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"OH WATERS, TEEM WITH MEDICINE TO KEEP MY BODY SAFE FROM HARM, SO THAT I MAY LONG SEE THE SUN." - Rig Veda
"We hominids have been evolving for millions of years. Why would that have suddenly stopped? Isn’t our kind, Homo sapiens, subject to the same forces of Darwinian natural selection as all other species?
About 40,000 years ago, as we Homo sapiens were busy replacing Neanderthals in Europe, the archeological record reveals that a great leap forward took place in our species. We began making cave paintings, jewelry, sculpture, markedly better tools and weapons. And, according to Gould and leading thinkers across many disciplines, from biology to anthropology, our evolution became purely cultural. This paradigm held sway for decades. "There was a really pervasive ideology, especially in social science, that humans are all the same and biology doesn't count," says the anthropologist Henry Harpending.
The most obvious reason for thinking our natural evolution has ceased is that we're just a single species. In the 200,000 years since we modern humans first appeared, we have not split into other species. Any person on Earth today can, theoretically, interbreed with any other of the opposite sex. This is true despite obvious differences in physical traits between individual people as well as between—dare I say it?—races. With my blue eyes and pale skin—I'm of northern European descent—no one would confuse me with an Australian Aborigine, a Han Chinese, or a Bantu African, or any of them with me.
Racial sensitivities certainly played a part in the paradigm holding fast for so long, and I've found that they make writing about this subject difficult even now. The notion that races could differ biologically in substantial ways harks back to eugenics and Nazi atrocities. Particularly when it comes to whether some ethnic groups or races may be "smarter" than others, the unspoken agreement among researchers has traditionally been, and perhaps sensibly so, "don't go there."
In 2005, for instance, Bruce Lahn, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, reported in Science that variants of two genes known to play a role in brain development—microcephalin and ASPM—appear to have undergone strong recent natural selection. Lahn inadvertently got himself into hot water by noting that these presumably beneficial mutations are common in Eurasian populations but rare in African. This even though he emphasized that neither he nor anyone else has any idea whether these genes or this recent selection pressure has anything to do with intelligence per se.
The truth is that, with studies such as Sabeti's and Lahn's increasing in frequency, "don't go there" may no longer be sustainable. As Pinker wrote in a New Republic article on the Ashkenazim theory, "Reality is what refuses to go away when you do not believe in it, and progress in neuroscience and genomics has made these politically comforting shibboleths (such as the non-existence of intelligence and the non-existence of race) untenable."
"I am morose!"
"I'm not being right-wing," she says. "The people who believe themselves to be on the left, and who defend the agents of Islam in the name of tolerance and culture, are being right-wing. Not just right-wing. Extreme right-wing. I don't understand how you can be so upset about the Christian right and just ignore the Islamic right. I'm talking about equality."
"I'd have the charges billed to my telephone, while Margie dialled the same number, but never paid a fee. Much like at nightclubs and bars, it's a lot harder to get ladies into the room, so Margie, and the hundreds of women like her, would call the number and register, then punch through the recorded greetings from thousands of guys waiting to talk with them. One of those men was me.
"Each guy's greeting was his name and a little something about himself. Our messages were either lewd or pornographic, nothing else. Using euphemisms about your penis counted as a true gentleman's move. I was no better than the rest. Twenty-one, horny and incapable of getting a real-world date.
The women's greetings tended to differ from the men's; they spoke about amusement parks and dining out and walks on the beach. Ridiculous shit. We all knew why we were here and it wasn't to line up any dates. We were there to talk dirty into our telephones and masturbate in our separate darkened rooms. At least that was true for me and Margie.
Why was I doing this? At 21? I was in college and, in theory, surrounded by eligible women. I should have been besieged by more appropriate partners. My little crew of friends enjoyed no end of sex. Even the losers were doing all right. Not me, though.
I weighed 25 stone, and I didn't stand nine feet tall, so the weight didn't sit well on me. As big as a house? No. I was as big as an estate.
Sometimes we talked about visiting each other. But we never would. Both of us knew it. She was a 50-year-old woman with some undefined illness that had forced her to retire 15 years early. Maybe it took some toll on her physically. Maybe she was in a wheelchair, I don't know. But I sure as hell never would let her see me, either.
If she did, how could we ever fantasise about me crouching over her chest again? In real life, I'd suffocate the poor woman between my meaty thighs.
And yet, somehow, I convinced myself that Margie was helping to keep me tethered to the "normal" world of relationships. I knew what we had wasn't complete, but at least we were two human beings sharing some kind of real affection. I still felt this was infinitely better than the alternative: have you ever known men or women who don't get any kind of loving for years? They get weird. The women become either monstrously drab or they costume themselves in ways that make them seem unreal; they externalise their inner fantasies and come to believe that – on some level – they really are elves or princesses or, most disturbing of all, children again. And the men? They're even worse. Men who are denied affection for too long devolve into some kind of rage-filled hominoid. Their anger becomes palpable. You can almost feel the wrath emanating from their pores. Lonely women destroy themselves; lonely men threaten the world.