December 29th, 2004

Bigger Brains

I read an interesting article today about new developments in understanding human evolution at a genetic level.

' "We tend to think of our species as categorically different, being on top of the food chain," said University of Chicago geneticist Bruce Lahn. "There is some justification for that." '

Always glad to hear that.  I wish someone would tell the sharks.

Anyway, the promising but scary part of the story is that our brains stopped getting bigger because they could barely fit through the birth canal as it stands.  Natural human childbirth is rather risky for the female of the species - riskier than for most mammals.  When was the last time you heard of a dog or cat dying in the process of giving birth?

But these guys think evolution is ready to take place, and make even smarter people with even bigger brains, now that we have solved the birth canal limitation:

'"With the C-section we have just lifted a huge barrier to how big the brain can be," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if in a few hundred years C-sections become almost 100 percent."'

It's scary, to me, to contemplate the possibility that C-sections will become the only safe way to give birth.  But, if it confers survival advantage, maybe it's worth it.  C-sections are amazingly safe nowadays.

Surgeons who brought to perfection
The modern Caesarean-section,
May have opened the door
To our brains getting more
Gigantic by natural selection.