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I've long been interested in the fact that humans have been biologically pretty much the same since the last ice age, about 12k years ago, and perhaps to 40k, or even 100k years ago. So why did civilization only just start to produce really cool stuff in the past 5K years or so. What was the tipping point, population density?

Oded Galor and Omer Moav have Quarterly Journal of Econ article arguing it is because the agricultural revolution set off a process of rapid human evolution that itself created the industrial revolution (see working paper pdf here, hat tip: Gene Expression).

It's a neat argument. In hunter gatherer days, there was only group selection because the group shared everything and thus all individuals within the tribe had the same success with offspring. Intelligence or productivity was selected for by the relatively weak force of tribal fights. When agriculture became domesticated, smarter people would literally reap more of what they sowed, because you don't share wheat the way you share a buffalo. Thus the move to property rights within domesticated agriculture selected for productivity and intelligence, which finally created people smart enough to build pyramids, etc. A rise in IQ from 70 to 100 won't show up in the fossil record, but I imagine it was essential in creating modern civilization.

This is very similar Harpending and Cochran's argument that Ashkenazi Jews became their current high-IQ selves (10 points higher than average) only through the 1000 year selection of the middle ages when they were forced into the high-IQ demanding jobs such as banking and urban business.

But this would imply there is human biodiversity, and evolution in our species is ongoing. In today's PC dogma evolution stopped 10k years ago (when our species was created), and so all human differences are superficial, there has been no selection on human subspecies (except for melanin...and sickle-cell anemia...and lactose intolerance--that's it!).

Another theory, much more fun, is that aliens came down and spliced with our genes around 6,500 BC (proof being pyramid patterns all developed around the same time that look like Orion's belt--home). See the Quest for The Lost Civilization originally shown on the Discovery Channel.
Tim Worstall (guest) meinte am 20. Mar, 17:24:
"Ashkenazi Jews became their current high-IQ selves (10 points higher than average) only through the 1000 year selection of the middle ages when they were forced into the high-IQ demanding jobs such as banking and urban business."

Don't be silly. It was because the other western Europeans were deliberately breeding for stupidity at the same time. Anyone with any smarts was packed off into the Church where they didn't breed.

(Not an entirely serious argument but not all that silly either.) 
John (guest) meinte am 21. Mar, 07:08:
i'm open to human intelligence advances but i suspect it was more civilization intelligence advances. i.e. new social structures enabled by new means of production themselves enabled better governance, organization, etc. often i think of the people involved across this period as largely equivalent. but i could be wrong... 
mobile (guest) meinte am 21. Mar, 20:04:
It's not adaption to the environment, per se, but
Of course evolution is ongoing. If nothing else, different societies have different birth rates, and that alone will assure that our collective genetic makeup will change. 
Archie (guest) meinte am 22. Jul, 12:32:
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dsds (guest) meinte am 5. Aug, 10:12:
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