A Common Misconception

Unfortunately, Creationists aren’t the only ones who don’t quite ‘get’ evolution. Have you ever watched Heroes? Remember those odd monologues at the beginning and end of each episode? The ones that talk about ‘evolution’ as if it was some sort of weird, pervasive predestination that a person could actively (and willingly) participate in? Yeah.

There is one particular misconception that both Creationists and non-Creationists make, though, and that’s ascribing some sort of intent or purpose to natural selection. Sally Kern recently gave a perfect example of this (originally found on Pharyngula):

Kern defined evolution to me as “the process of wanting to create something or have something be perfect. Get rid of that which is not healthy and strong.”

Uh…no. Not only does this have pretty clear Social Darwinist undertones (the other major misconception that needs to be put to rest), it gets natural selection completely backwards. I’ve been told a few times that scientists believe Archaeopteryx’‘learned to fly’ because it ‘needed’ to. Obviously that’s not what anyone is saying: Archaeopteryx did not go from being non-flying to flying in a single bound, and it certainly didn’t ‘learn’ to do it.

Evolution is not a process that somehow recognises a species’ weaknesses and then attempts to address them throgh mutation; that actually would imply design. Rather, species that are better adapted to their enviroment survive, while those that cannot adapt to a changing enviroment will become extinct. There’s more to it than that, but in no way does evolution grant an organism stronger legs or better eyes because it ‘needs’ them. Nor does evolution work towards some sort of ultimate goal or purpose, and please, if you learn nothing else about science, realise that evolution is not a linear process with microscopic life on one end and Homo sapiens on the other.


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