Convenient Darwinism

There has been a controversy recently in the Columbus suburb of Whitehall about whether the local schools should have a special recognition of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. The issue has devolved into the standard, tiresome, “debate” between evolution and creationism.

I sometimes wonder if those who oppose Darwin’s theories don’t fully realize how useful and convenient those theories can be. I appreciate the concepts of evolution and natural selection, in part, because they provide us with some useful excuses for traits that otherwise might reflect poorly on us as individuals. The underlying basis for all of the excuses is that we are the end product (at last, the current end product) of millions of years of natural selection, and that in many instances it is impossible for us to resist the biological imperatives that are produced by that evolutionary history.

Some years ago, I read a very interesting book that argued, among other things, that one reason modern American struggle with their weight is — surprise! — evolution. The author’s theory was that natural selection favored individuals who were very efficient producers of fat, because those individuals were thereby more likely to survive during the cycles of feast and famine that characterized most of human history. Now that we are in a time of plenty (at least, we were until the last six months or so), we can’t help being fat because our bodies were specifically selected to produce fat.

So, don’t blame me for that seemingly permanent beer belly. It’s the fault of my distant ancestor whose fat-producing qualities allowed him, or her, to survive when the rest of the tribe perished due to starvation. Whoo hoo!

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