The current edition of Discover Magazine includes an article titled “Days of Dysevolution.” The subheading reads:
Heart disease. Diabetes. Lower back pain. Athlete’s foot. Today’s humans are afflicted with ailments that virtually didn’t exist for our nomadic forebears. Can we adapt our way out of them?
The term “dysevolution” was coined by the scientist whose theories the article features: Biologist Daniel Lieberman. It refers to the mismatches between the conditions our bodies evolved for, over millions of years, and the sedentary lifestyle most Westerners lead today.
While it would be hard to argue against his basic premise, I got the impression that the article’s author, Jeff Wheelwright, was hobbled by political correctness – and a desire to adhere to its tenets while, at the same time, delivering some measure of truth.
Take this paragraph for example:
Although human beings are still evolving, Lieberman doubts that natural selection can overtake our quicksilver culture and rectify our health problems. “I care about my children and grandchildren. I’m not going to wait for natural selection. It’s not that rapid,” he says. He favors fighting dysevolution on its own terms, by cultural means. Unhealthy habits and products will be passed down the generations as long as the advantages – convenience, low cost, appealing taste – are seen to exceed the disadvantages. What he calls cultural buffering, from protective clothing to antibiotics, screen the body from the harshness of the environment and of evolution. “Lack of selection, because of antibiotics, say, leads to an increase in [human] variation. People who might have been filtered out won’t be. They’ll pass on their genes,” he says.
In a society free from the chains of political correctness, this would be a natural segue to a discussion of the pros and cons of eugenics – for what he describes comes very close to dysgenics.
The article includes large illustrations depicting Australopithecus afarensis, Homo erectus, Homo sapiens (hunter-gatherer), Homo sapiens (farmer) and Homo sapiens (industrial/post-industrial). I found the last three very telling.
Homo sapiens (hunter-gatherer) is shown as an athletic young man who could be Australian Aborigine or black African. He is described, in larger print on the heading, thus:
… Dark-skinned, narrow-hipped and fleet-footed. A rounder head had a face tucked below the brain.
Four text boxes describe the evolutionary highlights of this hunter-gatherer. All positive, they include, in bold: Long vocal tract, dexterous tongue/ Athletic/ Energy storage/ Adaptable.
The next illustration shows Homo sapiens (farmer). He is shown as a less athletic young man of European type. The heading reads:
… They settled down and began to raise crops and domesticate animals. This departure from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle led to most of the mismatch diseases from which we currently suffer, Lieberman says.
The three text boxes include (typed in bold) Shorter/ Sicker/ Paler.
The last one, Homo sapiens (industrial/ post-industrial) features a middle-aged white couple. The heading reads:
The past 250 years have seen more change in culture than the previous 250,000 years, dwarfing the changes to the human body. The world’s population booms, straining the world’s natural resources.
The illustration includes six text boxes titled, in bold: Smaller jaws and faces/ Vision/ Bad backs/ Reproductive cycle changes (leading to an increase in cancer)/ Foot problems/ Less athletic. Four of the six are presented as negative traits.
I would argue that these illustrations have crossed the line from science, and into propaganda. Why do I say this?
The progression is presented as going from good to worse, and as this happens, the samples shown are whiter and whiter. The implication is clear: Dark is good/ light is bad. While it’s true that most hunter-gatherers were probably dark-skinned – so are most industrial/post-industrial humans today. Furthermore, there were plenty of light-skinned hunter-gatherers in Europe prior to the agricultural revolution. As a matter of fact, all evidence suggests that Europe’s hunter-gatherers were lighter than its farmers, the latter having come from the Middle East.
While all the other subjects are shown in the prime of their lives, the sickly white couple, shown at the end, appear to be in their fifties. One might argue that, since people live longer in industrial societies, this makes sense. However, the article itself states:
It’s not true that hunter-gatherers died young, before heart disease and the like could manifest themselves. Those who survived infancy could live to around 70.
The fact that overpopulation is brought up only when showing white people is particularly galling – considering that all white populations, worldwide, are in decline. Whites aren’t even having enough babies to replace themselves. If overpopulation is to be brought up at all (and if it is, it should be explained how this fits into the context of the article), then it should be coupled with a depiction of black Africans; almost all of the highest fertility countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa.
One gets the impression that the author and illustrator made a special effort to depict white people as pathetic, weak and sickly. At the same time, by depicting more “advanced” humans as white, they’re making a backhanded admission that it was whites who invented modern society as we know it.
Here’s the opening illustration for the article. It’s obvious that the centrally positioned dark-skinned hunter-gatherer is considered as close to the “perfect human” as possible. He’s centrally positioned, with his primitive inferiors to his right, and his degenerate successors to his left. The old and tired white man looks as if he’s ready to collapse and die: