Arsenic and Old Lace
Jason Giambi and Babe Ruth wore the same uniform. Babe probably weighed a little more but they both played relatively the same role. Their job was to smack the hell out of a baseball. There’s no denying that Babe was much better at this job but you also wonder if Giambi were magically transported back in time, would he have had the same type of career.
The point here is that evolution makes comparison difficult. Jim Thorpe was a great running back. But would he even be competitive in today’s game? Technology, nutrition, education. All of these aspects contribute to the evolution of the game and I believe it’s safe to say that they contribute to our own personal evolution as well.
Sometimes evolution takes a scary turn, though. For instance, in football the evolution of the game has led to increased speed and power but our skulls haven’t gotten any thicker and our brains haven’t developed any more cushioning. Sure, helmet technology has mitigated some of the risk but the increased incidence of concussions and the NFL’s crackdown on hits to the head shows that sometimes evolution has downsides.
It’s also a little scary when evolution decides to use the fundamental building blocks at hand and go in a totally different direction. There are more benign instances like the devolving paths taken by baseball and cricket. But there are also truly frightening paths like when organisms decide to incorporate previously deadly substances into a new recipe for survival.
I’m not saying that this is the end of life as we know it any more than a pitcher throwing the ball 105 MPH is the end of baseball as we know it. Evolution and adaptation require a long-term view, not some sort of immediate, knee-jerk reaction. But I sure hope the arsenic monsters don’t come after me.