Everyone's heard it from someone who's transmitting the nuts and bolts of evolution and selection:
"Evolution is a game about whose genes get into the next generation."
"When it comes to evolution, survival and reproduction are all that matter."
Statements like these are often used to describe how evolutionary change in populations, generation after generation, occurs in large part because of differential survival and reproduction of the individuals which pass on genetic material generation after generation. In other words, it's how one gene pool can lead to a different gene pool, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Newcomers to evolution, or hearsayers who haven't had much instruction or quality exposure, are so often deflated or offended by this notion that our existence is solely defined by survival and reproduction. This is all part of evolution's persistent PR problem, contributing to the public's reluctance to learn it, let alone accept it, and to the obstacles teachers face in the classroom.
But is evolutionary theory really that heartless? Does reducing life down to survival and reproduction really zap the meaning out of it? Let's consider them separately.
You could say survival doesn't offer much meaning...
But eating and drinking are required for survival. Who doesn't derive much pleasure and fulfillment from eating and drinking and the experiences that surround them? And then there's competing, playing, dancing, and staying fit, which are huge sources of positive energy and high-spiritedness for many people who, if chased by a crocodile, might just get away, or flip it around and get dinner and some new shoes out of the situation. In a croc-free world, active people are enhancing and prolonging their well-being. Also, people rarely survive all by their lonesome--friendships are sources of such wonderful inspiration, collaboration, satisfaction, connectedness, love, and laughter.
|With my buddy, listening to music, drinking beer, after running a trail race.|
But, love is ...love! Sex is ...sex! The relationships we have with our romantic partners (whether or not they produce offspring) can provide life's most meaningful meaningfulness.
|With my mate, on our wedding day.|
|Reproduction really worked out great for me.|
In fact, they're so chock full of meaning that many of us already prize the fundamentals of evolution. Talk about where evolution-less perspectives beautifully converge with evolutionary ones! Evolutionary theory just happens to wrap it all up in a nice tidy two-word package for us to unpack and repack according to fancy... e.g. pizza, pints, port, pups, parks, play, Penguins, paleo, Proconsul, puns, pals, parents, Pink Floyd.
Nobody should feel stripped of their humanity or their hope when they learn about evolution. So many sources of love, beauty, joy, awe, and meaning are gifts of nature. Many would say they all are. And it's enough. And it's good.