Is it possible that God modified the genetic template/the formal cause of humankind about 32 years ago?


#1

Greetings to all of you - I’m honored to be able to join the discussion taking place in this exceptional forum.

I’m aware that what I am going to suggest may sound extremely controversial and speculative, but I’m hoping that you will hear me out with open minds and that we will be able to engage in a fruitful conversation.

To put the matter briefly - over the last decade or so I have become increasingly convinced that the people born from around 1980 to today (and in particular from 1986 to today) look strikingly different from all the previous generations going back to the early days of anatomically modern homo sapiens. More specifically, they look strikingly soft, childish, and almost underdeveloped, despite the fact that the oldest of them are already in their 30s, almost as if they belonged to a different species in the genus homo. What is even more striking is how abruptly this change in appearance came about - not evolutionarily, but revolutionarily, as it can be dated almost to the year (according to my estimations, ~1980 was the beginning of a kind of a transitional period in this regard, while from 1986 onwards only the “new type” is being born). Here are some photographs that may better illustrate what I have in mind, which compare the appearance of young people from past decades to the young people of today:

  1. Actress Sharon Tate at 26 (in 1969)

  2. Actress Eleanor Tomlinson at 26 (in 2018)

  3. Actor Jack Nicholson at 32 (in 1969)

  4. Actor Robert Pattinson at 32 (in 2018)

  5. Musician Janis Joplin at 26 (in 1969)

  6. Musician Selena Gomez at 26 (in 2018)

  7. Muammar Gaddafi at 27 (in 1969)

  8. Mark Zuckerberg at 27 (in 2011)

  9. Actor Peter O’Toole at 30 (in 1962)

  10. Actor Kit Harington at 30 (in 2017)

It’s particularly instructive to open these photographs in separate windows and compare them side by side. As far as I’m concerned, they clearly show that young people of the “old type” look incomparably more mature, well-developed, and - shall we say - dignified. Those of the “new type” look like overgrown children next to them. I believe that the only reason why this phenomenon is not more conspicuous is that currently we have the young people of the “new type” living next to the mature adults and old people of the “old type”, and we naturally assume that the differences in their appearance boil down to natural age differences and nothing apart from that. However, as far as I’m concerned, the above photographs clearly show that this is not the case.

Nor do I believe that my impression can be dismissed on the basis of “differences in lighting”, “differences in fashion” or even “differences in the harshness of living conditions”. The above photographs do not seem to me to be particularly fashion-sensitive or representative of different lighting techniques. And while for the previous generations the living conditions were indeed much harsher, they cannot account for the kind of striking differences in facial structure and overall physiognomic maturity that my evidence appears to demonstrate.

Finally, I do not believe that my sample can be dismissed as biased, since I have been unable to find virtually any counterexamples to my general observation (I know that actors dominate my set of examples, but that is purely because it is difficult to find notable individuals with clearly verifiable birthdates among people below 32 who are anything other than actors, musicians, or sportspeople). I invite you to make some similar comparisons by yourself and see whether you can sincerely deny that the same striking difference occurs over and over again.

In fact, it’s not only about the difference between the appearance of the “old type” and the “new type”, but also about the tone of their respective voices, almost as if their respective vocal chords were built differently. Here is another set of examples:

  1. An interview with actress Carrie Fisher at 20 (in 1977)

  2. An interview with actress Saoirse Ronan at 20 (in 2015)

  3. An interview with director and actor Orson Welles at 23 (in 1938)

  4. An interview with actor Logan Lerman at 24 (in 2016)

  5. An interview with actor Peter O’Toole at 30 (in 1962)

  6. An interview with actor Shia LaBeouf at 30 (in 2016)

Once again, it seems quite striking to me that the voices of the representatives of the “old type” are very mature, deep, and sonorous, while those of the “new type” are invariably high-pitched, squeaky, and tonally “shallow” in comparison. And it seems clear to me that no amount of smoking, drinking or voice coaching could make a representative of the “new type” sound like a representative of the “old type”.

In conclusion, the best way I can describe the situation in order to do justice to my impressions is that it seems almost as if - to use the classical Aristotelian-Thomistic language - God decided to modify the form (or the formal cause) of humans about 40 years ago (my more detailed research on the matter points to the year ~1980 as the beginning of this process and the year 1986 as the final turning point). The material composition of the “old” and the “new” type is clearly the same - biology or any other natural science can recognize no qualitative difference in this context - and yet there is, as far as I’m concerned, a very subtle yet also very striking formal distinction between these two types, which can be demonstrated on the basis of the above examples, and which is, in fact, more easily demonstrable than describable. And since I can think of no purely “natural” factors (of, for instance, environmental character) that could explain the emergence of this new “formal type”, especially in view of its simultaneously radical and subtle discontinuity with the old “formal type”, I have to conclude that this phenomenon bears the hallmarks of a direct providential intervention, perhaps similar to the one that lead to the revolutionary emergence of behaviorally modern homo sapiens tens of thousands of years ago.

Furthermore, I believe that this “formal modification” has already led to some wide-ranging and significant psychological and cultural ramifications. The so-called “millennial generation” - roughly overlapping with what I described above as the “new type” - has been widely characterized as unprecedentedly infantile, emotionally immature, prone to psychological breakdowns, and unwilling to reach the standard “milestones” of adulthood. Again, it might be argued that this is due to the fact they have been pampered by the unprecedented wealth and technological gadgetry unavailable to any of the previous generations. However, such an explanation strikes me as inadequate and incomplete at best. My personal explanation is that this is exactly the kind of psychological profile that one might expect of individuals whose “formal constitution” appears so soft, childish, and fragile as compared with the “formal constitution” of the “old type”. This, in turn, leads me to the belief that the “formal modification” described above might be a kind of providential punishment reminiscent of the one meted out to humankind in the Tower of Babel episode (I do not treat the story of the Tower of Babel in the most crudely literal sense, but I believe that it was a real historical episode endowed with particular moral and spiritual signifcance). In other words, I believe that it might be case that by creating this new both physically and psychologically infantilized “formal type” of humans God may intend to slow down the material and technological development of human civilization in order to once again teach humankind a lesson in humility (or even prevent its self-destruction). Such a conclusion is, of course, even more controversial and speculative than the claim that the “formal modification” that I described above really did happen, so I shall refrain from drawing any detailed civilizational and cultural predictions from it. However, in view of all of my aforementioned observations, I believe that the times we are living in bear the hallmarks of striking providential activity in the ambit of the “formal aspects” of human nature.

As the interpretation of the adduced evidence ultimately depends on what I regard as one’s ability to notice exceedingly subtle differences in the formal (again, in the specialized Aristotelian-Thomistic sense) aspects of human appearance and behavior, I realize that my observations and conclusions may prove unpersuasive to the majority of you. However, I would be very grateful for the opportunity to discuss these matters with you, for your suggestions as to why and how I might be mistaken in them, and - if you do believe that I am right - what are the wider consequences of the historically unique (or at least very rare) phenomenon I’m describing.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

Hello, Enk – that’s quite an opening post! And I must admit my eyes glazed over a bit and I started skimming after the first half-dozen paragraphs or so. Generally I think you’ll get more readers and more traction if you can provide shorter summaries. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this, and so I sympathize with your compulsion to not leave out any detail.

To say that God stepped in for a special genetic transformation about 30 years ago is quite the extraordinary claim, to put it mildly. So while I haven’t examined all the evidence you present, I’m pretty sure you’ll find this to be an impossible sell, based as it is on the subjective impressions of selected appearances. Methinks that the advent of small portable devices and our preoccupations with staying indoors with them probably goes a long way toward explaining the explosive appearance of ever more pale flab in the last couple of decades.

All that said – welcome to the forum! You might get some interesting reactions here. Make sure you are familiar with the recently updated guidelines. It does include the new imperative to make sure posts tie into at least one or the other of either theology or mainstream science (or better yet both).


(Laura) #3

Hi, Enk. Welcome to the forum – not really sure where to start with this post though.

I don’t see anything at all surprising in the assertion that celebrities in one generation will look different than celebrities in other generations. “We the people” ultimately decide who gets to be famous by who we pay the most attention to, and at different times in history, different facial/vocal/body type categories will win out over others, leading to trends and copycats. It has nothing to do with the biology of the population and everything to do with popularity.

So, no, I see absolutely nothing that would persuade me of the wild conclusions you’ve drawn from some minor observations of a select few famous people. I’m a millennial, and I don’t agree that me and my generation are “infantile, emotionally immature, prone to psychological breakdowns, and unwilling to reach the standard ‘milestones’ of adulthood” just because we were born in a certain time period. It would be possible to just turn the assertion back on previous generations, but there would be no point to that. I just don’t see that the biological assertions here make any sense, much less the spiritual ones on top of that.

[with edits]


(Christy Hemphill) #4

Welcome to the forum.

A lot of your pictures just look like white people who did not grow up with mothers who enforced SPF 30 sunscreen rules.

I work in Mexico with an indigenous people group and people in their thirties do not look soft or young. But they spend their days out in the fields in the weather or cooking tortillas over smoky fires. And no one is wearing makeup or using retinol A skin cream.

A demographic known to select for looks and invest large quantities of money into plastic surgery and spa treatments specifically designed to keep them young looking. How does your research figure this in? Could it be that cultural standards of beauty continue to skew younger and younger and those individuals that are selected for acting roles fit this cultural standard? It would be much more convincing if you could take a random sampling of several hundred candid Facebook photos (to avoid the interference of various filters) and find a similar thing, but I doubt you would. Unless you have a random sample, you are subject to confirmation bias skewing your observations and only noticing the ones that fit your expectations.

I’m a linguist by profession. Believe it or not, ways of talking go in and out of fashion. An example in American would be uptalk, where statements sound like questions, a very popular thing with the young folks not too long ago. Currently linguists are studying the phenomenon of increased “creaky voice” or “vocal fry” among young people. http://time.com/5006345/what-is-vocal-fry/

It has nothing to do with the physiology of vocal chords. All humans can talk with creaky voice. In fact, in some languages, it makes the difference between phonemes, but I won’t bore everyone with a further linguistic tangent.

This isn’t true. Voices can be trained and a lot of how we talk is due to socialization. There is a whole consulting business dedicated to helping people (especially women) train their voices to be perceived as more positive, as was mentioned in that Time article I linked above. Your negative evaluation of young people’s voices is a socially conditioned response, not necessarily an objective one.

Just in the English-speaking West? It doesn’t look like you have checked out the Global South or East. Why would God modify humans only in zones with similar cultures and the same language?

Maybe because the changes you note are tied to cultural constructs, not biology. Cultural constructs (about what is beautiful, socially advantageous, etc.) are powerful shapers of human preferences and behavior.

Stereotypes not necessarily based on reality I might add. And again, in the Global South and East, you don’t have the same generational distinctions as in America. You are making claims about the entire human species. Why are you generalizing one culture to the whole planet? I think most of the generational characteristics of American millennials make a lot of sense given the prevailing parenting styles, educational culture, employment opportunities and economic situation they find themselves in, in the American cultural context. Again, things are very different in other countries and the same generalizations don’t hold. That means they are sociologically, not biologically conditioned.


(Phil) #5

Fascinating to learn about vocal fry. As to the change in people, as you get older, college students look like junior high kids, your new doctor looks like he should be flipping burgers at McDonalds, and you notice your pastor has acne. In other words, people have not changed, but your perspective has.


#6

People can change what they sound like; actors do it all the time. But how about this Brian Esposito guy singing all parts of Beauty and the Beast by himself!


(Randy) #7

Enk,

I’m not a moderator, but welcome. I like to visit with these nice folks. What do you think of this link?

Thanks. Blessings.


(Christy Hemphill) #8

This is why hymnals that were published fifty years ago are set in keys the most women nowadays can’t sing because their voices are deeper. But when you set music to be comfortable for an alto to sing melody, it is out of the range for most men to sing comfortably an octave lower. So worship pastors are in a bit of a bind trying to find arrangements the whole congregation can sing.


(Randy) #9

Christy, is there nothing you don’t know about already? Wow, neat insight. That was actually a stunner to me to read that.

Blessings on your work.


(Christy Hemphill) #10

Ha! It only seems that way because when I am procrastinating I read NPR’s website and follow very random internet bunny trails, and my memory is defective in that I remember fairly useless trivia but cannot for the life of me consistently remember my own cell phone number or what year my kids were born.


(Randy) #11

Well, you could have a worse source of knowledge than NPR!


#12

People changed there ways of appearing in photos over the years also. In early days people most often did not smile or make funny faces when getting there pictures taken.

Of course it was new fangled thing then and maybe a big deal for them. I can understand Indians not smiling as there were and oppressed peoples.

Also beards and long hair were more common for many centuries, then that changed to short hair and no beards, at least with those cultures of peoples who have more facial hair.

Someone else mentions suntan lotions is more in use. Cortisone ingestion or shots is more common. There is so many things that exist in last 50 years for that can directly affect humans body.

They still use in south Africa DTT mosquito killer that caused all the baby deformities. They prefer to take there chances with DTT rather than the more common malaria infections.

Estrogen, testosterone, melatonin are just 3 of the more common hormones that most most humans have access to that they most could not commonly get 10, 20 3o or so years ago.

Then there is the browning of humanity as more and more races mix.

Hair dyes is another more commonly acceptable application to human body and who knows what effects that may have over generations. As I best recall late 70’s 80’s were the punk generation and hair coloring became very popular then and we see it carried over in todays peoples.

My sister recently sent me a photo of her with purple hair. I was speechless. :hushed: and she is older woman, not a 70 or 80’s gen.


(Christy Hemphill) #13

Have you seen commericials or professional sports lately? There’s hardly a clean-shaven face to be found.


#14

Yes cultures change and humans appear to repeat history. 40’s, 50’s 60’s sports had no long hair. They also had no trans-sexuals. They did have at least one from that time he recently became a trans-sexual.

So again, hormones has affected the way he-she looks. Soy has become much more popular in last 30 years and it is plant based estrogen{ hormone }.

Better nutrition has not only led longer lives for humans it has, on average, led to taller humans over the centuries.

And on the other end of that we have the rise of fast food that has led too higher obesiity on average. Not to mention diabetes etc that are increase in some places of plenty{ too much }.

Then is the every day thing that Fuller liked-to point out, we are not the same person we were yesterday. I once had black hair now I have white hair.

I once had hair on my head now I have less. So on and so on.

There are so many environmental conditions that have potential to alter humans genome.

Genetic manipulation{ franken-fish } ionizing radiation, hormones, less ozone, more micro-waves, etc.


#15

I would think that what you are describing would have shown up in several population studies where scientists sequenced the DNA of parents and their children. What we saw were the expected random mutations. In other words, they aren’t seeing children being born with the same mutations. A Google search for “family trio mutation rate” will find plenty of papers for you to peruse. Here are links to a few:

It would also be pretty easy to sequence the genomes of humans who lived 100 or 200 years ago. I found an article that sequenced the genome of a 4,000 year old Paleo-Eskimo, and I would assume that genome sequence is publicly available for people to study.

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature08835


(Larry Bunce) #16

I have noticed that high school pictures of students from the 1920s look like they are older than more recent ones. I always assumed it was because their clothing and hair styles back then were more similar to the way they look now, but there were real lifestyle differences to account for changing appearances. Before refrigeration and fast transportation, people went without fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter. With shorter lifespans, children were forced to take on more responsibility at an earlier age, which could account for a harder look on their faces. Those changes took place in the first half of the 20th century, but I see my own high school pictures from the mid-60s as looking different from students today.


#17

Here is another very telling example:

This photograph depicts young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip together with the actors who portray their young selves in a recent TV series. As the actors are supposed to impersonate the royal couple, they are supposed to recreate the fashion, the facial expressions, and other relevant characteristics of the age. In other words, here we are comparing likes with likes to as great a degree as possible. Nor can we credibly regard the royal couple in the late 40s as suffering from malnutrition, exposure to hard manual labor, excessive sunlight, etc. So all of the incidental factors can be filtered out in this context.

And yet, still, the original royal couple looks to me not so much older, but strikingly more mature in their appearance - one might even say much harsher, more angular, more finely chiseled. The actors look very soft, childlike, almost doll-like in comparison. This is even more striking giving the fact that the actors here are significantly older than the royal couple in this photo - the Queen is 21, while the actress playing her is 32, the Prince is 26, while the actor playing him is 34. Again, as far as my subjective impressions go, there is clearly a difference here in what I called “formal type” (the actors, born in 1982 and 1984, belong squarely to the “new formal type” as far as my reckoning of the matter goes).

And while I am fully aware that one can always claim that this alleged “formal diference” boils down to the fact that, at the end of the day, the actors are simply different individuals from the persons they portray, they are still expected to be their sufficiently convincing impersonators, and in my estimation they are not - they still look like children playing adults, or young adults playing older adults, even though they are, in fact, biologically older.

Here is yet another telling photograph:

The actress is 32, while the Queen in her coronation photograph is 26. And yet the Queen looks significantly more mature, hard-featured, and serious-faced (even though she is smiling), while the actress looks like a schoolgirl playing with the crown. And, again, one might argue that this is what one might expect of a queen, but one might reply that the actress, if she is to be a good impersonator, should look similarly dignified. And yet she does not, but that’s not her fault - in my estimation, this is simply yet another illustration of the divergence between what I called the “old” and the “new” formal type. Moreover, I find this observation perfectly generalizable - in every period movie that I saw over the last 10 years or so, I found older actors convincing enough in their portrayals of various historical characters, but I couldn’t say the same about the young ones (those born in the 80s and later).

Since this difference is so subtle that most of you seem to be suggesting that I am imagining things (I still don’t think that I am), the relevant genetic difference might be similarly subtle, perhaps invisible as far as our current observational methods go. Thus, I don’t believe that any study of genetic mutations could capture this phenomenon.

Perhaps you would be willing to offer an example of yours that you believe clearly falsifies my observation - i.e., a photograph or a video clip of a person at a certain age born prior to the 80s and a photograph or a video clip of a person at the same age born in the 80s or later (particularly in the latter half of the 80s or later), where you believe that the latter looks visibly older.

I realize how trickly this matter might seem on account of a plethora of possibly intervening factors of environmental or otherwise incidental nature, but - even having taken all these factors into account - I still have a distinct impression that there is something very mysterious going on here. Perhaps you might be able to provide me with a visual and/or audio-visual example to prove me otherwise.


(Laura) #18

The thing about this is that it’s all very subjective. “Looking older” and “looking younger” are things we could all debate til the cows came home and not come to an agreement on, especially if we are in different generations to begin with. I don’t disbelieve that you’re perceiving the differences that you describe. I just don’t buy that there’s anything mysterious about it.

For example, I have to chuckle whenever I see a “period drama” produced in the 80s, because it tends to reflect 80s hairstyles and looks (i.e. “big hair”), even within the historically accurate costuming and sets. That’s because the movies are not produced for the generation they’re portraying – they’re produced for our society and culture right now. It means our preferences are different, not necessarily that major genetic changes have taken place.


(Christy Hemphill) #19

That’s a totally subjective judgment though. I don’t see any marked contrast other than the typical aesthetic difference between “real people” and people made up and photo lit for a tv production. “Looking dignified” is a construct in your mind, not a physical reality. That doesn’t mean you are “imagining things” it just means you are evaluating things based on your own generational socialization, not on genetics or biology. So, the only claims you can legitimately make are sociological ones.

That’s not research and it’s not scientific. It’s the equivalent of throwing out contradictory anecdotes. You haven’t really offered any proof to disprove. You have no random sample, no consistent objective heuristic for what you are identifying in photographs, no actual data to look at. So you have given your opinion that people seem less dignified and more childlike to you. So what? That’s not compelling and certainly not grounds to posit that God must have changed the DNA of the entire species planet-wide in 1986 as judgment on America.


(Phil) #20

And, that was back in the day when the world was black and white.