Many politicians, most notably Sarah Palin, portray those who live in small towns and rural areas as "real" Americans, while those who live in cities are presumably unreal, or not quite American. Well, those urban hipsters with their fixed-gear bikes and tolerance for diversity may be on to something. The New Scientist tells us that over thousands of years, urban living may have given rise to a gene sequence that provides protection from leprosy and tuberculosis:
To test this idea, Thomas and colleagues analysed the DNA of people living in 12 regions in Europe, Asia and Africa. For each area, they combed the historical and anthropological records to work out when people first started living in close-knit groups. They found that the longer cities in the region had been established, the more likely it was that the current inhabitants carried the immunity allele. ...
John Odling-Smee, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Oxford who wasn't involved in the study, agrees. "This study could be regarded as the tip of the iceberg" in terms of the effects of urbanisation on disease immunity, he says.
Of course, better resistance to disease just gives those city slickers more opportunity -- as if they didn't have enough already, with their control of the media, and Hollywood, and the economy -- to spread their disturbing ways across the country. Unless the right people are elected, before you know it, we could be living on Coruscant.
-- Paul Waldman