LEST: Desmond Morris konstaterer at den menneskelige ape er i stadig utvikling, gjennom avl og tilpasning.
Han nevner grupper som ikke er spesielt avlsdyktige, de vil dø ut. En god del av dem tilhører dagens opinionsdannere, og det er en god grunn til at deres barnløshet ikke er tema.
There is nothing mysterious about death. It is simply a device built into our genes that allows us time to breed and then move on.
So, to understand how humans are evolving today, all we need to do is to look at the ways in which our environment has been changing. If it is static, we will pause in our evolution. If it is undergoing some sort of upheaval, then our evolution will speed up. Of course, for us, being large animals, the evolutionary process is very slow. We have only undergone one major environmental change in the past 12,000 years, so one mustn’t expect a huge alteration. The big change we have seen, as a primate species, is urbanisation. Up until the point when we discovered agriculture, we had always lived in small hunter-gatherer tribes. But once we had planted crops and domesticated animals, we had given ourselves the chance to build up a food surplus. This let our villages become towns, and our towns become cities full of specialists, who made exciting new discoveries and set us on a path towards technological brilliance.
So the primeval naked ape that had evolved to live in small tribes suddenly found itself surrounded by strangers in huge urban populations – a process that continues at a pace today. This is the only major environmental pressure on us as a species. Anyone unable to adapt to this crowded new world, full of bustle, novelty, social stress and noise, would find it hard to settle down and breed. Evolution would wave goodbye to them and the species would move on. There are several ways in which evolution could wave goodbye – by making them suicidal, by giving them mental breakdowns, by giving them stress diseases, or by directly interfering with their attitude towards the act of mating.
If certain kinds of people became non-breeders in this new urban world, then this would gradually change our species. Even if they only became “reduced breeders”, it would still have an impact, allowing our species to become more efficient as a new kind of Urban Ape.
Some philosophies and mental attitudes have had an adverse effect on breeding success. You don’t have to jump off a tall building to stop breeding. You can do it simply because you take a decision not to procreate. Monks, nuns, Catholic priests, bachelors, spinsters, gays and lesbians all have a greatly reduced chance of passing on their genes and therefore of influencing the genetic future of the human species. They can, of course, influence the cultural future of their species by their teachings or creativity, but their genetic material will be largely wasted. Their eggs will ovulate and their sperm will form, but these will have a greatly reduced chance of meeting up.
Another category where reduced breeding might occur could be described as the “caring intellectual”. This is the individual who, observing that the human species, with 7,000 million individuals alive today, is already wildly over-populated and who feels, as this trend shows no sign of decreasing in the future, that it is time to limit the size of human families. If such a person decides it is therefore best not to breed or, at most, to have only a very small family, they will contribute less to the future of their species than someone who never bothers to think about these matters and breeds freely.
It is the big, happy families with caring parents and lots of children that have the best chance of genetically influencing the future of the species. I say “happy” because unhappy families are more likely to produce children with breeding problems themselves. It is these happy families that are the ones who have adapted best to the new urban world. They have somehow managed to cope with their crowded new environment and have not been put off by its stresses and strains. This would imply that our species is evolving today towards a less anxious, less agitated, less violent condition. To be able to enjoy a happy family life in the midst of modern complexities suggests a more placid, more childlike, more playful, more peaceful and more optimistic adult than existed in our earlier days.
Morris er ikke spesielt god på trusler mot dagens samfunn. Han mener verden er blitt fredeligere og mer tolerant og reagerer på overgrep. Noe sant er det i dette, men bildet er mer komplisert.
The age of the urban ape
New research shows that humans haven’t stopped evolving – could a city habitat be the end of us, asks the distinguished anthropologist.