Thursday, June 15, 2006

Evolution in less than 10 words

Razib asks:
If you had 10 words or less, what would you have the public master (and I mean internalize, not spit back as a creed) about evolutionary theory?
My answer is: I am different from my grandfather's grandfather's grandfather's grandfather's grandfather.

Razib focusses on natural selection. And that's important. But evolution is change over time. That change happens for many reasons, not all selective. Gene flow from Ukraine, Poland and Germany combined in New York, Indiana and Chicago. Neutral drift kicked in along the way.

The quintuple repetition of "grandfather" serves to remind the person learning it that evolution is about repeated cycles of events over many generations and under many different conditions.

The typical problem people have with evolution is not with change from one generation to the next. We see that all the time. But understanding how all those little changes add up to a big change is a constant problem. And the repetition of the generations encourages the person to think about how those changes add up.