Commentaries On Evolution

Merchandizing Evolution

Merchandizing Evolution

Evolution may have a difficult time finding its rightful place in school curricula in the United States, but it certainly has established its presence in the commercial marketplace. Retail stores use iconic evolutionary concepts like these to attract customers.

At gut level nearly everybody has learned the truth. Science makes it clear: Evolution is a fact. But the willfully ignorant often reject the basic biological science because it conflicts with their religious views. That dangerous anti-intellectualism was given much support with the Trump victory in 2016.

Our former vice president is an acknowledged evolution denier. See for yourself in this brief speech to Congress:

The Apes Are Back!

The Apes Are Back!

The blockbuster film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues the brilliant story begun in Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011. In the earlier film, a chimpanzee named Caesar leads a revolution of apes kept in cages and abused as experimental subjects. In the pivotal scene, Caesar stands up to his human captors and says, “No!” The apes escape to Muir Woods, a beautiful, expansive state park north of San Francisco, where he announces, “Caesar is home.” Caesar and his mates stake out a permanent homestead in the northern California woodlands.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — which should be seen in 3D if possible—further explores the relationship between apes and humans. When the humans invade the apes’ territory, a war ensues.

The movie explores the close biological and cultural links other great apes share with us. The apes in the movie have observable individual differences in appearance and personality. They form hierarchical communities and follow strong leaders. They form friendships and empathize with each other. Subgroups that have competing motivations develop within the social groups. They organize themselves and make plans. They are capable of communicating and bonding with individuals of other species.

The power of communication drives ape behavior in both movies. We know chimpanzees have significant communication skills. They use vocal and nonverbal forms of communication to represent a range of thoughts and feelings. So far they have not vocalized anything close to what we consider language, but both these films portray a world where that could happen.

Why not? Like common chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas, and gibbons, we are apes too. And like other apes, we use communication to form and maintain our communities, thereby increasing our chances to survive and reproduce. Effective communication is key to the evolution of all advanced species.

We humans like to think we are special. Indeed, we are the most advanced life form on earth and the only one capable of incredible feats (but also the only one capable of mass killing and genocide). These two films—especially The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—confront the conflicting realities all apes face. These films reveal just how similar our species are. That’s a lesson everyone, especially the American public—so famous for its ignorance about evolution—can use.

Anyone seeking to learn more about humans’ close connection to the other apes should read Jared Diamond’s classic book, The Third Chimpanzee. An inexpensive paperback edition is available on



Nightwish lead guitarist

The last line of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species goes like this:

“From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.”

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution revolutionized natural science. Only the most ignorant or hopelessly compromised individual today doesn’t understand or won’t admit that evolution by natural selection drives all of organic life.

Evolution doesn’t have to be “believed.” It’s a fact.

Scientists inform their students and attempt to help the general public understand how evolution works. Sadly, the United States’ population still ranks at the very bottom of advanced countries in their basic knowledge of evolution. But now some musicians are doing their part to popularize the truth about how we and every other species of plant and animal got here. Bjork’s album Biophilia was a major breakthrough. Baba Brinkman raps about evolutionary theory. Glass Animals thank Darwin for inspiration.

But the most amazing contribution to popularizing the truth of evolution is being made by the Finnish symphonic metal band, Nightwish. Just off the “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” world tour that went on for more than a year, the sheer brilliance of this band comes through in their studio album (by the same name, Endless Forms Most Beautiful). They have released a DVD that features their epic Wembley Arena show, where the great evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins makes a live guest appearance. His voice and wisdom are featured on the album too. The DVD/CD package is called “Vehicle of Spirit”.

Please click on this link to see the official lyric video of Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Go full screen and turn the volume UP!

Celebrate Evolution!

Celebrate Evolution!

Charles Darwin, father of EvolutionIn 2009 we celebrated two extraordinary and intimately connected anniversaries. Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. Fifty years later the great naturalist published what many consider to be the most profound book ever written, The Origin of Species. Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of The Origin both take place in the same year. Two excellent reasons to celebrate!

Richard DawkinsThanks largely to the brilliant scholarship and global outreach of biologist Richard Dawkins, the world is finally beginning to more fully comprehend and appreciate the work of Charles Darwin. Beginning with The Selfish Gene in 1976, Dawkins’ own research and writing have advanced evolutionary theory tremendously. But Dawkins has performed another vital service. During the past few years Richard Dawkins has been lecturing all over the world about evolution and why science and reason necessarily conflict with religious belief. His recent series on Channel 4 in the UK, “The Genius of Charles Darwin,” continues an impressive string of public presentations that have clearly demonstrated how evolution—especially the processes of natural and sexual selection—explains how biological and social systems function and why religion ultimately undermines the human potential.

You can keep up with Richard Dawkins at By searching Richard Dawkins on YouTube you can find many great Dawkins postings, including all three hours of “The Genius of Charles Darwin.” This TV series is perfectly pitched for the non specialist and presented in a very engaging, entertaining way. Highly recommended.

space station with earth backgroundThe academic field of communication has unfortunately ignored evolution completely. This omission looms despite the fact that beginning with sexual signaling and early language continuing all the way to active participation by people in the vast electronic and digital networks that pervade modern life, communication processes determine the way humans develop. Nothing is more important than communication for understanding where our species has been and where we’re headed.

Exotic flowersThe dual evolutionary structure Charles Darwin identified—mutation and selection—becomes a trinity: mutation, selection, and communication.

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