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10 Quirks Of Evolution That Are Ruining Your Life –

 

Evolution is pretty amazing. In the words of the great Carl Sagan, everything you see around you is a result “of the things that hydrogen atoms do, given 15 billion years of cosmic evolution.”

Without evolution, you’d be less than pond slime and you certainly wouldn’t have those handy opposable thumbs that let you do everything from peel bananas to do up your fly. The sheer majesty of the natural world around us is testament to its awe-inspiring power.

So if evolution is such a good thing, then why does you back hurt like bloody murder all the time, why has your waistline ballooned and what exactly is the deal with childbirth?

Surely, if anything was going to dissuade you from the idea that you’re the pinnacle of human evolution, it’s a long hard look in the mirror.

Well, contrary to popular belief, evolution isn’t a perfect process. Evolution isn’t a designer, always striving for perfection, it’s more like a mad scientist trying to make a device on the fly for an unknown purpose whilst blindfolded.

As a result, the end product is a bit of a jumbled mess. It works, but in a bit of a roundabout way and there are definitely a few features that would be taken out in beta testing.

10. We Fear Injections Because Of Bees…

Walt Disney Pictures

Nobody likes getting injections (or “shots” as you hip Americans call them) and it is estimated that as much as 20% of the population have a fear of needles, with up to half of those having developed into a full blown phobia. Seeing as, really, they don’t actually hurt that much, why are so many people bugging out about it?

Well, the answer is most likely just that: Bugs.

Back in the good old days (before we started doing absurd things like injecting ourselves with pathogens) when humans were still living in trees, one of the biggest risks to our health that we faced was being bitten or stung by the creepy crawlies who were also living in those trees.

The bites from the little critters weren’t painful in themselves, in much the same way as injections, but the potential deadly effects of their venom spelt a whole load of trouble for early man and we came to identify the sensation of being bitten as a Bad Thing.

This is why getting an injection is such a deeply unpleasant experience, beyond any superficial pain you might feel. Believe it or not, there’s just something not quite right about pumping a foreign substance directly into one’s flesh. Who knew?

9. The Proximity Of Your Urethra To Your Rectum

Warner Bros. Television

The absurdity of putting “a playground next to a sewage system” has been well rolled over in the realms of comedy, but it doesn’t make it any less true, or any less annoying.

On the sexy side of things, having these two crucial yet different parts of your anatomy in the same neighbourhood opens you up to a world of “wrong hole” possibilities. Not to mention the fact that a topsy turvy move such as the 69 (or whatever you kids are calling it these days) could well result in one or both parties ending up with a butthole perched delicately on the tip of their nose. Although, depending on what you’re into, this could be a good or bad thing.

On the unsexy side of things, your pee-pee and your poophole being such best buds puts you at high risk of infection because, incase you didn’t know, butts are dirty.

The bacteria from your rectum can be easily transferred to your urethra by incorrect wiping technique (front-to-back, ladies), poor hygiene, careless sex or just general bad luck. This coupled with short urethrae can lead to UTIs and bladder infections which, as anyone who has had one will tell you, are literally the worst.

All this said, it’s kinda difficult to think where else it could go. An anus in the palm of your hand is probably not going to be any more pleasant.

8. Bitches Get Stitches

NBC

The dreaded stitch is definitive proof that God never meant for us to do exercise.

You try to be good, buy all the gear, the gym membership, limber up, hop on a treadmill and BLAM a thousand knives made of snakes and hate pierce your side. No thanks.

Experts still can’t seem to agree on what exactly causes a stitch, but they’re pretty sure it’s something to do with the diaphragm (the muscle that sits just below your lungs) and blood flow thereof.

One theory suggests that the expansion of the lungs coupled with the squeezing of your core muscles during exercise can cut of the blood supply to the diaphragm, causing it to spasm. Unfortunately, the nerve that supplies the diaphragm also supplies the right arm and chest, meaning that when you get a stitch your body actually thinks that you’re dying of a heart attack.

Another theory is that when we run, our internal organs get jiggled up and down so much by the impacts that the connective tissues keeping all your insides on the inside actually tug on the diaphragm.

This is all just confirmation that you should really stay at home and marathon Netflix Originals rather than spending your hard earned cash on pain and unpleasantness at the gym.

7. How The Woman Got Her Period

Fox

If you’ve ever wondered why periods are literally bloody hell then you’ve got evolution to thank for that.

The thing is, most mammals don’t get periods, and it actually makes loads of sense. What possible evolutionary advantage could there be to spend a week out of every month in excruciating pain, at the mercy of your hormones and leaving a nice little scent trail for predators whilst you’re at it? The answer is pretty complicated but completely fascinating.

Due to the extreme pressures of survival during our evolution, humans are one of the few species with something called a “hemochorial” placenta. Whereas most mammals’ placentas have a nice little buffer between them and their developing foetus, the “hemochorial” placenta is a different beast. It literally rips through the blood vessels in the walls of the uterus and wires itself directly into the bloodstream of the mother. This allows the foetus pretty much unlimited access to the resources it needs to fully develop, it can even control her blood sugar.

For this reason, a human pregnancy is an enormous investment from the mother’s perspective, it could even kill her. This means that the mother doesn’t want to waste her precious time and resources on a weakling foetus, which is where the periods come into it.

We’re often taught that the womb lining is there as some kind of cosy welcome mat for the incoming foetus but in reality, far from rolling out the red carpet, the womb lining is actually a brutal testing ground designed to destroy all but the strongest foetuses.

However, if it does succeed in stamping out a sub-par foetus, we’re then left with the age old problem of what to do with the body. If it is allowed to sit in the uterus then it could lead to infection, so the best thing to do is haul it all out and start again.

And this, dear friends, is how the woman got her period.

6. Childbirth Hurts And Babies Are Idiots

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Hey speaking of horrible reproduction, what the hell is up with childbirth?

Most of the animal kingdom can merrily gallop about, running away from predators and eating grass until they’re basically in labour, whereupon they will drop a litter in the middle of the night and they will all be on their feet in time for breakfast. So it doesn’t seem fair that human childbirth can be such an arduous, painful and deadly process.

And to cap it all off, when we do eventually get the baby out, it’s a gibbering idiot for the first few years of its life. What gives?

This is what is known as the Obstetrical Dilemma.

When humans first went from walking on four legs to walking on two legs, the shape of our pelvis changed in order to accommodate our new-found bipedalism. This happened at roughly the same time as we were developing our big, clever brains, meaning that our heads had to get bigger in order to accommodate them. The two events could even be related, as walking on two legs freed up our hands for tool-making and communication, gradually transforming us into a thinking species.

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that it’s now a right old squeeze to get the bonny babe’s bonce out of your foof. So much so that we actually have to give birth to our young before they’re quite finished, otherwise their heads would be even bigger and they would just split their mothers down the middle.

This means that their underdeveloped brains cause them to loll about uselessly for months after birth, compared to the newborn lamb that is happily gambolling about the field within minutes.

5. Bad Backs

Marvel

Many of our problems as humans seem to have come from the stupid decision to walk on two legs.

Your bad back is a result of taking a spine that was used to climbing and swinging through the trees, and stacking it vertically. Furthermore, in order to keep our balance and not screw up our insides too much, the spine took on its characteristic “S” shape.

This all creates an immense amount of pressure on your spinal column, causing that nagging pain. The good news is that it’s only going to get worse over time, whoopee. According to the experts, with the correct amount of exercise and management, you’ll probably be able to maintain a relatively healthy back until you hit your 40s, then its all downhill from there, no matter what you do.

In even better news, it also knacks your knees and gives you crippling arthritis. Thanks, evolution, you’re a real pal.

With the bad back being one of the leading causes of lost work hours, maybe we have evolution to thank for crippling our economy as well as our spinal columns.

4. Posthensile Toes

20th Century Fox

Thumbs. They’re pretty great. They allow you to open jars, grip the monkeybars and give the thumbs up when something super wicked cool happens.

We usually view our opposable thumbs as proof that we are in fact on a higher evolutionary plane than the rest of the animal kingdom but, in reality, we’re actually a couple of thumbs down from our closest primate relatives.

Before we did that whole walking on two legs thing, we were all the proud owners of a set of prehensile toes. These allowed us to grip things with our feet, but were unfortunately an unmitigated disaster in the world of bipedal balance.

However, if we had somehow figured out a way of walking upright without having to make the trade-off with our super thumb-toes, just imagine how useful it would be.

Imagine that you’re carrying two cups of hot tea and you come across a closed door. It’s a “pull” door. No problem, just whip out your toe-thumb and pull that mother open. It would also be a total game changer in activities such as knitting and rock climbing.

Don’t be too down on your poor old posthensile big toe, though, because it really does do a marvellous job of keeping you upright at all the important moments.

3. Teeth

Columbia Records

Most people will have trouble with their wisdom teeth and many will have to have them removed altogether – it’s basically a rite of passage at this stage.

Even if you don’t, then you will have most likely spent many of your most awkward teenage years with a mouthful of metal in an attempt to straighten out those smooshed up teeth of yours.

This is because our mouths are basically not big enough for all of our teeth. As we evolved larger and larger brains, we needed bigger craniums to keep them in. In order to accommodate this, our skulls basically nicked space from the jaw and facial bones to make room, but it all happened so quickly that we never got rid of those extra teeth.

Perhaps this wasn’t so much of a problem back in the days when you were more likely to get a couple of teeth knocked out in a fight with a mammoth, or maybe all of our ancestors were just buck-toothed dorks, but our heads are just not big enough for all our pearly whites.

The real irony, of course, is that once your get your mouthful of gnashers, all jostling for space, that’s it, there are no more on their way. Unlike sharks, with their rolling conveyor belt of teeth, once prehistoric man lost all of his teeth then it was basically mammoth soup or starve to death.

2. You’re So Judgey

Logo TV

Nobody likes a hypocrite but, unfortunately, it’s just in our nature. It is what is known as the fundamental attribution error.

Generally speaking, humans will mercilessly criticise others for their perceived failings, but will excuse the same behaviour in ourselves. Despite the fact that we learn that other people are separate humans with their own agency when we’re toddlers, our brains don’t actually seem to get the hang of it at all. This means we tend to apply our own current circumstances to other people and find it very difficult to really, truly be able to walk a mile in another’s shoes.

If somebody else is drunkenly running around the city centre singing nursery rhymes, it’s because they’re an inebriated idiot and a symbol of Broken Britain, but if you do it then it’s obviously because you’re a zany and exuberant raconteur who is just having a good time.

There are many theories as to why we do this, but it basically seems to boil down to our tendency to try and spot patterns and order in the world. This is basically a shortcut your brain uses to try and understand the world with as little effort as possible. For this reason, when somebody behaves in a way that is inappropriate to the situation as you perceive it, your brains puts this in the “wrong” category rather than attempting to figure out the many different scenarios that could have led to it.

In short, you’re a judgemental ass, but it’s okay because everyone else is too.

1. Why You Can’t Stop Eating Ben and Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew

ABC

It’s well known that the human brain is primed to find foods with high energy content delicious. The generally accepted model is that, because sources of sugar and fat were so scarce early on in our evolution that when we come across it we just can’t help guzzling it down until we’re sick and that’s the reason why we’re all fat. Stupid brains, am I right?

Well, not quite. Our brains are much smarter than we give them credit for. Even when presented with a source of sugar or fat, we, and many other animals, will still only eat as much as we need and then stop. Just think about it, you wouldn’t just sit and eat a stick of butter or a bag of sugar for pleasure.

The trouble comes when we mix sugar and fat together, that’s when our self control starts to crumble. This is a combination that can’t be found in nature and, as such, our brains aren’t really equipped to deal with it.

Fat and sugar, mixed together in a rough 50/50 split, produces an effect in the body similar to cocaine or alcohol addiction. Incidentally, the mixture of 50% fat and 50% sugar is basically the recipe for New York cheesecake. Or a glazed doughnut. Or ice cream. Or any other sweet treat that is totally delicious.

Your brain evolved to handle either fat or sugar at once, but once we started messing around with our diets the poor thing became all confused and that, in a nutshell, is why you’re fat.

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