Things that drive people "bats"
From Nova’s Becoming Human, Part 1 at -9:00 (Nova uses a countdown timer). Discussing the hypothesis that short-term (hundreds to thousands of years) extreme climate variability drove human evolution, and particularly increases in brain size, in the ramp-up from 400 cc or so to Homo habilis’s 600 or 700 cc, and maybe on to larger brained successors, the film says:Narrator: “This observation led [Rick Potts] to an amazing new idea: Rapid [climate] change as a catalyst for our evolution.”
Rick Potts: “And I began to think that well maybe it’s not the particular environment of a savanna that was important, but the tendency of the environment to change.”
[Here it is]
Narrator: “Could it be that the need to survive violent swings of climate made our ancestors more adaptable?”
Right. And it was the need of giraffes to reach higher branches with yummier leaves that made them grow longer f***ing necks. Gaaaaah!!! Lamarck is dead! And so is Bergson.
That locution, that phraseology, that notion that a “need” somehow drives evolution, drives me bats. “Needs” don’t make populations evolve anything. Now, properties of an environment may select for traits in a population if appropriate variants occur, and as a result of that selective process the population may be more adapted to that selective environment.
Actually, the term "more adaptable" is ambiguous here. It of course does not mean a greater ability to make genetic changes that adapt to "violent swings of climate," but can mean the ability to make physical changes that adapt to "violent swings of climate" -- for example, perspiration is an adaptation to hot weather, so the ability to perspire has made humans more adaptable to hot weather. But many human adaptations to severe weather are technological and cultural rather than physical and purely genetic: e.g., wearing clothing and using blankets, making fires, living in caves and thick-walled buildings, and air-conditioning (some of the technological adaptations do reflect the possibility of evolution of high intelligence). The narrator might have just been some dumb Darwinist cafeteria Christian who was a little overenthusiastic about evolution, as a result of having been brainwashed by such ideas as "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology" (in the new Florida state standards for science education). BTW, some Darwinists have no qualms about saying things that drive critics of Darwinism -- and even pro-Darwinist and neutral people -- "bats," e.g., the statement that "evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology" (or equivalent statements, e.g., evolution is "central" to biology or is the "foundation" of biology) and using the term "intelligent design creationism." Even people who accept evolution can be offended or annoyed by such statements. One doesn't have to be a fundy to be offended by such statements. One of the most irritating things about those statements is the Darwinists' smug belief that they are sitting so pretty that they don't have to worry about being discredited by such statements. If I were a Darwinist, I certainly would be pissed off by Darwinists' statements that tend to discredit Darwinism.