Pharyngula

Utter nonsense

What the hell? How can the BBC News publish this tripe?

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.

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.

Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds. Racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding, producing a uniform race of coffee-coloured people.

Ignoring the fact that you cannot predict long-term evolutionary trends without knowing long-term environmental trends (and not even then), I would like to see the evidence for any of this. For instance, I doubt that there’s even a speck of credible data showing that men with square jaws have greater reproductive success than men with more rounded jaws…or that large penises and fertility are correlated. The author of this claims is just making things up, I assert.

On what basis does he make these claims? It’s all about his perception of what sexual selection should do.

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

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.

In other words, because he (and the advertising world) has set up hairless women with pert breasts and glossy hair as the ideal, well, they must get lots of sex and produce lots of children who will propagate that Cosmo state of airbrushed perfection. Meanwhile, no man is going to breed with the majority of women (you know, those women who have body hair and whose breasts actually sag a little bit…the “squat goblins”) unless they are chinless, lopsided dwarves, so we’re going to see that subhuman breed spontaneously segregated from the noble Eloi.

I might have believed this nonsense could come from some late 19th century eugenicist, but now? Is there any evidence of the kind of sympatric speciation event described going on? Humans are a happily interbreeding group, with no hint of the separation of genetic classes corresponding to this prediction emerging, or that real-world human beings make mate choices as simplistic as that, or that the people who best fit those stereotypes are at all superior in reproduction. What competent biologist could even suggest such silly nonsense?

The source is not a biologist, which helps. It’s Oliver Curry, who recently received a Ph.D. from the Government Department of the London School of Economics, and now teaches Political Theory. “Eh, what?” I hear you say—what does training in government, economics, and politics teach you about how evolutionary biology works? Apparently, next to nothing. Worse still, this fellow is a member of something called the Evolutionary Moral Psychology Group. I roll my eyes at everything Evolutionarily Psychological, and sticking the word “Moral” in there just makes it worse. There is good work in morality by psychologists and social scientists, but calling it “evolutionary” seems to be a universal corrupter, as the practitioners, who rarely have any knowledge of population genetics or evolutionary biology in general, strive to tangle their misperceptions of biology with the complicated business of how their brains work.

It’s a good thing Larry Moran and I didn’t know about this garbage during our trip to London, or we might have been tempted to forego some of the generally fun and wonderful items on our schedule for the less savory effort of snarling at these guys.

I’ve heard that the movie Idiocracy also tries to predict human fate in the next millennium…but it is satire. The BBC article shows no such self-awareness of the parody of evolution they are promoting.


Wilkins and Hawks also give this crap a good flush.

Comments

  1. #1 Andrew Brown
    October 18, 2006

    The whole LSE thing comes about because Helena Cronin, Dawkins’ old friend, ran and now runs again a very sociobiological programme there called Dawkins@LSE: Oliver Curry used to be her assistant. Then he went to Bath or Bristol (somewhere in the West Country anyway). He picked up then the knack of getting into the papers. I note that this was released as a Sunday-for-Monday.

    They have had all the gang over, one way or another — Trivers, Pinker, Dawkins himself, most recently Dennett.

    PZ, I put up a reply to your last on my own blog.
    nice to meet,though.

  2. #2 MartinC
    October 18, 2006

    Andrew, the program at LSE is called Darwin@LSE, not Dawkins.
    I noticed that Oliver Curry has a first name Nature article listed on his publication list, but looking it up it turned out to be a book review.
    Im not sure he didnt write the whole thing as a bit of a joke for the Bravo channel and its being taken out of context – the context being that its simply a joke for a ‘Mens channel’ about the future being full of pert women and all the men getting huge willies (causation or merely association ?)

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    October 21, 2006

    I’m not going to waste my time and energy looking up old posts which call me stupid.

    shall we make some new ones then?

  4. #4 Ichthyic
    October 21, 2006

    why do I find Mike’s rants in a thread titled “Utter Nonsense” so appropriate, I wonder?

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    October 22, 2006

    The locomotive “regenerative braking” is indeed an existing invention. But with a car its not, and does work by the way.

    another would-be crank who doesn’t do his homework.

    *sigh*

    http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid433.php

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    October 24, 2007

    Humanity may split into an elite and an underclass, says Dr Curry

    Humanity may split into eloi and morlocks, says Curry.

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