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We’re in Utopia Now

darwin-evolution-skeletonsDon’t believe it?  Looking outside at the endless rain or inside at the falling stocks and credit crunch and it’s hard to imagine that we are living in Utopia now.  This is, at least, the contention of Prof Jones, from the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, who believes the mechanisms of evolution are winding down in the human race.  We are, he says, living in Utopia now and we’d better enjoy it because it’s not going to get any better, at least not in the Western World!

Prof Jones bases his opinion on the three defining elements to evolution which include: natural selection, mutation and random change.  Natural selection has been largely eradicated through elimination of wholesale disease, juvenile mortality, and natural disasters.  While admitting some elements remain; overall, death is no longer the threat it used to be.  “In ancient times half our children would have died by the age of 20. Now, in the Western world, 98% of them are surviving to the age of 21,” he said.

The mutation rate is also down.  Mutation is traditionally sparked by older fathers, but the reproductive rate of males in the Western World is also down, with few men conceiving over 35. 

Random alterations to the human genetic blueprint were also less likely in a world that had become an ethnic melting pot, according to Prof Jones.

He said: “Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be, according to the rules of the animal kingdom, and we have agriculture to thank for that. Without farming, the world population would probably have reached half a million by now – about the size of the population of Glasgow.

“Small populations which are isolated can change – evolve – at random as genes are accidentally lost. Worldwide, all populations are becoming connected and the opportunity for random change is dwindling. History is made in bed, but nowadays the beds are getting closer together. Almost everywhere, inbreeding is becoming less common. In Britain, one marriage in 50 or so is between members of a different ethnic group, and the country is one of the most sexually open in the world. We are mixing into a global mass, and the future is brown.”

He added: “So, if you are worried about what utopia is going to be like, don’t; at least in the developed world, and at least for the time being, you are living in it now.”

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