The process of Evolution

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Evolution can be said to be a step by step procedure where living things’ traits and physical attributes adjust over a given long interval. The theory was first put together by Charles Darwin in 1859, he narrates the procedure of adjustments organisms undergo to survive and adapt better to their immediate habitat. Regardless of the controversies surrounding Charles Darwin’s theory particularly on its opposing stance as regards religion, the theory has been widely accepted. The theory has provided a staple for research, findings into evolution, and with so much evidence at disposal today, acceptance will almost be impossible (Costa 2009 p. 890). It has been shown by numerous studies that not only does evolution explain our characteristics and behaviors today, but it is also very much happening, and humans are still evolving – at a rate that is even faster. This then means homo sapiens in the future will most definitely have specific characteristics as a result of evolution which will enable them to adapt better to the environment then. This paper will look at various aspects of evolution such as the theories of human evolution, the evidence available for evolution and the natural selection concept to explain and describe the characteristics of homo sapiens in the future with facts from the present and the past.

Natural Selection

Charles Darwin, in his theory of evolution, came up with the concept of natural selection which was a logical explanation of how organisms became better suited to their environment with time. He made various observations that formed the theory. First, he observed that the characteristics organisms contained were transferred to them from their parents. Secondly, the offspring produced are in most instances more than that can be supported by the environment resulting in competition for the resources that are limited. Since the offspring will have different traits from each other, those whose traits enable them to survive in the conditions survive. As the characteristics are inherited, the organisms with the good traits outnumber those with poor traits. Over many years, the population will have organisms that have adapted to the areas they are living in. This concept of natural selection is actively taking place in humans of the world today and will affect Homo sapiens of the future. Researchers, in a very detailed study, used thirty-nine people and a chimpanzee, a close relative of humans, to analyze the genetic makeup. It was not a surprise for it to be found out that rapid evolution is still going on as evidenced by the studies; up to nine percent of the genes were changing. In another study, it was found out that the brain of humans is also undergoing evolution.

Past Evidence of Human Evolution

Over the years a lot of studies have been carried out with regards to human evolution making available a great deal of information that proves that humans indeed evolved over millions of years. The many fossils found (in their thousands) have enabled students and researchers to delve into the early human life and the various aspects that kept changing over the years such as diet, locomotion, body size and the brain.
Evidence shows that humans have been existence for over six million years (YANG, LU and GU 2013, p. 243). Human behavior can be traced from the millions of footprints, paintings and figurines, and tools of stone that have been discovered. This evidence can enable researchers to know the innovations in technology made by the early humans and how and where they lived. In addition to this, human genetics studies have also provided very important information particularly on how humans are connected to other living things. This evidence can also show the migration patterns of early humans. Moreover, there have been technological advancements in the field of dating archaeological evidence particularly artifacts and fossils. This is vital, as dates, which are very important in evolution are accurately determined and many missing dots are joined. Interesting to note is that there is still a lot more to be discovered and studied as evolution has a lot to offer. From the overwhelming evidence available, there is no doubt that humans did evolve and as much as our environment and needs keep changing even today, evolution is still occurring.

Evidence That Human Are Still Evolving

A lot of people imagine that millions or thousands of years are needed for evolution to take place. However, this is not the case; biologists have found out that it can take place at an even faster pace than thought. Despite the fact that it does not take place as fast as in species such as bacteria whose life cycle is much shorter, it does indeed take place. The concept of natural selection described above is still in action, just as it has been over the past six million years.

Alzheimer’s disease and Evolution

A genetic study carried out on the genes that predispose a person to Alzheimer’s disease has revealed that it is now becoming rare in people of the older generation (Charlesworth 1996 p. 21). The rarity of these genes could be because in these days a huge number of couples are getting children later in their lives, with some even in their fifties. The evolution, in this case, is protective to allow people the opportunity to have their genes passed on to their offspring. There is also another hypothesis, the grandparent hypothesis, which asserts that when people are able to get to the age of being grandparents, they assist in taking care of their children’s children thus increasing the survival chances of the kids.

Cardiovascular Health and Evolution

Diseases of the cardiovascular system claim thousands of lives every year both in the developing and developed world. These diseases now have an evolutionary component. The natural selection component of evolution plays out here, where nature favors people with fewer chances of acquiring cardiovascular diseases. It has been shown that genes predisposing people to coronary artery disease, high body mass index, and high cholesterol are not as common as they used to be. In as much as better preventive measures and treatment modalities could be attributed to the improving numbers in the recent past, a high genetic correlation is also a component.

Lactose Intolerance and Evolution

Evolution happened and is still happening in humans. To be able to acknowledge this, a look should be taken at how certain characteristics of people came into existence. A case that classically shows the effects of evolution is that of lactose tolerance. Any person that is past the infant stage, naturally should not be enjoying milk. Most adults today do not drink milk- they do not have mechanisms to digest it. The basis of this fact is that children have a gene responsible for producing an enzyme used for digesting one of the milk's major components- lactose. As one goes past the infancy stage, the gene stops working (Deng et al. 2015 p. 8021). However, there were some people hundreds of years ago who were able to persist with the gene after infancy and passed this on to their offspring. This is attributed to the wide availability of milk from farms and its value of nutrition. The people who possessed this gene were able to live better and get many offspring who were also able to digest milk and this trait spread over the years.

The Tall Men of Netherlands

An example of revolution in progress in the more recent past is that involving the Dutch. On average, men from the Netherlands have a height of approximately six feet. Of importance to note is that this height now is twenty centimeters more than it was two hundred years ago. In as much as people all around the world are getting taller due to the better nutrition, how is it that the Dutch have grown at such a fast rate? Men who are tall tend to have more babies compared to the shorter ones, leading to the procreation of babies who are tall. When the babies grow and mature, they also produce tall babies, and the process continues. Women in the Netherlands who are of average height have better chances of getting partners than those who are taller and tend to have more babies on average. Ladies of medium height have many men taller than them, a characteristic most of the women find attractive. Tall babies are the result of this. However, in as much as it is difficult for tall women to find partners when they do find them the children tend to be the tallest of them all.

Humans in The Future

Evolution is a process that takes place taking into consideration the emerging issues in the environment that organisms face (Pritchard 2010 p.40). As discussed above, evolution has been going on and still is. Humans, to better adapt to the environment, will continue to evolve. The concept of natural selection plays out as the people who are able to cope with the existing situations survive and pass these characteristics to their offspring. Humans of the future will be better suited to face some of the challenges that are being faced today. Cases of illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases will definitely decrease as the genetic influence on the diseases will favor resistance. Other aspects of social life such as diet and physical characteristics will also change.

Conclusion

Evolution, a theory proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859 is the process where living things' behavioral and physical characteristics change over a long period. Overwhelming evidence has been provided over the years to prove that the process of evolution, of course, did happen. It has also been shown that it is not a process that was just meant to happen millions of years ago; it is still happening even in our times. Concepts such as that of natural selection continue to play a big role in evolution, as those better adapted to survive and pass the good genes to their offspring. Evolution itself has left traces of evidence that prove it happened and is still happening in today's world. This means that humans in future will be better built to deal with some of the circumstances we are facing today that entail evolution at work.

Annotated Bibliography

Charlesworth, B. (1996). Evolution of senescence: Alzheimer's disease and evolution. Current Biology, 6(1), pp.20-22.
In his article, Brian Charlesworth, from the University of Chicago, looks at Alzheimer’s disease, providing evidence of its genetic basis. In his research, he concludes that the disease involves mutations of rare occurrence and polymorphic alleles thus colludes with evolution’s two major theories. With data from studies and observations carried out over a long time in certain patients, he extensively covers the evolutional basis of Alzheimer’s. This article is important in my research as Alzheimer’s disease is one of the main subjects that prove that in deed humans are still evolving even today; the insight it gives into the subject is crucial.
Costa, J. (2009). The Darwinian Revelation: Tracing the Origin and Evolution of an Idea. BioScience, 59(10), pp.886-894.
In this journal, James Costa, a professor at the Western Carolina University, has emphasized Charles Darwin to explain the major components of the theory of evolution. He places material historically by looking at notebooks and letters and uses them to track important work by Darwin. Additionally, he delves into how Darwin was able to come up with the idea of evolution to trace the journey he went through to come up with the theory, making it an important source for biology students and educators as well. This journal is important to my topic of research as it helps get a deeper understanding of evolution and a different better view of it. It opens the way to understand other factors in evolution even much better. Despite the article being a little bit shallow with regards to the genetic basis, it provides very useful insight.
Deng, Y., Misselwitz, B., Dai, N. and Fox, M. (2015). Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management. Nutrients, 7(9), pp.8020-8035.
In their article, Yanyong Deng from Zhejiang University, Benjamin Misselwitz, and Mark Fox from the department of gastroenterology, Claraspitall hospital, delve into lactose intolerance, particularly its biologic nature; basing their findings from a wide range of hospital data. They also go further to talk about the treatment and genetic influence of the condition. This article, especially the bit on the genetic basis of lactose intolerance, is very important to my research as it is the basis of its evolutional nature. Moreover, looking at the biological effect it has on people makes one appreciate the effect it has.
Pritchard, J. (2010). How We Are Evolving. Scientific American, 303(4), pp.40-47.
In his article, Jonathan Pritchard, a professor at the University of Chicago, takes a deep look at evolution with the particular interest in the changes in humans happening today. Using data from a wide variety studies carried out by himself and other sources, he concludes that evolution is indeed still happening and at an even faster rate. His extensive article is very relevant to my research as it expounds on almost everything one needs to know with regards to the evolution happening today.

References

Charlesworth, B. (1996). Evolution of senescence: Alzheimer's disease and evolution. Current Biology, 6(1), pp.20-22.
Costa, J. (2009). The Darwinian Revelation: Tracing the Origin and Evolution of an Idea. BioScience, 59(10), pp.886-894.
Deng, Y., Misselwitz, B., Dai, N. and Fox, M. (2015). Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management. Nutrients, 7(9), pp.8020-8035.
Pritchard, J. (2010). How We Are Evolving. Scientific American, 303(4), pp.40-47. Pritchard, J. (2010). How We Are Evolving. Scientific American, 303(4), pp.40-47.

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