Monday, May 18, 2009

The Giraffe's Long Neck

Giraffes have always figured prominently in the evolution genre, either as a rebuke to Lamarckism or as an example of natural selection's creative powers. Isn't it obvious that the giraffe's long neck was an evolutionary innovation, allowing its owner to eat leaves too high for other animals to reach? Actually, no, it is not so obvious. Perhaps the long neck was needed to compensate for the giraffe's long legs. Or again, perhaps the long neck makes the giraffe more attractive. In fact, the scientific evidence for all these narratives is weak. But of course, not knowing how or why the giraffe's long neck evolved in no way lessens the fact that it did evolve. There may be problems with evolution, but we must never allow ourselves to question evolution itself.