Evolution in Pennsylvania

About a year ago, I discovered the book “It Takes a Family” by Senator Rick Santorum. I commented on this book’s views on the scientific theories of both evolution and the big bang, as well as its attitudes toward a theory of multiple universes [TAOMPH96]. In short, I was unimpressed with an alleged statesman’s ability to separate religion and science. While I am sure it has little or nothing to do with his views on evolution, stem cells, or physics, I am pleased to report that the rare species Sanctimonium Santorum is now extinct.

Evolution is not a random process. This is a popular misconception. The underlying mechanisms that create new variations in species are largely random, ranging from genetic mutations to the simple gene mixing involved in sexual reproduction. However, the forces that select one trait as advantageous over another depend on the environment, and whether or not a species is able to use its newfound traits for gain, or whether those traits make them vulnerable to external forces. This is *natural selection*, the force which shapes evolution. The emergence of new traits may be controlled by an underlying randomness, but the success of those traits are controlled by the larger setting in which the species is placed. New species are pruned, or eliminated, when they fail to compete for limited resources.

In government, there are limited resources. There are only 100 Senate seats in the United States. From each state, there are only 2. Two candidates who vie for control of those seats are naturally in competition, and the forces both within and without the candidates’ spheres of control shape who will win the seat. It’s sociological natural selection. Often, many species of candidate appear for the scant seats, and only one can succeed. Many of the species wither and die; others seek the Presidency.

This year, the rare species Santimonium Santorum failed in its competition for the Senate seat of Pennsylvania. While evolution is surely not the reason for this – more likely the war, or the economy, or maybe “moral values” (whatever the f@#k that means) – the failure to grasp evolution is a strong indicator of underlying flaws in a political specie. Evolution by natural selection is supported by thousands of independent, cross-checked observations of the natural world. A mind open to the exploration of nature, which can conduct experiments (however small or however *gedanken*), is naturally a mind capable of reason. Such a mind is also able to separate issues of belief from issues of observation. A mind like this is primed to pursue the rational and understand the need for the metaphysical. A mind that puts belief before observation may cling to beautiful principles that are likely doomed to wither in the face of an ugly fact.

It is rare that we as a species are able to observe the extinction of another. I cannot say that what now assumed the Senate seat in Pennsylvania is any better than what was cast from it. I can say this: natural selection may not choose a better candidate, but it surely prunes the useless ones from the scraggly tree of life.


.. [TAOMPH96] http://steve.cooleysekula.net/blog/?p=803

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