Evolution Visualized and Explained

I think I will show this in class in May when I teach the evolution lecture again.
Reed adds some caveats I am sure to point out in the classroom.
Update: Watched it again. I think I’ll stop the movie a moment before the first chimp appears. Until that moment the animation, though not 100% accurate, and quite oversimplified, is GREAT for a visceral understanding of evolution. We can debate neutral selection and population sizes, but that is what we do. For a regular citizen uninterested in science, this brief movie is sufficient to “grok” evolution. This is a great example of “visual framing” (as opposed to language-based framing). You don’t have to tell all the science. You dont’ have to have your science 100% accurate. But you hit a nerve, and you end up with a convert. Nothing more is needed, though if anyone gets interested, there is plenty of information out there.

5 responses to “Evolution Visualized and Explained

  1. Be ready for the objection that intelligence and/or design was frontloaded into the simulation by the programmers. It’s as sure as death and taxes.

  2. It’s also not very clear what’s making the adaptations ‘stick’ in each of the four different environments. Colour? Presumably so in the underlying (but slightly obscured) metaphor.
    But yes, it’s trying hard, which is the important thing.

  3. Sorry – distracted by the use of the ‘Black Beauty’ series theme tune…

  4. I have to say that I never had my sound on when I watched this, so I was taken aback when I saw people reacting negatively to music. What music? I wondered.
    I think I will leave it on “mute” for the class as well.

  5. Carl Bajema

    Nice video but somewhat missleading with respect to the causes and consequences of selection.
    Are you helping your students to understand the three different environmental causes of selection?
    Darwin identified three groups of environmental causes (“struggle for existence”)
    (1) physical conditions of the environment
    (2) individuals of other species
    (3) individuals of the same species.
    Are you helping your students identify all four major genetic consequences of selection.
    Selective mortality is only one of the genetic consequences.
    (1) Selective elimination of harmful information (subtraction)
    (2) Selective accumulation of new favourable information (addition)
    The real power of selection to bring about the adaptive evolution of adaptations resides in its effect on
    (3) Selective reproduction of adaptive information (multiplication). (This is implied in the video). Selective multiplication means adaptive genetic evolution is a product of an exponential process.
    (4) Selective recombination of adaptive information via mate selection and sexual reproduction. (random division and probabilistic selective addition. One-half the genes in one’s descendants come from its mate. Those genes can have a dramatic effect on survival and reproductive success in future generations. Sexual reproduction and mate choice enable evolution-in-parallel to occur in more than one ancestor per generation and that also speeds up adaptive evolution.
    All too often we only teach that selection is only capable of operating in a negative fashion editing out harmful information.
    It is time to design curricula that teach the “strongman” version that includes positive selection rather than the “weakling” version of selection that emphasizes nonrandom survival and does not include a discussion of how selection operates via multiplication and via division and selective addition.
    Keep improving your video as we need some good visual demonstrations of the power of selection.