A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
We got lied to about evolution. Hold it! Before you let fly the anti-Christian fireworks, I didn’t say anything about a man in the sky who created the heaven and earth in six days and then took Sunday off to watch a ballgame. All I said was we got lied to about evolution — and we did.
Everybody knows the story of Darwin. There are some people who don’t believe it, but in general, Darwin, like Freud and Nietzsche, is one of the good guys. The problem is what people actually know about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution would fill a mouse’s ear. Most of our “common knowledge” is nothing more than “collective ignorance.” It runs like this: living species adapt to their environment and those who adapt best, survive and even thrive; those who don’t, end up gathering dust in a Natural History museum. While this is basically true, the underlying theme is this process is beneficial. Unfortunately, Darwin didn’t say anything about that. In fact, it probably never occurred to him. The whole “evolution is good for you” school of thought came from other Victorians, a few Edwardians and a lot of Nazis, who wanted to seal the deal on “we’re-better-than-you-are”– once and for all. So as Josef Goebbels might have said, if you tell a lie loud enough and long enough, people tend to believe it. That’s why most contemporary people will tell you, evolution is a good thing. Crap!
First of all, evolution does not come with a moral component. It is neither good nor bad — it’s indifferent. Faster lions don’t get extra points for catching the gazelle – they get to eat. If they eat, they get to mate and pass their “faster than a speedy ungulate” genes on to their offspring. Likewise, gazelles who avoid becoming a Happy Meal™ get to spend a romantic evening with a fast female, listening to the lions digest Too Slow Uncle Joe. Nature, in its wisdom, takes its course, and the “faster than a hungry lion” gene is also passed along. Then the process starts all over again. The evolutionary race on this planet is never-ending. By definition, it’s evolving.
Second, Darwin’s theory only applies to a self-contained natural environment like the Galapagos Islands where “Faster! Higher! Stronger!” makes a difference. Once a foreign element is introduced into Darwin’s theory, all bets are off. Just ask the Dodo bird or the Passenger Pigeon. They were poster children for evolutionary excellence. At one time, there were so many Passenger Pigeons in North America they blackened the sky, except — oops — now, they’re all dead. So what happened to evolution? Shotguns! Evolution comes to a screaming halt when faced with a speeding bullet, or any other man-made apparatus. When that happens, natural selection becomes nothing more than an after-dinner conversation.
The problem is, despite the lies we’ve been told about evolution, at the end of the day, Darwin was right. The fellow who gets the lion’s share of the food and the females will pass his genes on to the next generation. Unfortunately, our species no longer relies on “Faster! Higher! Stronger!” for its success. We’re more into “Smarter! Richer! Sneakier!” Nor do we live in a self-contained natural environment anymore. Physical attributes still work for lions and gazelles on the African veldt, but they’re not quite so handy for humans in London or Chicago. We are techno-termites who hunt our food and our females with credit cards.
Meanwhile, evolution doesn’t care. It just keeps pumping away, rewarding the genes that survive and discarding the ones that don’t. The problem is we humans still attract each other physically with the broad male shoulders and wide female pelvic bones we needed to get to the top of the evolutionary ladder. However, look around! These traits are now pretty much useless. In fact, given our complex techno-eccentric world, their intrinsic value is actually questionable. In a nutshell, evolution may be rewarding the wrong genes. And thus, when we understand what Darwin was actually telling us, it looks remarkably like our species might just be evolving itself right out of business.