Homo sapiens sapiens: What makes us human?

Due December 14
Typed, double-spaced, stapled, and with pages numbered
Length is flexible, but aim for 4-6 pages.

How might the cultures we create be changing the direction of human evolution?


Evolutionary scientists have only recently realized that human evolution has not ceased, but continues. The question, then, is "To what extent are we ourselves creating the conditions for our own evolution?" This paper asks you to set your mind to this intriguing question.


Please describe one feature or element of modern human culture that you suspect is changing the direction of human biological evolution. This change in direction would occur only by shifting the distribution of genetic descendents over successive generations. That is, this shift can occur only when there is a change in who is most likely to survive into and through reproductive age and produce the most (surviving) children.

  1. Identify one such cultural engine that is potentially redirecting human evolution. Be specific: describe a particular feature (specific sorts of laws, technologies, social practices, etc.). It can be taken from American culture but should not be exclusive to it.
  2. Explain how this engine might work (what is called the "selection walk"). Is it perhaps changing who is likely to survive into and through the reproductive years? How so? Or, is it perhaps changing who has the highest reproduction rates (most surviving children)? How so?

To repeat, this topic is meant to have you think about the co-evolution of our species and its culture-and thus how humans themselves might be slowly but fundamentally changing what it means to be human.

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