An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of February 6, 2005
Issued from Hacienda Komchén de Los Pájaros
just outside Dzemul, Yucatán, Mexico


This week I finished reading a Spanish copy of the book The Seven Daughters of Eve, by Bryan Sykes. Sykes is a geneticist who used recently developed gene- sequencing techniques to discover a very great deal about human history. One of his most intriguing discoveries was that about 95% of all native Europeans are descendents of only seven women who lived thousands of years ago.

A poignant fact accompanying this insight is that when these seven women lived they were each surrounded by many other people, but the descendents of nearly all those other people didn't survive until today. Entire family lines, the descendents of everyone in entire villages, all the lineages of certain regions, died out before the present day. Visualize the tree of human evolution with untold numbers of small, dead branches inside it (each dead branch once showing as much promise as any other), but with only a handful of branches fully developed today, providing the tree's current form, and continuing to live.

Apparently there was nothing special about those seven women. It was just chance that they were the ones who mothered modern Europeans. And why should most lineages go extinct? The answer is simply that long ago life for humans was as hard as it is today for the gulls and pelicans we saw this week fighting over potato-chip bags. Long ago, if you reached age 29, you were old.

Have we humans really reached a stage of social evolution in which we no longer have to fear leading the hard, brief lives that extinguished so many human lineages?

My guess is that before long, once again age 29 will be regarded as "old" for average humans. When our air and water are finally so completely polluted that only the very rich will be able to afford non-poisoned sustenance, when the world's disease organisms have evolved resistances to our last cheap-to-make drugs, when beautiful scientific truths are finally rejected by most in favor of politically correct -- not ecologically correct -- opinions, religious dogmas and superstitions, then once again average humans will be lucky if they reach age 29.

How peaceful and how inviting was the sunny beach last Monday at Telchac Puerto. But those remains of house foundations at the water's edge were evidence like Sykes' work with human genetics that peacefulness is temporary, maybe even illusionary.

You can read more about Sykes' work at