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The Quest For Understanding Evolution

Hilary McGowan's picture
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Evolution is a malleable term, fixated really only by the individual as they seek to find a certifiable meaning for something that cannot be truly pinned down. It is impossible to define something that we don’t even know everything about. There are consistent changes, and those changes manipulate how we see the term viewed as a whole. In defining this evolutionary tale in my own life, I sought to find out where I fell into this whole evolutionary mess in the human perception of the world. My evolution in literature, science, religion, and even the tricky evolutionary ultimate goal of seeking a mate for reproduction. In search of all these different facets of an evolutionary truth/Truth, I came to no one direct conclusion as I had originally hoped for, but to a realization that I couldn’t understand it and a satisfaction in the hope to keep on striving to find more ways to challenge and question the understanding of the Universe and evolution.

            The first quandary I was fixated on attempting surfaced from several class discussions that premiered along with reading Darwin’s Origin of the Species. As I sat and listened to the class go back and forth, debating on what Darwin was trying to communicate with the world, I saw the class slowly manipulate their conversation to one that wonder how the evolutionary background that Darwin proposed related to the human race in the 21st century- a place taken over by the electronic era. Are humans still in fact a part of this complicated process known as evolution that he describes or have we created our own micro-world based upon the whims of morality rather that that of success?

            Do we humans exist in a world that has manipulated the system of surviving so well that we can bypass evolution? This question highly interested me, for if we were able to stop the process of evolution, was it even such a thing that was so powerful to begin with. We have achieved such higher forms of medicine and created living spaces for ourselves that preserve those who might not have reproduced and kept them alive to continue spreading their gene pool. In some facets, self-preservation is a colossal factor in evolution, for those that survive, remain available to reproduce. So if we are able to stay alive and continue on the genes of perhaps someone with unfavorable genes for conditions other than the desirable ones that we have created for ourselves, have we cheated the system?

            Time to try and answer this question with some sleuthing skills. My attempt to understand this concept surfaced with first trying to understand how evolution can still be prevalent in today’s culture, despite the fact that we have so many technological advances that our predecessors lacked. People still are the same beasts that we have been since history can remember. We still need food, water, shelter, and a mate to continue on our race. Most people can account for the first three fairly easily, with exceptions of course, but the fourth and last item counts not only on the consideration of the government, family, and friends, but upon the wily ways of the individual in convincing another person that they are good enough to have a child with.

            As a college student in a metropolitan area, I am faced with the anthropological research of observing this stage of seduction of the opposite sex (and not opposite, but that is a case entirely upon itself.) Parties run rampant with dancing to entice, alcohol to shroud, and a general area to pair off. Can that certain male dance his way into the female’s heart that is standing across the room? He winks, she blinks, and the slow sauntering with hands full of a glass full of some unknown substance begins. She may accept his advances and allow for him to further the courting, while she attempts to add her own alluring qualities to qualify this male as hers in a territorial battle for genes.

            Another place that has become popular in the technological era for dating is online. Commercials for them are placed in almost every single source of media, and millions of people join these dating sites to allow them the possibility of finding their true match through a system other than a face-to-face courtship. Human psychological testing of what “makes us work” fuels the intensity of these sites to allow for people to find connections on a level that is more mental and less physical. That’s what it seems like at first, at least.

            I joined two free dating sites for a small experiment of my own to attempt to find out what the requirements and possibilities were for dating that proposed a completely way for two people to find each other than in any other time in history. The two internet resources I chose for this experiment were and

Each asked me for the standards of my name, age, sex, preference in a mate, and what I was willing to put up with. Eharmony required a more strenuous testing before full access to the site was available, profiling me using their patented system that uniquely finds the facets of a person to connect them to find their perfect mate. It came up with five potential matches for me, with me then needing to look at their profiles and decide if I wanted to begin contact with them. The page was focused more solely on the light background and at least the three pages of text informing me about the person I had selected. There was nay a picture besides the thumb-sized profile picture of the barely distinguishable person I was reading about. I have been checking the site periodically for the past three weeks and trying to act like any other person would if they had joined the site to find a date, and I have to admit that I was unable to do so. I was only messaged a few times by mass spams in the site, and communication between the users seemed rather weary if you didn’t have a title in front of your name.

My intrigue for the site fell less and less as I realized the strenuous process it had put me through really was a way for the site to pick and choose a select type of person to put into their pool of possible mates. It served as an unknowingly place for people to create a bottlenecked place of finding a suitable companion for themselves without a larger result of undesirable matches that may pass the psychological harmony test, but may not have the proper career or funds to make them a top choice.

Okcupid on the other hand merely asked me to create a profile and seemed automatically more brightly colored and open to a younger culture. The site was more ‘user friendly’ and asked me to post pictures far more readily than its counterpart had. The questions are asked one-by-one, rather than in a test that took nearly an hour to complete and are even based in fun personality exams with titles like, “What Twilight Vampire Are U????”. It wasn’t long before I was bombarded with messages and informed of all the people who had already viewed my profile. A few messaged me, all seeming far more friendly that I could have imagined. The site even has an Instant Messaging service that allows for users to talk live to each other if they seem interested. Everything in the site is fast-paced and encouraging for the user to contact people that match them in the ninetieth percentile according to the area they live in.

As the website seemed more friendly and outgoing, what meeting people would more likely be similar to at a party, I realized that it really was just that- a party. Large profile pictures and talk amongst the patrons is no different than the ol’ eye stare seduction from across the room. If someone messages you, the two flirt and decided the other is acceptable, they might exchange phone numbers and possibly continue on the relationship from there. I got so far in the experiment that I responded to every single message given to me, whether I was actually interested or not, to see how far people were willing to go in finding a mate through the web and how much they acted like any other person in a real life situation. Within one night sex had been proposed, a coffee date, a dinner date, and general promiscuous talk was hinted at towards me. It was really astonishing to find that people really were absolutely no different online as they were in person. They were still the crude, lazy, and absolutely willing to do anything to find a mate as anywhere else.

Part one of my experiment into the facets of evolution had been closed by this strange encounter into the world of cyberspace, finding that indeed, evolution in the selection process was still the same hazardous place it had always been in the mainstream world. My next step in searching for this evolution was to go into the home of the written word: literature. We had discussed in class the many ways that literature has developed over time, being changed and evolving from author to author. My question was to try and see if my own writing had developed over a period of time, because if debates considering the proper way to write versus my own particular style. I first began by clearing my head and deciding to try and write a story. Something that didn’t necessarily reflect me, but was about things that plagued my mind through recent months.


Part two, the fiction bit.


I like the color green and letter “C” when it is pronounced like an “S”. I like looking at things for long periods of time and identifying their secrets. Sometimes people have secret little smiles that they hold in the corner of their mouth, trying to hide it from the rest of the population. Sometimes they hold a secret little frown on the other corner, too. I like thick sand between my toes and hiding out in places where no one, save the ideas that exist without a body, can see me. One of my mothers said I was a peculiar person, and I guess that you could say that. People are peculiar or odd when you can’t understand them. I can clearly understand everyone’s but the thoughts that are not fully understood themselves. There are a lot more than you would think and they confuse me and make me want to become particles again.

I don’t like to look into mirrors. That is a secret only I know and a few of my lovers who groomed themselves in front of their silver reflection. Today I am a person with a father, a mother, and a dead brother who was eager to meet his death. They call me names like Rainy (although I would have liked to have been called Cecil).

“So there we were, your mother and I, hiking up Mount Rainier. Your mother’s belly was almost as big as that volcano and you made her explode when we were on the side. ‘Fuck! Mount Rainier exploded!’ I said. Your mother was like Rapunzel’s mother, making her husband climb to the most ridiculous place to satisfy some crazy hormones. I said to her, ‘Susan, are you absolutely sure that you want to go up the mountain today?’ and she assured me, practically yelled at me, that she wanted to conquer the mountain before you were born. Life goals and all of that shit. So we found some of my old boots for her huge feet and one of my jackets that could zip up around her stomach. I was nearly going out of my fucking mind with worry for you inside of her. But I was more scared of your mother than anything else at that point. Ask anyone, she was a scary woman.”

“Oh, Alan,” my mother would say, “I wasn’t that bad.” And my father would nod to her with a smile then wait until she looked away to mock slice his throat with his finger.

“So I pack up our little beat up Volkswagen and we drove a couple of hours to get to the bottom of mountain. That place was full of fucking hippies, so your mother was happy. Happy Hippies. Heh. Anyways, it was raining that day of course. Raining at Rainier.”

My father likes alliteration and fancies himself a wordsmith because he makes up many poems and songs. I have nothing to say in contradiction to that.

“November 11th, 1978, hiking up that damn volcano. It was blasted cold and wet, yet your pregnant mother had the mind to crawl up to the top. I don’t know how she possibly thought she was going to get to the top, because she could barely run to the grocery store that was less than a mile away without complaining from here to the end of the century.” (I like the word ‘century’ and always perk up at this point of the story because he tells it in the same way every time.) “ She wanted to do it without the help of any of those paths so Susan began to trek across the mossy rocks with me worrying my fucking head off about everything. But would she listen to me? No! She had a defined destination and she was going to make it. Why I love this woman is beyond me.”

Here my mother would lean over and peck him on the cheek I knew that they both secretly loved each other because they could complain the same amount. My father would use both hands to emphatically emphasize all of his words and to occasionally point with his thumb to my mother who had wandered off somewhere by then.

“We must have had one of God’s angels there holding us up, because she didn’t slip once. We got there just as the sun was coming up, which must have been about 8 am or something like that. Damn early, that’s all I remember. Anyways, she dragged me up that giant hill and I could barely even move my legs. This is another reason why I’m sure that she was taken care of by some other worldly creature, for she never seemed to tire. Angel or demon, I’m not sure. We passed the trail a couple times as we criss-crossed our way up. We didn’t talk, just rammed our way up with me huffing like a fucking addict. Five miles later, five fucking miles!, something felt odd. The ground shuddered a little bit underneath our feet and my heart must of stopped. It was then that your mother turned to me and said, I quote, “Alan, let’s name him Rainier,” and she fell to the green ground clutching her belly. No cell phone, no one around. You were born pretty quickly and that Angel/Demon made your mother barely feel the pain. She didn’t make it up that volcano, but you sure made it out of her. Bat-shit crazy woman.”


My passage of literature had indeed changed. I used to be a fairly loose writer in attempting fiction, changing my direction constantly and rarely even following a single character for more than a page. In this effort to find the evolution of my own writing, I discovered that our experiences on a personal level shape where we lie in discussing our own ideas through words. Even if we don’t even realize what part we were searching for in the first place.


Part three of my quest dealt with the combination of evolution and literature. Were these two things that had to be necessarily exclusive, or were they really interconnected and woven together in a mess that was so convoluted that it takes more than a quick glance and discussion to discover its truth. As a Christian, I had trouble in class with understanding how people could place the two so far away from another, for I see evolution and God as one and the same beautiful and intricate thing. Placing them into two separate categories was my first step, but I simply couldn’t pry them apart in my mind. Instead of trying to dissect the pieces into unrecognizable organs of their true forms, I instead decided to try to look at how religion was a thought process and not a scientific theory. Both are surely beliefs, and can be viewed as beliefs that may go against the other. I again tried to write my expression in understanding these differences in an angry letter to religion, in both facets of science and Christianity:


“It disgusts me to think of this evolution of a message and the pride associated with it. This new Jesus is the epitome of hypocrisy (and doesn’t know it). They are bleeding hearts of hate, who would rather fight from fright. Please excuse my broad generalizations about an entire excerpt of society, but in their case I cannot help myself.

It is not convenient or good for your own status to help the poor besides the occasional donations of clothing and food to your local Goodwill. No one wants to see the reality of the nation, the people working past nine-to-five, barely making rent and watching television for their vacations. They don’t want to see the days where a two story house is a luxury and a restful Saturday is rare. The new Jesus-gang believe only sparsely helping out starving children in countries from Africa, which of course is good, but nevertheless, sparse. In this contemporary conception of puppy-dog love for the advertised pain, Jesus does only love the wealthy. For the wealthy are the only ones in the world who are able to take days off for pleasure and who don’t have to worry where their next meal will come from or how the hell they are going to pay their rent.”


Who is this new Jesus person that is conducting the society of today to deny the possibility of alternative routes than what a self-righteous figurehead says? Science is not isolated in the victimization of responding to only one of their own kind. I realized that it was incredibly frustrating to see both groups being so ridiculous in their assumptions of reality and avoiding the possibility that maybe the other side also had the truth as well. If these two groups could only decide to coexist together and meld, we might have the potential for equalized thought. But society is determined to keep those of each thought into themselves, and like another species, they want to continue on their own line of thinking and genes to continue it to their offspring. Evolution. Sound familiar?


The final part I looked for was a simple search of coming to a conclusion of everything that I had written in a scientific sounding paper. I planned on creating graphs and charts, and not using an adjective in the whole paper. But after completing my experiments towards the paper and the class, the whole thought of evolution made me realize that science, literature, religion, and the human momentum towards the future were no more different than my quest had been. They were, and are, simply connected. Why not be a scientist and an author? Hold religion in my heart and The Origin of Species desperately in my other hand? They are joined as one and help us, and the entire process of evolution continue until the Universe ends.