In the video above, from Harvard Medical School, bacterial evolution is on display in real time. At the end of the video, there’s even an overlay of the the branching family trees that developed in the experiment.
That’s the best part from my vantage. Darwin would have been delighted to see those branching trees, as they look like the famous one he sketched in his notebook when first formulating his theory of evolution by natural selection.
And here’s the trippy part: we got here the way the bacteria above did. In other words, our ancestors adapted to a succession of environments that have reached the environment we inhabit now. The variations we inherited from our parents make us more or less well adapted to this early 21st century environment (thanks, mom and dad!), and if we leave offspring, they will in turn inhabit different mid-to-late 21st century environments in which they’ll thrive to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the variations they inherited from us.
And of course, our children’s offspring will be exposed to 22nd century environments to which some will be well adapted and others not. Just like the bacteria in Harvard’s giant Petri dish, as living organisms we too are competing and evolving all along the way, and being–yikes!–plowed under and to the sidelines if we’re not as well adapted to our environment as the organisms around us. Not a pleasant thought, but that’s the world we’re in. Our planet is a very large, very old, and very blue Petri dish in space.