Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Welcome to Planet LaLa (a fully licenced subsidiary of Virgin Galactic)

Oh dear, what would we do without the British press! Both The Independent and The Telegraph bring us a deeply welcome, indeed essential, piece of news that otherwise would have slipped under our radar: Finally, after all these years, a German TV station will air (dubbed, of course) versions of 'Allo 'Allo.

With due thanks to Tony Paterson of The Independent for that excruciatingly witty headline "'Allo, 'Allo to invade German Screens". My midriff still hurts from all that laughing. You haff vays off mayking us laff indeed. (As the new Citroen ad says, very German.)

Thanks a bunch for this hyper-relevant info. We really have other problems to deal with over here at the moment. There is not only the major leadership crisis currently rocking the SPD. We also have the continuing drama around the polar bear infant 'Flocke' (who is three months old and being weaned off the bottle).

But going beyond the zoo into the human freak-show department, we also have our own, (in)famous incestuous couple, who are intermittently featured at Der Spiegel -- that stalwart defender of those poor people who claim to be victims of that harsh, terrible, inhumane system called "The Welfare State."

In an article about the upcoming decision by the Federal Constitutional Court as to whether this couple -- brother and sister, who are not only deeply enamoured of one another, but who have also sealed their love by producing four (!) children -- should be punished for their luv, the mildly defensive author goes beyond a perhaps understandable sympathy into the realm of scientific illiteracy.

According to Dietmar Hipp, abhorrence of incest is merely a culturally specific artefact of "an evolutionary dread" turned into a "powerful taboo," and does not deserve its illegal status. Apparently seeing evolutionary influences on our psychology as a bit old hat, he calls upon the mythical Oedipus, the French Revolution (though no Robespierre in sight) and Sigmund Freud to vouch for the legitimacy of these blood-crossed lovers. (The temptation to label them "Bro'Sis" is intense, but we will try to resist...oh, fuck it, never mind, we give in.)

What?!

I'm sorry, the negative reaction to incest is not triggered by some outdated prejudice. It is, rather, a universal phenomenon among humans and (at least most) animals, and it is a sensible natural strategy to keep that ol' gene pool a mixin'. (The results of failing to stir the pot can be scary: just see the royal family.) Amongst people unafraid of scientific ideas, such avoidance of sibling relationships is sustained (with little or no "repressive" cultural input) by what is known as the "Westermarck effect".

But this is not the only popular science clanger dropped today. The New York Times paints a grim apocalyptic scenario for the world. Of course, it's 7.59 billion years hence, but adapting the old boy scout adage, it seems it's never too soon to be prepared.

Not only does the article report about the doom that faces us all (eventually), it also makes all sorts of really neat suggestions about what to do about it. Like, shifting Venus an inch or so to the left and making preparations for colonising other planets (and presto: start catapulting your bottled water up to Mars now. No doubt Richard Branson will soon offer a semi-affordable shuttle service. Having been unable to get the toilets to work on his crappy trains under normal gravitational influences, he now wants to make a big mess in space...)

Which would be all cool and the gang, you know, if there weren't a few billion more problems that are a bit more down to Earth. (I could write headlines for the Independent any day, I tell you.)

Besides which: consider -- just for a moment -- what we're talking about here. 7.59 billion years is something like twice the amount of time that life has so far existed on the Earth. Homo sapiens has been around for all of about 100-150,000 years ago (give or take a few ten thou...).

What makes these geniuses (or anyone else) assume that we're going to be around to watch our planet be "dragged from its orbit by an engorged red Sun and spiral to a rapid vaporous death"?

Is it just me, or is there something breathtakingly arrogant about this?

I'd give us even odds to make it out of the century, let alone the next millennium...

(But, might I be able to interest you in some real estate on Venus? Get it while it's cheap!)

2 comments:

Ario said...

Nothing to add. I just laughed and laughed and laughed.

Please blog every day.

The Wife said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm truly flattered and encouraged to continue to blurt my enraged humour (or humorous rage). Not everyone gets it, you know.

I can't promise to manage it every day, though. Today, the Mail has to suffice.