Science TED-Ed

Myths and misconceptions about evolution: A TED-Ed lesson about the subtleties

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Evolution. The concept surrounds us — it’s a standard part of science class, it’s routinely thrown out as explaining our actions in relationships, business and behavior — and yet, so many people hold subtle misunderstandings of what Darwin’s theory actually means.

In this animated TED-Ed lesson, educator Alex Gendler gives a primer on the hard-to-grasp vocabulary of evolution, explaining what is really meant by the terms “survival of the fittest,” “genetic mutation” and “evolutionary purpose.” Overall, Gendler reminds us that evolution is not about us as individuals: natural selection occurs at the cellular, genetic level, not the organism level. She also gives assurance that animals are not evolutionary useless if they die before reproducing — and explains the evolutionary reasoning behind why humans crave pizza and doughnuts over vegetables.

Ultimately, what Gendler’s lesson teaches is that evolution is not controlled by some higher mechanism — there is no predetermined plan of progression. “Evolution proceeds blindly,” she says, “creating all of the diversity we see in the natural world.”