Tag Archives: evolution

A Quickie about Evolution


I teach theatre.

Because I teach theatre, I also teach a fair bit of psychology and sociology.

Because I teach a fair bit of psychology and sociology, I also teach a little bit about evolution.

Why, you ask?

Because it’s useful to know, as an actor, not only that a quick movement is more likely to draw the audience’s attention than a slow one, but to internalize the reason why (because we evolved, as all predators do, to zero in on movement). Or why the audience’s attention naturally shifts to the actor closest to them (because the person closest to you is the one who poses you the greatest threat — so it’s best to keep your eye on them). Or why it’s so important to use the body when telling stories (because we understood pantomime and gesture long before we developed language). Or any number of other curiosities of the brain.

And two things occur to me, every time I go down this road of teaching evolution in a theatre class:

  1. I am very likely teaching these students more about evolution than some science teachers ever will.
  2. There are almost certainly students sitting in my seats rolling their eyes because they have been indoctrinated to believe evolution is not real.

Both of which are pretty shocking. But because 1) is true, I think it’s vitally important that the kids hear it from somewhere. And because 2) is true, it’s important to expose kids to voices that don’t agree with them.

Plus, I just love to get on their nerves.

“Wait, I thought this is theatre — why’s he on about evolution?”

Because my job is to teach the whole child, kid.


We Have To Get Out


You could be forgiven for not realizing it’s Saturday right now.

With much of the US (and much of the rest of the world, frankly — though I haven’t heard much about Australia during this time; care to chime in, Glen?) on lockdown, either enforced, encouraged, or self-imposed, the time begins to blend together. One day looks much like the next. I mean, that’s the case anyway, but it’s doubly so when many of us aren’t seeing our usual coworkers, aren’t going through the usual stimulation of the job, maybe aren’t even leaving the house.

To further add to the confusion, if you’re an introvert like me, you now have the permission of the entire community to get away with your preferred behavior of vegging out on the couch, not going out, and generally keeping the world at arm’s length. You know, the things that, under normal circumstances, people try to talk you out of doing.

Which is all well and good for a few days. But we’re a week deep on the social-distancing, minimize-contact-with-the-world, wash-your-hands-everytime-you-have-an-errant-thought adventure train, and that’s when we start to go crazy a little bit. As any teenager will tell you, you can only stand your family for so long, but it’s not like that feeling goes away when you grow out of your snarling, brooding phase.

You have to remember that you are a product of millions of years of evolution. Our species did not develop so that we could watch endless hours of Netflix while sprawled on the couch shoveling the Cheetos we bulk-bought in a panic into our gobs. We aren’t made for bunkering and hiding.

We’re built to move. We’re built to survive in groups.

One of the most important things to do in a time like this, I think, is to remember that.

Don’t get me wrong, there are great things you can do while you’re isolating, and there are tons of blog posts and tweets to tell you all about the things you can do to stay productive — or be more productive — while you’re stuck inside. And you should maybe do them!

And we also need to understand that, in these trying times, it’s gonna suck. Productivity will take a hit, we’re gonna end up feeling crappy sometimes — if not a lot of the time — and that’s gonna slow us down from the things we want and need to get done. That’s okay, too. We can’t (and shouldn’t) expect ourselves to be perfect during this time, to weather the storm with style and grace and ‘gram-worthy hair the whole time.

But we can help ourselves out — and maybe more importantly, we can help out those who are cooped up with us — if we can remember that we are not meant to live this way and we conduct ourselves accordingly.

That means taking a little bit of time for self-maintenance. My early-morning runs feel more important now than ever. (I’m sleeping in until 5:30 instead of 4:30 to get them done, but I’m still up before the sun, because that’s when it happens.) On the days I don’t run, I’m doing calisthenics and strength workouts in my garage, in the cramped, kludge space I’ve cobbled together between the piles of junk we’ve been meaning to throw out and the Christmas decorations.

But you don’t have to get after it like me (aka like a psychopath).

Get outside for a little while.

Take a walk.

Do some work in the yard or the garden.

Heck, even just opening the window to let a little fresh air into your lair can do wonders for your subconscious self-calibrators of goodfeels.

You need this. You owe it to yourself, and to the family and friends you’re stuck at home with.


Go Evolve Yourself


There’s a church near me —

No, wait.

At one of the churches near me —

Nope, that doesn’t help either.

Look, there are a lot of churches near me. Living in semi-suburban, semi-rural Georgia. I pass by no less than five on my way to work, and my commute is only about fifteen minutes. (That’s a church every three minutes; way more common than any golden arches ever dreamed of.)

And some of them get pretty clever with their marquee. Credit where it’s due, I’ve gotten more than a couple of chuckles driving past this one particular church.

But this is not chuckle-worthy.

It’s not even smirk-and-drive-on-worthy.

This is veins-popping-from-the-forehead-worthy.

IMG_4621.jpg

I get it, it’s a joke. Haw haw, evolution thinks it has all the answers. (It doesn’t, actually, only lots of answers.) Moms are overworked. (On that one, preach on.)

But it’s a joke that critically fails to understand the thing it’s poking fun at in addition to being just idiotically wrong. Because that isn’t the way evolution works. And evolution *is* true.

Does that make me triggered? Does that make me a snowflake? Well, break out the flannel caps and snowshoes, because I have no patience for this.

Claiming that evolution isn’t true — for laughs or for real — is freaking harmful to society. Empowering people who don’t know any better, who base their arguments off archaic books rather than science you can see with your own eyes, to disagree with the fundamental understanding of the way the world works is bloody anathema to the forward progress of our culture. (And sweet fancy Moses, we need some freaking forward progress right now.)

Claiming that evolution isn’t true is the sort of thing that really should carry a sociological cost, in this day and age. Like stepping into an NRA meeting and suggesting a government buyback on guns, or crashing an LGBTQIA support group and crowing that about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

Claiming that evolution isn’t true, and telling kids to resist it in schools (I’ve encountered this myself actually, it really does happen), is holding us back.

I’m not saying it should be illegal.

I’m saying anybody seriously representing the idea should be embarrassed.


Fear for the Future: Evolution Edition


While discussing current events (specifically the primaries) with my students today, things took a shocking turn.

Students were asking me about Trump, because they’re nervous about what his presidency might mean for the country, and for them personally. Now, I’m really careful to remain as objective as possible, but I also think it’s important to be honest. So I told them why I don’t think Trump could be elected, even if he wins the primary. (I don’t believe he can appeal to moderates, and I think he’ll anger enough Republicans along the way to ensure victory for the democratic candidate, whoever that may be.)

All fine and good. Then another student asked if there were any black candidates in the race. I mentioned Carson, but also pointed out that I don’t think he can win. Naturally, they asked why. And I spoke about how, for better or for worse, the Republicans have amassed behind the three frontrunners, and anybody else — Bush, Carson, Fiorina, et al — are basically muddying the waters at this point.

“But is Carson a good candidate?”

“I don’t know enough to say for sure.”

“Would you vote for him?”

“Probably not.”

“Why not?”

“Well, for one, he doesn’t believe in evolution.”

Silence in the classroom for a moment. Then: “What, you mean like that stuff they teach in science class? That we come from monkeys?”

“Well, that’s oversimplifying a little. We didn’t come from monkeys. But yes, evolution like you learned in science class.”

“Oh. I don’t believe in that either.”

My turn to be silent. A handful of students begin to nod their heads in agreement.

Me: “You guys don’t believe in evolution?”

About a third of the students are shaking their heads at me.

“Darwin? Natural selection?”

Now several talk at once. “That didn’t happen,” or “We didn’t come from monkeys,” or “I believe in God.”

I paused. I’m not a science teacher, so it’s not really my job to go straightening them out on the finer points of evolution. Further, I’m not about to stand up in front of a classroom full of young, impressionable minds, and begin hammering away at their religious beliefs. I like having a job too much to go getting tangled in that debate.

Luckily, another student asked a question and pulled us onto another (less sensitive) topic, for which I was thankful. Not because I don’t want to have difficult discussions in my classroom, but because I really didn’t know how to proceed. I want to foster critical thinking, but I don’t want to offend. And I don’t see critical thinking behind “that didn’t happen” and “I believe in God.” Belief, in that sense, is the absence of critical thought. It stopped me cold. Even some of the smartest students — and when I say “smart,” I’m saying “capable of independent, out-of-the-box thought” — were nodding along in agreement with the roadblock that was thrown down.

This frightens me. I teach a class which has, as some of its primary concerns, the structure of argument, the support of said argument with evidence, and the thoughtful communication of said argument. And this — their knee-jerk, casual and offhand dismissal of a well-researched, scientifically documented theory — well. It frightens me.


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