His answer is “Yes!”*
*so long as by “intelligence” you mean something other than “intelligence,” and by “evolution” you mean something other than “evolution.”
In this article, atheist Kevin N. Laland, Professor of Behavioral and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews, argues that human culture affects evolution of the human genome. Here are a couple of his examples:
Individuals from populations with high-starch diets have, on average, more copies of the salivary and pancreatic amylase genes (AMY1 and AMY2) that improve the ability to digest starchy foods. . . .
There is a strong correlation across cultures between the frequency of lactose tolerance in the population and a history of dairy farming: populations with a long history of consuming milk have high frequencies of tolerance. Diverse lines of evidence have also established that milk-drinking began with early Neolithic humans, who were, as a result, exposed to a strong selection favoring those alleles for lactose tolerance. These societies typically have high LCT frequencies
From these examples Laland concludes:
In these and other instances, it is not as if we humans have deliberately imposed selection on ourselves in a conscious effort to enhance our capabilities to metabolize or detoxify the foods we have chosen to consume. But we appear to have imposed a direction on our own evolution nonetheless.
Nonsense on a stick. Read the conclusion again. The second sentence flatly contradicts the first sentence. Intelligence implies purposeful goal-directed choices of an agent. In the examples given, the agents chose to produce and consume certain foods. They did not choose to increase their amylase genes or their LCT frequencies. Their choices had the indirect effect of increasing their amylase genes or their LCT frequencies, but they manifestly did not establish those effects as goals and set out to accomplish those goals through purposeful, goal-directed choices. To call the process by which the alleles were increased “intelligent” is a misuse of term.
Laland also equivocates on the term “evolution.” His examples concern the process by which gene variants (alleles) become more or less common in populations. No one disputes that under selection pressures such as those Laland describes alleles can become more or less prevalent in a population, but that is not what most people mean by the word “evolution.” How preexisting alleles get shifted about may be interesting, but it tells us absolutely nothing about how the alleles were constructed in the first place. Is the process capable of causing true evolutionary novelty? That is the key question, and Laland’s examples don’t even address that question, much less answer it.
I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. I will bet $100 that Laland can be pushed off his position of “shifting allele frequency” equals “evolution” in humans with one simple question. Here is how:
- Most evolutionary biologists believe humans originated in Africa. Assume this to be the case for the sake of argument.
- Assume that when humans originated they had the alleles for darker skin and hair as do modern Africans.
- If this is the case, then humans who have light skin and hair (as in most populations in northwest Europe), have such characters as a result of increased alleles for such attributes.
- Thus, Laland’s argument leads to the conclusion that lighter skinned humans “evolved” from darker skinned humans as a result of alleles for lighter skin and hair becoming more frequent in a population.
So, Dr. Laland, do you believe white people are more evolutionary advanced than black people?
Darwin appears to have believed this, which is why he is today justly condemned as a racist crank.