Thursday, October 26, 2006

Moo! had a little Skype freebie sale (promo code: freebie) so I created some cards. Since I needed to procrastinate as well, this is what I put on my 10 cards:

I require T.P. for my bunghole.
<>me< /nerd >
High!Way!To!The! DANGER ZONE!!!
Oh. My. God, Becky. (Printed 2 of this one)
I let the dogs out.
No, I am Spartacus!
It’s NAHT a TOOmuh!
7|-|15 15 |_4|\/|3

Friday, October 20, 2006

Evolution Explication

OK, now that all of Darwin is publically available online, nobody should have an excuse to get ideas about evolution completely wrong (I'm looking at you Curry).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Evolution Confusion

The theory of evolution as advanced by Charles Darwin is quite an elegant one and there is a reason why it is a very powerful and important concept. That would be, uh, because it's a powerful and important concept. For those who don't find it sacrilegious anyway, it does present a convincing framework for genetic propagation and trends. So my stance is clear: evolution is a good concept!

Partially because it is such a compelling idea, Darwin's idea has gained a pretty wide audience. This is a Good Thing[web cliché]. However, the basis of genetic evolution is often taken at less than face value. For example, just because one generation chooses certain traits to be desirable does not mean that preference will propagate to the next. Certain conditions and often quite a bit of time needs to pass before there will be an overall shift in the genetic trends of a population.

But let's take a real example:

I don't know if it's Curry's thesis that is bizarre or the BBC is butchering it but Curry's argument comes across as "because hot people like to choose hot people to sleep with, the future of the human race will split up into hot people and not-hot people." But let's be fair to the beeb/Lamb Saag and look at some of the claims.

"People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added."

I don't know when people have NOT been choosy about their sexual partners. If the argument is that there is a split between the more attractive people selecting people like themselves and an "underclass" that either doesn't or doesn't have the same selection, then it doesn't matter does it? The choosy and privileged have always been choosy and privileged and the less privileged and choose have always been, well, not very choosy. But if this is the case, why hasn't the human race diverged already? Surely even during the dark ages, the more powerful had more choice?

"The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures."

OK. Height and a slim body type could arguably be manifestations of a "health" gene, and which also has the side consequence of being deemed "attractive". And at first glance, it would seem reasonable to assume that we as a race would raise those positive qualities. Therefore, humans in the future may very well be taller and healthier given advances in nutrition and medical sciences designed to nurture those qualities but NOT necessarily because of a genetic shift. Also, in order for the dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures to appear, there would have to be a genetic mutation that produced that kind of a human and then that strain of human would have to dominate a certain percentage of the population. But wait, aren't people getting choosier about their partners?

"But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims."

And life-span has been increasing dramatically over the past couple centuries. Evolution? Really? Who wants to be the person to tell Medical Science that even without their field, we would still live much longer? That's bullshit.

And while we were at it two paragraphs ago, divergent evolution only happens when there are different environmental factors acting on separated populations (whether geographically or otherwise) and unless we start segregating ugly people and pretty people, I don't see how the genetic isolation of either populations could possible occur.

"Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises."

Oh come ON. Bigger penises? That is PURELY a psychologically desirable trait, not a physical one. If we were back to the cavemen era and a gene produced small penises but highly fertile sperm, then small penises would win out. There is NOTHING in the current biological context that selects large penises over average or smaller ones.

And while we're on it, how we select our mates is NOT the same as "natural selection". COMPLETELY irrelevant. Natural selection is selection by nature of those traits which are able to procreate more. You have a weird mutation that enables you to survive more and procreate more means you will spread your genetic seed more means natural selection. Liking anorexic girls with big boobs does NOT mean that anorexic girls with big boobs will procreate more. They might have an easier time attracting potential mates, sure, but in modern society that has no correlation to having more kids.

"Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people."

This is NOT genetic evolution!!! Skin color is not a binary dominant/recessive genetic trait like being able to curl your tongue. Instead, the end result is a mixture. Coffee-coloured people may indeed take over the earth (Go Brown!) but it would not because of a natural selection of the "coffee-coloured skin" genetic code.

"Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect. People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams.

Physically, they would start to appear more juvenile. Chins would recede, as a result of having to chew less on processed food."

AAAAAAARRRGGGGHHH!!! THIS IS NOT GENETIC EVOLUTION GodDAMMit! This is the most superficial reading and confusion of the concept of evolution. We watch TV and work with computers a lot more now, does that mean our eye sight will improve in the future? People don't have to walk as much anymore, does that mean their legs will atrophy? NO fucking NO!

The whole POINT of evolution is that natural selection privileges certain traits because those traits are passed on more frequently than other through procreation. Notice that last part: increased procreation is a necessity of genetic domination.

So, let's look at Curry's argument again. Mankind will split into two. Genetic upper-class and genetic under-class. How do we get there? Hot people choose out hot people, leaving the hoi-ugly-poloi to breed amongst themselves. Now, by its very definition, the upper class is in the statistical minority. That means unless we physically segregate those people and prohibit them from breeding with the lower class, they are already at a genetic disadvantage as far as numbers go.

Is that part about segregation sounding like eugenics to you yet?

But mankind ISN'T segragated into high and low genetic classes. That means the upperclass will have to out-breed the lower class in order to gain the genetic upperhand. Do you see that happening? What are famous people doing? Anglina Jolie? Madonna? Brittney Spears? Far from propagating their own seed, they're ADOPTING others. And Spears, well, you could either argue she's one of the genetic upper-class (*shudder*) who's choosing to mate with a genetic under-class or that she's mating with her own class in which case it doesn't matter much anyway. But no matter how much you dick around with studying social trends of how people choose their partners, it doesn't circumvent the simple fact that being in the genetic upper-class does not mean you procreate more.

Assuming that the BBC reported Curry's theories accurately, what he's doing is basically conflating social selection at the present with natural selection over a broader timeframe. Thin and waif girls may be all the rage now but larger girls were the standard for beauty during the Tang dynasty in China. Had Curry been living then, he would have been WAY ahead of his time in talking about evolution before Darwin came up with it but STILL wrong in predicting that people in the future (within 1,000 years) would all be large and healthy and slightly overweight just because that was what the prevailing norm was then.

So, in the end, evolution can be fruitfully applied to a whole bunch of different contexts but NONE of those should ever be conflated with each other. By proposing these theories, Curry may very well have just written himself into his own genetic under-class: surely the uber-people of the future would be intelligent enough to understand the basics of evolution?