Live From The Field

Luis Juarez

March 27, 2019

*Evolution and Racism*

Ok. So. This is going to press a few buttons at once. Humans are very good

at judging things. Especially when it is unjustified. However, I will not

be defending the neurobiological reason for stereotypes, or racism

(principally because prejudice is a learned thing). I am going to take a

holistic view at the phenomenon known as exophobia: the irrational fear of

or discrimination against dissimilarity.

(Intro music here)

Let me backup. The first thing I wanna talk about is word that many just

don’t get the grasp of.


Every living thing on this planet is here because it evolved to be here.

Let me say it again. Everything evolved. And everything is STILL evolving.

As long as there is life on earth, the process of natural selection will be

the driving force behind it. And, like another misunderstood word,

“science,” it it not an event, a thing, or an organization of people trying

to change your way of life. It is a process. Like falling. Evolution is

like gravity, except not gravity. Don’t tell your physics teacher that you

think evolution is like gravity. Imagine a big cosmic strainer and Earth

based life is the pasta. Yeah. Pasta. I think your physics teacher would

like that one mainly because, well, everybody likes pasta.

But I digress. The most important thing in this moment is to know that

evolution, for all living things, started at the same time here on Earth.

There is no such thing as an animal that is more evolved than another. It

took about just as long for me to come into existence as it did for my dog.

We are on the same clock. Lesser evolution does not exist, only different

evolution. And while you may think of our “unparalleled” ability to

communicate and organize as evidence of human superiority, I would like to

introduce you about 10,000,000,000,000,000 (ten quadrillion) of my very

good friends. Ants.

Ants, even just at a glance, are without a doubt the most organized,

efficient, and successful organisms on this planet. They are found on every

land mass on the planet except antarctica. They’re communication is

basically as efficient as telepathy (but without the bald dudes in

wheelchairs), and ant colonies can get big. In 2009, the three

supercolonies found in Japan, California, and Europe were demonstrated to

be part of a single global “megacolony”. This represents the most populous

recorded single animal society on earth, other than humans, with an

estimated billions of ants being a part of this network. Lesser evolved? I

think not.

But this is not just about the ants and how cool they are (they’re awesome

right?!). The same way that we, forgive the pun, look down on ants because

of their relative size and inability to perform human tasks, we discredit,

disempower, enslave, endanger, invade, and invalidate human cultures that

are dissimilar to our own. Not ever because it needs doing (seriously it’s

super unnecessary) but because we believe that our way is the highway to

the future. That we are the future. But in reality, no way is the highway

because the “highway” is Cultural evolution and ALL of us are merely

scenery. Evolution is a process that every culture goes through. And most

importantly, it is a process that every culture goes through differently.

There is no such thing as a culture that is more evolved than another.

Lesser evolution does not exist, only different evolution.

A key aspect of the theory of evolution and natural selection is that an

organism (or culture) can only go two ways. It can adapt and become best

suited for its environment, or it can die off. Here is where I would like

to draw a line in the sand, however, because, like it or not, we have moral

obligations to consider, not just biological ones. Even though you might

credit natural selection as your reasoning for invading another land and

killing its occupants, that ignores the responsibility that we have to

think morally. We were born with the ability to make judgements and

decisions that may be contradictory to the biological standards that Darwin

proposed, and it is up to us to use it responsibly.

In the study of evolution there is what’s called the cognitive trade-off.

This explains that in exchange for more cognitive processing ability for

organization and speech, we lost the ability to make quick decisions

through memory and data alone, an area in which chimpanzees excel. At most

cognitive tests, a chimpanzee will beat out a human in short term memory,

and speed of data recollection. The concept of the trade-off for what

better suits your environment is an incredibly crucial aspect of animal and

cultural evolution. This is another incredibly important thing. You can

paint any organism or culture as the superior one if you test them all a

certain way. And, like the SAT’s, the solution to measuring success is not

to change the test to fit the dominant culture. It is to stop testing

cultures at all. To put this bluntly and maybe slightly angrily, people of

color and non-western culture are NOT lab rats.

Earlier I mentioned that cognitive trade-off and how things adapt to best

suit the environment. I would like to return to that, and, much like a

person who didn’t feel their phone in their pocket immediately after

standing up, explore a bit further. Culture, as a collective and individual

entity, has a massive influence by its traditions. Traditions, in turn,

often come from a long standing religious belief, survival method ,and

other older ways of doing things that may no longer be as necessary

logistically but are sustained for aesthetic, superstitious, or ideological

reasons. What this means is that cultures are different because of their

history. The history and general context of the european settlers were

incredibly different than the history and context of the natives that they

invaded. Which is why it was an absolute atrocity that the europeans forced

the natives to assimilate or die. What I am discussing is NOT social

darwinism. What I am discussing is the application of scientific principles

used to study the development of life through time to study the development

of cultures.

You may be tempted to say “But the europeans were ‘stronger.’ isn’t that

natural selection?” And here I would like to reaaaalllyyyyy lay this down.

Natural selection is not about species or cultures destroying each other

for domination. Threats against a fly would cause it to develop resistance

against the tactics of the spider, maybe giving it a breeding advantage

over other species of fly. The fly, however (and literally no animal other

than us), does not seek to eradicate all flies with different survival

techniques. Because that’s counter productive and stupid. It’s also

biologically just bad strategy. The fly wants a diverse gene pool. For

improvement of the species.

Ok this is getting really long. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk!

So it goes. -Kurt Vonnegut

Luis Juarez