Mailbag: Statistics and future evolution

I was trying to find out more about recent research predicting a relative convergence of racial features in future generations (but I don't know anything about "rapid evolution by drift" or things like that). I'm aware of debunked claims (inc. your debunking) from media reports, but I'm not aware of research that actually contains enough scientific merit to make a valid prediction. I decided to write to you after reading your review of a lecture by UCL geneticist Steve Jones. If there is any reference you can give to someone like me who has very little genetic training (past Mendel, anyway) I would greatly appreciate it.

I’ll be glad to help if I can. Population genetics shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for you; it’s basically statistics (e.g., evolution by genetic drift is modeled by repeated binomial sampling).

We have a very high rate of gene flow between “racial” or geographic groups today compared to the past, and so we can predict that gene frequencies should converge in the future. But there are two issues – first, the rate of change by chance in very large populations is very slow; and second, some genes may be (or recently have been) subject to selection processes that maintain diversity. That second is a complicated problem because selection pressures may be different for every gene.