Converging Comics

I was struck by the convergence of two cartoons in today’s paper, Family Circus and Speed Bump. Here they are:

Both are playing with the familiar question “Are we there yet?” – usually uttered by a child in a back seat of a car. But the “Are we evolved yet?” version reflects – or at least, could reinforce – a problematic understanding of biological evolution. Of course, it could be that these early fish/amphibian steps are just the start of the process, a kind of fish which can occasionally make it across land, and by doing so will set off down a path (metaphorically speaking) that will eventually lead its descendants, through repeated behavior over many generations, to be even better at it. But it could also be understood as though fish which crawl out of water might become something else, which of course is not evolution as understood by biologists.

I may be making too much of what is simply an attempt at humor, having fish children which have barely crawled out of the water behind their parents ask an evolutionary “Are we there yet?” But there are so many misunderstandings of evolution around, that it seemed worth commenting on. And the Family Circus cartoon addresses the point well: evolution is not a journey to a particular place plotted out in advance, and inevitably leading to a particular destination.

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  • guest

    The thing about the fish that could crawl is that it would have been sufficiently evolved to survive in its environment, so in a sense those fish are ‘evolved’, just like mudskippers now are evolved, which doesn’t mean they’ll never evolve into anything else.

    It does kind of reinforce a human-centric view of the universe, where all the animals in our evolutionary past are just stepping stones leading up to us. I wonder if, in a few million years, something else will be drawing a comic like this about us.