Olivia Judson: Evolution’s Profound Optimism

Dr. Olivia Judson

Dr. Olivia Judson

ONCE AGAIN, the the New York Times has an article by Olivia Judson, our favorite evolutionary biologist, and a research fellow in biology at Imperial College London.

Here it is: Optimism in Evolution. A few excerpts (bold added for emphasis):

In these arguments [over the teaching of evolution and whether intelligent design, or even Biblical accounts of creation, have a place in America’s science classrooms], evolution is treated as an abstract subject that deals with the age of the earth or how fish first flopped onto land. It’s discussed as though it were an optional, quaint and largely irrelevant part of biology. And a common consequence of the arguments is that evolution gets dropped from the curriculum entirely.

This is a travesty.

It is also dangerous.

Olivia doesn’t just express her outrage, she tells us why she’s outraged:

Evolution should be taught — indeed, it should be central to beginning biology classes — for at least three reasons.

To avoid excessive copying from the Times, we assign to you, dear reader, the pleasure of clicking over to the article and reading Olivia’s reasons. We shall proceed to the end of her article:

But for me, the most important thing about studying evolution is something less tangible. It’s that the endeavor contains a profound optimism. It means that when we encounter something in nature that is complicated or mysterious, such as the flagellum of a bacteria or the light made by a firefly, we don’t have to shrug our shoulders in bewilderment.

We don’t? But… but … Olivia — if we don’t shrug our shoulders in bewilderment, what will become of all the swamis, witch doctors, and creationists? Their peculiar livelihood depends on our bewilderment!

Instead, we can ask how it got to be that way. And if at first it seems so complicated that the evolutionary steps are hard to work out, we have an invitation to imagine, to play, to experiment and explore. To my mind, this only enhances the wonder.

Olivia, Olivia … You are so very evolved!

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3 responses to “Olivia Judson: Evolution’s Profound Optimism

  1. Me thinks you’re in looove! 😉

  2. Don’t be ridiculous! All I care about is her data.

  3. And such very fine data she has.