Biology and Civilization

A thought experiment.

I’ve always wondered how differing biologies would affect civilization at large. It’s easy to say why dwarves are dwarves, elves are elves and trolls are trolls, but why simply accept it at that? Why not go searching for the underlying reasons for things? Why is Thing the way it is? Why does Event happen? Ask questions, of everything, hunt for a reason, even if it is absurd.

Usually, the half baked, insane ideas are the most interesting ones, and thus contemplating them and exploring the ramifications is actually really fun. Am I a nerd or what?!

Take humans. Humans are mortal, the really healthy ones that avoid being randomly killed here or there have about a century, tops. Both sci-fi and fantasy settings go to town with this, applying a sort of swiftness to the lives of humans. By 20, humans have moved beyond the shadow of their parents, striking out to forge their own lives. By 30 they’ve started their own family, by 50 they’re watching their own kids create their own lives. By 60 they’re start to grey, to wrinkle, preferring to nap near warm things and watch the grandkids scamper and play.

What immortal can say their own life is so hectic, so full of life and vibrancy? A human who wastes a year derping around is normal, two years starts to raise eyebrows, five years and his fellow humans deem that individual a failure. An immortal elf spends five centuries derping about? Nobody even bats an eye.

It is perfectly normal for an elf to spend an entire year staring wistfully at the sky. It is a mark of insanity in humans. It’s all in the lifespan. Possibly. Who knows for sure? Have you met an elf? Point is, humans are fast because they have to be. They’ve got about forty years where they’re physically fit and not an idiot to get shit done, and that’s it. Elves have forever, so why rush?

There’s a theory being tossed around that death is an evolutionary advantage to prevent species death. Simply put, a species will run out of resources if the individuals are immortal. If nobody can die, but the species continues to breed, that species will eventually hit a point where further growth is just not possible given limited resources.

The result at that point is horrific, mass death, quite possibly even leading to extinction. Thus, natural death is a way to prevent that. By putting on expiry date on a life, eventually that life will cease to be, cease consuming resources, allowing a new life to flourish, thus preserving the species in the long run.

Immortals, then, must have a way around this. They must have adaptations to their own lack of mortality. The easiest way is, of course, to simply disable the “biological clock”, or suppress it to such a point that individuals are driven to breed extremely rarely. As in, once every several thousand years, if that, rarely.

But then we have the problem of the species dying off faster than they can reproduce. The easier solution is to simply have some sort of subconscious routine designed to kick the reproduction drive up a few notches whenever fighting starts up.

This is actually supported by real life. Ever wonder why sex and violence are so often intertwined in media? It’s ’cause we’re programmed to reproduce in the face of death, to ensure that the species continues! (I am not a scientist or a biologist so this theory may be wrong.)

But why not go a step further? Why not take that subconscious will to reproduce, and make it conscious?

Thus I happened upon the idea of the elves being capable of manually triggering their own menstrual cycle. A little bit of a leap, but I like it. Elves and humans should be fundamentally different, on a wholesale, biological level, something beyond “the elves have pointy ears and like art more”. If possible, the elves should feel alien, close enough to identify with, but different enough to make the elves elves.

A couple other things I’ve thought of.

Tauren. Huge things, towering over pretty much every other race on Azeroth, yet a noble, gentle, patient race. You know what sucks when you’re big and tall? Falling down. It hurts a lot. As a child, falling down was just a thing that happened. Now, as a six foot five adult, falling down dislocates limbs. (This actually happened to me, not an exaggeration.)

Being large, you have to be patient. You have to be sure of every step you take, be constantly mindful of your surroundings, and take care not to accidentally break something, or someone, with your sheer size.

The tauren are patient. The tauren are also huge and tall. Coincidence? I think not!

Raptors are pretty much everywhere. Every continent has them, so why is it that trolls are the only ones that use them heavily as mounts?

Raptors are fierce predators, possessing razor sharp claws on the tips of powerful legs and a mouth full of teeth designed to rend flesh. That same mouth is where the trolls decided to shove a bit, attach reins to it, then toss a saddle over the back of the thing the mouth is attached to. (Do raptors even have an interdental space? Inquiring minds wish to know!)

Would you do it? Would you go up to something that can kill you before you even blink, and think, “wouldn’t it be so great if I could ride this around?” and then stick your arm in its mouth?

The trolls did.

The trolls can also regenerate lost limbs quite easily. Losing both legs isn’t of much concern to a troll, they’ll grow a new pair in about a week.

Coincidence? I think not!

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1 Response to Biology and Civilization

  1. Adam says:

    Definitely had a few good laughs!

    Great read, Rip.

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