Once you start college-level biology, you’ll never stop hearing about evolution and its many tentacles on the subject. But this is the only tentacle that has human history written with an ape’s head in its armpit, the facet of evolution that offers the most controversy. For some, it’s religiously based (understandable) and for others, it’s a matter of pride (doesn’t have my sympathy).
Honestly, evolution gets more and more interesting to me every time it’s taught, and easier to remember to pass those quizzes. Here’s a summary of my notes:
Founding Principles of the Theory of Evolution
- Natural Selection: The process by which a population’s most well adapted survive the struggle for life and reproduce, creating well-adapted offspring to continue the circle of life. So basically, the strongest, fastest, and most badass members of animal society get the most mates.
- Sexual Selection: The process by which non-adaptive traits, such as a peacock’s tail or one of those red-necked birds that inflate with air possess traits that would make them easier targets for predators, but more attractive for members of the opposite sex. I think the closest analogy in humans would be a girl choosing a sexually aggressive and physically abusive vs a nice guy at your local telecom company. One is a productive member of society, the other a convict.
- Genetic Randomness. But as if God didn’t want to be out done by the species guiding themselves, he basically be like “Ef it, let’s make them struggle more.”
- Genetic drift: any random change in the genotype of the population by:
- Founder effect: Some of the organisms get caught up on an island, and reproduce offspring more suited for that environment, thus becoming less and less like the population they left
- Bottleneck effect: BLAOM! A catastrophe occurs; only three females and a male are left to fuck. Their children are not representative of the previous population.
- Mutation: This throws a wrench into the mix by introducing completely new genes and by extension, genotypes to be selected for in the struggle for life.
Common Misconceptions about Evolution
- It is creating a higher organism. It creates an organism suited for its environment, rather than making it more beautiful or stronger for a species.
- Our behavior is entirely genetic. Genetic determinism is the bane of my existence because technically it does make sense. To a large extent our behavior is controlled by our genes, but it is also controlled by our environment and the places in which we grew up. For example, I typically will not insult you unless I know you well as I’ve been taught that insults in certain contexts are endearing.
- Evolution can not be guided. Artificial selection proves that wrong, and if we humans cared about future generations, we would let it run free.
Evolution in Relation to Psychology
- Evolution, namely the idea that humans are the descendants of great apes, firmly grounds psychology in biology, officially making it a science that can have more reproducible research. (Yay…)
- Because evolution has a time lag, the brain that we’re currently using has some preloaded software from generations past, including but not limited to: the 5 universal emotions, disease avoidance, mate selection, hierarchy and group living.
- Since we still have our ‘lizard brain’ so to speak, we can understand, and over the process of dozens of generations, select for traits that diminish its power so humans can be more logical beings.