Science is far from human-centric. All life on earth is not striving to become human. Evolution is not goal-oriented. These are the types of issues that Dr. Stone discussed during her talk, “The Unfinished Business of the Darwinian Revolution.” The misconceptions that have formed around this topic have proven to be harmful in a number of ways. The construction and reinforcement of these faulty ideas has led to oversimplification. In the minds of many, evolution has become solely based in the idea of competition. Species actively competing against each other to become the most “fit”. This of goal-oriented, typological thinking pattern has masked the true importance of evolution by natural selection. In this talk, Dr. Stone said, “If species are types, then variation is imperfection”. Darwin tackled this misconception head on and steps should be taken to help eliminate this idea from the general public today. Its implications impact some contemporary issues.
Variation is far from imperfection. It is vital to the continuing survival and diversity of life on earth. Species may be selectively pressured, depend on the environment in which they live, and only those that survive will be able to pass on their genetic information. No species is striving to become the “perfect species”. There is no such concept. An organism can only be “perfect” for its environment. Even this is subjective. More than one species can be perfect for the same environment. Success is only measured by reproduction and the passing of genetic information. The idea that evolution is goal-oriented can be attributed in large part to popular science. Inaccurate artwork often depicts evolution as ladder-like rather than branching. This can skew the thinking of many who are not formally educated in biology. Also, some headlines are focused exclusively in the role that genes play in susceptibility to illness. The effect of these is two-fold. Establishing that people with this specific trait are less fit. In actuality, they just have an unfortunate variation that has given them a slightly higher chance of developing a disease. Also, these headlines lead people to believe that genetic factors are the only important component to the susceptibility, when environmental factors may also be contributing.
Another interesting concept that Dr. Stone addressed is the idea that race is a construct. All humans on earth are Homo sapiens. There is no subspecies of human, but for some unknown reason, people have been separated based on physical qualities. There are other factors that separate people; like geography, language, culture, etc. However, race has become a default in separating humans into subspecies. All humans share many common characteristics, but many chose to focus on the differences. Skin color has become such a defining characteristic of humans when that is just one of many variations that make each human unique. Among the possible mental and physical qualities that we share, why is the focus on skin color? It would be as easy to separate people based on eye color or the size of their feet. Typological thinking and misinformation can lead to harmful cognition and behavior. Steps should be taken to eliminate this as a construct, it is unhealthy. An informed population not only understands evolution for use in the sciences, but also for its applicability in daily life among humans.