KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

I am currently working on a larger project that will connect my background in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with personal growth, psychology, and finding more joy and fulfillment in our lives. In Episode 43 I introduce some evolutionary evidence that every individual human is born to discover their uniqueness (despite how ‘woo woo’ that sounds), and how NOT doing so goes against evolutionary theory.

I didn’t coin the term Unnatural Selection. People have used it, generally, to describe forces that affect evolution but are not necessarily a part of ‘regular life’. These forces become selection pressures when they influence the ability for a species to persist. For example, invasive species can be physically moved to new areas where they did not evolve and wreak havoc on the species living in that area. These selection pressures are some feature of the invasive organism that gives it an advantage and with which local species did not co-evolve. These forces often include predation, habitat use, aggression, or other forces that negatively impair local species.

The point of the term unnatural selection is that this novel selection force did not co evolve with the species it is affecting. Most of the time this disconnect is about time or space. In the invasive species example, the organisms didn’t occur in the same physical space (like a continent, island, or area) and so the issue is simply about relocation. Other times the unnatural condition is about time, and the obvious example is climate change. Many argue that human activities are a natural part of our evolution, but the key difference is the amount of time it has taken for these changes to occur. Sure, if human induced global changes occurred over millennia, the earth and its inhabitants may, indeed, have plenty of time to coevolve. But the sudden nature of temperature and CO2 changes over the past 100 years did not allow for such a response. Hence, the selection forces are unnatural.

That’s a long way to go to explain the basis for my argument, but well worth it I hope.

So the main argument I am making in this episode is that humans have imposed a few other unnatural selection forces upon ourselves. If you watched Episode 43, you will know that the main force I consider unnatural is that of conformity. Despite the evidence (which I find compelling, obviously, though you may not) that our DNA, by its very nature, demands that every human fully realize our uniqueness, yet human societies impose the opposite.

Societal norms, religions, laws, politics, and even the popular arts impose forces that encourage conformity. Because it is our nature to NOT conform, but to be UNIQUE, these forces are unnatural. Sure, norms and laws are important. Driving on one side of the road, wearing clothes, not punching people in the face. These are good things. Here I’m talking about mechanisms that discourage people from being different or to behave ‘like everyone else’. On the obvious end, ‘white people are better’ is an unnatural selection force. On the more obscure end, publishers requiring all books to be written according to a set of approved literary rules may result in really, really great books never being published.

The essence of unnatural selection is the intention to make everyone the same, and to make life difficult for those who insist on expressing their individuality. You probably won’t have to think very long to find examples of this in your own life. I have experience mdany examples in my life, and maybe that’s why it’s such a big deal to me.

Therefore, the ultimate travesty of unnatural selection is that the ideas, thoughts, and creativity humans need to survive the future may never come to light because they will be discouraged and effectively ‘weeded out’ of society. As the world becomes more crowded and less hospitable to humans, it becomes increasingly necessary to find unique ideas and approaches that will alter that path. Solving human problems, or any problem, REQUIRES unique viewpoints. As many as possible.

I hope you enjoy the episode. Your comments and thoughts are welcome and encouraged as I develop this idea further.

Full podcast audio here: or via your favorite podcast app.

Full YouTube video here:

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