Popular Science

Evolution doesn't work the way you think it does

If you go by editorial cartoons and T-shirts, you might have the impression that evolution proceeds as an orderly march toward a preordained finish line. But that's not right at all.
Evolution has no final endpoint in mind.
Evolution has no final endpoint in mind. (Uncle Leo/Shutterstock.com/)A high school marching band's T-shirt places a horn-playing <em>Homo sapiens</em> at the end of the evolutionary process.
A high school marching band's T-shirt places a horn-playing <em>Homo sapiens</em> at the end of the evolutionary process. (Brian Kloppenburg, Jordan Summers, Main Street Logo/)

Evolution doesn’t follow a preordained, straight path. Yet images abound that suggest otherwise. From museum displays to editorial cartoons, evolution is depicted as a linear progression from primitive to advanced.

You've certainly seen the pictures of a chimpanzee gradually straightening up and progressing through various hominids all the way to a modern human being. Yes, they can be humorous. But these kinds of get it all wrong.

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