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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 setting.

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 . . .

Huh.

Wow, that’s sad.

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