The Simpsons and evolution

by Matthew Cobb

I guess that many of you will have seen this, but to my surprise, I see we have never posted it here. This is from 2010:

What’s noteworthy is that give or take a few anachronisms (T. rex and Stegosaurus were not alive at the same time), this is reasonably accurate – in particular it has a Dimetrodon-like organism as Homer’s ancestor, which indeed it was (or rather, it was our ancestor).

It does however skip over the transition to an early chordate and then to a bony fish in a remarkably brief time. And it suffers from the terrible sin of presentism, whereby the last few hundred years take up as much time as scores of millions of years deep in the past.

But hey, you know what? Humans don’t have yellow skin and bug eyes. It’s a cartoon, folks!

32 Comments

  1. rickflick
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Not to mention that the first 2 billion years or so goes by in about 5 seconds. I’d never seen this. Love it. Thanks.

  2. John Harshman
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    While the Lisasaurus does have a thagomizer (the technical term) reminiscent of a stegosaur’s, its horned neck frill and beak make it look more like a ceratopsian. The crest along the back is present in neither.

    The homage to Fantasia (and Rite of Spring) is clear enough, though.

    • reasonshark
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      That horned neck frill is Lisa’s normal hair, and the crest along the back is supposed to be the row of plates. She’s meant to be a stegosaur, especially if the Fantasia allusion is correct.

  3. Randy Schenck
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Very nice. I like that the Simpson head started to appear even before the mammal went to the trees as a monkey. The evolution got “ahead” of itself.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      The Simpson head was present in the procaryotic organism and in the token (opisthocont?) eucaryote. A slight case of the encephalisation predating the formation of the notochord.

  4. Diane G.
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    What’s going on from ~ 0:53 to 0:56 ?

  5. MP
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    So nobody is going to discuss the “unevolution” of poor Moe Szyslak?

    • GBJames
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      We’re waiting for you to do that! 😉

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Ah, that explains it, thanks! (Explains my query at 4 above.)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        You didn’t recognise Moe? 😉

        cr

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          I was to busy trying to think of what that devolution actually referred to in the real world.

          Trump, maybe.

          • reasonshark
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

            It’s a reference to the “lower” and “higher” misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, whereupon more distantly related animals to humans are “lower” and more closely related “higher”.

            Since Moe is supposed to be a combination of a sleazeball and a self-help guru’s dream, of course he’s the candidate.

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 17, 2015 at 2:58 am | Permalink

              Yes, yes, I understand. 🙂 And it was probably my knee-jerk reaction to what seemed to be a statement about higher/lower or primitive/advanced that let the Moe-joke fly over my head.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

            Diane, you obviously need to move down market by several categories of bar if you don’t recognise Moe`s “Descent of Man”

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 17, 2015 at 2:59 am | Permalink

              That, too. 😉

  6. reasonshark
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    We’re supposed to take it as a rough sketch covering the highlights for brevity and a few sight gags. If we try and point out everything inaccurate about it, we’ll have a giant shopping list on our hands.

    My favourite bit was the Moe cameo. Of course that lowly human rat would be going the wrong way, wouldn’t he? 😀

    That music is surprisingly inspiring. It managed to sell the grandness of evolution in just a couple of minutes in a parody no less. Kudos!

  7. don mackay
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Hi Martin,

    There is some fun for you here. The Simpsons clip is brilliant. Try the other clips also, especially the one on Dawkins.

    Cheers,

    Don.

    • Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      Si think you have a … missing link … 😆

      /@

      • Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        *So, I …

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Pithecanthropus dawsonii? (In terror now of having got the generic name wrong.)

  8. lkr
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    My bet is that none of our ancestors knuckle-walked. So last night’s debators’ stances were examples of homoplasy?

  9. Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Even Jurassic Park conflated which dinosaurs lived when. That recency fallacy. I suppose it works for audiences. Aside from that the Simpsons occasionally drops something remarkably geeky into the mix (such as part of the solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem…)

  10. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    D’ohvolution. I like it!

  11. Ralph
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    It’s fun, but unfortunately it reinforces the widely held misconception that evolution involves one organism morphing into another.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      A bit hard to do otherwise in the space of 60 seconds.

      cr

  12. Posted December 17, 2015 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    I suspect that the Simpsons clip was inspired by this music video:

    Probably lacking in the accuracy department, and it definitely skips a few steps, but still funny and definitely hypnotic.

  13. Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Amazing that _The Simpsons_ airs on Fox, when you think about it … I guess money trumps (other) ideology?

  14. tony in san diego
    Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I hope this works…I don’t know how to embed a picture…

    https://scontent.fsan1-2.fna.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xtp1/v/t1.0-9/10440237_1068381066535519_4048021772440185418_n.jpg?oh=3434d903e3526f3b98cc58c24bbcf941&oe=56E3285D

    • rickflick
      Posted December 17, 2015 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      It works! Very amusing.


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