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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Why Are People Smart and Angry?

Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask myself - why am I here? More specifically, why am I a grad student? Where is that superduper kickass question I should have been working on? Where is my truely original idea?

Is my antibiotics tube still swimming in my ice box?

Indeed. Here at Fresh Brainz we are interested in tackling the great and important questions facing modern science today. Not some rubbish question like what is the "function" of some "gene" expressed in some "tissue". R...ight.

Important questions. Here's one for you. Why are people so smart? And why do people hate each other so much?

OK, so you noticed that's really two questions.

Einstein.

Guess what, I just happen to have one really cool explanation for these two interrelated observations! Lucky you!

I'll tell it like a story. I like stories.

Long ago, about 7 million years ago, there lived a primate species that was the last common ancestor of both modern humans and modern chimpanzees.

Later, two descendants species started to emerge. One branch would later become chimps. Another branch would later become people. But at this early days of speciation, the two species looked fairly similar to each other. So similar that they often became hornied up and got it on.

So they did each other. And they did each other. Again! Again! This interbreeding went on for millions of years. It was a happy humpy time. Among other things that were swopped, genes were exchanged. There was plenty of genetic diversity.

At around 5 million years ago, chimp ancestors said bye-bye to human ancestors. They couldn't live together any more, but promised they'd always be friends.

At that time our ancestors were happy, chirpy fellows, but not very bright. Africa was a good place to be, plenty of sun, good food, good times.

Then 75,000 years ago, a volcano in what would be Indonesia today had a massive eruption. It was so fucking huge it blocked out the sun and ruined the global environment for many years. The good times had come to an end. With lousy air and limited food, life for our ancestors had become a fierce struggle.

In time, large populations of human ancestors started to die out. The death rate was so bad that humans had become an endangered species. Only a few thousand families were left. With such a tiny population remaining, humans had become a very inbred species. Genetic diversity was at its choking point...

Wait a sec, you ask. How did these humans survive while others perished? We may never know for sure, but let me tell you what I guess happened. I think that these early humans were smart, heartless sickos.

You wouldn't want to be neighbors with these guys, no sirree. They'd pretend to be your best friends, live peacefully with you for years and suddenly BOOM! Rob you blind, take all your food and disappear into the night.

Under such extreme selection pressures, only the cleverest, most black-hearted (黑心 or Aw Seem in Hokkien) and most violent humans survived. And only by the skins of their necks, I would add. The very few that survived were so inbred they had very similar genes and behavior. The biological basis for future bloodshed in human history had been set.

Of course, the environmental downturn eventually went away. The sun came back, food became plentiful again, and happy flowers sing happy songs in the wind.

But the world had completely changed, for now stands a primate species so powerful that no other animal could be a threat to its existence. Except itself.

Human beings are the worst enemies of human beings.

So now, go back and read the current world news about people killing other people. Don't listen to what they say. They always say "world peace". That's just one in their bag of smart tricks. Watch what they actually do. Is it a coincidence that the closest neighbors are the worst enemies? It all makes sense now doesn't it?

Pretty story huh?

Wait another sec, you ask. "What was that first part about chimps about again?"

That, my friend, is my solution for world peace.

"What? To fuck chimps for millions of years and produce peaceful hybrid offspring?"

Yes...I mean NO! What were you thinking? I mean for people to marry outside their community so as to maintain a high level of genetic diversity. So that angry genes don't get concentrated into any particular population, ready to explode when the environment squeezes in on them.

"Aha! You used the term 'world peace'! Is your suggestion just an excuse for you to go fuck that cute redhead down in that other lab?"

I mean... I... er...

*mumbles*

5 Comments:

mathia said...

which lab, which red head, SPECIFICALLY??? ; P

Xisla said...

Ha ha, no redheads in our institute. Go figure.

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Anonymous said...

very farnee...no redheads...actually, i thought i spotted one angmoh redhead the other day!