The Neanderthal genome will be fully sequenced. There will be no evidence of interbreeding with modern humans (although proponents of the multiregional model will remain unconvinced). By comparing this genome with ours, we may reconstruct the genome of archaic humans who lived almost a million years ago and who were ancestral to Neanderthals and modern humans.
Meanwhile, work will begin on sequencing the genome of early modern humans (10,000 – 40,000 years ago). This project should ultimately prove to be more interesting by showing us how much modern humans have evolved during their relatively short existence. We will probably find out that John Hawks erred on the low side in concluding that natural selection had changed 7% of the human genome over the past 40,000 years.
With the 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species, much will appear in 2009 about Charles Darwin and his life. We already know how he came up with his theory of evolution (Darwin salted away almost everything he wrote), although a few questions remain unanswered. What would he have done if he had lived longer? What did he have in mind for future projects?
Probably not much. He had said everything he wanted to say. The Origin of Species (1859) came out of a backlog that had built up in his mind during the previous twenty years. Then came The Descent of Man (1871), which used material left out of The Origin. Finally, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) was largely a spin-off of The Descent. With this trilogy completed, he had little more to say. A younger Darwin might have addressed one of the dilemmas of evolution. How do selected characteristics perpetuate themselves? What keeps them from being blended away into non-existence with each generation of sexual reproduction? Darwin might have learned about another contemporary scientist, Gregor Mendel, and together the two of them might have proposed a particulate theory of genetics—more than thirty years before later evolutionists rediscovered Mendel’s work. The field of genetics would have developed much faster and, under Darwin’s guidance, may have avoided some of its later blind alleys (e.g., mutation pressure, saltationism, etc.).
Perhaps. But Darwin was unprepared for success. He had finally got to tell the world everything he had so long held back. And the world listened. From then on, a sense of emptiness took over, as if his remaining years were little more than an epilogue.
The Second Great Depression will not begin in 2009. In any case, what scares me is not the prospect of a sudden drop in the standard of living. Rather, it’s that of a gradual decline to almost half its current value. That scenario is scarier and likelier. And it’s probably already started. For the past fifteen years, median wages have stagnated despite decent economic growth. What will happen when growth stays in the 0-2% range?