Evolutionary Changes in the Human Genome
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A human being is a part of natural selection, a creature shaped by society in hands of culture. A concept of human appears in anthropocentric sciences that study the central element of existence and, if it is possible, answer the questions: what? how? and why? What is an evolutionary change, how genome changes and why human DNA changes – these are some of the subject matters of a wide field of anthropology.
An article in the New York Times entitled “Human, Culture, and Evolutionary Force” covers the topic of relations between culture and changes in DNA. The main statement is as follows: “Culture itself seems to be a powerful force of natural selection” (Wade). Modern cultural environment permanently evolves and therefore people and culture co-evolve. This is the theory Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richardson stand up for (Wade). Biologists` proof that culture is a selective force is based upon the facts they managed to find and explain: lactose tolerance, conventional pressure (for example, the immune system) and changes in appearances of people from different continents (thicker hair, white skin etc.). The chronological distance between modern humans and archaic humans prevents scholars from finding details of ancient natural selection process, because a human being underwent numerous mutations during the last 50,000 years. Mark Stoneking and Max Plank say that the problem of explaining evolutionary changes in the human genome is connected with unexplored material in DNA: “The roles of most of the 20,000 or so genes in the human genome are still poorly understood” (Wade).
The information given in the article explains different points of view on problematic items anthropology includes and methodology of finding solutions:
- Culture is one of the most powerful selective forces that changes genes which influence development of the human race.
This is a chain that illustrates the connection culture – genes – human. A human being is never separated from an environment it belongs to. This environment has specific rules and pressures. There is a necessity of adjustment to culture on the genetic level, so that the data is preserved for generations and DNA changes and this implies evolution of human beings.
- A human genome has a lot of “white spots” that are to be discovered and explained. Many genes are active but their functions are unknown. They are the mysteries anthropology deals with. The more scientists know about these genes, the better we understand the nature of human beings. Such items are relevant for anthropology, and scientists all over the world work intensively in this direction.
- Evolutionary changes in human genome set a way for future evolution. Brain functions evolve in response to the social pressures. These transformations are slow but inevitable. Information about all the factors that have influence upon the processes of modifications in DNA is significant for those sciences that study a human being, because it helps to be ready for or even prevent possible future disasters, such as climate changing and emergence of new viruses.. Anthropology carefully analyzes all relations between a human being and his/her natural surroundings.
Genes do not make a human being a person but culture does. Metaphorically speaking, culture is a pen that writes human on a piece of paper which is DNA. This pen also belongs to anthropology as it writes everything we know about human population as a biological species. Past, present and future is what anthropology studies today – the way we lived, the way we live and the way we may choose to live.