Maybe it’s just a typo, but it’s a little depressing to see the state broadcaster’s science reporters — people whose salaries I pay — utter statements like the following:
if you went back thousands of years and “replayed the tape of life,” would you end up with humans and the species we know today, or would small differences caused by chance result in completely different plants and animals?
Doebeli was surprised to discover that in his study, all three bacterial populations evolved in almost exactly the same way, suggesting that chance or randomness doesn’t play a big role, at least over a short period of time, such as 1,000 generations, and in laboratory conditions.
I can answer that question, for the good reporter Emily Chung: yes, if we turned the clock back several thousand years and replayed it, there would still be humans. And basically all other species we know today, too. I’m not sure this is actually the pressing question amongst biologists that she claims it is.
It’s worth noting that a thousand generations — what she calls “a short period of time” — is actually several tens of thousands of years, in human terms. That short period of time encapsulates the entirety of the history of civilization, with plenty of room to spare. The entire history of post-Copernican science spans maybe a couple of dozen generations.
It’s also worth noting that if a single anonymous medieval peasant woman had conceived in May of 904 A.D. instead of April, probably none of us would be alive today. Food for thought, for those who say you can’t change the world.Tweet