New findings in evolutionary biology and medicine indicate that ongoing human evolution may explain the rise of disorders such as autism, autoimmune diseases, and reproductive cancers.
A paper written by Harvard anthropologist Peter Ellison, with Stephen Stearns of Yale, Randolph Nesse of Michigan, and Diddahally Govindaraju of Boston presented research connecting the rise in autism and schizophrenia to the "over-expression of paternally or maternally derived genes and influences," and the human susceptibility to allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disease due to increased hygiene, which due to the lack of bacterial presences within the human body causes our immune systems to be hypersensitive. The paper also highlights the role of natural selection that it claims still influences our biology despite the many advances in modern culture and medicine. For example it shows that natural selection still favors heavier women and a reduced age at which a woman has her first child.
Our cultural evolution, especially since the spiraling progression of the Industrial Age, has been speeding along quite quickly. But on a physical and natural based level, our evolution as human beings has been following the rhythms of life that has been in effect for millions of years. According to Ellison, understanding the evolutionary trade-offs and our histories can help physicians determine the causes of why we get sick and how we can stay healthy. Further research is indeed needed to see how much truth are in these claims, or it could be that the Western mind needs to slow down and return to harmonious stasis for the well-being or our bodies and our planet.
Image: "proof" by woodleywonderworks on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.