Inadvertent Natural Selection (1/27/06)
We learned something very
interesting today in my Animal Behavior class. A few years ago, a class
research project was conducted on Fruit Flies (Drosophila). It caught some
peoples’ attention that fruit flies in the laboratory were much slower than
those in the wild. To overview: fruit flies in the wild have to jump from
food surface to surface to eat, and they need to find mates. It makes sense
that they need to move more quickly. Hundreds of fruit flies sitting in a
little vial, on the other hand, have no need for this mobility – they are
living in their food and are surrounded by mates. The way kings and sultans
live, essentially – sitting on a throne, eating all day and sleeping with
all the palace women. (Sorry for any crude generalizations.)
Anyway . . . they wanted to
test for selection of low mobility fruit flies in the lab. They bred lab
fruit flies for more than a hundred generations and the wild flies for maybe
one. Sure enough, when they put these fruit flies at one end of a shoebox
with a piece of banana or whatever at the other end, the lab flies
demonstrated much lower mobility.
What does this mean?
Well, everyone’s familiar
with the term artificial selection (selective breeding) versus natural
selection. What happened with the fruit flies in the lab almost seems like
selective breeding, but it wasn’t. It was natural selection in an artificial
Is that what’s happening to
us? Living in our artificial surroundings, are they selecting us? We are
like the laboratory fruit flies. We don’t have to go out and hunt for our
food. It’s brought directly to our door. We don’t need to walk anywhere,
either – we drive, and even then the food comes to us through our windows!
With food, cars, and
technology everywhere to eliminate hard labor for many, what need is there
for the naturally crafty, fit people? Are we becoming a fat, lazy
population? (In America, at least.) Consider all the TV we watch and
entertainment flashing before our eyes. Are we more desensitized to
violence? To real issues? To critical thinking? Are our senses duller,
except for our vision to cope with flashing TV screens and computer
monitors? What about our attention spans, reduced to the length of a
10-15-minute interval of a TV show between commercials?
I wonder. Wouldn’t it be
funny, if all this technology invented by smart people eventually led to our
demise? Ha ha, ha. Not really.
Actually, I think this is an
extreme case to put out there, but a valid one nonetheless. If a population
became so pathetic that it ceased to have fully-functioning citizens worth
anything but eating and buying crap, and eating some more in front of the
TV, then . . . wait . . .
Wow, that’s sad.