Why Evolution is a Core Theme of Biology

Evolution is key to all biology.  When  Charles Darwin and  Alfred Russel Wallace laid out their thesis on how organisms came to be, and changed over time, it opened a window to clear understanding of not just life itself, but other systems, as well. Even understanding how life came to be in the cosmos, and the cosmos itself, is assisted by understanding evolution.

Evolution is a bottom-up view of nature’s laws.  For the first time, after Darwin, people could clearly see how microscopic life, by means of self-replication, could over vast eons explain ever-increasing complexity.  Evolution does not mean that all organisms move in a great chain of being from simple to complex. On the contrary, evolution allows that both simple and complex forms co-exist, yet they are ultimately related to one another.

From one-celled organisms to animals such as humans with trillions of cells, evolution allows insight into the shared DNA among all organisms.  Seeing the similarities between body symmetry, the shared traits of birds, reptiles and mammals and the variations upon a theme which all interact together in an unending process of change displays a straightforward, cogent explanation for living beings.

Understanding natural selection allowed Darwin to describe that organisms are selected by their environment to pass on heritable traits. Through slight mutations, at some point, an advantage for survival emerges in the organism’s genetic code which is particularly helpful in that environment.  It was not until the twentieth century, however, that genes, through shared DNA, were identified as the mechanisms that carry the naturally selected encoded programs.

Evolution unites many sciences under one large tent.  Even geology can be explained in terms of how life, such as grasslands, forests and even phytoplankton interact in both cooling and warming of the planet. They shape how water, glaciers, deserts and more affect the planet. In the vital planetary science called climatology, at present science is hard at work investigating such things.  Life on Earth evolved with carbon sinks, photosynthesis, domestication of plants and animals and more.  Even the use of fossil fuels (plant and animal carbon primarily from the carboniferous part of the Paleozoic, thus biologically based) and human culture all evolve together. This therefore affects all of life on Earth. Other sciences, as diverse as genetics, medicine and crop engineering, require a fundamental understanding of how organisms evolve. This is just as true for a medical research team investigating rain forest medicinal plants and animals as it is for an aerospace engineer learning how air behaves under and across a bird’s wing.

In the new revolution of science, technology, green energy and biosphere protection, a thorough understanding of evolution is required. It must also not be forgotten, that the human condition may be primarily understood through evolution. As organisms dependent upon every other, the many human sciences of systems and biomes connect human belonging to planetary life. Biology and  Biophilia are just part of living and interactive systems which comprise all organisms physically, mentally, emotionally and, to many people, spiritually.

Therefore, ecopsychology, evolutionary psychology and basic anthropology are imperative for global re-connection to belonging in Earth.  What is taught in science has a direct effect on what is practiced in economy, policy and sustaining human life. That all life is connected through evolution provides, as Darwin noted, a truly inspirational view of life itself.