If Charles Darwin were alive today I wonder what he’d think about the brand that his name has become: a satirical Jesus Fish. Since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859 his eager earthlings have discovered penicillin, climbed Mount Everest, and mapped the human genome. Yet the study begun by the godfather of evolution remains, perhaps ironically, unfinished — a work in progress.
At least that’s the impression I was left with after reading this article on msnbc.com this morning. It’s called “Why animals left the sea for land,” and it not only fails to answer that question but a host of others — including how mammals moved back into water and evolved into whales, and how snakes became legless — though to their credit they may have discovered how chimps began to walk upright.
Speciation and natural selection have always been misunderstood and mischaracterized, and I’ve done a healthy amount of that sort of thing myself. Reading up on some murky areas concerning the particulars made me curious about the basics and led me to this transcript of a talk by John Wilkins, an Australian bio prof with a sciency name who’s all about the “history of evolution” so to speak. One quote that really spoke to the current threats to marine biodiversity was this:
So we must not expect that evolution is a process that will correct our mistakes. A crucial part of evolution is what we are witnessing happen now more than any time in the history of the earth — extinction. Natural selection cannot overcome the massive challenges we are throwing at living systems. …
I think Chuck D. himself would be glad to see that of his many contributions, the bumper sticker isn’t the only one that still has legs.