Tuesday, August 28, 2007

U? Genes? Yikes!

Eugenics -- the concept I've been pretty intrigued with lately. Eugenics is a social philosophy which advocates the improvement of human hereditary traits through various forms of intervention. [Wikipedia]

Since I was old enough to remember, I've heard my mom say, "Our ancestors weren't fools. There is a meaning behind everything." But it's only now that the ingeniousness of such ancestors is slowly dawning on me. When parents talk of the ideal "match" for their children and go about digging into details such as caste/sub caste/the complexion of the bride/the education/the "family status"/the height/the "health" of the family/"bad" habits/not wearing "specs"/long hair/... (and substitute a million other such details), it is for a REASON. And the underlying reason being, "Can my daughter and your son successfully mate with each other to produce the best possible offspring/s to carry on the proud torch of our family tree and hereditary and thus improve the overall quality of human kind?"

Crassly put, but that's the philosophy that our ancestors started with and after a while people "forgot" why, but as is our custom, continued to blindly follow them. The basic core instinct of animals is to procreate and survive - Male instinct being to procreate and the females' to nurture and help survival. It is extremely interesting to take on a more "objective and intelligent" approach to making sure evolution works right and the quality of the human race is improved through Eugenics.

Therefore, a handsome man marrying a not-so-goodlooking girl causes a serious threat to the next generation being either not good looking at all, or mediocre - this is a setback to the race that begins with this new human being. A more serious concern for us is intelligence. A smart person marrying a dumb person causes a mediocre output. Whereas if the smart married the smart the output would be super smart!! And if such a super smart guy married another such super smart girl then the output would be Super dooper smart!! And so on...

Of course I have my opinions on this match making logic again... and it's a debate many intellectuals and scientists have been having. If only the smart should marry the smart, what about us dim wits? Are they doomed cruelly because of "survival of the fittest" rule? I would think it makes more sense for smarts and dim wits to be paired so the outcome would be relatively smart, than getting a pool of super smarts and an equal pool of dim wits struggling to survive and not contributing much to the progress the "super smarts" want to make. Such a huge disparity would be much worse to progress (my belief, with not much proof for now).

That said, it's not much of a surprise when our parents try to quantify "intelligence" with academic degrees and want to match a person with equal or higher number of degrees as compared to their girl. Why is it mandatory for the groom to have an equal or better degree? This could be seen as perpetuation of patriarchal ways of society, but looking closely a better "degree" translates to a "good job", and a good job translates to ability to "bring in more food" and provide a nurturing environment (the job the male hunter). Family status is again a measure of the family's ability to provide the right nourishment, opportunities and education for the child to cultivate the traits we look for.

I wonder if we humans still act on such core instincts. In reality human relationships/marriages are intended to last much longer than just bringing in the new generation, and it wields a complicated web of emotions and needs. Making a relationship work demands a whole new set of criteria, than relying on those deemed fit for the offspring/s that are born. I choose to believe that we have evolved to a state (after all these centuries) where our concern for procreation is probably being replaced by the need for companionship.

Yet, I'm not sure if at some level, our attractions to certain types of people whom we consider as good partners are related to the essential traits we want to pass onto our kids (the core female instinct of caring for the unborn offspring). Each of us have some basic requirements for choosing our life partner. Although it's not as explicit as us thinking of a child and then validating our partner's traits, subconsciously it may have seeped in. Do those core instincts still determine such decisions... as subtle as their influence is?

For example, I suck in Maths. I am so bad at it, that all through my life it has been my greatest sorrow and disadvantage. I have always thought that being good at maths/science was a great boon, you could excel professionally and comfortably take on a well paid job, as opposed to those of us who need to struggle and get used to their technical positions. And during these challenging times, I've wished that if at all I had a kid, s/he should be smart in Mathematics.

I'm not sure if that's why I undoubtedly get impressed with people who are good at Maths/programming/Science. I don't know if it's because I'm impressed with people who can do something that I struggle to, or if it's some other common quality that is the primary reason. But it's interesting nonetheless to ponder if subconsciously we take into account both the aspect of "companionship for a life time" as well as "how effective can the next generation get."