What Darwin Never Knew

“What Darwin Never Knew” was a very interesting documentary to watch, and often referred to the information it presented in the context of something that Darwin couldn’t have known when he was first studying evolution.  It also juxtaposed what Darwin knew and how he researched back then with the methods that we use today, most of which are based on recent science.

Surprisingly, even with all of the technology that we have today, the best method seems to be simple observation. One scientist started an investigation based on his observation that white and black mice lived in the same area, and that the black mice were more likely to be found on black rock. This is strikingly similar to Darwin’s observation of finches and tortoises on the Galapagos Islands, as they also had different traits spread throughout different regions. This was a really neat realization for me and bridges the gap between past and present scientific methods.

Even after I finished the documentary, I had a lot of questions. In fact, the documentary probably provided me with more questions than answers. Of course humans are somehow more complex than other creatures, we’re the ones with the brainpower to discover all of this information in the first place. But why is there such a huge gap between humans and even the most intelligent of animals?  A Gorilla performing basic sign language and exhibiting the intelligence of a toddler impresses us, but humans have been (and always will be) miles ahead of that in terms of innovation and exploration.

Koko the gorilla is super pumped about kittens

How does evolution keep up with itself? Are all animals just in a different stage of evolution, or is it kept fairly constant? I guess evolution itself isn’t how we think of it to begin with; it’s less of a timeline and more of a giant tree with tons of mutations and unreliable variables. I was especially surprised by the fact that all creatures look almost the same as embryos.  I think that we, as humans, like to imagine that we’re far-removed from “dumb” animals. That’s why it’s a shock that the human genome only contains about 23,000 genes, the same as a chicken or ear of corn.

The documentary was a shock and a blow to human ego, but I also think it’s important to understand that what separates us isn’t genetics, but our brains and what we do with them. Opposable thumbs help, too.

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One thought on “What Darwin Never Knew

  1. The thought of different animals and species being at different points in there evolutionary track is interesting to me. Hopefully someday we all will have developed the need for something cool (such as wings) and our body evolves accordingly!

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