What Evolution Tells Us About Everything Else
For the last several of months I have been reading the book titled “The Ancestors Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution” by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (yep. that guy.). I have come across Dawkins’ name several times through my readings related to artificial intelligence and evolution. Dawkins not only provides an explanation based on evolutionary theory but also introduces a variety of perspectives spanning disciplines including genetics, archaeology, anthropology, biology, and many others. While there is a lot to be drawn from the book, specifically subject matter insights, what I have learned during my evolutionary journey, is that facts change.
So what exactly does that mean?
Scientists make educated guesses too….it is called a theory. According to Dawkins, the Pre-Cambrian period of history is kind of like a giant black box when it comes to archaeological records – the extent of fossil records just seems to disappear. Therefore, archaeologists and geneticists are forced to make some wild assumptions about the extent or pace of evolutionary change that happened during that period. Since we know what happened before and where we ended up after, scientists have generally concluded that the rate of evolution accelerated during that period? Is that true? Probably not. But again, it fits the narrative of the data until some other logical explanation or scientific method is invented to fill the gap. I guess statisticians are not the only ones who put plugs in their model until they have a logical explanation.
We often make pretty basic observations to determine comprehensive frameworks. When the author references early biologists, he often references that the earliest taxonomic classifications were based primary on the visual representation of animal species. Basically, we consistently use our basic sense of sight, touch, and hearing to make some routine assessments of species. As tools and resources improve, we could go to various levels of understanding regarding species – particularly when assessing ancestry at the genetic level. Case in point, a hippo is more directly related to a whale than an elephant. Who would have thought?
There is no singular pathway for success. One of the themes that is littered throughout the book is how each of the Concestor species was known or is known to select mates. Interestingly, as time progresses, the norms within species changes regarding what specific characteristics of a mate represent “fitness”. In one example you can think about all the warriors who go off to war, leaving behind the weaker candidates within the population to continue their genes. In that case, the most “fit” of the species are more likely to die off while the more intelligent and useful will carry on. Each species, throughout time, has adapted and created new ways of passing on their genetic material. Some species have even found ways to directly clone or replicate themselves for millions of years – one would think that this lack of diversity in the gene pool would fail – in some cases it proves successful.
No one seems to know when and how. I find it incredibly interesting that there doesn’t seem to be an scientific record explaining how and when we evolved away our tails and formed the Coccyx. Every time I sit down from now on I will always be wondering why I don’t have a tail. But I won’t wonder too hard because with time we will likely solve that mystery. Sometimes things are just entirely un-explainable – is it really that big of a deal?
As you can probably tell, I find that multi-disciplinarianism can help to solve a wide variety of different challenges – particularly when it comes to applications of scientific methods. The next time I run into an issue solving a problem at work, much like Dawkins, I will focus on the big leaps (Concestors), existing methods and tools, and go from there.