Evolving Away From the Truth?

Humans may be evolving resistance to the truth! A recent article in PLoS-BS suggests that there may be intergenerational effects from watching Fox news. “We chose Fox,” says social scientist Armand Bean, principle investigator, “because there is good documentation that they seldom tell the truth.”  There is plenty of research suggesting that environment – whether hunger, chemicals, or other daily stressors – can pass from one generation to the next, through epigenetic modifications to DNA. “Humans have very good fact-checkers – otherwise we wouldn’t be around today, living in societies as we do. So we wondered if populations were adapting, or perhaps even evolving, in response to Fox news,” explains Bean. For a control, Bean’s group studied families who preferred CNN. While the study is limited to a single generation (Fox began broadcasting in 1996, and teasing out evolutionary change requires following up on heritability – in this case progeny of early Fox adapters would be in their teens or late teens.) However, as reported in PLoS-BS, when tested for their ability to distinguish between truthfulness and nontruth – the teenage offspring of Fox watchers, scored significantly lower than children of CNN followers. “This is just a pilot,” says Bean, “we definitely need to follow-up. Certainly this could be a case of adaptation to an environment, or plasticity, rather than an actual epigenetic or even evolutionary change. But the results are intriguing.” For more see Evolving Trust?

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