Friday, June 15, 2007

American Stature: The Long and Short of It

Science has spoken: We’re getting blimpy on fast food and couch-potato lifestyle.

In today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman reports on research showing Americans are now “shorter (and fatter) than Western and Northern Europeans. In fact, the U.S. population is currently at the bottom end of the height distribution in advanced industrial countries.”

Krugman, an economist, prescribes better health care for children, but his OpEd colleague, David Brooks yesterday described a more cheerful solution: custom-made children.

More and more prospective parents are Web surfing for better genes than they could get from “someone they could realistically lure into bed.”

“There is tremendous market demand,” Brooks reports, “for DNA from blue-eyed, blond-haired, 6-foot-2 finely sculpted hunks...the kind of guys you see jogging in the park and nothing moves. They’ve got a stomach, a chest and flanks, but as they bounce along nothing jiggles, not even their hair.”

Parents want brains, too, in their designer kids. One sperm bank has a branch near Harvard and M.I.T.

Brooks is not enthusiastic about all this. “Conservatives like me,” he says, ”think that if you want your kids to have Harvard genes you should have to endure living with a Harvard spouse. But the rest of the country is not with us. There’s no way people are going to foreswear the joys of creative genetics.”

So here we are a cultural crossroads, America. Shape up or outsource your progenerating.

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