Filed under: genetic modification, history, science, time | Tags: DNA, evolution, history, industrial revolution, Nicholas Wade, science, Thomas Malthus
I’m more than a bit of a history nut. History and historical fiction are a few of my preferred reading groups. I also devour National Geographic and Time magazine to keep up on current events, tomorrow’s history. So when a book review came up on the continuing evolution of man I had to read it. (http://time.com/91081/what-science-says-about-race-and-genetics/) Nicholas Wade’s book “A Troublesome Inheritance” is now on my must read list.
For me it helps to understand some of the differences that have shaped history. When a Jewish ruler decrees that all men must receive schooling, and that results in the change of occupation, intelligence and survivability of a whole race, it is natural that some changes are going to happen genetically, and that those changes will eventually show up in our DNA. When the more or less peaceful island nation of England becomes the birthplace of the industrial revolution, developing a people who are willing to do factory work day in and day out rather than work the fields, that has to show up in the DNA.
Modern genetics can now tell you where your ancestors came from. It is in our DNA. Society has changed and continues to change us everyday. Here in this great melting pot that is the United States of America we have been shaped by our past. Our DNA encouraged risk takers and adventurers to move here. That continues to today. Will they someday find the gene that causes people to move on to a more open, risk seeking society? Will the one day be found an “American” gene? Only time will tell.
The Rev. Thomas Malthus, in his 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population, observed that each time productivity improved and food became more plentiful, more infants survived to maturity, and the extra mouths ate up the surplus. Within a generation, everyone was back to living just above starvation level. Since that time modern industrial countries have escaped the Malthusian trap of changing societies. Our social norms and improving medicine have encouraged fewer children. Higher wages have allowed more to rise above poverty. Our agriculture and industry have afforded modern man much more free time, but not for all social groups. Are the roots of our escape found deep in a specific societies DNA?
This is still only a theory, that like so many other theories must be tested. I suspect it will be hotly debated, and yet there will be some possibility of truth. As in all theories, time will tell. As we learn more and more about our DNA I suspect more questions will be found than answered. That is what makes us modern man, that we question and seek answers. Our history shows that we sometimes have the wrong answers, and we suffer because of them, but time will tell which answers were wrong and which were right. We all will be richer, not poorer for the answers found.
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