Can everything be explained by evolution? It is a subject that has fascinated me ever since my formative years as a young and fresh faced zoology undergraduate. Not that my degree has ever really been put into practice but it is something I think about a lot. Evolution is something that is widely appreciated yet, in my view not understood.
The older I get mind you the more I realise that this is true of most things. People use words that they really have very little comprehension of their meaning. Perhaps it is my understanding that is different.
I got this form Wikipedia – where else? I gave them some money and so I think it is fair to plagiarise. ‘Evolution is change in the heritable traits of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms, and molecules.’
Evolution gives diversity at every level. Skin colour, height, natural abilities? How about diversity of thinking?
What has fascinated me most is whether people’s reactions to events have a basis in evolutionary pressure. We are, after all, just a series of chemical reactions. We organise atoms to do our bidding and when we die we give them back into the normal cycle of increased empathy.
Do we really have any free will at all? Is the way we dress and vote influenced by our genetics? Is what we find tasty, amusing or interesting all down to the chemistry?
This morning I helped an older lady by carrying her heavy suitcase down some stairs. I was in London, outside Kings Cross, making my way to the tube and so everyone else had rushed past. Was I being helpful or did my genetic altruism kick in? By showing kindness am I more likely to survive when resources are tight as others will reciprocate? Is my bag carrying a successful evolutionary survival strategy? The unselfish gene?
Perhaps it is my DNA that makes me wonder about these things.