LSE scholar predicts brave new world
This is the sort of thing that gives evolutionary psychology a bad name:
Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years' time as predicted by HG Wells, an expert has said. Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.
The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said - before a decline due to dependence on technology.
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. 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. [BBC]
Curry forecasts a golden age circa the year 3000 where all the women are strong, the all the men are well-endowed, and all the children are above average. After which, humanity will gradually diverge into two species: the tall, smart, good looking one; and the short, stupid, ugly one.
Curry is a research associate at the London School of Economics and teaches political theory at New York University. He undertook the study for the TV network Bravo.
Curry, who doesn't appear to have any formal credentials in biology, also predicts that "human chins would recede, as a result of having to chew less on processed food." Either the BBC reporter got it wrong, or Curry owes as much to Lamarck as he does to Darwin.
It's depressing that journalists are treating Curry's quasi-eugenic fantasy as a work of popular science. None of the media accounts that I've read bother to describe the evidence for Curry's bold predictions, or even the stated rationales for these projections.
The stories leave a number of questions unresolved. For example we haven't seen dramatic genetic changes in the human species over the last thousand years. Sure, people have gotten taller and sturdier over the centuries, thanks to better nutrition and improved standards of living. Still, there's no evidence that humans today are dramatically genetically and morphologically different from people 1000 years ago. Furthermore, even if Curry could show that there have been substantial genetic changes, he would still have to establish that these differences were the result of differential reproductive success. So, why does Curry think that the next thousand years will produce a willowy super-race and a permanent goblin underclass?
Class stratification existed a thousand years ago and it continues today. What is it about the next thousand years that is supposed to bring about such rapid morphological changes in human beings? Yes there's increasing inequality in our world today, but who can say what the next 1000 years will bring in terms of equality and integration, let alone the next 100,000 years (Curry's ETA for speciation)?
No one seems to have asked the obvious question, namely whether Curry believes that the early signs of the genetic divisions that will one day split the human species in two are already evident.
I'm not a reflexive ev-psych basher, but I think Curry is doing a grave disservice to his field by popularizing this caricature of human evolution.