July 30, 2006


So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You (GINA KOLATA, 7/30/06, NY Times)

The Keller family illustrates what may prove to be one of the most striking shifts in human existence — a change from small, relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable.

New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone “a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth.”

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it. And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before.

Even the human mind seems improved. The average I.Q. has been increasing for decades, and at least one study found that a person’s chances of having dementia in old age appeared to have fallen in recent years.

The proposed reasons are as unexpected as the changes themselves. Improved medical care is only part of the explanation; studies suggest that the effects seem to have been set in motion by events early in life, even in the womb, that show up in middle and old age.

“What happens before the age of 2 has a permanent, lasting effect on your health, and that includes aging,” said Dr. David J. P. Barker, a professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Southampton in England.

Each event can touch off others. Less cardiovascular disease, for example, can mean less dementia in old age. The reason is that cardiovascular disease can precipitate mini-strokes, which can cause dementia. Cardiovascular disease is also a suspected risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

The effects are not just in the United States. Large and careful studies from Finland, Britain, France, Sweden and the Netherlands all confirm that the same things have happened there; they are also beginning to show up in the underdeveloped world.

Of course, there were people in previous generations who lived long and healthy lives, and there are people today whose lives are cut short by disease or who suffer for years with chronic ailments. But on average, the changes, researchers say, are huge.

Even more obvious differences surprise scientists by the extent of the change.

If we were finches on the Galapagos the Darwinists would claim we were a different species than our grandparents. But the Applied Darwinism of the Holocaust caused them such shame that they never mention humans anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 30, 2006 9:31 AM

Hmm no comments yet.

Darwinists must sleep late on Sundays.

I wonder what the evolutionary consequences of that will be?

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 30, 2006 11:44 AM

Jim, I'm an early riser, but never comment on this subject. I'm waiting to see who will be the last man standing. I say man, because I haven't seen a woman who cares enough to jump into this fire. It sure is a lot of fun once the string starts going though.

Posted by: erp at July 30, 2006 11:50 AM

Is arson applied thermodynamics?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at July 30, 2006 12:46 PM

So you and I buy a new car. I change the oil reguarly, wash it, drive it carefully, and do all the regular maintenance. You, on the other hand, never do any of that. Ten years down the road my car is running well with many years of life ahead. Yours is in the junkyard. Did they evolve into different cars?

Posted by: Rick T. at July 30, 2006 2:07 PM

No. Thermodynamics is science, though bunk. Darwinism is ideology.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 2:20 PM

The Darwinists may have slept late; surely they were not at church. The Spencerians were at a pistol match.

Discussion of "Darwinism" in connection with changes taking place in a couple of generations is laughable. Have we never heard of malnorished, neglected children in shockingly stunted condition? Expose those robust moderns to the diseases and parasites of prior ages, feed them on inadequate, unbalanced starvation diets, and we shall see whether we have a "new species."

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 30, 2006 3:47 PM

Sell it to the finch-addled.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 4:08 PM

Lou, I worked with a man who grew up during the war in Japan and was severly malnourished as a child. He was very short and small boned as was his wife. His son who was born in the U. S. was a typical American, tall, well built, with the patented straight white teeth and ready smile. Lucky for him he inherited his father's brains which didn't take second place to any.

Seichi was a typically modest Japanese man, but he couldn't keep that gleam out of his eye when he spoke of his son. I haven't seen or heard about him in years. I hope the kid did him proud.

Posted by: erp at July 30, 2006 5:58 PM

Darwinists are extinct. QED.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 30, 2006 6:02 PM

Erp: Thank you. There it is. Darwin has nothing to do with it. Race and heredity have nothing or almost nothing It is culture, folkways, ways of thinking and acting which lead to surpassing.

Ich lehre euch den Ubermench, and there's nothing wrong with that, only that charity commands us to share these things with all humanity. We have done well to have taken down the Communism; we have burdens remaining.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 30, 2006 6:17 PM

"Thermodynamics is science, though bunk."

What part of it, exactly, is "bunk"? I ask you because I've looking for investors in bringing this prototype Dean Drive powered by Cold Fusion (one that doesn't generate N-Rays), and I figure shows that you might be the kind of person I'm looking for.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 30, 2006 7:25 PM


Posted by: oj at July 30, 2006 8:09 PM

OJ: one of your greatest commentaries

Posted by: Palmcroft at July 30, 2006 10:06 PM


Granted, thermodynamics is probably used to handwave past more bunk than most any other science, but thermo itself is quite sound. It's really just a quantative statement that "There's no such thing as a free lunch" and "This room won't clean itself". Grant those, (er, and "temperature is an abolute scale", and "if you freeze 'em enough, they'll stop moving") and pretty much all the rest of thermodynamics follows.

Posted by: Mike Earl at July 31, 2006 11:05 AM

Ah, but in order to believe the room won't clean itself you have to first posit that the maid exists outside Nature. It's obvious baloney.

Posted by: oj at July 31, 2006 11:25 AM


No, merely that the maid exists outside the room. If you want to clean the whole universe, I suggest you will depend on somebody outside Nature to give you a hand.

Posted by: Mike Earl at July 31, 2006 11:46 AM

So thermodynamics is true sometimes but not others.

Posted by: oj at July 31, 2006 11:52 AM


It's not untrue, it's just that it can't tell you much about a system where you can't say what's going in and what's going out.

Posted by: Mike Earl at July 31, 2006 12:20 PM

Yes, the notion that the system is open refutes the theory.

Posted by: oj at July 31, 2006 1:40 PM

You can think of entropy as a measure of the complexity of a system.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at July 31, 2006 3:57 PM


No, if the system is open - and we cannot make certain very specific statements about what goes in and out - the theory is inapplicable by its own admission.

"Thermodynamics is the only physical theory of universal content which, within the framework of the applicability of its basic concepts, I am convinced will never be overthrown." — Albert Einstein

Posted by: Mike Earl at July 31, 2006 4:25 PM

Yes, it's because the system is open that thermodynamics is bunk.

Posted by: oj at July 31, 2006 4:35 PM