Counterfactual HistorySeptember 22, 2012
If we consider contemporary human size as just one possible outcome of different evolutionary possibilities then perhaps it becomes easier to envision a different, short-sized, future. What if human evolution had developed differently? Counterfactual history tries to answer what-if questions. It explores history by means of extrapolating a timeline in which a key historical event didn’t happen or had a different outcome from what actually happened. The purpose is to weigh the importance of the event, incident or person the counterfactual hypothesis is negating.
For The Incredible Shrinking Man counterfactual thinking may be a tool to clarify how body size has determined our impact on the planet throughout history. What if man had developed differently? What if mitochondrial Eve had been a Laron? What if Homo floresiensis had not become extinct on Flores but had migrated across Asia and into Africa and Europe and had evolved into a more advanced human species? Had we not been among the largest species on Earth mankind probably would have developed differently. Our social behaviours and our relationship with the planet might also have been different. A speculation on a smaller human size brings forth many questions. However, the importance of these what-ifs is not to linger on what could have been in the past but to create realistic scenarios for what could still become our future.