Are We Still Evolving?

Ratings: 8.25/10 from 16 users.


Are We Still Evolving?Dr Alice Roberts asks one of the great questions about our species: are we still evolving?

There's no doubt that we're a product of millions of years of evolution. But thanks to modern technology and medicine, did we escape Darwin's law of the survival of the fittest?

Alice follows a trail of clues from ancient human bones, to studies of remarkable people living in the most inhospitable parts of the planet, to the frontiers of genetic research to discover if we are still evolving - and where we might be heading.

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59 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Andrew Dunbar

    no evolution happens every 11500 years when the magnetic field flips and reverts to 15% of total strength thus letting more mutant causing radiation through thats why we wont evolve till the next one, any year now by the way and thats why we haven't evolved for the last 11500 years

  2. Eric71Can

    There is something about this doc, i dont know what but im not convinced about the reported facts.
    They talked about evolution on some cases that i would called adaptation.
    And yes, i think we are just at the beginning of our evolution, but evolution is a very slow process. I think our brain will evolve so much more.

    The problem is now we have the capacity to control our evolution. Natural selection can become human made selection.

    And please people, register to comment, i love to read your comments. Specially here on this website where people in general are very kind and respect other opinions.

  3. Ramus73

    As far as I'm aware there is no evidence to suggest evolution happens in bursts. Genes mutate from generation to generation without the need of external factors. An 85% weakening of the Earths magnetic field is more likely to cause large scale death than mass evolution.

  4. oddsrhuge

    Hey Eric, not a criticism, but isn't adaptation a part of evolution? And my thought is, that our brains create the need to adapt to a situation, or environmental restraint.

    I am not a bio-physicist, just a biologically created being, not formed in a petri-dish.

    And on this point.

    "The problem is now we have the capacity to control our evolution. Natural selection can become human made selection."

    I will agree agree with this. However, only with certain provisions: "

    If you are talking about "cloning", I cannot comment. There has NOT been a successful human clone, at least that "I" have heard about about so I will comment upon this. If we as human redefine an area for any reason, ie; pollution, removal of native plant and trees, building bridges over specific spans. Then yes, I agree that we can effect "natural selection".

  5. Borna Forsek

    It would be arrogant to think that we can control evolution. We might be able to influence it, but in no way control it.

  6. toddy

    Quite a few years back when I was in high school I had a teacher that felt that we would lose one of our fingers due to lack of use. Perhaps we are evolving generation to generation changing ever so slightly. If this is the case perhaps there will be more red headed women in the years to come.

  7. Stephen W.

    Really? Oh my Gods that's incredible! How did you find that out?! and more importantly what are you doing wasting your time on the internet? Get out of here man and publish this, I mean this changes everything we know about biology. The world has to hear this, now go! Go! Go off and tell the scientist - I'm sure they'll be grateful for this brilliant insight.

  8. Stephen W.

    I don't know about that, unless there's like a global fetish for redheads providing some selective pressure. But we are indeed evolving from generation to generation ever so slightly - that is the premise in fact of the theory of evolution. I had a teacher who spoke about the disappearance of the pink toe's toe nail - I don't know if there is any merit to day. But I do know that you don't loose things because you don't use them, there a plenty of things that we don't use but still have which are called vestigial structures like the appendix, wisdom teeth, etc. There has to be an active pressure to select for such a structures disappearance as well as its lack of usefulness for this to occur. Also what finger don't we use, I know I use all of mine pretty regularly, even the little one which I just used in typing this comment. Anyways, good insight.

  9. Guest

    Man's evolution progressed in a very physical way for millions of year, their world was outside of them and they mainly used their body to conquer it. They learned to build, to farm, to fish, to hunt on foot without guns, to trade therefore travel, to fight in wars and eventually to bring about a mechanical way of thinking and an industrial revolution ...all the actions and discoveries were physical, powered by physical energy and a lot of thoughts. But that has changed.
    The world we are trying to master in the last 100yrs or so, is within us. Now that the earth is mapped in almost every areas possible, we have turned our interest towards searching for the infinite big and the infinite small, we have almost lost interest in the world we stand on by mistreating it. We use mainly our brain and intellectual curiosity to find something beyond what is known.
    We use our eyes for watching what our fingers are doing on machines and keyboards, on pedals and levers,on lenses and intruments of all kinds. Kids are playing less with their bodies and more with their mind...look at Wii games.
    This is an evolution for the human being as a physical entity...but are we physical or are we energetic? Science is starting to point in the direction of us not even existing as physical being.
    Is it a result of our new way of perceiving our life or are we perceiving our life as a result of the disconnection to our physical body and the physical body we stand on?

  10. CatnipBubbleGum

    I totally agree with you about this doc somewhat 'grating' me up the wrong way.
    adaption vs diversity vs battle of the strengths vs social indiscretions.
    Eugenics aside (i'm not at all supporting racism) what about, for example short/far sighted people being able to pass that 'glitch' onto the population? Radical, heartless statement? Possibly, but thru technology (eyewear/lenses) and social tolerance/global apathy (stereotypical disgusting fat low IQ trailer trash) where are we going? Definitely not fitter!

  11. Robyn318

    Interesting doc. It will be interesting to see how we evolve; whether into relative insignificance for millennia, or enlightened and adaptive to our environment and needs. We are a peculiar species that takes its brightest and best to war, leaving the genetically inferior to replenish the gene pool.

  12. Guest

    We are evolving, conscious wise and science wise more than anything else, except for the religions of course, they are stuck in their quandary. This doc seems to me more about adaptation, pretty low key, the only thing that kept me watching the doc was the redhead. Nice looking chick.

  13. PaulGloor

    Incorrect, I had this theory too once when I saw a couple docs on here. I then proceeded to mark the dates given for each pole flip with the dates given for each major evolution in the human branch... while some lined up within a few thousand years, other dramatic changes occurred smack in the middle of some of the longest, most stable stretches.

  14. Cool E Beans

    I consider the changes mentioned in this doc to be examples of micro-evolution and are due mostly to what surrounds us in our enviroment, such as polution in the air and water, electrostatic fields (near power stations or lines) temperature and atmospheric preasures but even more than all of those factors is the food that we eat daily, the food our parents ate and the food our grandmothers especially ate. Like the worms being able to survive in a poisonous envornment, it was a gradual surviving of worms on the fringe of this area that came in contact with minimally poisoned soil and survived which genetically changed the next generation to more and more tollerate the existing condition until the present when they are able to exist entirely within that poisonous environment.

    On another doc, and I don't remember which, a scientist use cloned stem cells split and put into different mediums (food types) and each cell group developed into different body part types. Some teeth, another heart muscle etc. showing the importance of sustanance in the adaptation of the tissue. Another grouping of cells which were lactose intollerant was placed in a lactose rich medium and was able to survive by adjusting to the food supply.

    The last doctor who has performed the invitro fertilizations is on the verge of causing macro-evolution - the intentional adjustment of the species - just as Monsanto has done to our food supply (which, by the way, could be attributing to some of the global disease increases).

    Another aspect I have found to relate is the increased likelyhood of men to develope cancers as opposed to women. I attribute this to the observation that more men travel much more widely than women exposing themselves to both higher and lower levels of ground radiation. We know that when our astronauts stay in space for extended periods their bones get weaker, their muscles begin to atropyhy and some brain cells die (they do go up as engineers and come back as politicians) and I attribute this to the near total lack of life supporting low level radiations that surround all of us.

  15. Nathan Cory

    Well said. Now i must check out this redhead ;)

  16. Guest

    Humans do not live in a world that demands exeptional physical strength nor a overly hardy constitution. We have created a world that requires mental capabilities like abstract thought and scientific deduction as well as a basic understanding of mechanical reasoning. A person that can do all these things can rise above most physical obstacles, even those belonging to his own body. While I agree whole heartedly that we would be better off as a nation if we concentrated more on prevention and less on treatment, I think it is oobviouse that being the most physically able doesn't always garauntee success. Brains over braun.

    Take Professor Hawkings for instance; if we had of just judged him as useless becuase of his physical issues look what the world might have lost. He has made seriouse contributions not only the world of science, but to every day people like myself as well. His work has led us to a deeper understanding of black holes and how galaxies form, not to mention a more deatailed model for particle physics. He has inspired hundreds of peoples, many of which disagree with him, to get involved in science. All of this he has done from a wheel chair, unable to even walk or talk.

  17. David Hartmann

    If anything we are reversing the current human state. Over the past century we have sent our best and brightest off to die in two world wars. We spend millions of dollars helping babies that would have not survived, survive and then end up short-changing the masses on health and nutrition. We do the same in our school systems by "norming" ... reducing competition and reducing intelectual challange. Not to mention the economics of a society where our best and brightest work work work, not reproducing & our bottom 10% are paid to stay at home and breed like vermin.

  18. Fecioru Florin

    You are absolutely correct. Although being personally confronted with sick/underachieving loved-ones is not exactly pleasant (or easy to admit and accept) ; on the long run , this is no different from leaving our descendants become sickly, limited and starved to death. Of course this is an oversimplified version of my point of view but it's close enough. People should start to think about having kids, from a less selfish position.

  19. Mark Jemison

    @ David Hartmann

    Could Not agree with you more, it's reverse evolution ever see planet of the apes?

  20. Guest

    I get what you guys are saying, but too much of a good thing in this case could lead to eugenics and social darwinism- both counter productive to society as a whole. Our physical chatacteristics and condition do not and should never determine our complete worth. Many physically challenged individuals end up making huge contributions to society, professor Hawkings is a good example. We need incentives for better health and more education on how to live healthy, as well as some way to make healthy food choices at least as cheap as the unhealthy foods most people are forced to buy for financial reasons.

    When you say things like, "We spend millions of dollars helping babies that would have not survived, survive...." and "...the economics of a society where our best and brightest work work work, not reproducing & our bottom 10% are paid to stay at home and breed like vermin." you sound like some elitist Hitler wanna be. Perhaps those babies that were saved will grow up to do very important things for one, and many of those "bottom 10%" are good people that have reasons for being where they are.

    This country used to take pride in the fact that we left no one behind and took care of our less fortunate and needy. We took pride in having principles that we stood behind, especially when things got their hardest. Now we are turning into a darwinistic free market fixes all global bully that will sacrifice the weak and poor so the strong and rich can have the luxuries they have grown accustomed to. And all it took was a couple years of hard times, just the threat that things could go wrong- and boom we are knee deep in tea baggers and republican conservatism. It makes me sick!!

  21. David Galea

    it was the exact same line of thinking that solidified Darwin, in his theory of Evolution.

  22. Lary9

    The main channels for evolution require that natural selection come into play and for that to happen, some type of environmental pressure must be exerted upon our species for a very, very long time. We are effectively insulated against this type of variable be unleashed by the buffering of civilization and its engineering. Other pressures involve random mutations but these are even less meaningful currently. So right now, as things stand, no such challenges exist to move our evolutionary journey along, but the time is rapidly approaching where everything from overpopulation, starvation, water in crisis and energy depletion may bring huge pressures to bear upon humanity , triggering the work of natural selection to become renewed.

  23. Traian Totoescu

    I actually liked the documentary Homo Futurus documentary better, seamed like a nice theory about the sphenoid bone driving almost programed the evolution of our skull but still it feels more like some sort of "intelligent design" idea rather than evolution by random mutation and environmental constraints.

  24. Lary9

    Excellent. One of the better entries in the TDF video library on evolution. I was intrigued by the bits toward the film's end dealing with bioethics in human genetic manipulation. It is certain that two general groups will do battle over these issues and they aren't distinct groups but rather clusters of like minded people already coalescing around issues like evolution vs. creationism, et. al. These two distinct poles of morality are charged by either religion or science respectively and there is no avoiding the great world upheaval that will come soon... an inevitable war over the ways of knowing.
    I can see it approaching in many seemingly unrelated contemporary conflicts: like evolution, climate change, global over-population, Islamism, Christian fundamentalism, and issues like genetic engineering. Will the world look back upon a golden age of reason and progress or another agonizing, ice age of ideas... of medieval conflict as civilization drifts backwards. Time and the struggling of true believers will tell.

  25. Tony

    Very good

  26. Jack1952

    If we can help someone to survive, then we should help. No one has the right to decide who lives and who dies. Once we allow that right then we have to decide what the criteria are. If it is some one close to you the rules will surely change. It is that elitist ideology that has caused so much misery and war in the world. I'm sure you don't consider yourself to be one of the vermin.

  27. Jack1952

    Evolution is not predetermined. It happens in spite of and because of the environment around us. Its nice to be able to speculate about our future as a species, but we find ourselves born to situations and adapting to them. Life is a big surprise. Who would want it any other way?

  28. Rachelnico

    wow, great doc :)

  29. Anthony Pirtle

    Social Darwinism is repulsive. However,there's nothing inherently wrong with eugenics.

  30. kevistic

    It would be interesting to explore the evolution of sociological and psychological traits as affected by the changes in political landscapes such as corporatization, plutocracy etc. Does an oppressive political environment create traits that help cope with oppression? Do people become desensitized genetically?

  31. aleister crowley

    David, your comment pretty much described dysgenics. I couldn't agree with you more. We can only sin against nature for so long before it finds a way to achieve an equilibrium. Natural selection will inevitably find a way to prevail --it's just part of the equation. There is a mathematical algorithm to prove this.

  32. aleister crowley

    I agree

  33. aleister crowley

    I'm not going to agree with you on that. There is a pattern in the archaeological record. The documentary Homofutureous elaborates on this.

  34. Sabin Russell

    3 1/2 billion years

  35. Lauriesheri

    The brightest and best go to war? If the follow-the-pied-piper baby butchering whores of Halliburton are our best and brightest, we are in trouble indeed.

  36. Aoife McHugh

    we have to..we still bite our tongues :)

  37. Admir Efendic

    We're either evolving or devolving, depending on whom you ask :P

  38. Thomas Emmanuel Felbo

    Nature is not intentional, but functional. Simple as that.

  39. Reams26

    We must remember that "devolution" is a misconception held by many people; there is no such thing as devolution.

    The second point that I wish to bring up with regards to this documentary is that she proclaims that as we become smarter we are actually slowing down the process of evolution. I argue that as technology increases and as the capacity to understand more complex concepts becomes a reality, it is our brain that is evolving. When we think about the first appearance of man on this planet two hundred thousand years ago, we were extremely primitive. Now we have mapped the human genome, obtained flight, nuclear power etc. all within this short evolutionary period. Two hundred thousand years in an evolution time line is like a blink of the eye, therefore the rate we are evolving (our brains) is far faster than any other evolutionary transformation that we have record of.

    Understanding the evolution of the brain is to understand the evolution of humans.

  40. She;

    Then I wonder who creates all the technology that allows the war to happen. To be honest now a days its usually the poor, less educated and "inferior" beings going to war and dying the most often.

  41. Robyn318

    That was true in the 1970’s and before, that if you got into trouble you were given the option of jail or military service; or if you had no goals in life you joined the service to attain discipline or ‘see the world’: Im not so sure about its practice today. As military technology advances it takes more intellect to operate and maintain it. I agree that grunts are still needed for ground assaults, but the numbers are becoming less and less as time moves on, and even these are weighed down with technology requiring significant advanced training. One draw to military service is the promise of paid tuition after a stint of duty, for those bright individuals that cannot otherwise afford college.

    The point I was making is that our able bodied, sound minded youth are indoctrinated into the service where many are killed and (in the Iraq War) 8 times that number came back with severe physical damage or incapacitation and another estimated 35% are returning with PTSD, that promotes alcoholism, drug dependency and spousal abuse. These are not conducive to a properly operating society, especially in the numbers being seen after the Viet Nam and Iraqi Wars. Alcoholism, drug abuse and spousal violence are learned behaviors, passed on to children from afflicted parents and we ultimately end up with succeeding generations of citizens that are ill-equipped to deal with the increasing stresses of modern day life.

    On the flip side those members of society that do not meet the standards of military induction are left behind to sexually entertain that generation of fertile females. Many of the ailments that precluded military service are genetic and passed on to the resulting children or leave children without adequate male role models to teach them how to act or what to look for in a potential mate, to be a productive part of society; all of which can potentially lead to our developmental demise as a species.

  42. Rey E. Corneja

    We are still evolving base from the evidences gathered.

  43. Brad H


  44. Brad H

    It never happened

  45. Roy Nusser

    @Brad H

    I think you just proved that. You don't seemed to have evolved since you were three years of age...

  46. Tony Stark

    your moms boobs are fake... yeah i said it

  47. Danny

    Why is this documentary simply ignoring the fact that evolution may have stoped in european and other wealthy nations while it still goes on in poor countries? It is an ignorant point of view totalk about a "we" all the time while ignoring about 80% of mankind! I think the answer to my question is, that facts are ignored so one does not have to face the reality that comes with them. Reality is: while people in rich countries are held from evolution due to a lack of natural selection, people in poor countries are continuing to evolve.due to the harsh circumstances they have to live in. Prediction: In the future rich people will implant their babies genes from people of poor populations to make them more resistant against deseases.

  48. Danny

    How do you think does the brain directly impact the number of offspring that is produced in "developed" countries? I think you did not understand the concept of evolution. It can only take place where it has an impact on survival.

  49. Danny

    Does it have an impact on the number of children that are born by individuals or on the survival of individuals? I dont think so. So the answer is a clear NO.

  50. Danny

    You are not right because you are making the same mistake as the documentary dioes and most people in this forum do aswell. It is only a very small part of mankind that lives in "developed" countries. the vast majority of people live under very harsh conditions with a very high infant death rate. How do you people keep on inoring that?

  51. Danny

    Where does the idea come from that our brightest and best go to war? People who are freely joining the army are not the brightest in my experience...Its mostly the poor, the uneducated and the ones left without much of a choice so... makes no sense at all to me.

  52. Danny

    This counts ONLY for the rich countries wich are much less in population numbers than the poor people in the world. Am I the only one who gets it?

  53. Danny

    Again this is not at all true! It is only true for a very small number of the human population. Check your view of reality! The most people in our modern world lkive under extremly harsh conditions, with all kinds of deseases killing of their infant children. With starvation and early death being a part of daily life!

  54. Jacek Walker

    It is hard to imagine a far away future evolution of humanity still "encapsualted" in the bodies as we know them so far. I mean our physical bodies have in fact quite limited potential for improvement. Top surgeons can make some adjustment here and there but how much can they really improve? To live longer for a 10 or 50 years? To have more shiny hair? More acute sight, sexy bottoms, beautiful skin?
    All those would be very appreciable, but it won't stop our bodies form getting older and eventually dying. Or will it?
    Should we pay so much attention to the body that is going to die sooner or later anyway? Healthy or unhealty, young or old, beautiful or ugly but it will.
    Yes, your is the right question "are we physical or rather energetic?". Einstein or Tesla had some insights about energy, vibrations as supposedly of great importance. But do we really know what energy is?

  55. Clayton Reese Christian

    No such thing as devolution, but degeneration is quite real. Something to consider.

  56. Huni Buni

    Anyone else notice the very subtle -ism in the visual suggestiveness of panning from Chimpanzee to Africans in a chart on the white board of what was supposed to represent human evolution?

  57. bluetortilla

    A wholly unremarkable doc, once again (and I really hate to say it but it's just such obvious and obnoxious marketing) narrated by a pretty anthropologist. What was the precedent of this? Pretty blonde anthropologist in China looking at Homo Erectus fossils. I forget the title but...lousy and deceptive science.
    Nothing to see here folks, keep it moving, nothing to see.

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