• Evolution Is Linear: Debunking Life's Little Joke

      Jenner, RA (Wiley, 2017-12-16)
      Linear depictions of the evolutionary process are ubiquitous in popular culture, but linear evolutionary imagery is strongly rejected by scientists who argue that evolution branches. This point is frequently illustrated by saying that we didn't evolve from monkeys, but that we are related to them as collateral relatives. Yet, we did evolve from monkeys, but our monkey ancestors are extinct, not extant. Influential voices, such as the late Stephen Jay Gould, have misled audiences for decades by falsely portraying the linear and branching aspects of evolution to be in conflict, and by failing to distinguish between the legitimate linearity of evolutionary descent, and the branching relationships among collateral relatives that result when lineages of ancestors diverge. The purpose of this article is to correct the widespread misplaced rejection of linear evolutionary imagery, and to re‐emphasize the basic truth that the evolutionary process is fundamentally linear.