New Animated Web Series Makes the Theory of Evolution Easy to Understand

When it comes to mat­ters of broad sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus, I’m gen­er­al­ly inclined to offer pro­vi­sion­al assent. Like every­one else, I have to rely on the exper­tise of oth­ers in mat­ters out­side my ken, and in many cas­es, this ratio­nal appeal to author­i­ty is the best one can do with­out acquir­ing the rel­e­vant qual­i­fi­ca­tions and years of expe­ri­ence in high­ly spe­cial­ized sci­en­tif­ic fields. In the case of evo­lu­tion, I hap­pen to find the evi­dence and expla­na­tions near­ly all biol­o­gists prof­fer much more per­sua­sive than the claims—and accusations—of their most­ly unsci­en­tif­ic crit­ics. But as we know from recent sur­vey data, a very large per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans reject the the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion, at least when it comes to humans, though it’s like­ly a great many of them—like myself—do not know very much about it.

But as a layper­son with an admit­ted­ly rudi­men­ta­ry sci­ence edu­ca­tion, I’m always grate­ful for clear, sim­ple expla­na­tions of com­plex ideas. This is pre­cise­ly what we get in the video series Stat­ed Clear­ly, which har­ness­es the pow­er of web ani­ma­tion as an instruc­tion­al tool to define what the the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion is, and why it explains the observ­able facts bet­ter than any­thing else. Stat­ed Clear­ly’s tagline is “sci­ence is for every­one,” and indeed, their mis­sion “is sim­ple”: “to pro­mote the art of crit­i­cal think­ing by expos­ing peo­ple from all walks of life, to the sim­ple beau­ty of sci­ence.” The video at the top gives us a broad overview of the the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion. The ani­ma­tion just above presents the evi­dence for evo­lu­tion, or some of it any­way, in clear, com­pelling terms, draw­ing from at least two of the many inde­pen­dent lines of evi­dence. And below, we have a Stat­ed Clear­ly take on nat­ur­al selec­tion, an absolute­ly key con­cept of evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gy, and one reg­u­lar­ly mis­un­der­stood.

After watch­ing these three shorts, you might agree that what is “often con­sid­ered a com­plex and con­tro­ver­sial top­ic” is “actu­al­ly a very sim­ple con­cept to under­stand.” In layman’s terms, at least. In fact, artist, nar­ra­tor, and cre­ator of the series, Jon Per­ry, admits that he him­self has no for­mal sci­en­tif­ic train­ing. “He believed,” his bio states, “that if he could cre­ate just one good ani­ma­tion on his own, sci­en­tists and edu­ca­tors would real­ize the poten­tial of this project and help him cre­ate more.” And indeed they have. Stat­ed Clear­ly has a dis­tin­guished pan­el of sci­ence advis­ers and part­ners that include the Cen­ter for Chem­i­cal Evo­lu­tion, Emory Uni­ver­si­ty, Geor­gia Tech, NASA, and the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion. Learn much more about Stat­ed Clearly’s goals and affil­i­a­tions, or lack there­of, at their web­site. And below, see the fourth video of the series, “Does the The­o­ry of Evo­lu­tion Real­ly Mat­ter?,” which address­es the prac­ti­cal, real world impli­ca­tions of evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry, and sci­en­tif­ic lit­er­a­cy.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Carl Sagan Explains Evo­lu­tion in an Eight-Minute Ani­ma­tion

Watch Episode #2 of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cos­mos: Explains the Real­i­ty of Evo­lu­tion (US View­ers)

Richard Dawkins Makes the Case for Evo­lu­tion in the 1987 Doc­u­men­tary, The Blind Watch­mak­er

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Ross Wind says:

    It is can of fun­ny that a per­son can explain evo­lu­tion when sci­en­tists say they can’t. From Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can and Philip Ball, Nature mag­a­zine on April 28, 2013. “Six­ty years on, the very def­i­n­i­tion of ‘genes,’ is hot­ly debat­ed. We do not know what most of our DNA does, nor how, or to what extent it gov­erns traits. In oth­er words, we do not ful­ly under­stand how evo­lu­tion works at the mol­e­c­u­lar lev­el.” Oth­er evo­lu­tion­ists said. Evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist Patrick Phillips at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon “Evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry does not help biol­o­gists to pre­dict what kinds of genet­ic net­work they should expect to see in any one con­text”. Michael Lynch of Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty “the cur­rent pic­ture of how and where evo­lu­tion oper­ates, and how this shapes genomes, is some­thing of a mess”. In fact it is so bad that the Nature mag­a­zine of the Octo­ber 8, 2014, titles an arti­cle ” Does evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry need a rethink? ” As if that was­n’t enough, the Sep­tem­ber 14, 2016, CNN News arti­cle title “Evo­lu­tion Just Got Hard­er to Defend” explained how a new fos­sil dis­cov­ery makes it even tougher for Dar­win­ists to explain the ori­gin of life. It’s very hard to prove some­thing that nev­er hap­pened.

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