Evolution In Our Time

Any individual human being is immensely complex - but won't evolve in one lifetime. Nature explains why:

Evolution is usually thought of as something that happens to whole organisms. But there's no fundamental reason why, for multicelled organisms, it shouldn't happen within a single organism too. In a colony of single-celled bacteria, researchers can watch evolution in action. As the cells divide, mutants appear; and under stress, there is a selective pressure that favours some mutants over others, spreading advantageous genetic changes through the population. In principle, precisely the same thing could occur throughout our bodies. Our cells are constantly being replaced in vast numbers: the human body typically contains about a hundred trillion cells, and many billions are shed and replaced every day. If this happened simply by replication of the various specialized cells in each tissue, our tissues would evolve: mutations would arise, and some would spread. In particular, mutant cells that don't do their specialized job so well tend to replicate more quickly than non-mutants, and so gain a competitive advantage, freeloading off the others. In such a case, our wonderfully wrought bodies could grind to a halt.

(Hat tip: 3QD.)