It's well underway already, but I wanted to post the link to the live feed of Sanjay Gupta's interview of Don Johanson and Richard Leakey at the AMNH tonight.
It's fascinating. They are tried and true explainers. Leakey's devlish grins are priceless. Johanson is a master at this.
If I wasn't traveling tomorrow, I'd post all about what bugged me. Instead, I'll just jot some concerns down now.
Particularly, and this is big, neither one of them corrected Sanjay Gupta when he asked if humans could experience "devolution" or "de-evolution." Johanson just spoke about differential reproduction, etc.. Getting, as expected, a lot of audience laughter. You can't ask him to be responsible for all evolution education, and especially not during one interview. However, you'd think that mistaken term ("devolution") would ring a loud nauseating bell in either of their minds.
Devolution or de-evolution is JUST evolution. To say it's something separate is to define evolution as progress or the attainment of (or striving for) perfection. When, instead, evolution is only change through time. And only what's necessary (or what's not so bad) is what normally works for an organism and allows it to keep evolving (rather than go extinct).
All this talk (by Johanson mostly) about Africa being perfectly poised (I believe that's a quote) for the origins of Homo sapiens... Well, of course! That's where we think it happened and it happened there. In Africa. Why's it got to be perfect and seemingly destined?
Look, as long as Africa was all right and not awful, then that's all that was required for Homo sapiens to first emerge there (as if "emergence" is something that even actually happens over deep time).
It's not like our species is baby Jesus and we need to create this perfect birth story where the manger was just so and the swaddling was all clean and Mary was just glowing and hardly perspiring and the on-looking animals were all well-behaved and Joseph loved Mary so much.
Evolution usually isn't about perfection. It's just about what works and what doesn't. And that's not just true for slime mold evolution but for human evolution as well.