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Retardation and Neoteny
in Human Evolution









        The beast and bird their common charge attend
 The mothers nurse it, and the sires defend;
     The young dismissed, to wander earth or air,
          There stops the instinct, and there ends the care.
   A longer care man's helpless kind demands,
       That longer care contracts more lasting bands.

Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, 1733

The Seeds of Neoteny

With the consummate arrogance that only an American millionaire could display, Jo Stoyte set out to purchase his immortality. Dr. Obispo, his hired scientist, discovered that the fifth earl of Gonister had, by daily ingestion of carp guts, prolonged his life into its third century. Stoyte and Obispo rushed to England, broke into the earl's quarters and discovered to Stoyte's horror and Obispo's profound amusement that man in his allotted three score years and ten is but an axolotl in its pond. We are neotenic apes and the fifth earl had grown up:

"A foetal ape that's had time to grow up," Dr. Obispo managed at last to say. "It's too good!" Laughter overtook him again. "Just look at his face!" he gasped . . . Mr. Stoyte seized him by the shoulder and violently shook him . . . "What's happened to them? " "Just time," said Dr. Obispo airily. Dr. Obispo went on talking. Slowing up of developmental rates . . . one of the mechanisms of evolution . . . the older an anthropoid, the stupider . . .

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