons seems to indicate that the power to rationalise is not necessarily related to the physical complexity of the brain.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 11:49
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Work on ravens and pigeons seems to indicate that the power to rationalise is not necessarily related to the physical complexity of the brain.


Perhaps not strictly to rationalise. But to think creatively and to feel certain types of emotions, an enlarged and sophisticated brain becomes more necessary.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote King John Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 12:11
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Work on ravens and pigeons seems to indicate that the power to rationalise is not necessarily related to the physical complexity of the brain.


Perhaps not strictly to rationalise. But to think creatively and to feel certain types of emotions, an enlarged and sophisticated brain becomes more necessary.
Not necessarily, their are vultures (Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture) in Africa that eat the marrow of the bones of dead animals; these vultures have had to devise ways to get the bones to a smaller, more eatable size to get to the marrow.  The way in which these vultures break the bones into smaller pieces is to pick them up fly to a secluded stone out cropping on a mountain and drop the bones from just the right height and at just the right speed.  This behavior has been shown to be learned.  Clearly this is a smaller brained animal that has the ability to think creatively.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 12:48
Originally posted by King John King John wrote:

Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Work on ravens and pigeons seems to indicate that the power to rationalise is not necessarily related to the physical complexity of the brain.


Perhaps not strictly to rationalise. But to think creatively and to feel certain types of emotions, an enlarged and sophisticated brain becomes more necessary.
Not necessarily, their are vultures (Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture) in Africa that eat the marrow of the bones of dead animals; these vultures have had to devise ways to get the bones to a smaller, more eatable size to get to the marrow.  The way in which these vultures break the bones into smaller pieces is to pick them up fly to a secluded stone out cropping on a mountain and drop the bones from just the right height and at just the right speed.  This behavior has been shown to be learned.  Clearly this is a smaller brained animal that has the ability to think creatively.


But that is really more of a learned (copied) behaviour, rather than being able to think creatively (which would indicate the ability to use one's imagination, as we humans do with our enlarged frontal lobe when creating our individual artworks). Granted, at least one bird must have had a creative impulse at some point (or otherwise discovered it by a fluke).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote King John Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 14:49
While the actual dropping of the bones (and sometimes turtles) is a learned behavior, creativity and problem solving are involved since if a bone is dropped from too high the bone will gain too much speed and essentially explode upon impact; if the bone is dropped from too low it will not gain enough speed to break upon impact.  The secret is to find just the right height to drop the bone/turtle and spot for impact so that the bone breaks enough to get at the marrow but doesn't explode.  This behavior while learned requires cognition, understanding, and creativity.  Cognition of what is happening, realizing that in order to get food I have to watch other birds (like Ravens and Buzzards).  Understanding that I have to drop bones to break them.  Creativity, in that I have to solve the problem of why does the bone break just right at 200 feet and not at 50, 100, or 300 feet.  There is also the problem of why does the bone break on stone and not on grass.  These two questions are solved by trial and error and by creativity of thought.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 15:07
I see what you mean. The behaviour of the vulture would then certainly be evidence of creative thinking. Not at the level of a higher order mammal. Its brain structure would not accommodate the functioning needed for more complex displays of creative thinking such as tool use (though we do see this in Egyptian vultures), art creation of invention of supernatural beliefs all at once. But a brain of that size would certainly permit some limited creative thinking.

Edited by Constantine XI - 14 Jun 2010 at 15:09
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jun 2010 at 23:25
Brain size being related to intelligence is 20th century speculation that was never backed up by evidence.
 
Its hard enough to define the difference between animals and humans let alone find a biological reason for it.
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Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

Brain size being related to intelligence is 20th century speculation that was never backed up by evidence.
 
Its hard enough to define the difference between animals and humans let alone find a biological reason for it.


That is not true. There exists a weak to medium (.3 - .4) correlation between brain size and IQ. The important thing is not that the brain itself is larger, but that the part of the brain that is responsible for enhancing our chances of survival and reproduction is itself larger and better developed. And, more to the point, that the parts of the brain responsible for intelligence (e.g. creative thinking) is larger rather than the parts of the brain not responsible for observable intelligence (e.g. regulating motor skills).

For example, homo sapiens had a better developed (and larger) parietal lobe and neocortex than the other hominids. Consequently we enjoyed better social (group cooperation), language and creative skills than the other hominids. As it turns out, it was these abilities which probably explains why it is we are here today and homo neanderthalis is not.


Edited by Constantine XI - 15 Jun 2010 at 01:50
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dolphin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jun 2010 at 02:04
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

Brain size being related to intelligence is 20th century speculation that was never backed up by evidence.
 
Its hard enough to define the difference between animals and humans let alone find a biological reason for it.

Even worse than that - the brain size theory has been completely debunked!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jun 2010 at 05:04
Originally posted by CXI CXI wrote:

That is not true. There exists a weak to medium (.3 - .4) correlation between brain size and IQ.

A .3 to .4 correlation is hardly strong evidence of anything. Not to mention IQ tests aren't any measure either. That just goes back to the problem of defining intelligence in the first place. This is also within the same species (unless Cats can take IQ tests) and therefore irrelevent when discussing evolution.
Quote The important thing is not that the brain itself is larger, but that the part of the brain that is responsible for enhancing our chances of survival and reproduction is itself larger and better developed

Part of the brain that is responsible for enhancing our chances for survival and reproduction? As far as I am aware, there isn't a part of the brain that does that, it's a net result.
Quote And, more to the point, that the parts of the brain responsible for intelligence (e.g. creative thinking) is larger rather than the parts of the brain not responsible for observable intelligence (e.g. regulating motor skills).

The part of my brain used for regulating motor skills is bigger than my cats brain. I am completely uncoordinated in comparision.
Quote For example, homo sapiens had a better developed (and larger) parietal lobe and neocortex than the other hominids. Consequently we enjoyed better social (group cooperation), language and creative skills than the other hominids.

Humans have a large brain, humans are the best, therefore large brains are better?
Quote As it turns out, it was these abilities which probably explains why it is we are here today and homo neanderthalis is not.

That's speculation. We don't have the faintest idea why they died out, just guesses.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jun 2010 at 05:24
Originally posted by Omar Omar wrote:

A .3 to .4 correlation is hardly strong evidence of anything. Not to mention IQ tests aren't any measure either. That just goes back to the problem of defining intelligence in the first place. This is also within the same species (unless Cats can take IQ tests) and therefore irrelevent when discussing evolution.


Not strong evidence, but it is statistically significant evidence. And IQ and other intelligence tests can be applied to animals.

Quote Part of the brain that is responsible for enhancing our chances for survival and reproduction? As far as I am aware, there isn't a part of the brain that does that, it's a net result.


Yes, the part which gives our species a competitive advantage over other species which compete within our niche, e.g. the likely more advanced social and language skills which homo sapiens enjoyed over other hominids.

Originally posted by Omar Omar wrote:

The part of my brain used for regulating motor skills is bigger than my cats brain. I am completely uncoordinated in comparision.


And how much larger is your body compared to your cat's?

Quote Humans have a large brain, humans are the best, therefore large brains are better?


No, certain parts of the human brain were better developed and these resulted in abilities and behaviours that ensured humans out competed rival hominid groups.

Quote That's speculation. We don't have the faintest idea why they died out, just guesses.


It the best theory we have so far. We certainly didn't outlast the neanderthals because of a more robust physique.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jun 2010 at 02:45
Originally posted by CXI CXI wrote:

Not strong evidence, but it is statistically significant evidence. And IQ and other intelligence tests can be applied to animals.

How can an IQ test that isn't even valid amongst humans possibly be valid with animals? That's a weak correlation with a bogus variable. Its better evidence for the opposite point.
Quote Yes, the part which gives our species a competitive advantage over other species which compete within our niche, e.g. the likely more advanced social and language skills which homo sapiens enjoyed over other hominids.

Which part would that be?
Quote And how much larger is your body compared to your cat's?

That's irrelevant. If brain size determined proficiency in a field then I should be more dextrious than my cat. The basic controls are the same. If the cat's body size make a difference then your admitting that the size of the brain can be tailored to its host without sacrificing functionality.
Quote No, certain parts of the human brain were better developed and these resulted in abilities and behaviours that ensured humans out competed rival hominid groups.

That we can agree on, because developed doesn't mean large.
Quote It the best theory we have so far. We certainly didn't outlast the neanderthals because of a more robust physique.

Once upon a time our best theory about the creation of the world was the book of genesis. Just because its 'our best guess' or 'current' doesn't mean its correct.
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