Speaking today at a UCL lecture entitled "Human evolution is over" Professor Jones will argue that there were three components to evolution – natural selection, mutation and random change. "Quite unexpectedly, we have dropped the human mutation rate because of a change in reproductive patterns," Professor Jones told The Times.
This is because cell divisions in males increase with age. "Every time there is a cell division, there is a chance of a mistake, a mutation, an error," he said. "For a 29-year old father [the mean age of reproduction in the West] there are around 300 divisions between the sperm that made him and the one he passes on – each one with an opportunity to make mistakes.
"For a 50-year-old father, the figure is well over a thousand. A drop in the number of older fathers will thus have a major effect on the rate of mutation."
Professor Jones added: "In the old days, you would find one powerful man having hundreds of children." He cites the fecund Moulay Ismail of
Another factor is the weakening of natural selection. "In ancient times half our children would have died by the age of 20. Now, in the Western world, 98 per cent of them are surviving to 21."
Decreasing randomness is another contributing factor. "Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be, according to the rules of the animal kingdom, and we have agriculture to thank for that. Without farming, the world population would probably have reached half a million by now – about the size of the population of
"Small populations which are isolated can evolve at random as genes are accidentally lost. World-wide, all populations are becoming connected and the opportunity for random change is dwindling. History is made in bed, but nowadays the beds are getting closer together. We are mixing into a global mass, and the future is brown."
Ans as Michael Behe writes in ‘The Edge of Evolution’, when mutations do confer benefit, it is limited and situational (like sickle cell disease) and results from broken or blunted genes, not the creation of new meaningful information. Order does not arise from random mutations. Jones does the intelligent design and creationist movements a favour by coming out and (unless I misinterpret him) saying that more mutations would build better humans. They wouldn't, but if he actually believes that the decline of mutations from older fathers is slowing down evolution, why doesn't he argue for other means of inducing a higher rate of mutations to make up for it? Of course, I do not wish to imply that Jones is a cruel man or delights in the suffering that most mutations large enough to matter cause. It is his reasoning that I question, not his personal ethics. But what he appears to believe is that mutations are somehow good for us. On my reading of evolutionism, this is an article of faith as there is no other source of the random variations which allegedly created us.