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Catastrophic Success

As if there weren't enough political opinionating out there, I, too, now sing the body bloglectric. Let me FEED you![XML]

Location: United States

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Survival of the Sabre-Toothed Fittest

The Diplomad postulates the Sabre-Tooth Tiger Law of Life. Essentially, anyone over the age of forty, especially with any aid at all from Modern Science, Engineering and Medicine (MSEAM) does so on borrowed time and are essentially Intel 286s boosted to run Windows XP.

I have had similar epiphanies about living in the modern world. We evolved to live only so long and the man who lives to 76 should be the great outlier, not the rule. However, modern advances increasingly extend this life expectancy long past our natural construction. In fact, three score and ten is beginning to sound more and more criminally short. Life wasn't supposed to begin at forty, it should have ended there.

My approach to these ideas, though, were not so much the same as the Diplomad's; I actually began worrying about how much we have screwed up evolution. Survival of the Fittest almost no longer works. We have so many ways of saving the lives of the "un-fit" that those who would have been eaten first by the Sabre-Tooths (Sabre-Teeth?) now survive well into adulthood and live full rich lives (as is only right). What that also means is that those who would not have lived to propagate their genes because they are slower runners, not as bright, mentally or physically disabled now can and do. And good for them (me included). I have no qualms admitting that I would be Smilodon food (to continue the Diplomad's metaphor). Although young, I am not fast, strong of body or skilled with weaponry. I am smart so I may have been able to distract the giant feline with logic puzzles, but I have serious doubts about the efficacy of such a maneuver. MSEAM allows me to find meaninful employment to be able to provide for my family in ways Ugg Bixby (my ancient caveman ancestor, of course) never could have imagined. I have propogated my genetic code twice now. I would likely not have survived to do so 5000 years ago.

I wonder then, is the human race better off for having it so easy? In the numbers game, we certainly beat the rest of the mammals. 6 billion of us is an awful lot. We have adapted to the environment so well that we can now adapt the environment to us. So will environments that are the most fit for human habitation now survive and propogate by converting (if possible) un-fit environments to better fits? When it becomes possible, I would say it becomes probable. However, that is a long slog uphill, especially against environmentalists and "indiginous people advocates". But that's a digression anyway. Is humanity better off for throwing off the shackles of Natural Selection? Eugenics advocates would say yes and no - no, because now too many un-fits survive and yes because Artificial Selection (as determined by their arbitrary rules, surely) can do more, better and faster. Not being a Eugenics advocate, I disregard such assertions on their face because they instantly devalue certain humans based on stupidly arbitrary criteria (physical or mental measurements which are valued differently from Eugenisist to Eugenisist).

I think though that a shift toward protection of life is in the best interest of the human race. Too many people would have been lost to the tigers who have done valuable services to humanity. Albert Einstein was 36 when he published his definitive paper on the General Theory of Relativity and Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) at 21 when he began stumbling and having difficulty walking. Both of them would most probably have been culled from the human herd (with apologies to Glenn Reynolds). Considering that the research by these two men alone may allow humanity to spread to distant worlds, I suspect that MSEAM is doing the human collective body good.

I still wonder though what genetic mutation we are helping to keep alive, but preventing from widespread dissemination by helping so many humans survive. What this boils down to is, "Where are the superheroes? Where are the X-Men?" Where is Homo Superior? Does the abrogation of Natural Selection prevent "market share" of these super-genes?

Just the rumblings in my brain. There's no political advocacy here. Move along.