EARTH MATTERS: EVOLUTION=ADAPTATION

Human Evolution

Human Evolution

The rise of the Tea Party Republicans has propagated a twisted version of the 13th century philosophy that science should be ignored if it does not support their narrow ideology. The majority of the Republican Party refutes the 99.8% of climate scientists worldwide over the last decade who have determined that the modern era of climate change is real and caused by anthropogenic actions. Likewise, the Tea Party Republicans believe the education system in America should return to the era of the Spanish Inquisition by pushing their non-secular Christian doctrine of creationism in public schools as an alternative to teaching the science of evolution.

At its base, evolution can be defined as adaptation. Since the dawn of humanity we have observed species evolution (adaptation) as a means to accommodate changes in a community’s social, economic, and environmental settings. The first systematic presentation of evolution was put forth to mainstream western societies by the French scientist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck in 1809. Lamarck described the mechanism for evolution (adaptation) to be “the inheritance of acquired characteristics.” While Lamarck thought this happened from generation to generation, in time, explorers/scientists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace refined the theory and discovered empirical evidence that hundreds of species around the world have evolved (adapted) over time to survive.

Hawaiian endemic birds

Hawaiian endemic birds

Recently, scientist/writer David Quammen has eloquently and accurately described the evolution (adaptation) of wildlife and humans as they migrated across the Timor gap from Asia to Australia before eventually reaching the Hawaiian archipelago. An enlightening example of evolution (adaptation) highlighted by Quammen in the “Song of the Dodo” describes the evolution (adaptation) of birds after they migrated to the Hawaiian Islands and developed unique physical characteristics as a means to adapt to the diversity of ecosystems on the islands. As a result, the migrating birds evolved (adapted) into 71 known taxa of endemic (native) Hawaiian birds.

Similarly, humans have evolved over time to adapt to their local environment. Natives in regions exposed to high amounts of solar radiation have developed various tones of skin pigmentation for protection from the sun’s rays. Humans have also evolved dry earwax if lived in wet coastal environments and wet earwax if they lived in dry valley/mountain environments to compensate for their exposure to water. Furthermore, scientific evidence derived from human fossils has also determined that the human brain evolved to social and environmental changes over time due to the availability of abundant food resourses and free time for critical thinking.

Thus, I am perplexed how the Tea-Party Republicans can justify ignoring the overwhelming empirical scientific evidence that evolution (adaptation) and anthropogenic induced climate change are reality. During the 13th century, Christians in Europe ignored the advice of the scientists until half the European population had died from the Black Plague. Are the Tea Party Republicans making the same mistake?

Comments are closed.