Mankind Has Stopped Evolving


MICHIO KAKU Professor of Theoretical Physics, CUNY


There are no more evolutionary pressures driving gross human evolution, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to genetically re-engineer ourselves in the future.


WATCH » Science fiction may lead you to believe that humans in the future will be slender, bald, and have big heads and big eyes, but according to Big Think blogger and futurist Michio Kaku, there is no longer enough gross evolutionary pressure placed on humans to cause us to evolve.


"We no longer have any isolated pockets, like Australia, which would accelerate human evolution," says Kaku. "We have jet can go pretty much anywhere on planet earth, meet people, have children and your genes are now spread throughout the planet."


This isn't to say that some forms of evolution aren't still taking place inside our bodies — in our immune systems and our body chemistry — but gross evolution, that is, evolution that will dramatically change the physical features of our bodies "is pretty much gone," says Kaku.


Despite the fact that humans are no longer evolving, Kaku predicts that in the coming decades genetic engineering will allow us to influence our own evolution. But don't expect to encounter flying pigs anytime soon, says Kaku. At the moment, scientists are only capable of manipulating one gene at a time.

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No. As much as I respect Michio Kaku's knowledge of physics, his knowledge of biology is inaccurate. While it is true that our technology protects us from certain selective pressures, that does ot mean we've stopped evolving. As a prime example, selection for lactose tolerance has been ongoing for the past few thousand years.

PZ Myers has a review of Dr. Kaku's take on evolution here:

100% agree with Dave (and PZ). 


Just because you're brilliant at physics, doesn't mean you're brilliant outside of physics.  


Try not to get sucked into the argument from authority logical fallacy.  

I don't think we have reached "the pinnacle" - far from it - and neither did the philosopher (& outcast) CEM Joad - 1891-1953 :


Joad on Philosophy

"Philosophy is an exceedingly difficult subject, and most books on philosophy
are unintelligible to most intelligent people. This is partly, but not wholly,
due to the difficulty of the subject matter, which, being the universe, is not
surprisingly complex and obscure. There is no reason, at least I know of none,
why the universe should necessarily be intelligible to the mind of a
twentieth-century human being, and I...remind him how late a comer he is upon
the cosmic scene, and how recently he has begun to think...

"If we put the past of life at one hundred years, then the past human life
works out at about a month, and of human civilisation (giving the most generous
interpretation to the term "civilisation") at about one-and-three-quarter hours.
On the same time-scale, the future of "civilisation" - that is to say, the
future during which it may be supposed that man will continue to think - is
about one hundred thousand years.

"By any reckoning, then, the human mind is very young, and it is not to be
expected that it should, as yet, understand very much of the world in which it
finds itself. Indeed, there is a sense in which the more we know, the more we
become aware of the extent of our ignorance. Suppose, for example, that we
think of knowledge as a little lighted patch, the area of the known, set in a
sea of environing darkness, the limitless area of the unknown. Then, the more
we enlarge the area of the lighted patch, the area of the known, the more also
we enlarge the area of contact with the environing darkness of the unknown. In
philosophy, then, as in daily life, cocksureness is a function of ignorance,
and dunces step in where sages fear to tread. The wise man is he who realises
his limitations.

"It is the business of philosophy, as I conceive it, to seek to understand the
nature of the universe as a whole, not, as do the sciences, some special
department of it, but the whole bag of tricks to which the moral feelings of
the Puritan, the herd instinct of the man in the street, the religious
consciousness of the saint, the aesthetic enjoyment of the artist, the history
of the human race and its contemporary follies, no less than the latest
discoveries of science, contribute.

"He looks for a clue to guide him through the labyrinth, for a system wherewith
to classify, or a purpose in terms of which to make meaningful. Has the
universe, for example, any design, or is it merely a fortuitous concourse of
atoms? Is mind a fundamental feature of the universe, in terms of which we are
ultimately to interpret the rest, or is it a mere accident, an eddy in the
primeval slime, doomed one day to finish its pointless journey with as little
noise and significance as it began it? Are good and evil real and ultimate
principles existing independently of men, or are they merely the names we give
to the things of which we happen to approve and to disapprove ?"

Apologies Adriana - sense of humour by-pass today - a bad one - where's the whisky ?!
9pm here near Gatwick - so cheers to (hick) everyone in (hick) the States & beyon....Zzzzzzzz (hick)zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz_______________
A great many. Dr. Kaku is suffering from the expert fallacy. Being an expert in one field does not make you an expert in all. I'm sure he'd be less than impressed with some expert biologists speculations on astrophysics, too.
"Despite the fact that humans are no longer evolving......" Wrong - we are still evolving. 

Yes we are evolving. For example our brains are shrinking.

Jerry Coyne weighs in on this question as well.

Evolution isn't the most accurate way to describe what happens after natural selection. Better said, it is adaptation to the environment, because evolution implies some objective measuring stick that says if we are better or not.

The real situation is that our environment is changing extremely rapidly, but it changes as we want it to change and that's in the direction of making our lives easier. That's why it may seem we're not evolving in certain areas, but we are adapting. Let's take health for example! It's much worse now in certain aspects, because of our advanced medical system and our easy way of life. While 10,000 years ago you couldn't have survived if you were obese, nowadays most people are overweight or even obese (in rich countries). That's adaptation right there, even if it may seem like involution. That's because natural selection means those who are poorly adapted die, but now we have societies that take care of their sick, handicapped and elders. That means we have softened the otherwise harsh reality of having to fight for survival.

The key factor in whether evolution, or at least natural selection for adaptive traits, is taking place in humans is to what extent changing environments are impacting the ability to reach reproductive age. Viewed in this light, it would seem that no significant evolution is taking place, at least in advanced societies, since almost all people in modern countries manage, with the assistance of modern medicine, to survive to that age. If natural selection was proceeding unimpeded, we would have long ago been rid of the many horrible genetic disorders, such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. However, medical advances have managed to allow enough of these people to reach reproductive age that the genes get passed on. To my way of thinking, that is tantamount to putting a brake on any meaningful human evolution.


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