Pic of the day: Another Kodak moment at Microsoft Chat, incidentally paving the way for today's strange entry. Ordinary entries (such as they are) will follow tomorrow or shortly thereafter if it is within my power to do so.
Human reproduction for aliens
As you know by now, humans are carbon-based life forms in a fairly oxygen-rich atmosphere. Despite this, their natural lifespan is surprisingly long, 3-4 billion heartbeats. Still, this is short enough that reproduction is very important to them. Also the average lifespan was until recently much lower because of hunger and diseases, and the current behavior largely reflects the earlier condition. Because of this, the human population on Earth is still growing fast. Humans also breed fairly well in captivity, as they are not picky about their breeding conditions. We'll come back to this in greater detail.
The human genome is coded in DNA, a surprisingly stable and partially self-repairing stringed molecule. DNA consists of two complementary strands, so that if one molecule is knocked out, the repair enzymes will automatically add the only correct replacement. For this reasons, mutations are quite rare. Further, each human has a double set of DNA, and if one of the genes is not functioning at all, the other can take up the slack.
Since DNA is so stable, most multicellular organisms on Earth have two sexes. By combining the genes of two organism, sufficient variation is created to foil many parasites and encourage some evolution. Combined with the double set of genes, it also means that many mutations can exist in the gene pool while surfacing only a few times each generation, when two sets of altered genes meet in the same individual. This way the herd can be prepared for future changes in the environment, at which time the suppressed genes may become useful.
The two sexes have very different functions, though they are surprisingly similar in shape and size. The "male" only contributes its genes, whereas the "female" also acts as a host to the parasitic offspring, which develop within her body. Because one female only bears one or two offspring at a time, the parasite infection is rarely fatal. However, it is physically draining and uncomfortable, at times even painful. To add misery to pain, the offspring continue to live off specialized body fluids made by the female organism, a process that is induced by the parasite offspring shortly before emerging from its host body.
Because of the painful procreation, and because of their poorly developed intellect, humans would hardly reproduce at all if not induced by powerful instincts (though tradition may also play a role). There are several instincts that conspire towards reproduction. We shall inspect these in more detail:
Firstly, humans are instinctively social animals and generally feel bad if separated from others of their species for more than a few hours. This helps ensure that a potential mate is reasonably near at hand.
Second, there is an instinctive need for closeness and skin-to-skin touch, which is also highly conductive to reproduction. Immature humans tend to have their tactile needs supported by parents. After maturing, the reproductive mate often takes on the role of tactile provider, touching regularly. For some reasons, humans seem to be largely unaware of this crucial instinct, obeying it unthinkingly.
Third, there is an actual reproductive instinct. Both sexes have dedicated reproductive organs which are highly sensitive. The organs will react to stimuli similar to those produced by the actual human mating, and give a strong positive feedback. The same and other body parts are also automatically sensitized by the sight, smell or touch of a potential mate. If not for these biological incitaments, it is doubtful if humans would have reproduced enough to keep from extinction.
Finally, there are instincts that make the newly hatched offspring appealing, especially to females but to some degrees also to males, particularly close relatives. This keeps the adults from discarding the helpless offspring, and can also encourage reproduction to make more of them.
To the outside observer, it is obvious that the female carries most of the cost of reproduction. In order to introduce sexual equality, humans should be encouraged to use host animals in which to implant the parasitic embryos. I'm happy to report that for the last few thousand years, much of the feeding of the newly hatched larvae has been taken over by slovenly grass-eating animals, who secrete a nourishing fluid similar to that of the human female. The obvious next step would be to implant the embryos in such animals, selected or engineered for not repelling the foreign embryo. The most common of the fluid secreting animals happens to host its own parasite offspring for almost exactly the same length of time as the humans, which could indicate that the species originally was intended as a complete surrogate host. However, problems with transferring embryos have made this impossible in the past.
Intriguingly, despite the blatant parasitic nature of their own larvae, humans hold strong negative feelings towards parasitism. This probably derives from the multitude of parasites that feed off them and other large animals to which they feel close. I recommend that a campaign of promoting parasitism be introduced, as subtly as possible, to make the transition to sexual equality easier for the race.
A fascinating trait in humans is that the females have largely managed to domesticate the males. By default, one would expect the males to roam and try to insinuate their genes wherever possible. However, the females have developed a habit of disguising their fairly short time of fertility. A male must therefore stay in the vicinity and perform the mating contact regularly in order to be sure that any offspring is his. As a side effect of this, the male will tend to help the female and their offspring in a variety of ways. Often helpful activities are rewarded by the female, while negative behavior is discouraged through hints that this male may not be essential to the continuation of the female's genetic line. (Incidentally, it has been suggested that the domestication of a wide range of animals simply continues a trend that human females have used on their own males since the dawn of the current species.)
A final warning: If you disguise yourself as a human, be very careful about discussing human reproduction. Humans have strong feelings about this issue, and you should under no circumstances let them talk you into "demonstrating" or "trying" anything about reproduction. There is a significant risk that they will out you as an alien and jeopardize the whole Human Guidance Project. If humans suddenly start to speak about reproduction or more offspring while showing their teeth, or if they start to rub up against you, you should immediately take a step away and say in a scared voice: "Please, I am a believer." If that does not work, run.
Visit the Diary Farm for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.