Sunday, October 28, 2007

It sounds like science fiction

When I first saw the headline to this article, I immediately thought of H.G. Wells's The Time Machine: "Human race will 'split into two different species.'" The morlocks and the eloi, the scruffy, dirty workers' descendants and the childlike, helpless but beautiful heirs to the upper class. Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry says it's quite possible.

He says humans will reach their peak around 3000, then regress. The two species will arise from sexual selection, and advances in body modification will homogenize our appearances (I would assume some sort of genetic plastic surgery?). According to the article, it's a rather lovely appearance--men, you see, will have symmetrical faces, deep voices, and, ahem, will be well-endowed. But women, my goodness--or perhaps I should say "my goddess!"--will be stunning--large eyes, smooth hairless skin, "pert breasts," and shiny tresses. Need I even point out which one Curry has spent more time pondering over? I understand the power of sexual attraction, I do, but it seems as though--and perhaps there's more to Curry's argument than the Daily Mail is depicting--intelligence isn't a factor? Will humanity become so shallow that physical appearance will be the sole determinant of who's worthy to mate with? Well, Live Science's write-up adds briefly intelligence and creativity into the mix. My bad. So, basically, prime mating material would be aesthetically pleasing, intelligent, sexually desirable people. How in the hell will there be enough of these people to form a new species? And if the other half are ugly, short, and stupid--

It's shallow at best. At least H.G. Wells had a class basis for his depiction.

Then again, it seems a little more than coincidence that this article falls into my hands (or at least, crosses my screen): "American kids, dumber than dirt." Read those articles in context of one another, factor out the shallow emphasis on appearance, and you may be onto something. Evolution is a process. Luckily for humanity, it's been pretty positive thus far--instead of grunting, living in caves, and surviving on hunting and gathering, we cuss each other out on the freeway, live in suburbs, and survive on processed fast food. Instead of killing each other with rocks and arrows, we've got guns and bombs. Progress. It's great.

Seriously, though, Curry does raise the point of technology and medicine "softening" us after a few thousand years. How many drug-resistant bacteria are there? How many prescriptions does the average person take? I could see that taking a toll in the long-run. Diseases have decimated populations before--look at the bubonic plague or smallpox or even influenza. And the technology, much as I love it, could also have long-term effects--Morford points out we have a generation of folks who don't know what to do with the overload of media. Imagine a future of even smaller soundbites, brighter screens, less meaningful human interaction on a daily basis--and take those folks out of their cushy suburbs (or maybe pods by that point that are carefully controlled atmospheres to regulate temperatures, filter pollution, and block the UV rays that will be glaring through the gaps in the ozone...). They'll be lost. But they'll find others who are just as lost, and they reproduce, and so on and so forth... Future doesn't look so bright now, does it? I couldn't vouch for their physical appearances, but the world as a whole would certainly be ugly.

This is, of course, all speculation, but speculation is fun. There's a reason I enjoy science fiction from time to time.

1 comment:

frizzzzle said...

Evolution, at least according to Darwin, relies heavily on natural selection. The fittest survive, right? That's not quite the case any more, though. We've figured out how to make even the unfit survive. Couple that with this article in a biology journal, and it looks a bit like we may have already reached our "peak".

If it's any consolation, that line of thought does invalidate Mr. Curry's thesis :p