x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Bring back the brutish

David Attenborough says human evolution has stopped. Does it mean life ought to be more like Hobbes propounded: nasty, brutish and short?

Nasty, brutish and short. That was 17th Century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes's famous dictum about the inherent nature of life if not for the intervention of civilising influences.

That meant life was not much fun for our ancient forebears, but from an evolutionary point of view it meant that those who survived ensured successive generations were smarter and hardier than those who went before.

Now few people in the developed world - and especially in the UAE -face such challenges. Life is pleasant, civilised and long. The average lifespan is almost twice the 40 or so years it was when Hobbes wrote Leviathan, thanks to advances in health care and social support.

But that comes at its own cost. David Attenborough, the world's most famous natural history broadcaster, expounded this week that the weak now survive, removing the influence of natural selection with the result that humans have stopped evolving.

What does all this mean? Will it doom us, as daytime television broadcasting would seem to imply, to become a world of simple-minded weaklings? But really do we need life to be a little nastier and more brutal.