Darwinian Evolution is wrongly depicted, according to Professor Stone, through the iconic image of man’s ladder-like evolution from ape. The theory of evolution, specifically Darwinian Evolution, should instead be viewed as a branching process. If we think of evolution as a tree, then the theory becomes entirely based on contingency. For instance, the root of the tree, we may suppose to be the common ancestor of all life. The fact that today, humans exist, is not accounted for by a predestined path that the earliest life form followed, for throughout evolutionary history there has been potential for species to branch off in different directions. Thus, natural selection, which Darwinian Evolution grounds itself in, is a product of circumstance. For example, natural selection would state that giraffes with long necks survived because all those with short necks died out for being unable to reach the leaves on tall trees. However the fact that the leaves giraffes eat grow on trees that are very tall, or even that giraffes eat leaves at all is contingent. In other words, the desirable trait of long necks rested on the circumstances that giraffes ate leaves and that those leaves grew high up in tall trees. It could have been just as likely that giraffes ate plants that grew on the ground, and then short necks would be a desirable trait.


The point of the scenario I presented is that throughout species there is variation. The traits individuals possess are not inherently good or worse, but more or less agreeable with the environment that they find themselves in. This, as Stone talked about, is what distinguishes evolutionists from mutationists. Mutationists are concerned with the fact that mutations are the source of variation within species, and that natural selection hinges on how well the mutations fare. Whereas evolutionists, in comparison, recognize mutation (inter-species variation) as not so fundamentally different from variation across species. An entire species, that is to say, is made of individuals that are exceptionally different from one another, but linked together by biological classification.


The prior point is where I thought Professor Stone really drove home her argument. If we can think of mutation on the level we think of variation across species, then typological thinking may be overcome. Stereotyping, racial profiling and other types of prejudices would then become obsolete. As is every individual, living creature, humans too are all different. Though we have certain qualities that we classify under homo sapien, each person is his or her own unique individual. Like snow flakes, we all share certain properties, or are made from the same stuff/material, but our structure is unique.