Saturday, January 07, 2012

Is this human evolution, and if so, what now?

I was reading an article about how we have offset some of the huge technology improvements in automotive miles-per-gallon with two things: bigger cars and bigger butts.  We all know how Americans drive much bigger cars now, with the transition from cars to monstrous SUVs being the most obvious example.  What floored me was how much weight we humans have put on in a very short period of time. 

The CDC reports that since 1960, the average man's weight has gone from 166 to 195, up 29 pounds!  In that same period, women have gained 24 pounds.  We refer to that blob of fat around the belly as a spare tire, and now I know why.  We have added about the same weight as a car's spare tire, and in only 50 years!

The car manufacturers are struggling because they spend money, time and technology changing from steel to aluminum to composites, all to drop weight.  They eliminate spare tires.  The change the transmission systems.  All with the goal of reducing weight to improve mileage.  What do we Americans do?  Take that new car and drive it to McDonald's.

Evolution?

But this got me thinking about more than mpg.  There is a lot of debate about evolution, mostly framed as religion versus science.  Some strongly believe that evolution is a farce and that humans were put here by God, exactly as we are today.  The other side believes that humans evolved from apes, which evolved from  little mammals, which evolved from fish,.. or something along those lines.  Others try to find a happy union of the ideas: yes, we evolved, but it was because God guided it that direction.

No matter which way you look at it, we are evolving now, and at an incredible pace.  We are evolving to match changes in our environment, where interestingly enough, we are instigating all the changes.  We don't hunt our own food any more.  We don't grow our own food any more.  Hell, we don't even walk to the store to buy our food any more.  We hop into one of the previously mentioned SUVs and drive to the store.  The demands on our body don't tend to be out of necessity.  We don't have to haul water and chop wood. We turn on the tap and crank up the thermostat. Many of our physical demands are just self inflicted, like a run through the park, a trip to the gym, or a game of hoops.
So where does this end?  Do we eventually evolve to blog people with little stubby arms and legs?  Do we get so disease prone that we go the way of the dinosaurs?  For those with strong religious views, where is God taking us as a species?  It's hard to imagine that this is on a path to something better.

What To Do?
I am torn with what to do in 2012, and some of it revolves around eating end exercise.  From all the media hype, I have two options:
  • The Mayans are right and the world will end late this year. In this case, it should be a year of partying, eating and drinking.  To hell with all those trips to CrossFit and long runs really make me tired. So what if I weigh a bit more at the end of the world?
  • The Zombie Apocalypse will occur.  I have seen enough movies and TV shows to convince me that this is the more likely event.  If this happens, I think that lean speed and endurance will have a huge impact on whether you'll be eaten or not. Lots of weights and agility for tree climbing.  Quick feet for good fakes. Do zombies know how to ski?
So, I think I will lean towards the second choice, fight against the evolution of my species, and train to survive the inevitable onslaught.  After all, if neither happens, I will be better off and my SUV will get better gas mileage.

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