Big Bang Theory Intro #12: Evolution of Man

Oh boy, a controversial topic. Well, controversial to some.

This is a fairly famous image and most people recognize it now as a symbol of the evolutionary process. I couldn’t find the exact source image for this, but there are literally thousands of versions of it around the web. Although many would attribute the original idea to Charles Darwin, I couldn’t find anything even similar to this in all his illustrations, which are all available online.

Personally, I have a belief in the theory of evolution, if only because you can see it from first principles and it makes sense to me. You can simulate it with a basic set of rules, and see natural selection happen over thousands of generations, which makes up a significant part of evolution. If you accept some basic assumptions, it’s pretty easy to simulate. There was a marginally popular video which explained it, but that got also turned into a javascript thingy which works pretty good as well.

There are a ton of parodies of this depiction out there. I am a big fan of the computer-based one where we eventually evolve into typing on computers, because honestly I spend most of my day in front of a computer (although I’m standing more when typing lately). There’s also one with the obvious natural ending of the obese man which seems to be fairly popular, and there are a large number of cartoons making fun of the image in one way or another.

Interestingly, there is some thought that evolution has stopped or slowed because we have less prolific fathers than we had before, and possibly because we are somehow cheating the natural selection by the use of technology. I’ve wondered about this for a while, and I think it’s interesting both from a scientific perspective, as well as a ethical perspective. If we are somehow cheating natural selection through technology, is it a bad thing? Ethically, there are a lot of questions about the existence of genetically passed diseases and whether someone should procreate based on knowing that their child might be diseased simply because of your genes. I don’t have a good answer, but it is the type of question which I wish would be asked and debated more than whether evolution is actually valid.