Genetic engineering will ensure that human evolution will continue–for better or worse

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Editor’s note: Scott Solomon is an associate teaching professor in the department of BioSciences at Rice University

[Feb. 12 was] Charles Darwin’s 209th birthday, celebrated internationally as a day to reflect on what the discovery of evolution by natural selection has revealed about the history of life on Earth. But with genetic engineering of humans already under way, we must also consider our evolutionary future.

Once this happens — which, inevitably, it will — we will become the first species in history to direct its own evolution. With this in mind, the time has come to acknowledge that human evolution is still occurring whether we direct it or not. Ignoring our ongoing evolution while pursuing gene editing would be incredibly reckless, yet many experts have expressed confusion or doubt when it comes to the recent and ongoing evolution of our species.

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Researchers have found telltale signs of natural selection altering genes related to protection from infectious diseases, and the ability to tolerate dietary changes, intense UV radiation from sunlight and the decreased oxygen in mountainous regions.

Human genome editing holds much promise for the future of human health. But the ability to rewrite our own genetic code means that our evolutionary future will be in our hands. Before we embark on the most significant alteration to the natural evolution of life, let’s be sure we understand what we’re dealing with.

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Read full, original post: Are humans still evolving?

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