t didn’t take an Adolf Hitler to come up with the idea that blue eyes and blond hair signified a ‘master race’. After all, our own Civil War was fought on the principle that such people were inherently superior to those with darker hair, darker skin and darker eye colors—especially slaves. In fact, a statue commemorating Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest in Nashville features (in the opinion of one journalist), “terrifying marble blue eyes.” The Confederates and the Nazis both lost, but this master race theme is proving persistently difficult to kill off. That Nashville statue wasn’t erected until 1998, with the designer claiming, “somebody needs to say a good word for slavery.”
But this is where science—that darned science!—has to butt in and muddle people’s minds. Because there’s no purity or superiority in blue eyes. The fact is, every one of us descends from the same early homo sapiens mother who lived in central Africa about 200,000 years ago. She had dark eyes--and so did every single human being for at least the next 190,000 years. (To put this is relative terms, if human history were plotted on a single calendar year, only brown or black eyes existed from January 1st until the middle of December.)
Then something perfectly stunning happened--a glitch in the system. On the northern shore of the Black Sea (in what is modern day Romania or Ukraine) a mutant baby was born. The baby’s mutation is called OCA2, which meant she was the first human in history with blue eyes. Consider how in our “advanced” world people might react to a baby born today with, say, red pupils. There must have been quite a stir over baby blue eyes back then.
But she survived…and her descendants thrived and spread around the world. Today, about 90% of people in Finland and Estonia have blue eyes. In the U.S., the ratio is about one in six. African Americans including James Earl Jones, Smokey Robinson, Tyra Banks, Vanessa Williams and Rihanna have demonstrated talent—and also eyes that are not brown or black. The Bluest Eye was the title of the first novel by African American authorToni Morrison.
Is there something inherently ‘better’ about blue eyes? Before you jump to answer “no”, stop to consider that only 13% of U.S. Presidents have had brown eyes. Is there a judgment implied in that small but very prominent sample? One that mistakenly imputes racial or intellectual differences to eye color?
Not to fret. In a very short time…none of those judgments may matter.
he preoccupation of humanity is moving inexorably from designer jeans to designer genes. We are on the precipice of a monumental leap which will consciously break biology’s bond with natural selection—something that’s never happened before.
In case you think I’m tripping here, consider that 18 years ago a scientist augmented a rabbit embryo with a gene from a jellyfish, resulting in a bunny which glowed fluorescent green under a black light. That’s not a spoof. And the experiment has been repeated since.
Within a generation or two—who really knows? —the very wealthiest of humans will begin to spend considerable amounts of money to mandate blue eyes--or eventually any other desired attribute in their offspring. The reality of racial discrimination will be augmented with facial discrimination; the bone structure of the jaw and cheekbones…the texture of the hair…the degree of blush…will be pre-determined by geneticists. These mutants will become the “special people”…genetically endowed. (If you think It’s hard to get into an Ivy League school now, just wait.) While it may never literally be true that only the strong survive, the genetically modified will perform best, and survive longest.
And such ”enhancements” will not be limited to physical attributes. Personality, temperament and memory may also be deliberately ordained.
In effect, the type of individual natural mutation that first created blue eyes may be replaced by pre-determined traits chosen from a DNA “menu”. Those beings may not just be different, but also not entirely human. This is coming.
If questions of immigration and health care and abortion and income inequality seem insoluble now…wait until humanity begins to deal with the implications of a master race designed in genetics laboratories. “Marble” blue eyes will be only a first step toward the new supremacy.
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