Sunday, July 30, 2006

But are we happy?

My favorite New Yorker cartoon is the one with two cave dwellers chatting over their campfire. One says to the other: "Something's just not right -- our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range and yet nobody lives past thirty."

That's why it's so good to see this Sunday's N.Y Times ("So Big and Healthy Nowadays, Grandpa Wouldn't Know You") feature Robert W. Fogel's important work on longevity, stature, nutrition, etc.

The article mentions fndings that point to, "what may prove to be one of the most striking shifts in human existence -- a change from small relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable ... The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in human form."

Fogel himself is quoted as citing, "'a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique amolng the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have inhabited the earth.'"

The Times piece does not go so far as to say that it is all about prosperity, economic growth, markets and economic freedom. But then many of its readers might faint.

All of this reminds me of a Times piece at the time of the millenium. One of their features asked many worthies what century they would have preferred to live in. Many opted for the years of the Renaissance. Others chose various other interesting historical periods

Intellectuals say the darndest things.