mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I started reading "The Sceptical Environmentalist", which looks at how the environment is doing and decides that it's not quite as bad as a lot of people would say. (I'm a little more than halfway thru it, and am having trouble motivating myself to finish it). But more than the environmental stuff in the book is the idea that we are living in a sort of "golden age", that now is one of the best times ever to be alive. In fact, if you look at stats on things like infant mortality and lifespan, chances are you would be dead right now at your current age if you were born at any other time in history. It wasn't all that long ago that infant mortality rates were around 50% and the averge lifespan was in the 30's - in fact, in some countries, it isn't much better than that now. But in the US, few babies die and the average lifespan is in the 70's and growing, thanks to better diet and exersize and medical improvements - and to basic stuff like clean drinking water and air that isn't filled with coal dust and horse poop .

I mentioned this to a coworker, and he commented that "this means that we've basically stopped natural selection. We're weakening the gene pool" And it's true - people who would otherwise be dead aren't, and they aren't because technology means they can survive. But in a way, we've almost moved past natural selection - things like intellegence are worth more in our society, while a weak heart is something that one can move past. (the question if intellect is genetic or not is a subject I'm not going to get into). We don't really need survival of the fittest, because we all are fit enough to survive.

But the survival of the fittest thing brings up another interesting point. I was talking to my dad a while back, who is an avid reader of diet books (and the encyclopedia). He said that one of the books he had read had said that people who accumulate fat have sort of more efficient bodies, or at least more efficient metabolism. They can do what they need to survive with minimal caloric expenditure, and thus store up more fat because they didn't need it. I don't know how valid the science is, but it makes sense. And if it's true, it adds another twist to the whole survival of the fittest thing. Hundreds of years ago, when food was scarce and lifespans short, having an "efficient body" - not needing a lot of calories to survive - was a benefit, because it was hard to find food. People with that ability would do well, would survive, prosper, and breed. Nowdays, people have the opposite problem - too much food, and not enough physical expenditure. Now the same efficient genes that benefited people hurt them - because they sit at a desk and eat, and their body is so efficient that they don't need all that food, and they get fat and die young of heart failure or some other obesity-related disease.

If natural selection still works, these "efficient" people should die out. And if this theory is true, MadAnthony is one of those efficient people, based on his ginormous belly. And considering MadAnthony's total inability to date, the whole breeding thing doesn't seem forthcoming, so maybe natural selection is working....


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