Is Human Evolution Accelerating?


Evolution isn’t finished with us. Scientists using data from the HapMap Project, a large scale effort to identify variations in human genes, have discovered evidence that evolution is actually accelerating. Granted, we’re not talking about the decade scale here. Compared to your grandparents you’re not some kind of advanced mutant.

But anthropologist Henry Harpending of the University of Utah, a co-author of the new study, says there have been significant changes in the last 1,000 or 2,000 years. The rate of evolution is far greater in the last few millenia, Harpending and his colleagues say, than it had been in the millions of years before. One of the possible causes of the acceleration, the scientists assert, may be the population boom. With more people, there’s a greater likelihood that an advantageous genetic mutation will arise, and spread. Others contest the group’s conclusions. Either way, this probably isn’t the last controversial or groundbreaking idea we’re going to hear about from the HapMap Project.—Gregory Mone