Topic description / abstract:
Despite rapid medical and technological advancements, modern humans are still subject to natural selection, and this goes beyond negative selection on life-threatening diseases. Sociocultural transitions and medical advancements can disrupt evolutionary equilibriums underlying modern human anatomy, physiology and life history. Using examples from childbirth and obstructed labor, autoimmune disorders, and sickle cell disease, I demonstrate how regular medical interventions can disrupt such evolved equilibriums and trigger new evolutionary changes with the potential to affect our bodies and health within only a few generations. Disentangling such complex biosocial evolutionary dynamics poses serious ethical questions and challenges the current borders between academic disciplines, but it has strong potential for guiding public health policies.
Philipp Mitteroecker is associate professor of theoretical biology at the University of Vienna. He is also teaching at the University of Graz, and he is a directorial board member of the KLI Institute for Evolution & Cognition Research. His research interests include human and animal evolution, evolutionary medicine, biological anthropology, biostatistics, and the philosophy of science. He is particularly interested in the analysis of complex biological data, including morphometric, genetic, and demographic data, to understand and model the interaction of developmental, environmental, and evolutionary processes. Recent work includes the evolution and current transition of human childbirth and reproductive anatomy.