The March of Progress, Simpson style

26 03 2007

No matter how many times I see it done, I never get tired of cartoon renditions of evolutionary change;

While the clip certainly is fun, there are some BIG mistakes in it (#1, fish did not evolve from Cnidarians like jellyfish) that I’m sure lots of people would have jumped on were it not a cartoon. Sure it’s fun and relatively harmless, but doesn’t it give a false impression of how evolution works, stuck (as ever) in the Homo sapiens-centric view of progress? Even when Homer gets to the point of being a primate, he goes from swinging in the trees to knucklewalking and becoming more upright while he goes through the various caveman modifications when in reality he would have been upright long before the advent of clothing. Every party needs a pooper, and in this case it’s me; when are we finally going to be free of this paradigm? Gould recognized its falsity long before Jonathan Wells tried to make an issue of it, the opening of the book Wonderful Life focusing on how the image of the March of Progress is almost like the international symbol of evolution.

Like I said, I do love the Simpsons and the video is fun, but I just wonder how many people are going to notice the mistakes; to be able to laugh at the humor but not shut their brains off while doing so. Even the human evolution exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History seems to focus on the line that leads to us and doesn’t do a very good job illuminating the twists and turns that occurred during our recent evolutionary history. By not correcting these errors we are leaving the door open to misunderstanding and to creationism, as creationists love to call out evolutionists mistakes to the public in order to make the average person feel betrayed by science. If the clip represents most people’s understanding of evolution, we still have a lot of damage to undo.

(Hat-tip to Pharyngula for the video)


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2 responses

26 03 2007
Chris Harrison

Evolution + popular culture is doomed marriage. It just doesn’t work. There’s no way to accurately convey the subtleties and counterintuitive nature of evolution in any newspaper piece, MTV sketch or Simpsons clip.
Luckily, The Simpsons is such an obviously inaccurate representation of reality that you have to be a 9 year old to think that video is correctly modeling evolution.

26 03 2007
Sarda Sahney

Hilarious video! I like it almost as much as the Guiness devolving one:)

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