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JulyDiaz

EPISODE 81 — A Genealogy of Modern Fear

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If you turn on the TV or scroll through Facebook for any short period of time, it seems like we're consumed with fear. There's always a new airborne virus or a new piece of legislature destined to sink the country into Purge-like anarchy, not to mention the sharks, snakes and spiders that have been trying to kill us for millennia.

 

It's easy to place the blame on media in the 21st century, but fear mongering is no recent addition to the human experience. You can go back through history and trace all sorts of fears through the written word. Where now our movies depict zombies, alien invasions and nuclear wars, medieval literature spoke of demons, hellfire and apocalypse scenarios more fitting to the times.

 

This week Jack O'Brien is joined by Kristi Harrison and Michael Swaim to tackle everything related to how we experience fear in the 21st century: what fears we can blame on evolution and what fears we can blame on society, whether it's true to say we're more afraid now than ever before and what our most common fears say about us as a species.

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I agree with 95% of what you guys say on the podcast, but human evolution and natural selection doesn't just happen when we are "in the food chain" so to speak. Human evolution in the traditional sense is still occurring.

 

For example, natural selection has been responsible for the lessening occurence of congenital diseases, as well as mutations that are effective against viruses and bacteria (and even parasites, such as Africans developing genes that make them resistant to malaria, which is an ongoing process).

 

Another would be the general loss of wisdom teeth in humans that is still occuring as a result of humans chewing softer, more easily masticated foods.

 

Another is the plantaris muscle, which is a muscle in the foot that makes it easier to grasp and hold objects. Even though the majority of people still have it, the numbers are dropping of the people who do (9% of people don't now).

 

Lactose tolerance is still developing in humans (started 3,000-5,000 years ago). Some people still don't have the ability to produce lactase (enzyme which breaks down lactose).

 

Scientists are arguing over whether exposure to smallpox or the plague has led to a number of the population being resistant to HIV.

 

Research shows that our brains are shrinking gradually, making our brains more efficient (still happening) (interconnectivity of neurons has been shown to increase intellect instead of total mass of gray matter).

 

Even if some of these claims turn out to be false, there are many other examples. I'm really disappointed that you guys went with popular opinion on this matter instead of doing a simple Google search of "ongoing human evolution" and reading the research. It's funny to me because scientists say we are actually evolving at a more rapid pace than at any other time in history. Please address this somehow because you are spreading misinformation, and it's really hard to listen to. Otherwise, I love the podcast. Thanks, I hope you actually read this. If you would like to tell me how stupid I am, you can e-mail me at topher5k@yahoo.com

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Sid, I got an account on these forums just to upvote your comment - I left a very similar but less eloquent one on the soundcloud for this podcast before realizing that place is a cesspool no one is likely to read. Popped in here (my science degree makes me feel much stronger about these things than I probably should) and was very pleased to see you've already written in the examples I had plus an extra one (plantaris muscles I heard about once in an anthropology elective a million years ago and promptly forgot).

 

All that to say: you're awesome. Hooray science education!

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Thanks for a genuinely enjoyable discussion. My only request (and I know it must be difficult when everyone isn't in the same room), but PLEASE don't just talk over each other. In particular, women tend to get steamrolled mid-sentence because another person has a zinger they just can't wait to say. Voices are like Justin Bieber with texting - it can wait.

But overall - love the show.

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