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Dr. Popp, the First Computer Virus, and the Purpose of Human Life: Studies in Crap Gapes At Popular Evolution

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Your Crap Archivist
brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from
basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this
for one reason: Knowledge is power.

Popular Evolution: Life-Lessons From Anthropology

Author:
Joseph L. Popp

Publisher:
Man and Nature Press

Date:
2000

Discovered
at:
“Borrowed” from
Your Crap Archivist’s old job
in a Harvard alumni office

The
Cover Promises:
The worst
A Chorus Line ever.

Representative
Quotes:

With
the reproductive imperative always in mind, this book offers an
unadorned explanation of the purpose of human life and how we can
fulfill that purpose.” (page
xv)

See
that your children get a good eighth grade education . . . Avoid
smoking tobacco unless you are a teenager who would otherwise not be
having sexual intercourse . . . Individuals should not use any form
of contraception . . . Keep no pets. Have another child or help a
relative have another child instead.” (page 260)

By my count,
Harvard-trained evolutionary biologist Joseph L. Popp managed at least
four wholly unique accomplishments before his death in 2007:

  1. Studying
    hamadryas baboons in East Africa for fifteen years.

  2. Opening a
    butterfly sanctuary in upstate New York. 

  3. Self-publishing
    Popular Evolution, a
    “new model for the ultimate kind of self-help “that argues that
    humanity’s only purpose is “maximizing reproductive success” and
    points out, as a point for further research, that “Rape appears as
    a reproductive strategy in other species.”

  4. Mailing out
    20,000 floppy disks containing a computer virus aimed at holding hostage the world’s
    accumulated knowledge of AIDS.

Let’s
look at that last one first.

According to accounts in the British
press, in December, 1989,
Popp
sent out his diskettes to attendees of the World Health
Organization’s international AIDS meeting. Labeled “AIDS
Information – Introductory Diskettes,” the disks contained a
Trojan devised by Popp.

After a certain number of reboots, a bug
encrypted the hard disk’s directory, hiding all files and flashing a
message instructing users to send a couple hundred bucks to a postal
box in Panama. (
The Guardian
reports that Popp had suffered a mental collapse after being turned
down for a WHO job.)

There’s some
question as to whether this constituted blackmail. Soon after his
arrest and extradition to England, where one medical organization
reported having lost a decade’s worth of research, Popp took to
wearing a cardboard box on his head. Soon, he was pronounced unfit to
stand trial.

Stranger still,
Popp had packed a leaflet with the diskettes the offered the bluntest terms-of-use statement in computer history:

These
program mechanisms will adversely affect other program applications
on microcomputers. You are hereby advised of the most serious
consequences of your failure to abide by the terms of this license
agreement: your conscience may haunt you for the rest of your life;
you will owe compensation and possible damages to PC Cyborg
Corporation; and your microcomputer will stop functioning normally.”

Forget all that
evolution business! Popp should have been working for Microsoft!

Popular
Evolutionary

Shipped
back to the U.S., a chastened Dr. Popp wound up in Lake Jackson,
Texas, where eleven years later he published
Popular
Anthropology
.
At
first glance, it might seem like satire or a “thought experiment” or a
stab at maintaining that “unfit to stand trial” designation.
Unfortunately, it seems to be entirely earnest.

Its thesis is simple:

Start
reproduction early, preferably at puberty, have a long reproductive
life, and maximize your reproductive success.”

Or, even more baldly:

If
you are a man, find a fertile woman; if you are a woman, find a
fertile man.”

In the opening pages, Popp pronounces traditional religion, morals,
and ethics as all unsuited to the age of science. Instead, he
proposes we live by an “evolutionary ethic,” one that stands up
to a culture hellbent on staunching our reproductive potential. He
explains why breastfeeding should be legislated against (“it
suppresses ovulation in the mother”) and points out that “rather
than increase reproductive success, the pathological search for true
love reduces it.”

poppback.jpg

He even proposes this amendment to the constitution:

The
maximization of reproductive success is an undeniable right afforded
to all.”

For over 250 pages, Popp holds the issues of the day to the
evolutionary ethic..

Chastity and
Celibacy:

If
chastity, celibacy, environmentalism, or homosexuality cause a person
to fail to reproduce, it is the equivalent of a preproductive
death
of
that person in terms of evolutionary consequences.”

Euthanasia:

Euthanasia
may be justifiable under carefully controlled circumstances for those
in the final stages of a terminal disease and who are unable to
reproduce or to be of assistance to others.”

Government:

“One
recent nominee for Surgeon General during the Clinton administration
built his entire career largely on suppressing the reproductive
health of teenagers. This linkage between the post of Surgeon General
and antigenitivism would be fine material for an
expose.”

Gambling:

In
the strange environment in which we currently live, there is an an
inverse correlation between wealth and reproductive success. In this
sense, if you are dedicated to gambling look at it as a dependable
way to reduce your wealth and thereby increase the number of children
you will have, rather than hold the unrealistic notion that it is a
way to get rich. Four hundred billion dollars is spent on gambling in
America each year. That may not by itself be enough to turn around
the low rates of reproduction in America, but it is a large step in
the right direction.”

Politics:

I
do not intend to argue that the morality of the evolutionary ethic
maintains that politicians should not lie, rather if they do lie, the
lies should be ones that increase the reproductive success of their
constituents.”

Shocking Detail:

Popp suggests these “policies that would help elevate the
teenage birth rate.”

  • Low levels of
    socioeconomic modernization

  • A
    lack of openness about sexuality

  • A relatively
    small percentage of household income distributed to the low-income
    population by wage-structure

  • A low minimum
    legal age for marriage

  • Religiosity

The key to achieving Popp’s vision?

palinwink34.jpg

Pop quiz!

RNC platform or Popp’s factors that increase adult fertility?

  • Rural living

  • Less education

  • Less income

  • Fewer working
    women

  • Less abortion
    due to legal prohibition

  • Less use of
    modern contraceptive techniques

  • Early marriage

  • Less openness
    about homosexuality and lesbianism

  • Ignorance of
    the doctrine of environmentalism

Highlight:

In
the chapter “The Meaning of Life,” Popp admits that the long,
lonely hours that go into book-writing mean he hasn’t done much to
maximize
his
reproductive success. But it might someday.

He writes,

“I have an unspoken contract with my readership: I will
help to enhance their reproductive success, and they will compensate
me with something that I hope to convert, perhaps with difficulty, to
reproductive success.”

But
I thought money made you
less
likely to have kids! Still, his money might help
you.
If, someday, a trip to the Joseph L. Popp Butterfly Sanctuary gets
you in the mood for some loving, he’s done his job from beyond the
grave!

(For a
fuller account of Popp’s virus misadventure, including his scribbling
“DR POPP HAS BEEN POISONED” on a WHO official’s suitcase, see
Steve Connor’s excellent December, 1991,
Independent piece
“Dr. Popp and the Trojan Horse” and
the hacker history Approaching Zero
by Paul Mungo and Bryan Glough.)

The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice‘s sister paper, The Pitch.

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