Last Thursday, I got home from another fruitless day at the office working out another accounting error for end of year taxes. My boss had decided that his math was better than the excel spreadsheet designed to minimize flaws, only because he got promoted by knowing the right drinking buddy and not because he knew what he was doing. Anyway, my room mate Ken was on the couch in his boxers staring at the TV, and I asked what he was watching. "Discovery Channel," and I said "Cool, any animal fights?"
Turns out he was watching some show on evolution and what not. I was more interested in opening the first bottle of bud light, my week night beer, and playing some X-Box, but he was all into this show. I was pretty beat, so I didn't mind sitting on the far end of the couch since Ken was in his boxers and scratching more than usual. That's when Ken goes "Hey man, when I was in college, I took this biology class and it was like Darwin and stuff." Now, I went to college, and I'm smarter than Ken, and I felt like kicking someone around. Who better than my unemployed, non-graduated, alcoholic room mate? "Sure, Ken. Darwin had some great ideas that led us in new directions."
That's when Ken floored me. "Mike, it's like this. Evolution doesn't occur over time, it occurs over generations. There was a moth in England around the time of the industrial age that lived on tree bark. The bark was brown, but as soot settled on the trees over a few years and turned the bark gray, the moths began to turn gray, too. This happened over 20 years, but really over about 50 generations." I was impressed that Ken could remember anything from his alcohol infused random class attendance, but he kept going. "Dude, this show was saying that evolution doesn't make a species stronger, but makes a species more able to cope with environmental conditions." I was into my second bottle by this point and not really arguing the way I thought I would. Ken was actually into this. "Ken, how much have you had to drink today?" I asked. He said he had been holding off because he saw the commercial for this show last night and didn't want to pass out before it came on.
Now, Ken has never been any stranger to an afternoon buzz, but for him to actually make an effort to stay sober for a whole afternoon was impressive. "Biologists believe we are constantly evolving. Every time we step into the sun, the radiation mutates our skin cells. We never notice, because the effect is so small, but over several generations our progeny develops more melanin in its skin." That was it, now I was up for beer 3 of the night and really starting to enjoy a side of Ken I never see. I mean, I didn't think Ken knew what progeny meant. I moved closer to him on the couch and he sat up straight ready to explain more. I didn't even mind that his sitting up had created a gap between his boxers and his leg and I could see his junk, I just didn't pay attention. "Mike, evolution takes place constantly, and can occur quickly in a species, over a few generations. Americans who have several generations of ancestors are taller than other people from other nations because we had more protein in our diets. This occurred over 300 years, but really it occurred over 12 generations."
I am no biologist, but Ken had a point. And he was clearly making it. In the case of my room mate, there is evidence to suggest that a species can evolve quickly and become more complex. Ken was able to hold off drinking, and carry a quasi-intelligent conversation. All I could think of was when Professor X had mentioned that sometimes evolution takes a leap forward. It was clear that Ken had evolved in a single day, and he was certainly more complex than I had ever seen him. I got up and went to the kitchen for beer number 4, when Ken said "Oh man, I almost forgot," and he changed the channel. I was like "What's up, I thought you were into that," and he goes "yeah, but Campbell Brown is on CNN. She reminds me of my eighth grade English teacher. Man, was I hot for her. Dude, grab me a beer."