12 December 2005

Survival of the Fattest: Evolution is Dead, Long Live Evolution

Some people, among which comfortably rest I, bemoan Modern Western Society as wasteful and decadent and lots of other generally negative words. And it is undoubtably all these things, and more. However, among the "more" are such characteristics as "peaceful" and "supportive", etc. These days, those of us lucky enough to be born into the luxury of a First World country can live out our lives without, if the notion takes us, ever having to try.

This unfortunately means that anyone can procreate successfully (that is, have their offspring survive long enough to procreate). There are no sabre-toothed tigers out there to kill off the elderly, the ill and the slow. It is precisely these people that Society protects, thereby allowing those people exhibiting these characteristics to further their genes without any "survival of the fittest"1.

So, evolution is stagnating. Society prevents natural selection from ocurring. But what about other means of selection? I'm talking about "adventure sports". Since the masses stay in and watch Sky TV, thereby virtually eliminating the threat of evisceration and possible death by felines with elgongated incisors, it is down to adrenaline junkies to do their bit. But all this means is that the people with the kind of characteristics that have been preserved through natural selection are now being killed off by poor-quality Taiwanese parachute silk, shoddy aluminium climbing gear, wicker climbing boots and bungee ropes that are slightly too elastic.

It may be that physical evolution is being replaced by mental evolution. The drivers for physical evolution have been removed as Humans have tamed the World. The real challenges now are mental, as we try to devise new ways to use our mastery of the physical world. What this probably means is that a greater number of the people in the world no longer posess the mental furniture capable of making it in this Brave New World of mental evolution.

Taken to a (logical?) extreme, this could mean that we could have a genetic "underclass"2. Take that to its extreme, and you've got a big global war: the knuckle-dragging mentally-challenged masses against the big-skulled boffins in their flying chairs. The stuff of Hollywood dreams!

The linked article cites the existence of groups of teenagers terrorising our streets as symptomatic of a peaceful and prosperous society. Previous generations, it argued, would have been dying in wars and coal mines, rather than wearing Kappa and faux-Burberry and drinking own-brand vodka outside the local Co-op.

However, this does leave them open to Sabre-toothed Cat attacks, thereby reinjecting some natural selection back into our stagnant society. Now, all we need are some Sabre-toothed cats. Hmmm, I wonder if they're on anyone's "Reintroduce-to-Britain" list...

Human species may "split in two"
Looks like I was right...you're either a god or a goblin! "But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts..." Huh, some of us are pushing 7ft already. Seems my protestations about being the genetic future are no longer funny...

1 I'm aware I'm sounding a bit Nazi here, but I'm not proposing a Solution. In fact, I think I have yet to come up with any solution to the things I have blogged about.
2 This does assume that clever people would never sleep with stupid people, but "The Power of Love"™ and the effects of alcohol should never be discounted.

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