Does the theory of evolution still affect the human being?

On February 12, 1809, Charles Darwin was born, the British naturalist who completely changed our vision of life, based on divine creation until then. 200 years ago nothing was known about the origin of the first living organisms and how they had laid the foundations of the exuberant biological wealth of our planet. Charles Darwin postulated that all species of living beings have evolved over time from a common ancestor through a process called natural selection. Natural selection is based on the fact that certain organisms present hereditary variations that enable them to live longer and leave more offspring than others, so that in the long term, generation after generation, there is an accumulation of favorable characteristics that improve the adaptation of the species to its surroundings.

There is some controversy in the scientific community about whether the human being continues to evolve, and therefore, experiencing changes in its genome that make it unrecognizable in a matter of centuries. Some researchers are convinced that natural selection has stopped affecting humanity thanks to technological advances, which allow, for example, the genetic manipulation of the zygote. However, most suggest that man is in constant evolution and that the natural and sexual selections are still valid in our species, since we have not reached the maximum degree of adaptation to the environment, which is increasingly changing due to precisely , to this technological development.

These are some of the changes experienced by the human being during the last thousands of years and that would demonstrate that we are still subject to evolution:

Less intelligent: According to a study by the University of Umea (Sweden), the human being has seen its IQ reduced in recent decades because smarter people choose to have fewer children, while people with less favorable genes increase his offspring.

Smaller brains: The latest measurements reveal that the average volume of the brain of the human being has decreased by 10% in the last 30,000 years, that is, the equivalent of a tennis ball. According to experts, this brain reduction has its explanation in that we have developed more sophisticated forms of intelligence and we depend to a lesser extent on the gray matter that controls our body to survive.

Best musicians: According to various studies, musical ability is an index of good learning abilities or fine motor skills, which would explain the greater reproductive success of those who practice it. On the other hand, man has developed an innate predisposition to dance from birth, also considered an indicator of social skills and communication skills.

Monogamous: A study by the University of British Columbia (Canada), stated that communities that allow men to have several wives develop a higher rate of violence, poverty and gender inequalities, while monogamy reduces male competitiveness, thus decreasing the associated social problems and ensuring greater longevity.

Better cooks: Cooked meat provides more energy than raw meat, according to a team of researchers from Harvard University (USA). This finding suggests that humans are biologically adapted to take advantage of the benefits of cooked foods.

Liars: Some researchers suggest that knowing how to lie is an evolutionary advantage, since conflicts of interest cause that nature is favored by individuals who suppress or misrepresent information.

More readers: According to an investigation carried out by the American researchers Jonathan Gottschall and Joseph Carroll, the literature favors social behaviors that fulfill an adaptive function and incite us to fight basic impulses and work cooperatively.

The new strategy of Creationism against Science

The theory of the evolution of the British naturalist Charles Darwin is a fallacy and the existence of the human being can only be explained by a "creator". This is what creationists want to be taught in schools since the 1920s. And they have not always used the same strategy for it. As their particular arguments have been rejected by the courts as unconstitutional, they have been adapted with others modified to gain influence and power. Does it sound like something? Is not it precisely what animals and plants do to survive? A new study by the National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) and the National University of Australia (ANU) ensures that, ironically, the particular creationist battle over the years to modify the way in which biology is taught in The classrooms are very similar to the theory of evolution that they criticize so much.

The researchers, who have published their findings in the journal Science, have developed a kind of phylogenetic tree that reflects the variations in the texts of the legislative proposals of these fundamentalist ideologues in favor of Creationism from 2004 to the present, ten years totaling 65 bills.

Initially, the creationists advocated directly to eliminate the teaching of the evolution of the classrooms. They managed to enact prohibitionist laws in several states, but the Supreme Court considered them contrary to the Constitution in 1968. They then opted for a new strategy and tried to introduce an alternative subject to biology, so that students could also learn the "design intelligent ", which maintains that life is so complex that it can only be explained as a designer's work, just as a watch is the work of a watchmaker. After achieving it several times with great controversy, Justice turned its back on them again.

The "critical analysis"

As "intelligent design" challenged legality, creationists opted for a stealthier last strategy, which fosters policies of "critical analysis" of evolution and the origin of life, and of other scientific aspects such as cloning or global warming. This is what happened in Louisiana and Tennessee, where they managed to pass laws so that schools can study Creationism. The trick is to defend that teachers have academic freedom to teach what they want and question what is in the textbooks. So if a teacher says that the theory of evolution has gaps and that there are alternative explanations, it is in all its right.

"It is clever, because they do not mention creationism, but they give teachers permission to include pseudoscience and protect them from public administrations that say that these things should not be taught," explains Nick Matzke, ANU researcher. However, his analysis shows "that most of these bills can be related to Creationism again through the presence or absence of phrases that reveal their shared history".

In fact, the study found that anti-evolutionist proposals show evidence of "offspring with modification", suggesting that anti-evolutionist legislators are copying proposed ideas recently, instead of writing new bills from scratch. "Most of the proposals do not make sense, they have been copied from another State and changed without thinking," says Nick Matzke, and jokes: "They are not terribly well designed."

They allow to extract 40 samples from the Grand Canyon to a creationist who sued the national park

The followers of the "creationism of the young Earth" believe that our planet is not more than 6000 years old, despite the enormous amount of evidence that indicates the contrary. One of those tests is the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, whose layers exhibit about 2,000 million years of the geological record.

How does a creationist defend himself against an argument the size of the Grand Canyon? For example, assuring that its erosion is actually due to the Universal Flood mentioned in the Bible. Or at least that's what the group Answers in Genesis believes to which the doctor in geology Andrew Snelling belongs.

Snelling has been working for years on an explanation of the Grand Canyon that is consistent with the Bible. In 2013, he asked the National Park Service for permission to collect some rock samples in the Arizona canyon, but he was told that his project had no value to justify the extraction.

The creationist geologist wanted to collect a rock type known as a deformation structure to show that all the folds of the canyon were formed from soft sediments, which do not require long periods of time to create those structures. However, one of the academics advising the park said that such samples could be found anywhere in the world, so Snelling could pick them up outside the Grand Canyon.

The creationist did not get his permit and in May of this year he sued the National Park Service. He argued that his rights had been violated when the federal agency rejected his request for his religious opinions.

Finally the national park gave way to pressure and Snelling withdrew its claim in June. The creationist geologist will be able to collect about 40 samples the size of a fist, as long as he freely publishes the results of his study.

Sighting test of "Yangtze River goddess" gives great hope to Chinese ecologists

The baiji, nicknamed the "goddess of the Yangtze River", is considered an extinct species, however, some observers claim to have sighted it last month.

In fact, more than a decade has passed since the baiji was declared "functionally extinct".

However, a recent image tries to show that the "goddess of the Yangtze River" still exists, awakening hopes in keeping this mammal alive thanks to the recovery of the ecological vitality of the longest waterway in Asia.

Many observers believe that this type of dolphin, the only one of its kind to inhabit fresh waters, is only found in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

Some environmental scientists have never stopped believing that somewhere in the immense area of ​​the third longest river, hiding from stubborn human activity survive a few Baiji who fight every day for their survival.

Earlier this month, the China Foundation for the Conservation of Biodiversity and Green Development published a photograph of a creature that resembles a baiji. The photo was taken in April on a section of the Yangtze River, near Wuhu, Anhui Province.

Previously, two fishermen's reports had already been distributed, which declared a group containing adult and juvenile specimens.

A growing optimism

The China Foundation for the Conservation of Biodiversity and Green Development confirmed that several researchers who know this species well have confirmed that the creature in the photo is a baiji.

"Although the baiji is very likely to have been drastically reduced in the wild, there are chances that a few will still survive in those waters," said Wang Kexiong, a professor at the Institute of Hydrobiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan Province. from Hubei.

"But without performing other tests of rigor, it is unwise to identify as a baiji the creature that appears in the photograph," the Institute said. However, other experts warn that it is too early to label the baiji as an "extinct" species.

"The test goes beyond a photo," says Fei, director of the baiji program of the China Foundation for the Conservation of Biodiversity and Green Development.

For three years, this institution has organized observation trips in the hope of spotting freshwater dolphins in the Yangtze. In May of last year, several expedition members claimed to have sighted the mammal.

"Baiji does not live in isolation," said Li Xinyuan, researcher and recovery activist for the baiji, who was present when the picture was taken last month and described the meeting as "very exciting."

"For two days in a row our companions witnessed a baiji, but escaped before obtaining the snapshot." On the third day, photographer Jiao Shaowen decided to use a camera lens instead of binoculars to observe the surface of the water, so he was able to to take the picture when the baiji emerged, "says Li, who in the 1980s commanded a cabinet program for the conservation of mammals.

He thinks that if the animal detected is really a baiji, it is very likely that there are others swimming nearby.

"Thanks to state protection, it is clear that the water quality of the Yangtze and the ecosystem have improved in recent years," Li acknowledged.

He added that many Chinese environmentalists admit that if the level of environmental quality in the region continues to improve, there is a good chance that the Baiji will reappear.

Necessary resources

Hua Yuanyu, one of the scientists who participated in the 1980 census, advises that "to protect the possibility that the Baiji dolphins survive, emergency actions must be taken using the best resources, specialists and technology in the country."

"River transport along the Yangtze River should be properly managed to reduce the noise that has seriously affected the lives of these dolphins that are oriented by their sonar," said the veteran professor at the Institute of Life Sciences of the Nanjing Normal University. Jiangsu province.

Hua also condemned destructive fishing methods such as electro-fishing, gillnets and the dynamic wall, a technique that equips the nets with "knocking" devices to scare the fish out of hiding.

"These practices must be strictly prohibited and any violation must be punished severely in order to protect the baiji and its food chain," Hua said.

"Baiji is a mammal that uses the lungs to breathe in. If they are affected by an electric shock, they can become unconscious and drown," said Hua, pointing out the danger of electro-fishing.

And he urged to train local fishermen in law enforcement and in better environmental education, so that they become efficient protectors of the ecosystem.

"The protection of the Yangtze must not only include the quality of its water, but also the banks and the wetland must be taken into account throughout its trajectory because the ecosystem functions as an indivisible whole," Hua recalled.

The prominent professor also suggests that the protection zone of the Baiji should be expanded to include the habitat of the possible last baiji of Wuhu.

"I am optimistic, if the environment continues to improve, the baiji will reappear," adds Hua, creator of the sonar guidance method to observe and infer the size and distribution of the Baiji population in 1986.

In the mid-1980s it is estimated that there were about 300 Baiji divided into 42 groups.

Hua's hypothesis is that these intelligent mammals have hidden themselves from human activity and industrial waste and live in calm waters that are difficult to access.

The ecological restoration

It is estimated that the baiji lived on the Yangtze River for 20 million years.

However, in recent decades the peaceful existence of the Baiji was shattered by the boom in the fishing industry and river transport.

The ancestors considered this mammal as a goddess who protected the fishermen and sailors along the 6,380 kilometers of waterway that originates in Qinghai Province and flows into the East China Sea of ​​Shanghai.

The last Baiji that lived in captivity died in 2002. After an international expedition carried out at the end of 2006, no proof of its existence could be found. The following year the species was declared "functionally extinct".

In the Red List of Endangered Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the baiji is defined as "critically endangered and already probably extinct".

Due to the absence of the "Yangtze River Goddess", China has been making great efforts to restore the ecosystem of the vital river.

The construction of an ecological civilization has already been defined in the Constitution of the Republic as a national development objective.

As a result, scientific studies have confirmed an increase in the number of black porpoise and other mammals of the Yangtze River.

The supposed reappearance of the baiji is further evidence of the ecological improvement of the Yangtze, says Hua.

For his part, Professor Wang, of the Institute of Hydrobiology of Wuhan, insists that there is still a long way to go in protecting and restoring the natural habitats of the river for species such as the black porpoise.

"But the current development strategy is in the right direction," he said.

"Monitoring, protecting, revitalizing and restoring the ecology and natural habitats of the Yangtze River should be prioritized tasks for the next 50 years," Wang concluded.