Somebody once said to me that “life is not linear”. This statement may sound perfectly true on the surface, although it got me all fired up inside because of the context it was given in. At that point, I needed time to gather my thoughts so I quickly made theoretical plans to write a blog post on the subject.
I should begin my explaining that the statement was a response to a topic that had been bought up in conversation – evolutionary theory. Their thought process was that the theory of evolution could not be true as it implies that life is a linear process. That species evolve through lineages and have what you could envisage as a beginning and an end, much like our lives seemingly do. This reminded me of the popular t-shirt print depicting an illustration of a prehistoric ape morphing gradually into a modern day human. I thought about this and it struck me that perhaps our ways of understanding evolution have over-simplified the evolutionary process. We draw evolutionary trees, talk of lineages, however this is merely a simplified model of the complex reality.
In my mind’s eye, life is all one. From the very first life form and common ancestor to us all, species diversified and separated, following their own evolutionary paths but remaining connected to all other life forms on Earth. The only thing that separates me from a rhino browsing acacia trees in the African savannah or a dodo that once waddled its way around the island of Mauritius, is that I have a separate form, a separate body*. These bodies may have lived at different times on this Earth, yet they are all connected, as life is something that is inherited from previous forms of life. It is every bit genetic and reproducing. The physical gaps that exist between species and individuals disappear when we look at our genetic code.
Therefore to me, evolution is anything but linear, it is merely our definitions of it that are. I depict life as a circle, expanding and contracting as biology diversifies and dies; and evolution is the universal law which describes the effect of life and the available niches to it, on life forms. With the rhythms of the Earth, life takes advantage of the niches the world’s landscapes provide it with, and become part of those landscapes to create biomes and ecosystems. These ecosystems further support life created behind them. The circle and it’s potential expanding together. Sometimes lives are lost and the circle contracts, but the circle will retract so long as there are habitats to support it. It occurs to me whilst writing this, how intricately related we are to the world, it’s physical and biological properties. We would be utterly foolish to not take good care of it.
* I refer to bodies here so that the reader can relate the theoretical concept to the lives of humans or animals that they understand better. However in reality, evolution acts on the level of the gene and not all life forms have a ‘body’ as we imagine it.