Evolution FAILS in the Human Body

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Hey smart people, Joe here.

Bodies.

Weve all gotem.

Couldn’t live withoutem!

But why are they so dumb and unreliable?!

I don’t know if it’s because I just got over a sinus infection or because my wife

just had knee surgery, or maybe it’s just me getting older and hurting more

I’M A MILLENNIAL!! but I have been noticing lately that the human

bodyit’s got a lot of problems.

And this video is a big long rant about a bunch ofem.

I mean don’t get me wrong, humans are really awesome.

Look at all we can do!

It’s just that, there’s so much about our bodies that is flawed.

Like, so many of our parts wear down or are easy to break, and others look like Ikea furniture

would look if you accidentally threw away the instructions before putting it together

in that it basically functions, but youre pretty sure something’s backwards and somehow

you have like three of those little twisty things left over?!

The great American poet John Mayer once saidyour body is a wonderland”, but I think

he meantyour body is a blunderland”.

From eyes that don’t work right and backs that ache to needy diets and extra bones

what I’m saying issure, our bodies look coolespecially if theyre wearing an

awesome shirtbut who the heck designed these things?!

Well, no one did.

Well get back to that, but first, instead of talking about how great we are, let’s

talk about some of our critical weaknesses.

The first exampleit’s staring right at ya.

I mean, I don’t wear these things to look cool and smart.

I mean, they do make me look cool and smart, but I wear them because I can’t see!

Like nearly half of Americans and Europeans or nearly 7 in 10 people in Asian countries,

my peepers don’t peep right.

I’ve worn glasses since elementary school.

Space shuttle.

Nice!

Very on brand, younger me.

Anyway, before the invention of corrective lenses a few centuries ago, people who couldn’t

see justcouldn’t see.

And back in our prehistoric hunter-gatherer days, that couldve meant starvation and

death.

Bad eyes, empty stomachs, you lose.

Thing is, even if you don’t wear glasses, you have eye problems.

While looking at this image, cover your left eye, and look at the dot while keeping your

face centered in front of the screen.

Slowly move closer or farther from your screen and the cross will disappear.

Did it work?

Around 30 cm or 12 inches away works for me.

Pretty weird huh?

You can try it with the other eye too.

Cover your right one, stare at the cross, and move until the dot disappears.

That’s your blind spot, and every animal with a backbone has a blind spot in each eye

because of how the eye is built.

The light sensitive layer inside your eye is filled with tiny cells called photoreceptors.

Theyre like little microphones.

One end turn photons of light into electrical signals, and the other end’s a wire that

carries the signal away.

Except our retinas are built so the cables are pointed towards the light, like talking

into the back of a microphone.

The cables from all those little microphones have to pass through a hole in the retina

to get to the brain.

And where that hole is, we have a blind spot.

We just don’t usually notice it because our brain lies to us and fills in the image.

Why do we have it?

Because at some point way back in evolution, when our ancestors started to evolve the first

light-sensitive tissues, that’s just the direction the cells were facing.

And later, when those patches morphed into actual eyes, it was too late.

The backwards pattern was already set.

Evolution can’t suddenly flip a whole eye around.

It can only make tweaks to what’s already there.

But cephalopodslike octopuses, squid, and cuttlefishthey don’t have a blind spot.

This branch of animals evolved eyes completely on their own, and in early octopus ancestors,

the cables on all their microphone-shaped light-sensing cells pointed toward the back,

so their retina is unbroken.

Am I saying that cephalopods have better eyes than us?

Mmm, yes.

Point, cephalopods.

And another point for having eight legs.

Ok, enough about eyes!

Why is there so much empty space in our skulls?

You know I can take you off the set any time

right?

Watch it, globie.

When we breathe, air enters our nose and passes through four chambers called sinuses where

the air gets warmed up, humidified, and filtered by mucous membranes.

The mucus then drains ure is plenty in YOUR skullout and back down your throat to your

stomach.

Mmm, gross.

That works pretty well for the sinuses on top, they have gravity to help them.

But the big ones behind your cheeks?

They drain up.

Up!

And that difficult drainage is why humans get so many head colds and sinus infections.

You know who doesn’t get sinus infections?

Dogs.

Dogs and other animals that rely mainly on smell tend to have elongated nasal cavities,

which drain down and back with gravity, the correct way.

But as our ancestors became more dependent on vision and less dependent on smell, our

snouts got smushed up into our flat faces, and now we have tiny noses and get sick all

the time.

If you accidentally eat some air, no biggie.

You can just burp it out.

But if you breathe in your food, youre gonna choke and maybe die.

What’s up with that?

It comes down to the fact that like most other vertebrates, we breathe and eat through the

same throat hole, another one of evolution’s amazing bright ideas.

But I once saw a bird swallow a fish as big as its head.

It did not die.

If I did that, I would die.

But snakes and birds can swallow huge meals whole because their nostrils connect directly

to their breathing parts without going through the throat.

Like an alternate breathing system.

But in every mammal, weve just got the one tube, and all that separates the digesting

part from the breathing part is a little flap called the epiglottis.

Epiglottis open?

Youre breathing.

Epiglottis closed, you can eat or drink.

Mess up that order, here’s how to do the Heimlich maneuver.

Now, lots of animals can choke.

Even whales can choke if fish get stuck in their blowholes.

Yes, that actually happens.

But humans are especially prone to choking because our voice box, or larynx, has moved

up so high in our throats.

I tell ya, these throats were made for talkin’.

Some languages even make vocal sounds using the epiglottis, like in some African languages.

That higher voice box has squished up the swallowing parts of our throat so there’s

not a lot of room for error.

But on the plus side, we can yodel.

So maybe we can call this bad evolutionary trait a tie.

So.

Walking upright.

Pros: We can run, kick a soccer ball, dunk a basketball, do sports things with all the

other balls, ride a pogo stick, surf, ice skate, dance, and dance dance revolution.

Cons: So many unique and painful ways to injure ourselves.

Some of your body’s joints are beautiful.

I’m a huge fan of the jaw.

And the hip?

That ball, that socket.

It’s like Michaelangelo sculpted it.

But the human knee and ankle look like an elementary school art project held together

by rubber bands.

Back when our ancestors walked on all fours, they had twice as many limbs and muscles to

carry their weight.

But when they transitioned to walking on two legs, it put a lot more stress on our knees

and ankles.

When you quickly change direction while running, the anterior cruciate ligament is basically

the only thing holding the two halves of your leg together.

It has basically no blood vessels, and if you tear it, the only way to fix it is surgery,

which we only invented like a hundred years ago.

I have personally known at least a dozen people who have torn their ACL.

If we were hunter gatherers or ancient hominids, every one of them would probably be dead.

I don’t even know why I’m laughing, that’s horrible.

And right under that is the Achilles tendon.

Since we walk on the balls of our feet, that tendon takes basically all the force of the

lower leg like a big fleshy rubber band.

If you tear that one, you also can’t walk.

It’s maybe the most important tendon in your body, so of course it sits there on the

back of our leg completely exposed, waiting for the person behind us at the grocery store

to ram it with their cart or your mythical arch nemesis to hit you with a poison arrow.

This is not how you’d engineer bipedal legs from the ground up.

This is way too many weak spots for any crucial structural system.

But when the assignment wasturn an animal that walks on all fours into a fancy dancing

ape on two legs”, evolution had to work with what it was given.

Body parts are one thing, but evolution has messed up our insides too.

Like, we are really poorly cut out for eating.

Pretty much every animal needs the same nutrients in order to function.

Stuff like amino acids, vitamins, a few minerals.

But most animals make most of these things for themselves.

But we have to get a literal grocery list of nutrients from our diet.

Takevitamins”.

That’s what we call essential macronutrients that we have to get from our diet to survive.

Vitamin C, for example.

More than half a dozen proteins need vitamin C around to do their job.

Without it, your bones get brittle, your tissue breaks down, you just bleed.

Oh, and your teeth fall out.

Scurvy is no fun.

Pretty important stuff, this Vitamin C!

So of course, we can’t make any.

At all.

We have to get every bit we need from our diet.

Almost every animal on Earth makes their own Vitamin C. My dog never has to drink orange

juice.

Neither does a cow, or a cat.

But I do.

Strangely, humans have all the genes necessary to make vitamin C in our DNA.

Yet somewhere in our evolutionary history, in some ancestor of all primates, one piece

of the vitamin C machinery mutated and broke, and now we have to eat it or die, along with

all these.

Of the 20 amino acids we need to build proteins, our bodies only make 11.

Many animals can make all twenty, but we have to get almost half from our diet.

Needing to have ready sources of these essential nutrients has placed restrictions on where

and how our species could live, at least before we could walk into any pharmacy and get them

all in pill form.

Pretty much everywhere you look, it seems like our body has room for evolutionary improvement.

Our teeth?

Most people grow a third set of molarswisdom teeththat won’t fit in their mouth and

have to be removed.

Do I need to mention the fact that a male’s gamete producing organs sit dangerously exposed

outside the body?

And the pelvis?

Most women can’t deliver a baby without medical assistance because the human head

is so large.

Who came up with all these bad ideas?

The answer, of course, is no one.

Thanks to science, we know that the human body isn’t engineered, or designed.

It’s evolved.

Everything is the way it is because it got that way, making tiny tweaks to what was there

before.

That means that our backs hurt because were walking upright with a spine that used to

be horizontal.

We get fooled and we fool ourselves because our brains evolved in a different world than

the one we invented in the past few decades.

Sure, our bodies are full of parts that barely get the job done, full of things that could

be built way better.

And that can be frustrating, sometimes even painful.

But nobody, and I literally meanno body”, is perfect.

Because surviving isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being good enough.

It’s about being imperfect in the perfect way.

If youre watching this today, then you are good enough.

Because youre a survivor of a 4 billion year story.

Our flaws make us who we are, because evolution and natural selection made us who we are.

Flaws and all.

Stay curious.

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