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Human evolution since Neolithic

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    Posted: 04 Jan 2012 at 21:17
There is a book called "The 10,000 year explosion" that came out in 2009, here is some basic info about it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_10,000_Year_Explosion

In the book it claims that human evolution has accelerated since the invention of agriculture. Not only has human metabolsim changed, but also human intelligence and instinctal behaviour, because in hunter-gatherer societies the selection criteria is different to that in sedentary, urban societies.
On the whole, it says that human beings have become "instinctively" more intelligent, collaborative and docile through genetic selection. It also argues about the genetic differences that have arisen between different populations caused by the adaption to different environments and the time since which they have resided in cities.

There is a certain racialist undertone in that it claims that much of the racial differences have arousen since the Neolithic and reflect not only a physical, but also an intellectual and psychological diversification of the human species. It goes as far as claiming that many of the major innovations and developments in the recent centuries have a basis on genetic changes, such as the industrial revolution in Europe.

Personally, I've only read a few selected sections of the book, and I could already find numerous potholes in their argument.

First of all, if the invention of civilization had really caused such a great leap in human intellectual capacity and instinctive behaviour on a genetic level, then populations such as Eskimos, Sammi, o Evenki that have lived as hunter nomads until recent centuries should have a much lower intectual capacity than "long-civilized" peoples such as the Chinese and the Egyptians.
This is obviously not the case. Nor is there any evidence that such peoples are more aggressive, impulsive, and less collaborative than the average human being.

Ironically, many of today's armed conflicts happen at where some of the most ancient civilizations were created, such as the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and the Caucasus.

What are your opinions on the subject?






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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2012 at 10:54
On the contrary, human evolution has slowed down, simply because it is well known that small groups evolve faster than larger groups. The reason is easy to see. If you have a group of 50 people, in three generations you a positive mutation can spread to the whole group. In societies of million of people, it would take hundreds of generations to do the same.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2012 at 18:54
We could try to replace the word "evolution" with "change" (heredity), since the word "evolution" may be associated with either a "direction" toward more "advances", even "betterment" Change on the other hand may as well be accidental, unintended and go in unexpected directions.
And we should not forget, that if total populations were  probably very much larger for the last 10000 years than before, any average "birth surplus" were not.


Edited by fantasus - 08 Jan 2012 at 22:09
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jan 2012 at 21:07
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

On the contrary, human evolution has slowed down, simply because it is well known that small groups evolve faster than larger groups. The reason is easy to see. If you have a group of 50 people, in three generations you a positive mutation can spread to the whole group. In societies of million of people, it would take hundreds of generations to do the same.
 
It isn't quite as clearcut as that. Environmental conditions being equal, many more mutations take place in a large population than in a small one. Also of course a small population is more likely to die out completely than a large one, so mutations are more likely to persist in large ones.
 
A population of 50 blue-eyed people is likely to stay blue-eyed for a long time, perhaps until it dies out, whereas a population of a million blue-eyed people is very likely to develop a green-eyed subset in a relatively short time frame.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2012 at 10:24
Sure, but mutations are at random, and they don't spread to the neighbours.
With respect to blue eyes, that's a mutation that happened in human populations long time ago, when populations where small, and that grew thanks to the relative isolation of northern Eurasia.
Today, a person that were born with, let's say just as an example, red eyes, it wouldn't have any chance to spread its genes to the rest of the population.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goban Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jan 2012 at 11:58
Hi Calvo,

I agree with you, it sounds like a bunch of 19thC horse-pucky anthropology. If anything, genetic selection (sexual selection) has emphasized the old "pre-civilized"  days with an emphasis on healthy (often slender) and youthful bodies. Now we have no choice but to recreate the stresses of actually doing something artificially in the form of aerobic and anaerobic repetitive exercises at some gym. Our metabolism certainly favors our old ways as well. With the percentage of diabetes and obesity increasing with every "innovative" step toward a complete corn-based (maize-based) diet or a dependency on any cultigen for that matter...

When it comes to intellect it is just absurd.  I don't think we need to go any further there. However, there are many great anthropological sources regarding how quickly technology changes, particularly in these last few centuries. The gist of most of them is (spoiler alert Big smile) that increases in interaction and communication between different people and different cultures invariably leads to innovations or changes in extant technologies. This, coupled with changes in communications, in speed and scale and ease of access, have allowed ideas and contributions to spread to places they had a hard time getting to before. Of course now ideas can spread throughout the world with a simple click of a button on your cell phone...

So we aren't any smarter. There is just more of us communicating through various media with a variety of perspectives and experiences to help us along the way. 


Edited by Goban - 07 Jan 2012 at 12:11
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jan 2012 at 03:10
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Sure, but mutations are at random, and they don't spread to the neighbours.
With respect to blue eyes, that's a mutation that happened in human populations long time ago, when populations where small, and that grew thanks to the relative isolation of northern Eurasia.
Today, a person that were born with, let's say just as an example, red eyes, it wouldn't have any chance to spread its genes to the rest of the population.
The mutation for blue eyes has happened in various places and periods. However I was referring to the mutation that makes blue eyes green, one that I have myself, and that has passed on to two of my children. It's quite common.
 
Mutations aren't necessarily that rare. As I understand it about one case in three of haemophilia is the result of mutation, not inheritance. Which means the mutation takes place in about one in 15-50,000 of the population.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jan 2012 at 03:13
On the whole there are 2 opposing theories on modern human evolution: 

one is that humans have stopped evolving since the last ice age because man had learned to dominate nature, making much of the selection forces obsolete. 
the other is that human evolution has in fact accelerated sine the Neolithic, because by domesticating animals and living in crowded big cities, the increase in infant mortality made natural selection much harsher. 

Between the 2 theories I'd go with more the second due to the following reasons:
1. larger populations means a larger number of mutations
2. the change in diet and the spread of contagious diseases have strengthened our immunity. 

However, on the psychological/instinctive/intellectual level, I think changes take place over a much longer period of time. In total, counting every 20 years as one generation, we'd have only gone through 500 generations since the Neolithic, which I don't think is enough to modify our intellectual capacity by any notable extent. 

As Goban has correctly pointed out, much of the technological innovations is actually the result of exchanging and organizing ideas. For example, information technology has made a gigantic leap over the last 50 years, but the human brain has certainly not gone through any major genetic mutation over the same period. 


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jan 2012 at 06:51
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

On the whole there are 2 opposing theories on modern human evolution: 

one is that humans have stopped evolving since the last ice age because man had learned to dominate nature, making much of the selection forces obsolete. 
the other is that human evolution has in fact accelerated sine the Neolithic, because by domesticating animals and living in crowded big cities, the increase in infant mortality made natural selection much harsher. 
A few miscellaneous points:
The pressure of natural selection due to the environment may have weakened with improving technology, but offsetting that over the same period man has got rather better at killing himself off.
 
Infant mortality only selects against factors that manifest themselves in the young. Factors that only affect the young (inability to suck) don't get passed on because the victims don't live long enough to have children themselves.
 
Perpetuation of different characteristics is affected by endogamous, in-group marriage customs, as against exogamous out-group ones. Without class constraints (based to a large extent on ethnic consideratons) the population of Britain, say, would be more uniform than it is.  I don't know how such things were in the Neolithic. There's some ground for Wells' prediction of an ultimate bifurcation of humanity into two species: at least there was in his time, and I suspect in various areas of the world the way they are now the same phenomenon could also arise.
 
Overall and otherwise I generally agree with Calvo and Goban.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jan 2012 at 08:45
I wouldn't bet a cent on contemporary man is more advanced than ten thousand years ago.




Edited by pinguin - 08 Jan 2012 at 08:46
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jan 2012 at 21:33
One of the major changes in selection criteria from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic is that back in the former survival depended on the ability to hunt, to flee and hide from predators and natural disasters. During the latter the greatest factor became resistance to contagious diseases. 

The earliest cities were extremely crowded, dirty places plagued with epidemics. Out of 10 children born only 2 or 3 could survive to reproduction age, yet those who did so were usually the fittest in the medical sense, but not necessarily strongest in the physical sense. 
The changes in diet made many mutations spread: such as lactose and alcohol tolerance. 

What I disagree with the most with the book (10,000 year explosion) is the claim that by developing civilization, human beings have in fact domesticated themselves in the similar process to domesticating wolves, and that we have become much less aggressive and more sociable. 
On the contrary, survival in the hunter-gatherer tribe in the Paleolithic depended a great deal on team work, collaboration, and the sharing of resources, there is also no evidence that Paleolithic society was necessarily any more violent (between humans) than agricultural societies. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jan 2012 at 22:11
Over longer periods the number of kids pr. couple surviving to parenthood would have been approximately the same before and after 10000 years B.CE - about 2.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2012 at 00:01
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

Over longer periods the number of kids pr. couple surviving to parenthood would have been approximately the same before and after 10000 years B.CE - about 2.

I don't really agree.

Nomadic tribes had far fewer children than sedentary populations because they had to be constantly on the move, yet they didn't have as many deadly epidemics. 
Once humans settled down the birth rate skyrocketed, as well as the dead rate caused by deadly epidemics. The bulk of the contagious diseases we known of today, such as flu, smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, chickenpox... etc., appeared after the Neolithic, as a result of the domestication of animals.

I'd say that a sensible estimation would be that before 10,000 years ago, the percentage of children surviving to puberty was larger, but the numbers fewer; after the Neolithic, it was the other way around. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2012 at 01:45
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

Over longer periods the number of kids pr. couple surviving to parenthood would have been approximately the same before and after 10000 years B.CE - about 2.

I don't really agree.

Nomadic tribes had far fewer children than sedentary populations because they had to be constantly on the move, yet they didn't have as many deadly epidemics. 
Once humans settled down the birth rate skyrocketed, as well as the dead rate caused by deadly epidemics. The bulk of the contagious diseases we known of today, such as flu, smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, chickenpox... etc., appeared after the Neolithic, as a result of the domestication of animals.

I'd say that a sensible estimation would be that before 10,000 years ago, the percentage of children surviving to puberty was larger, but the numbers fewer; after the Neolithic, it was the other way around. 
I say otherwise, and think it is only reasonable to do so, not for particular "historical" reasons, but rather for "mathematical" ones.
However, for the sake of "argument", let us assume You are right. Let us say after 10000 years ago on average populations grew significantly each generation. Let us also start with a moderate "initial" world population 10.000 BCE of, say 1 million total. Then we could let net average annual growth for the next many thousands year be so low the population double when 1000 years has gone. The result would be a total of over 1000 million at the beginning of "our era" (year 1 - a totally unrealistic number) about 2000 years ago, and about 4ooo million in the 20.th century.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2012 at 07:12
Fantasus,

What I mean by "population constantly growing" does not necessarily imply that it's always at the same rate. 
Populations may go through explosions followed by stagnation followed by slow growth followed by a reduction following some major plague and then a major explosion again..., but if you analyze the changes every 1000 years, the overall effect is growth.

Some demographers have estimated that during the Mesolithic period the world population could be up to 3 million, but by 5000 years ago, it had exploded to a 50-100 million with the invent of agriculture. On the scale of human history, this was indeed a very big change in a relatively small period of time. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2012 at 17:59
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

Fantasus,

What I mean by "population constantly growing" does not necessarily imply that it's always at the same rate. 
Populations may go through explosions followed by stagnation followed by slow growth followed by a reduction following some major plague and then a major explosion again..., but if you analyze the changes every 1000 years, the overall effect is growth.

Some demographers have estimated that during the Mesolithic period the world population could be up to 3 million, but by 5000 years ago, it had exploded to a 50-100 million with the invent of agriculture. On the scale of human history, this was indeed a very big change in a relatively small period of time. 
Well, what I wrote about was averages during long time-spans. You could be right that for a shorter period there was a significant difference between births and deaths, but still I have a hard time to see any other possibillity than the death rate eventually "catched up", and overall got very close to the other. That means the world population over long timespans just reproduced, after the invention of agriculture as well as before.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2012 at 18:06
I will add I would give a very large "margin of uncertainty" to  such estimates for so remote periods, but it does not matter that much for what I wrote above. Even if we accepted an estimate lower than any serious scholar, say as low as 3000 individuals at 10000 BCE overall average growth rates over the next millenia would seem negligible.


Edited by fantasus - 09 Jan 2012 at 18:07
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Jan 2012 at 00:32
If you had 3,000 indivdiuals at 10,000BCE and 6 billion now, the average growth per 30-year generation would be roughly 3.7 %. Each couple would then on average have to bring up 2.074 children.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ko-Chosen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2012 at 09:55
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

If you had 3,000 indivdiuals at 10,000BCE and 6 billion now, the average growth per 30-year generation would be roughly 3.7 %. Each couple would then on average have to bring up 2.074 children.
Arithmetical errors not impossible Ermm

And before 1900, most families in the world had about 5-6 children per family, and numbers as high as 10-12 were not unusual either.
So, how do we get it straight mathematically? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2012 at 10:11
I come from a family of 13 brothers and sisters. Then again, many Chinese and manchu families are notoriously large. Look at the royal family, 17-18 princes and princesses from one emperor
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ko-Chosen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2012 at 10:17
Originally posted by Lao Tse Lao Tse wrote:

I come from a family of 13 brothers and sisters. Then again, many Chinese and manchu families are notoriously large. Look at the royal family, 17-18 princes and princesses from one emperor

Most average Europeans families were that large too up until 1945. 
Families with notoriously few children (like only-children) were extremely rare up until the 60's. 
The total ethnic Hungarian population went from 8 million in 1910 to 15 million in 1981.

I'm planning to have at least 6 children when I'll marry a woman. Although 10-12 wouldn't be bad either. (I actually come from a 3-child family, where I have an older brother and a younger sister. My paternal grandmother was the youngest of 7 children)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calvo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2012 at 17:56
Originally posted by Ko-Chosen Ko-Chosen wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

If you had 3,000 indivdiuals at 10,000BCE and 6 billion now, the average growth per 30-year generation would be roughly 3.7 %. Each couple would then on average have to bring up 2.074 children.
Arithmetical errors not impossible Ermm

And before 1900, most families in the world had about 5-6 children per family, and numbers as high as 10-12 were not unusual either.
So, how do we get it straight mathematically? 


Many people seem to confuse these two phenomenon:
- constantly increasing population
- population increasing at a constante rate

My bet is that since Paleolithic times, human populations have been constantly increasing, but depending on the circumstances, the rate of increase differed from period to period, followed by brief periods of stagnation and decrease. But over a long period of time such as thousands of years, the overall tendency is increase.

Going back to Paleolithic times, my guess is that as humans spread from the East African homeland to colonize other parts of the world, the population gradually increased as newly-colonized areas were able to provide food for new human settlements, allowing them to reproduce. (However, the rate of increase would also not be constant, and followed by bottlenecks such as the Ice Age).
But when humans populated pretty much every corner of the inhabitable world, the population stagnated at about perhaps 1 - 2 million worldwide. (from an estimated few thousand 70000 years ago)

However, the discovery of agriculture provided a more efficient way for food production, which allowed the population to increase at a faster-than-ever rate, and was staggared again when all cultivable land had been exploited.
The stagnation was broken again with the industrial revolution, followed by another demographic explosion that is still going on now.






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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2012 at 19:36
Originally posted by calvo calvo wrote:

Originally posted by Ko-Chosen Ko-Chosen wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

If you had 3,000 indivdiuals at 10,000BCE and 6 billion now, the average growth per 30-year generation would be roughly 3.7 %. Each couple would then on average have to bring up 2.074 children.
Arithmetical errors not impossible Ermm

And before 1900, most families in the world had about 5-6 children per family, and numbers as high as 10-12 were not unusual either.
So, how do we get it straight mathematically? 


Many people seem to confuse these two phenomenon:
- constantly increasing population
- population increasing at a constante rate

My bet is that since Paleolithic times, human populations have been constantly increasing, but depending on the circumstances, the rate of increase differed from period to period, followed by brief periods of stagnation and decrease. But over a long period of time such as thousands of years, the overall tendency is increase.

Going back to Paleolithic times, my guess is that as humans spread from the East African homeland to colonize other parts of the world, the population gradually increased as newly-colonized areas were able to provide food for new human settlements, allowing them to reproduce. (However, the rate of increase would also not be constant, and followed by bottlenecks such as the Ice Age).
But when humans populated pretty much every corner of the inhabitable world, the population stagnated at about perhaps 1 - 2 million worldwide. (from an estimated few thousand 70000 years ago)

However, the discovery of agriculture provided a more efficient way for food production, which allowed the population to increase at a faster-than-ever rate, and was staggared again when all cultivable land had been exploited.
The stagnation was broken again with the industrial revolution, followed by another demographic explosion that is still going on now.

If there was "short periods" of decrease, there was not "constant incerease".
And the times of decreasing populations were probaqbly times of substantial decline. It matters less how long it took, compared to how how big a decrease.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jul 2012 at 19:45
Population as well as other measurable figures probably fluctuated in irregular and complex, hardly predictable ways if we look at the long perspective.
In retrospective we may unintentionally "invent" patterns that don´t hold for closer investigation.
Perhaps we have some human "instrinct" there shall be a simple order or pattern?
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