Evolution in Cartoons

Sun, 17 Mar 1996 09:12:00 CDT

Got dragged out of bed at 6:30AM by my 8-year-old who treated me to a half-hour
of Fantastic 4 cartoons. In this morning's episode on our local Fox network, we
learned that there is a hidden race of humans -- called INhumans by Stan Lee's
writers -- that have lived side-by-side with humans since at least the
paleolithic (at least judging from the technology that they showed in the
cartoon). These inhumans were derived from human stock by -- you guessed it --
genetic manipulation of human ancestors by aliens!!. They beame technologically
and intellectually advanced and built great civilizations that overlooked the
nascent civilization of humans. We see a family huddled around a fire in a cave
while there are great modern cities looming in the background (never mind that
archeologists have found the miniscule bits and pieces of material culture from
these supposedly backwards humans, while finding nothing of the advanced
technology of their Inhuman cousins).

Well, the fantastic four inadvertently discover, then save the Inhuman
civilization from an evil pretender to the throne (seems that the aliens
couldn't engineer SOME things out of the human genome). They do this at some
unknown location on earth called simply "The Refuge" (shades of Eden?).

At the end, the character known as Mr. Fantastic tells the inhumans not to fret
about re-uniting with humans. He says, "We are not separate races of humans.
We've just evolved differently. We are really cousins."

Well, give Lee and co. a little credit for trying, but really...to say we've
evolved differently, but that the difference does not add up to racial variation
(which most of us assume is an degree of variation LESS than that associated
with evolving new lineages).... Well, this scares me a little.



Andrew J. Petto, Editor, National Center for Science Ed.
c/o Dept. of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin
1180 Observatory Drive, MADISON WI 53706-1393 ajpetto@macc.wisc.edu
Madison Area Technical College, 3550 Anderson Street
voice: 608/259-2926; fax:608/258-2415
NCSE email: ajp3265@madison.tec.wi.us