Saturday, August 1, 2015

Overused Evolution: Part II

Unexpectedly, my little article on the banality of evolution was met will no backlash, so I’m more confident about continuing. For those who didn’t read the first post, the main theme was: why are we even talking about evolution?—it’s neither modern nor important. It’s an old idea that has morphed into the misguided “survival of the fittest” which, per biologists, should be “survival of the reproducible”—hardly a startling idea.

But popular culture sees it differently. You can find ‘serious’ analysis on the evolutionary causes of abuse, acne, anger, allergies, baby teeth, baldness, beards, large breasts, cancer, cooperation, Chinese eyes, and crying, And those are just selective A, B, C’s. For example, just like long distance running helped us hunt, baldness and loss of body hair kept us safe around our newly discovered fires. Our current culture will pretty much trace anything to an evolutionary origin, although I haven’t yet seen the evolutionary reasoning for halitosis. 

Unlike Darwin, in Myk’s comment, these people see a rational hand dealing evolutionary explanations, and not randomness. Perhaps they should come up with an evolutionary reason for why our species must see rational patterns.

But, aside from being old, practically a tautology, uninformative, and, in my opinion, upside down science, the main reason evolution is not worth talking about is that it fails science’s greatest measure—it is not predictive. From Copernican heliocentrism to Boyles Law science is properly revered for what it says about the future. The Theory of Evolution, unlike the Theory of General Relativity or the Uncertainty Principle, does not help us predict anything other than species will change in some way in some long amount of time. We should be discussing genetics, not evolution.

However, and this is a big “however”, there is an exalted place for evolution—what it can tell us about the past. There is little more exciting than past species, as Jurassic World reminds us. Dinosaur books alone may have excited more children into the field of science than anything else. Evolution is fascinating, just not in explaining the present or the future. Let’s enjoy our evolutionary past, but forget the evolutionary augury. 

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