Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Microstory 968: Evolution

Over the years, I had some teachers that I liked. They were cool, or helpful, or otherwise impactful. True, there was not one that really stands out; that I can point to today and say, “that one. S/he did a lot for me”. But the real problem with education, in this country at least, is that it’s designed to have students regurgitate whatever the policymakers believe they should know, regardless of who they are. Understand this, the problem is not the teachers’ fault. Humanity has been looking at education all wrong for all this time, and it’s gonna take a lot of effort to dismantle those institutional ideals. In the past, education was for the elite. You had to be born at the right station to get it, and you had to be a man. Though this is no longer the case in the western world, it still has an effect on us. I grew up hating school because no one had the time to find out what I liked, or how to relate it to me. I would have loved to have studied a number of topics in school had I known back then I liked them. One of these things is astrophysics, which I’ll discuss later, but another is evolutionary biology. I am positively fascinated by all the different little organisms, and how they’ve mutated to fit their environment. Dragonflies have arms in their mouths to catch prey, and live underwater in nymph form for up to five years, before maturing into adulthood, and living another several months on the wing. Why? Why does it do this? Why does it spend so much time in the water, so little time in the air, and then just die? Why do lobsters never stop growing until they die from exhaustion when it starts taking too much energy to moult? Which came first; the honeybee, or the flower?

Scientists can study the traits of various animals, plants, and other organisms all they want, and they can infer what might have led to any given mutation surviving in a species, but no one really understands what it took to get to this point. There are only a handful of examples of evolution happening right before our eyes. Most of our understanding of it comes from a fairly static perspective of its present state, because we’ve not been observing scientifically for very long. I want so badly to go back in time and watch the Tree of Evolution split, and split, and continue to split over aeons. I want to experience the changes in real time so much that I’ve created characters that are time travelers and immortal, so this is exactly what they’ve chosen to do with their lives. I just haven’t found a good story to introduce them, but they’re coming. Education is a very linear construct. You learn simple stuff when you’re young, and gradually introduce more complex concepts. A few people have a bunch of degrees, but most of them are geniuses, because colleges don’t really expect you to keep coming back. It is simply not a feasible or affordable life plan. Yes, there are other options, like educational online videos, but I still think it would be best if I had an authority who could prepare a structured syllabus for me to follow. No one told me how amazing evolution is, especially not since I grew up in Kansas, where half the people were telling me that God made humans from scratch six thousand years ago. In case evolutionary biology is your thing, and you still haven’t reached a point of no return, then this is your opportunity to change course. Don’t you wanna know why platypodes and echidnas are the only mammals that lay eggs?

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