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How culture shapes the evolution of our genes

| | May 14, 2019
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Image: National Institutes of Health
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

The well worked out examples of the impact of human culture in re-shaping our own evolution are riveting, I think.

The ability of adults to digest lactose, in fact, confers evolutionary advantages only when a stable supply of milk is available. And this would not have been the case until after milk-producing animals (sheep, cattle, goats, camels) had been domesticated and a host of related cultural features, such as knowledge about how to care for such animals and collect their milk, had arisen. … Amazingly, just over the last 3,000-9,000 years, several adaptive mutations have occurred in the LCT gene … conferring this ability.

The forms of living arrangements that we have invented in the last 5-7,000 years – involving cities and markets and modern telecommunications – are surely also a force in our natural selection. … For instance, as a species, we may be getting smarter because we live in cities, and because urban culture is getting ever more complex, stimulating, and demanding. We almost certainly are evolving to have different immune systems … as our species lives in ever larger and denser aggregations, with movements of people over ever longer distances between cities, giving rise to new sorts of epidemics as a result.

Read full, original post: How do genes and culture co-evolve, and what are some examples of this in action?

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