Evolution is a reality of our world, and the present life forms on our planet stand as witnesses to how it works. As for humankind, the people of today are heirs to the DNA of ancestors who were successful at dealing with life's problems. For that reason, the world population is becoming both stronger and smarter. Yes, Darwin got it right! That's how natural selection works.
Undoubtedly, some of our caveman forebears tried to pet the saber-tooth tigers, swim with the megalodons and domesticate early crocodilians, and in so doing, bought the farm. But, it's also probable that we don't carry their DNA in ours: the absence of caution and common sense are likely to put an end to one's family tree.
Using various testing protocols, it's been proven that today's people are a step above those who came before. It's a simple concept: Those who were fast enough and agile enough to outrun or evade predators were rewarded with the opportunity to reproduce. Likewise, those who had the savvy to understand simple business concepts, and found commercial success, were not as likely to be the ones who died of malnutrition and disease. Successful "businessmen" had better clothing and armor, well-built abodes that could keep out the lurking dangers, the vigor that comes from an adequate diet, and the tools and weapons for prosperity and defense from the hazards of life.
Certainly, as important as physical strength and stamina, was the ability to think quickly and have the correct flight-or-fight response. If there was a saber-tooth outside your cave, you didn't run outside to pet it, and your successful DNA was passed on to the next generation.
It was usually the weaker and hungrier who met early demise and, thus, failed to reproduce. Over millenniums of time, the inherited genetic characteristics of failure have slowly disappeared. It's true of people; it's true of plants and animals; and, to a large extent, it extrapolates to the survival of philosophies, political systems and social models as well.
The ones who could throw spears the straightest or were crafty enough to outwit their foes, lived for another day. The slow and awkward ones did not. Likewise, the plants and animals that competed most successfully, within their environments, were also rewarded with progeny. This principle isn't just something that Darwin and his fellow scientists came up with as a pipe dream; examples of how natural selection improve the species are everywhere we look.
It wasn't really so very long ago that Utah's schools blocked the teaching of evolution. Considered by many religious educators as some sort of blasphemy against God, their reluctance to accept that simple principle was widely supported by a pervasive public ignorance. It took a long time for our educators to acknowledge the reality of evolution, though, today, it is generally accepted as the means by which nature continually strengthens the gene pool.
Numerous examples of natural selection have transformed the correctly informed world into believers, and there are examples, everywhere, that this refining process is alive and well today. Stronger bodies, quicker minds, greater longevity—they're all examples of successful evolution.
Sadly, this natural selection has yet another manifestation. Social, political, and cultural systems are also affected by another type of evolution. Sometimes it happens very gradually, but progressions—or regressions—of society can be remarkably fast. In the same way that survival of the fittest affects the evolution of species, societies also flourish or die because of the strength of their systems, and it's the intellectual remains of failed empires that, through a kind of hit-and-miss metamorphosis, go on to yet another attempt for survival. The reality is that no political system has all the answers, and we can benefit from something called "hybrid vigor," by simply incorporating the best qualities of each.
President Trump's attitude toward masking has promoted a "you're a sissy if you wear one" mindset among his Republican base. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages to new records, most of his supporters still resist the protective success of PPEs. When interviewed at recent rallies, these people parrot lines like, "The pandemic isn't real; it's just a hoax being promoted by the Chinese Communist Party," "I'm not worried about it; God will protect me, but, if I die, I die," or "It's my personal prerogative to wear a mask. I have one, right here in my pocket, but I'm not going to allow anyone to force me to wear it."
I would wager that the huge number of new cases of COVID will show that such ignorance is leading to illness, long-term damage and death. Sadly, it is the president himself who, with his endless stream of lies and delusion, is taking his followers down the primrose path. Whether one believes in intelligent design or in the process of natural selection, the lack of good sense during a world-wide pandemic can only lead to tragedy.
As of today, Trump's advice to his followers has produced a very revealing profile of infection. As he continues to have galas and rallies—sans-masking—the proof is showing in the numbers. Among the infected members of Congress, it has been reported that 74% of them are Republicans. The reality is that stupidity can wipe out a fair number of the gullible Trump yes-men.
While the immediate effects of Trump's dishonesty have been disastrous, the specter of long-term damage is inevitable. The way it's going, Trump may well be leading his hijacked Republican Party to its ultimate extinction. (And, my guess is that, if there's any such thing as intelligent design, the effect will be the same.)
The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist, and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.