Evolution is happening

This is the current evolution of dinosaurs.
This is the current evolution of dinosaurs. Image complements of S. Monroe.

What really defines evolution, when we get down to it?  Those of us who science with any level of decency know that there are constant physical and genetic changes being made regularly.  Species adapt to environmental changes at a remarkable rate, mutations happen on subtle and gross levels, but there is not a single completely proven definition on what really makes evolution.

In particular, what drives it?  If it’s purely a matter of propagation of any given species, then homosexuality and non-reproductive coitus would be selected against.  Wait… sexual deviation from heteronormative behavior isn’t something that can be selected for or against because it often happens spontaneously.  And non-reproductive coitus is one of the things that makes life worth living, I’m sure most species would agree.

But when we look to examine evolution, we turn first to a Darwinian approach (draconian in its cold selection process) and then to adaptive mutations (sometimes random, sometimes not), but while we absolutely and unequivocally know that evolution is a real thing, understanding why and how it works is only just now coming into focus.

(That’s why it’s called a theory – because we don’t have all the pieces of it yet, not that it’s not real, just like the theory of plate tectonics.  So there.)

Now, something amazing is happening: tribes of chimpanzees are entering the Stone Age.  They are persistently, from generation to generation, using complex tools and developing those tools to become more efficient.  Interestingly, though, the chimps pale in comparison to crows, and crows aren’t even the only birds to use tools.

Except, from where I’m sitting – while it is utterly awesome to observe – it’s not all that amazing.  Evidence of complex social structures, generational knowledge, cultural geneaology, epigenetic inheritances, and various other previously human-only traits are now observed extensively across the entire animal kingdom.  More than that, animals adapt to and with other species, much in the way canines adapted to be more acceptable to humans while felines domesticated us instead.

Humans just like to think that they’re the special little snowflakes in the universe.  I think that what we’re observing right now is not a new thing that has never happened before: I think it’s been going on this entire time, and our species-wide arrogance forced us to ignore it.

I propose that in the question of evolution, we cannot limit the idea of evolution purely to genetically traceable data.  I suggest that we must be open to observing culture and everything that goes with it.  We must be willing to finally acknowledge that language is not the sole realm of the homo sapien.  We must be willing to perceive that the many and sundry ways in which other non-human species have altered their environments instead of taking what was provided (nests are a prime example) are evidence of a cultural intelligence and not merely habitually happy coincidence or some kind of R-level instinct.

Play with this idea.  Think about it.  Mull it over.  And then watch Zoo and prepare to get ooked out like no one’s business.  (I developed this idea before starting to watch that, but dang.)

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