‘I suggest that Homo sapiens is an offshoot of an older form of humans called Homo passiens’

In this exclusive Q&A, Mike McInnes, author of Homo Passiens: Man the Footballer, explains the background to his science faction book which explores the evolution of mankind in relation to football – and ‘footballing genes’ – specifically.

Q. Why is your take on evolution so “revolutionary”?
A. Because it suggests that Homo sapiens is an offshoot of an older form of humans called Homo passiens – which goes against established theories of evolution as recounted in Yuvel Noah Harari’s book Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind. Rational explanations of human evolution abound – for neoteny (our lack of a distinct adult form), for example, and ludeny (our propensity for adult game-playing); but no-one has provided a rational explanation for bipedalism – our ability to walk on two legs. Until me. Until now. Pretty revolutionary, eh? As is my idea that humans went bipedal and evolved all sorts of anatomical oddities in order to play games like football.

Q. What sort of odd anatomical features did Homo evolve that relate to its football prowess?
A. The narrow pelvis, for starters – with two hinged legs below. This inherent instability means we were/are always on the verge of toppling over, but we can change direction rapidly – backwards, forwards, upwards and so on. Our flat feet are levered for propulsion; outstep and instep, for bending and slicing; non-opposable big toes, for shooting. And our flat neotenous faces, with their non-sloping foreheads and non-protruding jaws, form a dome-shaped head – perfect for heading!

Q. This sounds like serious stuff – especially for a spoof! Is it based on fact?
A. Oh yes. Totally. The anatomy is spot on, and I follow Darwinian principles to the letter, as well as established theories like neoteny and ludeny, courtesy of serious academics like Harari, Huizinga and Jay Gould. Our robot future with Robo passiens? All true. I draw on several real – ologies – such as physiology, pharmacology, endocrinology and genetics – to create fantastic new concepts and biochemicals: the elbow gene for gain-of-function fouling (ELB HIT alpha-1), the cortisol analogue, scortisol; fannabinoids (similar to cannabinoids); scorotonin (very like serotonin); the award-seeking dopamine analogue, hopamine; and the beautiful hopoids (released during high-stress football matches).

Q. But it goes so much further than life science. Your entertaining claims are also backed up by earth science, archaeology and anthropology. Even particle physics! How does it all fit together?A. So easily. I extend existing thinking on human relics and culture across the world, spanning China, Orkney, the Isle of Man… Stenhousemuir… among others. Only with my amalgamated views will you appreciate that prehistoric petrospheres are abstract expressions of ancient football, or understand the significance of the mession particle that binds foot to ball (as discovered recently in the Great Hedron Collider), or value my predictions for the winners of the 2050 World Cup.

Q. You did this so well that, when I read the book, some of the things that I thought were fiction were – in fact – fact. Was this a deliberate
A. Absolutely. Truth is usually stranger than fiction. Even down to the truth behind the First World Cup competition and the coal-miners from West Auckland. This is precisely why the book works so well, because fact merges seamlessly with fiction, which adds immeasurably to the fun!

Q. There is a huge volume of specialist knowledge in this book – and not just about football! So where did you get it from and how do you convey this range of knowledge without readers doubting your credentials?
A. Well, I was a pharmacist and pharmaceutical innovator for many years. I also research in the field of sports physiology and carbohydrate metabolism. I was the instigator of the famous Honey Diet and have developed a formula for forward-provisioning of the brain during sleep. In my spare time, I’m forever delving into human culture, past and present, and of course spectating the beautiful game. To wrap up all this knowledge with aplomb, in a single credible character, I devised polymath and highly esteemed academic, the evolutionary scientist Professor Gordon P. McNeil, nominally from St Andrews University in Fife. He loves to throw his theories about with the slightest encouragement, especially over a pint in the “passiens” taverns (which also feature throughout the book, and were perhaps the hardest part of my research).

Q. Back to reality, then. What was the starting point for the book – the point at which the revolution “kicked” off – if you’ll excuse the pun?
A. Actually it was very specific. I was reading Harari’s book on Sapiens and came to a passage in which he discussed how humans lack genes for football. In his words: “Evolution did not endow humans with the ability to play football. True, it produced legs for kicking, elbows for fouling and mouths for cursing, but all that this enables us to do is perhaps practise penalty kicks by ourselves … human teenagers have no genes for football.” That really got me thinking and, the more I thought about it, the more I protested!

Q. Is the esteemed Professor Harari – author of Sapiens – aware of the revolutionary whirlwind his words have spawned?
A. Oh he is, totally! I sent him Gordon P. McNeil’s reaction to (attack on) his claims about humans’ lack of footballing genes. He loved it!

Q. I can imagine why footballers will love this book; it breathes life into certain mysteries and ideas relating to the gloriousness of football – the game, its players and its fans. Has the book been recognised by the footballing fraternity?
A. Oh yes! All the normal folk love it. And a bunch of those at the Scottish Football Supporters Association. And Irvine Welsh! In fact, somewhere between Trainspotting I and Trainspotting II he found the time to write the Foreword (or Forward) – in which he makes it all sound far more anarchic than I had intended.

Q. I can’t wait to read it properly. But what’s next on the agenda?
A. You’d think I’d outdone myself, wouldn’t you? Proving that penalty kicks are the highest expression of bipedal neotenous culture of mankind … But there is more! The book touches brain energy metabolism, and this relates to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – a terribly serious issue in real life. That’s where I go next. Watch this space.

Homo Passiens: Man the Footballer by Mike McInnes is forthcoming from Swan & Horn.

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