I think I’ve finally figured out what I don’t like about the American press and evolutionary theory. When they interview biologists, I’m usually okay. When they interview psychologists, I get a little weird.

Consider this report on NPR today:

“Embed a tiny little person or a tiny little animal anywhere in the scene and they’ll notice it changing right away,” he says. On the other hand, people were really bad at noticing changes in things like buildings.

“We actually had other images where entire grain silos were appearing and disappearing and they would report that there was no change in the scene,” he says.

More recent research suggests that people actually pay as much attention to animals as they do to other people, New says.

And he says once a person has detected a living creature, their brain keeps monitoring it — probably because, unlike, say, a bridge or a building, a person or animal can suddenly turn from friendly to hostile.”

I assume that the implication here is that once bridges and buildings turn hostile – and a billion years pass – we will have evolved to the state that we will keep track of the grain silos disappearing and report the change in the scene.

This always seems like an ex nihilo argument to me. The tacit assumption is that because a thing is, it is a successful evolutionary strategy. Leaving behind Gould’s Panda Bear Thumbs, we don’t really know do we. If we try to pin the thing down to a certain point in time, it gets confusing. Will the rattlesnakes and spiders get us in the long run, or will it be the buildings and the bridges and the carbon fuels? We don’t really know what is successful. We only know what works right now when we have to buy bean burritos and make it to our jobs and classes on time.

As for me, I’m jumping over buildings and bridges just to be on the safe side.