The evolution paper you’ve been hearing about for a while (and if you haven’t, you must not be cool) is out. Authored by the “Murderers Row” of John Hawks, Eric Wang, Greg Cochran, Henry Harpending and Robert Moyzis it states that the rate of evolution has greatly accelerated in the last 40000 years. The rate of mutation has been fairly constant but much larger population sizes mean more beneficial mutations, some of which will inevitably reach fixation. Larger populations also change what is being selected for by introducing things like diseases with many available hosts and cultural evolution (the bow begat the bushman, agriculture begat the lactase enzyme). I haven’t had time to read the paper (I shouldn’t even be writing this post) but Razib gives a good summary and background here. Author John Hawks says in the Telegraph “We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals” and has a post on his blog about the paper which promises “I have some pent-up writing to do! Over the next few days, this will be acceleration central” and an FAQ later today.

UPDATE: At GNXP original, p-ter says the theory is fine and the conclusions arrive easily from it, but the evidence presented is weak.

UPDATE 2: John Hawks has an FAQ up, responding to p-ter’s critique.

UPDATE 3: In the comments to p-ter’s post author Henry Harpending says

Isn’t it interesting that the only scientific serious criticism that we have gotten, the kind of criticism that peer review ought to provide, comes from a blog? Seems to me there is food for thought about what the internet is going to do to scientific publishing.

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