Lee Kuan Yew on Darwin and breeding

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew

Just one quick follow-up to the last post on Darwin: I was reminded of a controversy from my days in Asia, involving Lee Kuan Yew, the “founding father” of Singapore. (Most Asian controversies seem to involve Lee Kuan Yew, if you look closely enough.)

He had once opined on the truly bizarre situation that humans have created today. Biologically and historically, the “fittest” (most adapted) members of a population are the ones whose genes (alleles) are most represented in future generations. Lee Kuan Yew, perhaps contemplating his own daughter, who was then a neuroscientist as intellectually impressive as she was single, observed that

our brightest women [are] not marrying and [will] not be represented in the next generation. The implications [are] grave.

Some of the fittest among us, in short, are voluntarily opting out of evolution. A biologically suicidal strategy, and thus worthy of study.

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4 thoughts on “Lee Kuan Yew on Darwin and breeding

  1. “……..our brightest women [are] not marrying and [will] not be represented in the next generation. The implications [are] grave……..”.

    While this may be true for women, I don’t think it true for men, the most rich and powerful of whom (eg top businessmen, sportsmen, Hollywood hunks – the ones with the get-go) practise serial monogamy, fathering one or more child with each woman, thereby spreading their genes around more liberally than do us ordinary nine-to-five working slobs.

    But our huge advances in medicine – which enable children to survive into adulthood, but who otherwise wouldn’t but for medicine – may inadvertently be leading to a physical weakening of the human species because more and more people with congenital physical ailments are surviving to spread their genes.

    It’s not for nothing, then, that many science fiction writers depict the denizens of their future imagined societies as mental genii, but physically frail, much frailer than ourselves today.

  2. I think it applies to men as well, to some extent. Just take the last three presidents as examples of “alpha males”. Obama: 2 daughters. Bush: 2 daughters. Clinton: 1 daughter. In past times, they would each have sired hundreds as the Sultans did.

    Regarding any possible “physical weakening of the human species”: Remember the subtlety of Darwin’s insight: It’s not about improvement but about adaptation. Homo erectus probably worried about physical weakening too, and here we are, the weaklings known as Homo Sapiens….

  3. Two things (in two directions).

    1. Does it matter that the fittest of today don’t reproduce? The fittest of tomorrow will succeed with a dash of today’s freaks. Darwin’s Origin of Species is not about animal husbandry. Darwin’s peers already knew about that. Diversity is a key for survival of living matter. This is a segue for my next point.

    2. My boss, who is a woman with a Ph.D. from MIT in nuclear physics and mother of two, was asked to put something I wrote in ‘terms your mother would understand.’ Who’s mother? Of course she was asked to do this by her boss, who is a man. More important than worrying about women not having children is that of women with children leaving science. I think that this is because there is a far greater number of dickheads than great thinkers in science and women, ironically, have more options.

  4. Women definitely have more options nowadays. They’re not always eager to admit it, but they do. We men don’t have a choice. Not really.

    Anyway, tell us about the dickheads some time….

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