Humans have advanced faster in the past few centuries than ever before. However, genetically and physiologically, humans remain fairly similar to the Paleolithic societies that coexisted with nature, hunting animals and gathering plants for food. So, humans have significantly advanced but have not yet significantly evolved.
Evolution is defined as “descent with modification” or “a change in the genetic composition of a population from generation to generation.” Essentially, changes that allow an organism to thrive in its environment helps it survive and produce more offspring, passing the trait on to the next generation.1 However, environments change as time progresses, and what was advantageous at one point may be disadvantageous at another.
The evolutionary process that occurs rapidly within populations and changes genetic makeup from one generation to the next is called microevolution, while the one that occurs slowly is called macroevolution.
This distinction between human advancement and evolution is important because evolution on a biological level isn’t keeping up with the rate of human progress: big cities, food surplus, and even modern technology have only become daily parts of life in the past couple hundred years.
Understanding why the speed of current progress is significant requires a look back through evolutionary time at the events that brought humanity to where it is today—from the start of evolution into the Industrial Revolution.