Thursday, August 20, 2015

Did feminizing help us evolve?

This is not meant as a political post.

It is about human evolution. It is also about transhumanism. Eventually.

But I am already steeling myself for the inevitable comments that I am trying to "pussify" America. Well, I can do little about such small-mindedness, so I press ahead anyway.

An article at Discover magazine asked why it took around 150,00 years for early homo sapiens to do "anything special" since we first evolved in Africa. The author couches this question in the context that at it is at 50,000 years ago that we see creativity arrive on the scene in the form of cave paintings. Turns out something physical was also going on with early humans at the same time. An analysis of fossils from that time period shows that the brow ridge of skulls became less prominent and facial features of males became more similar to those of females. This is termed craniofacial feminization. A possible explanation for this transformation may be lowering levels of testosterone.

This dip in testosterone levels, according to research cited in the article at any rate, would have logically meant that these early humans would have been less likely to react violently to things. In turn, this likewise means that humans began living in communities, living cooperatively, and adopting social graces. This domestication allowed for stability and therefore the growth of creativity and culture.

Comments on the article are predictable. Many saw it as "liberal nonsense," an attempt to beatify feminists, and "male bashing." That's funny. I don't really feel all that bashed by a study that says a rise of feminine abilities and traits helped bring about culture. Still, others warred on in the comments section, crying that testosterone keeps culture safe and that in the end, most women are drawn to men with greater testosterone in order to propagate the species so the research in the article is either misinterpreted, altogether incorrect, or both in this sense. I have no idea how it could be both, but no doubt someone will argue it.

This got me thinking about bigger things. What happens to gender in a posthuman society? What happens when transhumanism and cybernetics allow for one to transcend the confines of what is male and what is female? No doubt there will be throwbacks that hold on to it, but my hope is that conversations and thoughts such as those in the Discover article's comments section will be seen as even more idiotic than they already are. "There must be testosterone for how else will we fight wars? There must be estrogen for how else will we raise kids?" Transhumanism, carried to its logical zenith, would eliminate many such stereotypes as people could be whatever they wanted to be. Modified humans may lead to greater enlightenment as squabbling over the petty, basic needs demanded by biology will be rendered moot. One day perhaps our descendants will see the entire concept of "gender" as quaint and antiquated.

Could it be that we are on the cusp of another massive transition for humanity and culture? Similar to the one 50,000 years ago described in the article?

Damn I hope so.

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