[ExI] Impressive book: Farewell to Alms

spike spike66 at att.net
Sun Feb 3 06:00:56 UTC 2008

> [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of hkhenson
> I have made a case elsewhere that 5000 plus years of cold 
> winters were a factor in selecting people who were never 
> satisfied with how much firewood or hay they had.  Along 
> comes an extra cold or extra long winter and guess whose 
> offspring repopulated the farms of those who froze or starved?

Keith, we can add to your notion by recognizing that evolutionary change
progresses relatively quickly in cases of extreme environmental pressure.
The textbook examples of environmental pressure would be the Death Valley
pupfish, which became adapted to living in extremely warm water, or perhaps
Rachel Carson's flies that quickly became tolerant of DDT.  Humans are
beasts that evolved in warm African climates.  It does not strain my
imagination that humans would evolve quickly if exposed to a climate wildly
different from the home continent, such as northern Asia or Europe.  

I always try to bring in the other Darwinian mechanism for evolution: mate
selection.  I can imagine that early Europeans and Asians recognized the
work-your-ass-off-all-summer individuals born within their societies, the
store-to-absurd-extremes individuals, and considered these desirable mates
for their children.  Families may have encouraged these to mate early and
often, thus transforming the population in a relatively few generations.

Of course the century winters that occasionally decimated the families of
the lazy would have a dramatic impact on the population.  In the most
extreme cases these century winters may well have taken out all the
population except those who stored to absurd extremes.  (I use this
mechanism to explain obsessive compulsive behavior.)  The fact that our
species has spread out all over the planet has put us in extreme
environmental pressure, which has led to our evolving much more quickly than
a typical mammalian species.

Humans have bred dogs for specific traits.  It isn't hard for me to believe
that we have also bred ourselves for specific traits, and continue to do so.


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