Northwestern University promotes the research of one of its scientists with this adorable video about the evolution of fish to man, “Our short-sighted inner fish: Vision explains why our fish ancestors came on to land.”
400 million years ago, fish made the evolutionary leap from water to land. If they hadn’t, you might not be reading this sentence. Why? Because it led to more complex cognition. A new study by Northwestern professor Malcolm MacIver and Claremont Colleges professor Lars Schmitz discovered a near tripling of eye size might be what triggered the invasion of land.
Molecular biologist Douglas Axe watched it and was impressed by the persistent use of language inflected with teleology, attributing intelligent motivation not only to animals, but to their individual organs, and to the process of evolution as a whole. So, how did fish come on to land?
It all seems to have started when the first fish peeked above the water’s surface….And behold — a smorgasbord of tasty land dwellers! To capitalize on this discovery, the fish would have to evolve. Its eyes soon moved to the top of its head and tripled in size. And its fins began evolving into limbs so that it could stalk its new prey like a crocodile. [Emphasis added.]
Dr. Axe tweets: “Evolutionary reasoning is all about storytelling. Hard to tell stories without invoking purpose, as this vid shows.”
Yep. On that note, here’s an exercise for evolution proponents. Try rewriting the script of this evolution video without using any teleological language. Tough, isn’t it?
As a side point, too, look at how the video ends. The fish evolves into man, but man has a problem. Despite his keen vision, he doesn’t look ahead to see the consequences of his actions. We see him mowing the law, and he pulls off his shirt and gets a sunburn. To cool off, his neighbor hands him a beer, which he drinks and immediately gets fat. Meanwhile, perhaps from the exhaust of the lawn mower, he causes global warming, resulting in melting glaciers and sad polar bears.
In the final scene, a group of human beings are show donning virtual-reality headsets. The narrator concludes:
Understanding the relationship between vision and planning may help us engineer solutions, like using technology to bring far away things closer. That just might give us the evolutionary advantage we need to survive the next 400 million years.
Right. So we’ll save the planet by cutting ourselves off from other human beings and interacting not with the reality in front of us but with computers and simulated reality. That’s the “solution” to human problems — stick a computer in front of everyone’s face.
Someday, thoughtful people will look back and see the madness of that pervasively influential way of thinking — quite apart from the silliness of trying to deny the obvious workings of purpose in nature. But that time has not yet come.
Image: Fish in the process of evolving into man, via Northwestern University.