Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Evolving Upper Class: Smart or Handsome?

Oliver Curry, an evolutionist at the London School of Economics, has gotten some notice recently for his prediction that humans are slowly evolving into two sub-species divided by class. He thinks that the full split into a tall, good-looking, healthy, smart subspecies and a short, ugly, short-lived, dumb subspecies will take 100.000 years. But even by the year 3000 he thinks there will be a noticeable division. Race differences as they now exist will be ironed out by intermarriage. The new and larger split would be by class, rendered more and more biologized.

Pierre Bourdieu, the late French sociologists who I have written about several times recently, notes that the ruling class is divided into a monied side and a cultured side. Bourdieu's work is not concerned with evolution, but I think he might accept that the upper classes would be increasingly likely to marry within their class, inching toward speciation. I think, though, that people in these different class fractions tend to marry on their own side of that divide. Over a many generations of such selections, the two fractions would divide.

What we are talking about is still at the level of a parlor game, so let me take a wild guess here. Many observers of the rich have noticed that they use their money to select attractive mates. I have noticed that the smart tend to use their smarts to select smart mates. (Yes, there are ugly rich people and pretty smart ones; we are talking big trends here.) SO, if Curry is even a little right, perhaps the Eloi of the future will be themselves divided into the smart and the handsome. And that might be a fair fight.


Russell Smith said...

Now the question is -- how will technology, genetic engineering, cybernetics etc accellerate this process? Have you read much thinking on the concept of the Singularity? The idea is that at some point, technological change will reach a peak beyond which it spirals out of our control -- one hypothesis is just this kind of "new species" talk.

The next question will be -- will it truly be a new species -- or will it just be the same human nature in different shells?

Gruntled said...

I think there are more things that make mates attractive than money and brains. I don't think there will be real speciation -- people are just too variable.

Unknown said...

The definition of subspecies is sort of like the definition of a planet. The line shifts depending on a variety of factors including, but not limited to new scientific insights and sociological constraints.

It seems that with the rise of species diversity in the public consciousness that many scientists are willing to establish subspecies on a purely local basis in order to protect a population from encroachment.

Subspecies SHOULD be identified on the basis of clear genetic differences between two putative subspecies.

The rub is that when we go from spotted owls to humans, the rules change drastically. Scientists are VERY squeamish about trying to find differences between races or genders. It is almost as if they are afraid of finding something that will result in demonstrations outside their offices. Ask Lawrence Summers.

We talk of hair texture, skin color, differences in freguencies of particular genes, but the truth is that there is more diversity WITHIN a race than there is between races. I suspect the same will be true of the tall, handsome people and the short, ugly people, should they ever be defined as different subspecies.

Anonymous said...

This has to be the most ridiculous theory that i have ever herd. I have an open mind but the idea just does not seem plausible, here are a few reasons why. Technology is making our planet so accesable to every class not only that but it is also enabling everyone a chance at getting an education also technology is letting people from all over the world see other peoples situation,Case in point Africa there is a movement that is not new but picking up steam and thats the cry for humanitarian aid in underprivledged parts of the country. Technology is one of the biggest reasons this will not happen if you even thin about crygenics or anything of that nature yes it will be available to the rich at first but this will not last everyone knows that eventually the technology becomes older and therefore more affordable. I think if you were to sit down and use your basic common sense you would understand that the human race goes through cycles of being in power and out of power nothing really last that long countries rise and countries fall. Now it is about survival of the fittest the strong will survive but what u must understand is that with these cycles what it means to survive changes having money does help but there is a bigger part of the population who survives on more than money alone or more than being goodlooking or smart there are people who are booksmart, there are people who are tough there are people who are rich there are way to many variables in human society for this to be even remotley possible.