Geneticists believe humans slowly changing

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 20:00

I was listening to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio programrecently that featured some geneticists who were engaged in a lively discussion about how human beings are influencing natural selection as it pertains to the human body.

These scientists seemed to agree, for the most part, that modern technology such as central heating, air conditioning, advanced medicine, and our general sedentary lifestyle, are slowing our natural evolutionary processes. For those who don’t like the term, ‘evolution,’ I’ll use the word “change.”

I’m not a scientist, certainly not a geneticist, but I have observed how our cultural environment and lifestyles are causing change—changes that might occur sooner than we think!

For instance, I believe that through the use of i-phones and other portable devices, people’s hands will grow larger, and stronger. This adaptation might even allow future generations to play some of Beethoven’s piano concertos, many of which require a reach greater than an octave. Such a musical feat requires patience, however, which I fear is a human trait that is on the decline.

One arm will grow slightly longer and stronger than the other, depending on which one is used to hold a portable communication device up to the ear.

Speaking of ears, I believe they will grow smaller because many of us will become hearing impaired, not so much from the high-decibel punishment administered by ear phones and rock concerts, but simply from lack of use. Since most of us no longer rely on hunting for our food, acute hearing is no longer required. The “use it or lose it” law fully applies. The size reduction in ears will be noticed first among Washington D.C. politicians, who early in the 21st century began to lose their ability to listen.

This change will not be apparent, but inside our brain--the area that controls

balance and orientation-- will be much more developed. Humans once looked forward as they walked, but in the future as today, they will always be looking down at the i-phone or other computer-like device that is held in their hand. The adaptation: Humans will learn how to walk forward in a straight line without looking up. Without conscientious physical effort and discipline, a hunchback posture could develop because of this.

With the loss of hearing, we’ll probably experience a loss of smell. In many respects, that might be a good thing, especially when Alaska snows melt in the spring—with all the dogs we have around these days.

Relying less on our ears and noses, our eyes will become larger like those of aliens in Sci-Fi movies. Optometrists will love it because they’ll have to make bigger lens and frames and raise their prices. Contact lenses will have to be the size of quarters. With enhanced peripheral vision, race car drivers will become significantly more adept than they are today.

Our heads will probably have to get larger to accommodate the bigger eyes, but I envisage a cranial conflict. Through lack of reading, extended television viewing and endless hours watching U-Tube on the internet, people’s brains will become smaller.

Through general lack of use, our limbs will atrophy and become very thin like our space alien friends. This will cause consternation among clothing manufacturers, who will have to reduce the amount of material in garments, and thus, reduce prices. (Yeah, right.) It’s possible that we’ll become so thin that clothing will come with lead weights in their linings to prevent people from being blown away in the wind. Shoes will be equipped with similar weights.

Since all communication will occur electronically, person-to-person conversations will become rare. School curricula will include courses in how to conduct conversations, but eventually, such exchanges will become as antiquated as Latin. While some believe lack of oral communication will lead to smaller mouths, food ingestion will continue on its upward trend, resulting in mouths with even greater aperture. Dentists will like this for obvious reasons – easier access. I foresee growth in companies that produce lipstick and similar cosmetics.

I’m not sure how long it will take for all of these metamorphoses to occur, if they occur at all. I sent my findings to the geneticists in the Biology Department at Oxford University, but as yet have not received a reply.

The one thing we can all be certain of is change, except for a few things. Cal Worthington will always be on television selling cars, and Anchorage’s Jack Frost will probably be hawking his jumbo herking prawns when the sun goes Super Nova.


Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.

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