Evidence of Evolution

Becoming our own intelligent designers.

There is no evidence of evolution, they say. No evolving, only devolution — the beliefs of the past unraveling into the chaos, the meaninglessness of the present.

Are you one of them? Do you point to your own flesh and call it static? This is the flesh of my father and my father’s father and his father and so on, you say. No change. No difference. No adaptation. No evolution.

You might continue: There is no salvation in evolution. If it exists, it is slow — too slow for our problems. The world changes too fast for flesh to catch up. Will evolution help us stop crime and war and man’s inherited brutality? Will we grow an appendage to defeat famine and disease? An organ to nullify a cruise missile?

You might be right.

We have our opposable thumb and a cerebrum the size of a swollen fruit, and one has served the other well, shaping what we see, understanding what we shape. But what next? What change to best serve humanity on its slow, ponderous trek from sea to shore to sky to space and back again?

We’re still struggling with the remnants of changes past, still trying to get a grip on this massive head and the brain inside and the body beneath it and all its tiny, tiny parts.

This is what I think while I’m walking down narrow paths between high-rises, like blood through capillaries, ants through anthills.

This is what I think while I type on my computer filled with words and images, stories and songs that I’ve stored there: pictures of mothers, stories of lovers, and songs about both that exist as little more than electricity and the tiniest shreds of metal.

Electrochemical reactions make paths in our brain, grooves in the gray matter. Electromagnetic interaction sorts data on disks, soft and hard. My thoughts in one; my thoughts on the other.

We have not grown wings, but we have built them. We do not have gills, but we’ve seen the seafloor. We cannot survive in a vacuum, but the moon has blemishes in the shape of footprints.

We grow inpatient with biology. The appendix is an anachronism, and so, still waiting for evolution to do away with it altogether, we excise it. Wisdom teeth are plucked, the incisors they emerged to replace still whole and secure in our skulls. When ears fail, we build new ones. When hearts falter, we jumpstart them. Somewhere in a lab in Boston, they’re building eyes to let the blind see.

Impatience and ingenuity: a diabolical combination. We have hijacked our own evolution — the cities we live in, the cars we drive, the machines we use to build and tear down and heat and cool and grow. We’re not walking through some moving diorama, an environ we’ve created for ourselves that exists outside us, apart from us. We are moving in the hand-worked appendages of our technological evolution.

We are the intelligence behind our own design.

With computers, we have been fashioning ourselves a better brain. The world is smaller, its knowledge shared. Our minds can’t hold it all. Mine can’t even remember all the state capitals. But we’ve built better brains, and mine can tap into that digital Spiritus Mundi and find the capitals, their street maps, and the best places to get Thai food. All so I can keep my gray matter nice and unwrinkled, ready to think up some new way to co-opt my own creation — a new way to breathe; a new way to move; a new way to think; a new way to communicate.

There is no evidence of evolution, you say?

Article © 2006 by Steve Spotswood