Monday, January 10, 2011

Are we human, or are we denser

I've maintained for a while on this piece o'crap blog that we, as a species, are pretty much on the downhill side of our existence.

Sure, there are more of us than ever on the planet. And yes, we are more technically advanced than we have ever been. One could argue that over the past decade or so we've taken a leap in interpersonal connection and communication the likes of which haven't been seen since Gutenberg first moved type around to impress the ladies.

But then again, look what we're communicating. At best, it's ghoulish drooling over the latest tragedy. Whether a collapsed coal mine, an exploded oil platform or a mass shooting, our vulturous media stokes our schadenfreude until we're so jaded that nothing affects us anymore. And that's the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is that the media stuffs us so full of intellectual junk food (which we consume with gusto) that we can no longer tell the difference between relevant an unhealthy. When supposed luminaries like Barbara Walters are soooooo fascinated by the barely trainable cast of Jersey Shore, well, let's just say that it's a wonder any of us are still walking upright.

Not that we'll be walking upright for much longer, at least if you look at the "progress" of our culture over the last, say, 40 years. But who am I, right? I'm just an amateur culture observer. Don't take my word for it.

Take the word of people who actually study the human brain for a living.
Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion.

“I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink,” he says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa—everywhere we look.” If our brain keeps dwindling at that rate over the next 20,000 years, it will start to approach the size of that found in Homo erectus, a relative that lived half a million years ago and had a brain volume of only 1,100 cc.
Oh sure, you may have some scientists who hypothesize that this evolutionary trend is merely the brain reorganizing itself to excel in handling the challenges of modern man, such as memorizing the DVR program, or texting and driving at the same time.

But that's just an optimistic rationalization by people who don't want to, or are incapable of, accepting the real truth. Which is that for the past 30 or 40 years, our society has been naturally selecting for dumber and dumber offspring. I mean, just take a look at the first 20 minutes of Idiocracy. It's a simple numbers game. The smart people know that overpopulation is unsustainable and take steps to limit their offspring. The less intellectually advantaged? Not so much.

Anyway, I'm not claiming to be the last word on this. And I'm definitely not as sharp as our cro-magnon forefathers. But I do know that you can't fight evolution. It will be what it will be, and the only thing you can really do is sing a catchy tune and maybe dance about it while your here.

Oh, and for those of you who are way ahead of the evolutionary curve on this issue, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys.*

*Homage to Douglas Adams.

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  1. 3 of my close fellow blogger friends do not have cable, therefore do not know what Jersey Shore even is! I am sooo happy for that.

  2. Take some comfort in the idea that if we are consumed by our little tragedies, it's because we don't have any big tragedies to worry about.

  3. I think it's partly all in what you expect for yourself and, additionally, who you hang with.

    The anti-intellectualism rampant in American society drags us down greatly and, additionally, I think it seems very strong in Kansas City. I may be wrong but I don't think so.

    Maybe you (we) need to move to the East coast or Europe or somewhere where people have higher expectations. That or just start pushing now, from here.

  4. This discussion has spurred a second train of thought that I think will turn into another post. More to come...


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