Oct

19

To avoid the new flu virus it is advisable to use plastic cutlery and absolutely distrust any metal cutlery, especially when eating out. — Dr. Janice Dorn

If I might interject for a moment I suggest that eating with plastic cutlery at restaurants is likely to inhibit one's chances to mate. — GM Nigel Davies

All of which might provide grist for an exercise in natural selection, by way a classic model which simulates the population changes over the last few centuries of the peppered moths of Manchester, England.

The theory is that as the Industrial Revolution generated more and more pollution, the darker-colored peppered moths came to predominate over their lighter-colored counterparts because they were better genetically equipped to blend in against the increasingly soot-covered trees upon which they rested. Thus, the lighter-colored peppered moths were more visible targets to the birds that preyed on them.

Over the course of time, and pursuant to the classical principles of natural selection, this would obviously lead to predominant traits in the overall peppered moth population. Conversely, as pollution was rolled back in more environmentally conscious times, the trait pendulum swung back as the lighter-colored peppered moths would now have a more level playing field on which to survive.

One could download such a simulator from the kind folks at Northwestern and illustrate exactly how this phenomenon works. It's both very straight-forward and quite easy to use, and I've found it very empirically educational to anybody trying to better understand the ebb and flow of Darwinism.

So for our purposes here, we'll think of the h1n1 virus as the pollution, and for our disparately colored peppered moths, we'll borrow an Odd Couple from popular culture, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. I think everyone would agree, that communicable virus or no communicable virus, the fastidious Felix would have no problem with bringing his own plastic cutlery to dinner at the Four Seasons. Whereas, the slovenly Oscar would sooner wipe his mouth with his necktie than yield to such a precautionary measure.

We'll suppose that Oscar represents the lighter-colored moths, and Felix, the darker. So by ratcheting up the pollution levels (h1n1) by using the Pollute-World button on the simulator, look over on the right to what happens to the Oscar/Felix stasis. Neuroses becomes a survival trait. Conversely, as the virus fades by way of the Clean-Up-World button, look what happens to Oscar's slob-by survival chances as the environment becomes incrementally more antiseptic. Equilibrium returns.


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