Evolution and natural selection
Evolution clarification Clarifying some points on evolution and intelligent design
- I thought I would make a quick video to clarify some points
- on evolution and maybe clear up some points of ambiguity in
- some of my previous videos.
- So when you go to the natural history museum and you see
- these drawings where they start with a primitive ape and
- they show progressive species that show some form of
- progress, at least some form of progress when it comes to
- walking on two feet, it culminates with Homo Sapiens--
- us-- you imagine that evolution is kind of this
- process that creates better and better things.
- You imagine that there's this notion of progress that, as
- time goes on, each successive species is better than its
- And I want to be very clear that this notion of better
- really makes no sense in an evolutionary or natural
- selection context.
- That all that matters is fitness to your environment or
- the frequency with which you're able to reproduce in an
- environment, which doesn't really match to
- our notion of better.
- So some people kind of think of, well, what's going to be
- the next step in human evolution?
- And they imagine some human with a big brain that can move
- things with mental energy and all of that and can see
- through things or whatever else.
- They imagine some kind of progress, that, look, we're
- more intelligent.
- We can do all of these things that an ape couldn't do.
- Maybe the next stage in evolution somehow will be some
- type of superhuman.
- And I don't know what the next stage of evolution, if there
- is any next stage for-- I can't go into that debate, but
- the idea is that that's not necessarily the case.
- Even if you take our current human population, success in
- evolutionary terms is very different than success in our
- kind of societal definition.
- For example, let's say that you have two people.
- You know, this guy, some dude here, he's got a Ph.D, he's
- got an MD, he's got a lot of money, I mean, just everything
- that society says is a success, but because he did
- his MD, Ph.D, he's been in school a long time, and he
- decides not to have children, or if he wants to be very
- responsible, he looks at how many people there are in the
- world and the overcrowding and the environmental impact.
- So let's say him and his wife, who is also an MD, Ph.D, and
- has all this money and degrees and have spent a lot of their
- time in school, they decide to have one child.
- Let me see, this is his wife, who has kind of similarly--
- she's similarly educated, and from our point of view is a
- very successful, very responsible couple.
- Now let's say that there's some other guy over here, and
- he's just kind of-- for the sake of it, let's say he's
- just nuts, that from the get-go he was very
- He produced one child after another.
- Let's say by the time he's 30 years old, he has 10 children,
- all with different mothers, maybe some of the children had
- to go up for adoption.
- Who knows the situation with this guy's life?
- I don't want to be judgmental of it, but the general idea is
- that in society, we would say, oh, this guy is less
- But from an evolutionary point of view, this guy was far more
- In fact, people like this guy, the frequency of their genes
- is increasing much faster than the frequency of these
- people's genes.
- So when we talk about fitness from an evolutionary point of
- view, it's not necessarily fitness from the point of view
- that we like to think of it in our regular kind of value
- system that we have in society.
- These people looked very fit, intellectually and, who knows,
- maybe physically as well, but they weren't reproducing.
- Their genes aren't being passed on with the frequency
- of these guys.
- I forgot the statistic, but there's something like 80% of
- people in Asia have genes from either one man or some small
- collection of men who date-- actually, I think it's from
- one man-- from the 1200s.
- And it's either probably one of the Mongol warriors,
- whether it's Genghis or Kublai Khan, but it just shows you
- that there are some very-- and I'm not going to make any
- judgments here, but you could have very kind of aggressive
- people who may have raped and pillaged whole societies, and
- they were very successful from an evolutionary point of view,
- even though we might think that their actions are
- So I want to give you the sense that there's not
- necessarily the sense of progress.
- If this pattern I described keeps happening, then this
- type of person will become less and less frequent in the
- gene pool and this person will become more and more frequent
- in the gene pool.
- So we might end up with eventually a more aggressive
- human population or a less quote-unquote responsible one.
- So I want to make that one clarification that evolution,
- or natural selection, is not just a series of progressive
- steps where we'll slowly and slowly become-- or any
- organism becomes kind of a better and more intelligent
- and faster animal.
- It just depends on its environment and what it's
- being selected for.
- Now the other thing I want to clarify is, really, some of
- the points I made on the video regarding intelligent design.
- In that video, my intention was not to really make a
- comparison between intelligent design and evolution.
- So you have evolution on this side and you have intelligent
- design on this side.
- And I want to be clear, and I didn't maybe make it clear
- enough in that video, that this debate is
- an artificial one.
- Evolution really is the basis of modern biology.
- If you want to understand how the flu works, or if you
- wanted to understand the human genome, or if you wanted to
- understand heredity, evolution is the cornerstone of that.
- And it's not complete.
- Every day, every year, we're discovering more and more
- about how the process of natural selection works.
- There are still open debates.
- People aren't sure the pace at which evolution occurs, other
- factors that might make it occur faster or slower, but I
- want to be clear.
- This does explain all of our observations.
- Or let me put it this way: All of our observations in modern
- science are backing up
- evolution and natural selection.
- And if anything, it is the basis of modern biology.
- So if one were to deny natural selection and evolution,
- they're really denying our
- understanding of modern biology.
- Intelligent design is a belief system, and my whole point
- behind making that is to try to maybe reconcile the parties
- that favor this with the idea of evolution, so that they
- could reconcile one's religious beliefs while not
- having to deny what is the cornerstone of modern biology.
- And when I talk about design, I make the point that, look,
- you know, rather than looking at the particular design,
- whether it's the eye or a particular organism, and I
- even make the point that there is no particular design.
- Even if you were to point to the human eye, there's not one
- version of the human eye.
- There's an infinite variation in the human eye, so it would
- even have to be intelligent designs,
- not intelligent design.
- But my whole point behind the video was to say if you are
- inclined to believe in a designer, then the more
- elegant design is at the system level,
- which really is evolution.
- Now, I wasn't trying to say there is a designer or there
- isn't a designer.
- I was just saying if you are inclined to believe in one,
- this is more profound and gives more justice to the
- designer that you are inclined to believe in.
- This is not science at all.
- Intelligent design is a denial of what all of modern science
- is telling us today.
- And it's not a theory, as some proponents of it put it, and
- they kind of surround it with scientific-sounding terms, but
- it's not a theory.
- You cannot test intelligent design.
- There's no data point that will confirm or deny whether
- somehow something was designed by some
- type of sentient creator.
- This is just a belief system that is
- essentially rejecting this.
- But I don't want to be disrespectful of those who
- believe in this belief system, because it comes out of
- closely held beliefs.
- My goal really is to reconcile that.
- And if you do want to give your belief in a creator due
- credit, you're better looking at the system
- rather than the design.
- So I just wanted to make those two points, two
- One on the evolution/intelligent design--
- quote-unquote-- debate.
- But it's not really a debate.
- This is kind of the cornerstone of modern biology.
- This is something that just rejects that.
- It isn't a provable or disprovable theory.
- And I wanted to make the point that evolution doesn't
- necessarily mean a straightforward line of
- progress in evermore intelligent
- and impressive creatures.
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