June 29, 2007

natural selection

A partial list of selective pressures that modern medicine has made irrelevant to humans in the developed world (and the technology that fixes them):

Good eyesight (glasses, contacts, LASIK)
Easy childbirth (C-section)
To some extent, high sperm count (fertility treatments)
Lactose tolerance (lactaid, abundant and varied food)
Resistance to smallpox, measles mumps rubella, tetanus, diptheria, pertussis, chickenpox, polio, and meningitis (childhood vaccinations)
Resistance to black plague, streptococcus, cholera, infant diarrhea (antibiotics and water treatment)

Is this relevant information? If so, how and why? If not, why not?

1 comment:

amelia said...

i might take lactose tolerance off the list. its lack is still a bitch to deal with in the developed world, and i'm not sure it hasn't become relatively universal, where the local food supply requires it, even in underdeveloped places.

or maybe it just pales in comparison to good childbearing hips (TM).

i might also add fully functioning limbs to the list, as the inability to work with one's hands or get around on one's feet is a lot more surmountable in productivity and mating and reproduction terms in the developed world (in some ways).

and yeah, i think this is all relevant. the easy childbirth piece, for example, lets us develop a class-based fascination with thinness. more generally, these phenomena flatten out the age curve in the population by lowering infant and child mortality, thereby (among other things) freeing some women to work outside the home. they also make "weak constitution" and physical disabilities less relevant in developed societies, which has some interesting effects on what our version of meritocracy looks like.

also, i can't wait to see you.