Feeds

David Attenborough warns that humans have stopped evolving

Also, please stop breeding so much

High performance access to file storage

Britain's most popular naturalist has warned in an interview that humans have become the first species to effectively halt the influence of natural selection. He also says, however, that it's not the end of the world, thanks to modern technology.

"I think that we've stopped evolving. Because if natural selection, as proposed by Darwin, is the main mechanism of evolution – there may be other things, but it does look as though that's the case – then we've stopped natural selection," Sir David Attenborough told the Radio Times.

"We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 95-99 per cent of our babies that are born. We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection – of its own free will, as it were."

The Darwinian model for natural selection referenced by Attenborough is, put very simply, a mechanism whereby those animals with more successful adaptations to their environment and the ability to breed can pass on these improvements. Thanks to healthcare, medicine, and birth control, mankind may have halted this mechanism, but instead humans are evolving in other ways thanks to technology, he said.

"Stopping natural selection is not as important, or as depressing, as it might sound – because our evolutionary process is now cultural," Attenborough explained.

"Humans have a great cultural inheritance as well as a physical, genetic inheritance – we can inherit a knowledge of computers or television, electronics, aeroplanes and so on. Each generation has got all these books that tell them these things, so our cultural evolution is proceeding with extraordinary swiftness."

However, we may not be evolving fast enough. Attenborough, a long-time campaigner for reducing the global population, said that having large families these days is "irresponsible." China's one-child-per-family policy had produced "personal tragedies," he said, but had saved the Middle Kingdom from having several hundred million new mouths to feed.

But he said he was not particularly optimistic about the short-term prospects for humanity. Overpopualtion and ecological damage aren't going to be solved quickly, certainly not in the next century, he said, but the long-term prospects for humanity are good.

"I don't think we are going to become extinct. We're very clever and extremely resourceful – and we will find ways of preserving ourselves, of that I'm sure," he said. "But whether our lives will be as rich as they are now is another question." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.