Evolution needs all the help it can get in making its arguments to the general public. General science education is lacking in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Over time, evolution proponents have developed several short hand tools to explain complex concepts. One of the most famous is the March of Progress. The original image depicts 15 human evolutionary forebears lined up as if marching in a parade from left to right. The image has been copied, modified and parodied countless times. Here is one very simplified version:
There is value in this image and how it shows evolutionary progress. There is also danger of misunderstanding in the image as well. The power of its simplicity distorts the reality of evolution. The fact that humanity is the end of the line creates a false impression that evolution has worked entirely to produce humanity.
Today’s humans are not the end of evolution. Just as there is a long line of ancestors behind us, there will be a long line of descendants in front of us. Eventually, those descendant will be as different from us as we are from the behind us. Or we will go extinct, and our fire will have gone out of the universe.
Regardless of what happens to humanity, evolution will continue to shape life through the world. The adjustment and adaptation of species has not stopped with the appearance of man, nor will it stop in the foreseeable future. The purpose of evolution was not to produce humanity, no more than it was to produce the blue whale or influenza.
This is not to say the image is bad or never should be used. It simply must be used with care and thought. We want people to believe in evolution for the right reasons, not simply they think they are the end result.
-That is all.