Evolution happening faster than we previously thought could be the reason for a scourge on half of East Asia: The Asian Flush. Apparently, this super annoying, cancer causing, alcohol inhibiting gene may have arisen from our inability to control ourselves when we first discovered alcohol.
From an interesting piece on recent evolutionary finds on the New York Times:
Ten thousand years ago, people in southern China began to cultivate rice and quickly made an all-too-tempting discovery — the cereal could be fermented into alcoholic liquors. Carousing and drunkenness must have started to pose a serious threat to survival because a variant gene that protects against alcohol became almost universal among southern Chinese and spread throughout the rest of China in the wake of rice cultivation.
The variant gene rapidly degrades alcohol to a chemical that is not intoxicating but makes people flush, leaving many people of Asian descent a legacy of turning red in the face when they drink alcohol.
The spread of the new gene, described in January by Bing Su of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is just one instance of recent human evolution and in particular of a specific population’s changing genetically in response to local conditions.
This comes on findings that Tibetans may be the quickest example of human evolution ever, having developed a set of genes to cope with low oxygen levels as recently as 3,000 years ago.
But surviving in low oxygen conditions (or developing to synthesize more folic acid) is one thing – just how much of a bender did our ancestors go on to have on to have our bodies decide “THIS IS KILLING US. WE MUST STOP THEM FROM DRINKING BEFORE OUR SPECIES DIES OUT!”