Wednesday, March 15, 2006

On Evolution

It seems to me that a great many people seem to operate under the belief that evolution tends toward greater intelligence - an extension of the concept that something more evolved is, by definition, better.

This is a fallacious view. The theory of evolution merely states that a species will eventually adapt to its environment – or die out. Those life forms that are ill-equipped for a specific environment will not procreate to the extent of those that are well-equipped - for that environment. Therefore, a species will naturally tend, over time, to a physical model that is more conducive to its habitat.

This says nothing at all about intelligence, much less 'superiority'. The member of the species that is least likely to reproduce in one environment may be more likely in another. If the environment changes drastically, which does occur from time to time, those that are the 'most fit' may become the 'least fit', practically overnight. This is why species die out – because the change in the environment is greater than a species’ ability to adapt to the change before the mortality rate reaches the point of no return.

What’s more, there is the (extremely homo-sapiens-centric) viewpoint that humans are the ultimate in evolution, and therefore evolution has stopped, because, well, it’s done. Mission accomplished. We have achieved perfection!

This is, of course, completely ludicrous.

I recall reading an article recently proclaiming something along the lines of "Scientists claim that evolution continues in humans!" As if this was not self-evidently obvious, and supportable from existing scientific theories. As if this were almost unthinkable. For all the claims of open-mindedness and the (rightful) repudiation of so-called theories involving the inherit superiority of one race over another, most humans still labour under the delusion that humans are at the apex of evolution. That we are the most superior. The most evolved.

Technically, the cockroach is likely the most evolved creature on Earth. Certainly it predates humanity by a very large margin of years, and has survived, virtually unchanged, for millennia. So there you have it – the perfect life form. The most adaptable. The most fit. Feel free to model yourself after it accordingly. Try not to eat too much garbage.

I sometimes fear that our current environment is conducive to breeding individuals without curiosity, intelligence, imagination, or self-awareness on a level beyond that of a reasonably unintelligent monkey. Natural selection now appears to favour the lowest common denominator. I see a world of reality TV shows in place of intelligent writing, and infotainment in place of investigative journalism. A world in which superficiality rules and critical thinking is passé. A world of fart jokes and fake dog shit.

On certain dark days, I very much feel that I am one of a dying species . On occasion, I sympathize with the dinosaurs - the last ones, those that wandered around looking in vain for another member of its own kind. But then again, they did have 21 million years of good times.

Fuck 'em.

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