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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Researchers: Natural Selection Less Important Than Once Thought

From ScienceDaily:
Geography And History Shape Genetic Differences In Humans

ScienceDaily (June 7, 2009) — New research indicates that natural selection may shape the human genome much more slowly than previously thought. Other factors -- the movements of humans within and among continents, the expansions and contractions of populations, and the vagaries of genetic chance – have heavily influenced the distribution of genetic variations in populations around the world.

The study, conducted by a team from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the University of Chicago, the University of California and Stanford University, is published June 5 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics.

But even with further research, much will remain unknown about the processes that have resulted in human traits. In particular, Pritchard and Coop urge great caution in trying to link selection with complex characteristics like intelligence. "We're in the infancy of trying to understand what signals of selection are telling us," says Coop, "so it's a very long jump to attribute cultural features and group charactristics to selection."
Which is a convoluted way of saying that evolutionary psychology is nonsense. We simply cannot know - beyond the obvious - what characteristics helped our ancestors adapt, or didn't, and for any given characteristic, it could go either way.

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