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Could Humans Develop Blowholes by the Year 4000?

An introduction to fractal evolution

Consider the Dolphin

First of all, we wouldn’t develop gills. Instead, we’d have blowholes because that is what happened to one of our ancestors who eventually evolved into dolphins. Dolphins evolved from a wolf-like creature 50 million years ago whose nose drifted to the top of its head over the span of 15 million years. That’s right, dolphins have dislocated noses on their heads, and we have the fossil evidence to prove this:

skulls of four ancestral species to dolphins with the nasal opening highlighted showing movement upwards  until finally becoming a blowhole by the fifth skull, that of a dolphin
Evolution of whales (source)
photo of dolphin
Notice dolphins don’t have noses (source)
wolf-like creature spotted like a hyena
(artist’s rendition, source)
manatee-looking creature with a long snout and sharp teeth like a dolphin
Rendition of Rhodocetus (source)

A Quarter-Million Neurons Per Generation

Imagine yourself walking down the street, past random strangers. Everybody has different heights, different gaits, and also different nose positions. It seems like the standard deviation in nose position is 1 cm. Divide that by 16, which is the number of generations separating you from the average person. That means our nose moves up or down 1/16th of a centimeter every generation. If it takes 10 cm to place the nose atop our heads, then multiplied by 16, it should take 160 generations, which if multiplied by 20 years per generation, comes to 3,200 years. By the year 5250, we could become quasi-mermaids.

drawing of a smaller homo erectus skull next to a homo sapiens one
silouhette of an ape crawling, then walking, then two ancestral humans, until finally an upright human

Fractal Evolution

But if you dig into the “rate of evolution” Wikipedia entry, evolution might be a lot trickier than that. There I noticed a new concept from Philip Gingerich, which I call a “fractal rate of evolution,” which makes evolution seem “fast.”

Chart of a wobbly stock (source)

Sexual Recombination vs. Mutation

Human genome sequencing has only been around for two decades, which has limited our imagination to monogenic traits, such as eye color or malaria resistance. I would argue that the most interesting things about us are polygenic. A polygenic trait is one based on multiple genes. I cannot find the exact source where I saw this, but human height seems to be directionally determined by 10,000 genes. Likewise, intelligence is extremely polygenic.

spreadsheet snapshot showing math to figure out neurons at end of sentence



Complete essays from Philosophistry: The Love of Rhetoric

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Philip Dhingra

Author of Dear Hannah, a cautionary tale about self-improvement. Learn more: