Syed Iqbal Zaheer
Biologically, brain size of the living beings seems to depend on body size, or perhaps, it is the other way round: body size depends on brain size. The prevalent ratio is 1: 50. That is, for every gram of brain, there is 50 gram of body. There are a exceptions though. For example, brain size of elephants is smaller than what it should be for their body size; although they are not too dumb for that reason. On the other hand dolphins have a much larger brains in ratio to their body size, although they are no more intelligent than humans whose brain size is, in proportion to their body size, lesser than that of dolphins.
Sizes themselves are a mystery. There is no apparent reason for a variety of living creatures being of the size they are. Camels for instance, would have much better chances of survival in the desert if they could be the size of a goat, or, if they had to have long legs, the abdomen much smaller (like giraffes, which have no food problem in African forests). The present size of the camel’s abdomen requires plenty of food, which is scarce in the desert.
At all events, sizes are mysteries. Allah said (87: 1-3): “Glorify the Name of your Lord, Most High, who created and shaped – who determined (the body size, apart from other things).”
Human size is no less a mystery. A new-born human is about 20 inch long. With almost zero as the starting point, to 20 inches in just 9 months is an amazing growth rate. If this growth rate was maintained throughout life, human beings would have been 143 feet tall (about 43 meters) by the age of say, sixty-five. But something happens to the body. After the initial terrific pace in the womb, and, a slightly lower rate during infancy, the rate gradually drops down to altogether halt at around 18 years of age. There is an in-built command for this. Listen to the Qur’an: “Man be destroyed. What makes him disbelieve? (Did he consider), Out of what did He (his Lord) create him? He created him from a sperm-drop and then proportioned him.”
If not for the phenomenally fast rate of growth from the time conceived until childhood, human beings could end up being half the height they are now, i.e., around 2 feet, 9 inches. But that would have entailed a few disadvantages. The laws of physics tell us that if the height is cut to half, the weight lifting capacity is reduced to one quarter. That is, with the reduction in height to half, humans would have been able to comfortably lift with their two hands around 5 kg only. In contrast, the capacity to lift with a single hand would have been much lesser. Such meager lifting capacity would have made building construction tedious. For example, the number of bricks required for building a house half the present average size would be doubled, because the brick size would have to be reduced to a quarter. So house construction would have taken much longer than what it takes now. Apply this to a variety of activities, and the end result is that humans would still be in stone-age because of slow pace of development.
But, in actual terms, the result of height reduction would have been more drastic than imaginable at first stroke. The humans might never have been able to handle cows, camels, elephants, etc. In fact, many large varieties of dogs would have eaten them instead of serving them. With the reduction of the size of plows, coupled with inability to manage oxen and horses, farming would have become an extremely unproductive venture since present plowing depths would not have been achieved: worms would not do their job well, birds would dig and eat away the low lying seeds; water sinking down would not help plant nutrition, et. al.
With the deficiencies suffered because of height reduction (e.g., inability to lift a sledge hammer), dependence entirely on shrubs, roots and some vegetables (since pulses, lentils – equivalent of meat in proteinaceous terms – would be unavailable), it is quite hard to imagine how the humans could have entered into the iron-age at all. In fact, their entry into hunting-age is also doubtful. Their little arrows, shot by weak shoulder and arm muscles would not have penetrated large animals’ thick skins. They would have been reduced to eating creepers, rodents and insects, or stay on vegetables. It should also be obvious that if they were half the size, humans would not have been able to run away from attacks by any animal above a goat size. (Their present size helps them run faster than an attacking bull).
Had they, somehow, and having taken a few thousand years longer, entered into the modern industrial age (although, very unlikely), they would not have made the computers. Both monitors and CPU’s would have been too heavy to handle during the early stages and hence a discouraging factor in its development, if not rendering it almost impossible. (Monitors are quite heavy even now, and miniaturization normally comes after success with the larger models).
Reduction of the human height then, to its present half does not seem to be a bright idea. The disadvantages are fourfold and risks to growth of science and technology several fold.
Let us consider some of the consequences of human growth in height and weight, if it were to go on until death at say 65 years of age. What human life would have been like if an inner “command” did not restrict their growth to the present average of 5 feet, 6 inches? As mentioned earlier, a continuous growth would have given them a stupendous height of 143 feet, weighing 2000 kg.
Now, 143 is an enormous height. The tallest coconut tree is 100 feet high. (The taller a tree is, the rarer it is). An additional problem for that height would have been the weight: 2 tons. A man’s legs of that height would have to be not 25 times more massive, but perhaps 50 times so, to support that weight and achieve mobility. Balancing the body against the gravitational pull of the earth, would have been a stupendous task, requiring very supple joints. But with increase in size, suppleness is the price to pay. A man 143 feet tall would have pretty rigid joints, and, therefore, pretty slow of motion. Rigidity would make it hard to assume different postures at quick command: lying down, sitting, standing erect. (Consider an elephant’s movements, 15 times smaller than the height under consideration). Humans of this height would probably not be able to stand up on two legs. They would need a third leg – a walking stick all the time. But to ask for a walking stick 100 feet tall would be a tall order. A coconut tree is 100 feet high, but is too fragile to support a two-tonner. Moreover, if they fell, they would break bones because of the heavy weight.
Lighting a fire would be a massive problem, since a tall mango tree, a mere 50 feet tall, would be no more than a shrub for the giant-sized man. His large hands would only be able to handle the whole trunk. But making fire with a trunk used as a twig would not do. And twigs would be too small (pin-like) for his large fingers to handle. Indeed, from that height, he might not be able to see a spark of fire. So, no fire, no iron-age, and no modern age.
Food would be another problem. He would roast elephants like we roast chicken. Lions would be kitten in his home. He would soon run out of food. But perhaps, he would solve food problem through war and reduce his numbers to a few hundred at any time on the earth. But a few hundred would not be able to develop a civilization of any sort.
It might be suggested that if man went to such heights, everything else could also grow to match that height. But, even if it is imagined that everything grew, to match his full height of 143 feet, survival would still be a problem. Trees for example, of enormous heights would be of enormous diameters too, meaning a single tree covering a square mile, which would greatly reduce their numbers. So also the animals; their sizes would decrease their numbers to a few thousand of every species, which the humans would consume in a few hundred years. Attainment of full biologically possible heights does not suit the earth size. It must be increased by 25 times. But that would involve other problems such as, to cite quickly, those connected with gravity, but which we shall not discuss now.
Far from full height, even if man grew sixty feet tall, (as the first man was when he stepped on to the earth), he would face the same problems, except that he would survive longer compared to one 143 feet tall. But still, with 60 ft height, no iron-age, and no modern age. Let us take up one or two problems for consideration.
Could a 60 feet tall man have made an airplane? No way. The first model would have had to be ten times bigger than the first flying machine he flew for a minute. Such a massive size would have never taken off. But perhaps we have gone a step ahead. We must remind ourselves that a 60-feet tall man would need a car at least twice in height of the present day railway engines. Such a massive car would need enormous steel to build, and, therefore, enormous fuel. It would only run on railway tracks. For each man, a track of his own! Well, it wouldn’t work.
Space travel would have suffered most. In brief, a space rocket ten times larger than the present rockets, would need, not ten times the fuel, but perhaps twenty or thirty times more for lift off. A rocket which could accommodate a 60-foot tall man, would not have taken off because of the inertia of the total payload, and the earth’s gravitational pull. This in fact is one of the reasons why humans – even of this present height – will never be able to travel deep into space. But this we shall discuss sometime later.
Indeed, a man 60-foot tall would not have developed computers. Present day circuit-wires would be invisible for him to handle. The thinnest wire his massive fingers could handle would be as thick as ship-anchoring ropes. But, such wires, apart from straining copper supply, would eat off much of the current passing through them.
In short, increase in human height does not seem to be a bright idea either. Occasional scientists who have pondered over the issue, have not considered the problems we have stated here. They have looked at the issue from other angles (especially biological ramifications), yet have concluded that with the present size of the earth, the present height of the humans suits them best. Any increase or decrease would severely restrict their scientific, technological and civilizational achievements.
So, next time when you go into prostration before your Lord, you have an additional reason for doing so: your height.
Source: Young Muslim Digest, Editorial, December 2006.