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Darwin on Steroids

May 30, 2021 | Trends

On Sept. 20, 2020, a day before his 22nd birthday, Tadej Pogačar, a Slovenian cyclist, became the second-youngest rider ever to win the Tour de France. Pogačar trails only Henri Cornet, who was 19 years old when he won the second-ever Tour de France in 1904.

The early 1900s was a radically different era. The average lifespan then was 49 years. That means Henri Cornet had only lived to 39% of his potential lifespan. By 2020, the average lifespan for Western Europeans was 79 years, so Tadej Pogačar had reached 28% of his contemporary lifespan. That could perhaps explain his remarkable victory.

However, another explanation might involve the modern sciences that allowed a 43-year-old quarterback to defeat a 24-year-old one in Super Bowl 2021. For decades, professional cycling has been rife with rumors that performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are enabling athletes to record feats never achieved before, like Lance Armstrong winning his fifth Tour de France in 2003.

Whether due to artificial means or merely environmental factors, like the modern diet, there’s no question that the human body has changed markedly over the past century. One glance at photographs from the 1920s and 1930s shows how much human physiology has evolved in a relatively brief period. Football players, in particular, have increased notably in size. We’re compressing human evolution. You might call it “Darwin on Steroids.”

The evolution of American football players, see featured image, clearly shows the “Darwin on Steroids” effect. The U.S. is breeding their favorite gladiators bigger and stronger to better compete in their quasi “sudden death” matches.

Although one might argue that the physical attributes of people merely mirror changing cultural attitudes, a casual stroll by your nearest high school confirms that major body transformations are well underway.

The first thing you would notice is that today’s high school kids are taller than ever before. That observation is backed by two studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men and women alike have added an inch since 1960, with the average American woman now standing 5-foot-4 (1.62 m) and the average male reaching 5-foot-9 (1.76 m).

But evolutionary changes go beyond height:

  • Bust size – Japanese women’s bust sizes are increasing. Women in their 20s wear bras at least two sizes larger than their mothers, reports Wacoal, Japan’s largest lingerie company. And they’re not alone. The same is true in the U.K. Since the 1920s, British women’s busts have grown four inches (10cm), going from a B cup to a C, and some, like bra maker Bravissimo, believe the average British bra size is closer 34E.
  • Hip measurement – In May 2007, The Wall Street Journal noted that the average Japanese woman’s hips, at 35 inches (89cm), are an inch wider than those of women a generation ago. In the U.K., the average 11-year-old girl has a hip measurement of 32 inches (82cm), compared to 31 inches (78cm) in 1978.
  • Shoe size – In the past 20 years, the shoe size of the average American woman has grown a full size to an 8 or 9, up from a 7 or 8. More than one-third of women now wear a size nine or larger, up from 11% in 1987, The NPD Group noted in July 2004. Two trends are influencing this phenomenon, women are generally taller and now carry more weight, in the form of computers, mobile phones, and the like, requiring better balance.
  • Growing up too fast – Another aspect of today’s adolescents is their tendency to “grow up too fast,” which is a recurring complaint of parents these days. A survey conducted by U.K. firm Bullguard found that 80% of parents believed their children were growing up too quickly. The chief cause of the precociousness of youths? Technology, including access to digital gadgets, social media such as Facebook and Snapchat, and the Google search engine.
  • Juvenile delinquents – One data set identified with this trend is the disproportionate growth of arrests of children under 15. While these juveniles still represent a minority of total court cases, according to a report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “offenders under age 15 represent the leading edge of the juvenile crime problem, and their numbers are growing.” That trend lasted until 1996, when the juvenile arrest rate for all offenses reached a peak level. It has subsequently declined 68% as of 2015. However, fewer than half of serious violent crimes by juveniles are ever reported to law enforcement.

Despite being aware of this harrowing trend, a Utah Highway Patrol officer was nonetheless shocked when he pulled over the driver of a swerving SUV and discovered a young boy wearing a gray Utah Royals soccer hoodie who turned out to be just five years old.

If George Darwin had been alive, he would have happily concluded that his Darwinian theory had accelerated beyond the limits of natural evolution.

“Darwin On Steroids” was originally identified by author Michael Tchong. To learn more about this remarkable trend, consult “Ubertrends — How Trends And Innovation Are Transforming Our Future.”


Ubertrend Categorization: Time Compression.

Michael Tchong’s Ubertrends book
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