“A million years is a lot longer than we think it is”

From Ars Technica

Evolution may take time, but there has been a lot more time available than most of us fully appreciate. The major evolutionary transitions, which took place over millions of years or more, still account for a tiny fraction of the history of life on earth. Most of us kind of know that, but it’s difficult to really comprehensively understand what millions of years mean. All of recorded human history? That’s less than a tenth of the time since modern humans left Africa. Which is only about a tenth of a million years. Which is less than a quarter of the time since our ancestors last canoodled with those of the chimps a bit over four million years ago.

All of recorded human experience is just a blink of an eye, and yet we’ve seen hundreds of extinctions, dozens of speciations, observed speciation happen in the lab, watched entire ecosystems change, and driven quite a lot of these changes ourselves. If you really have a grasp of evolutionary time, then the question isn’t one of “did evolution result in the origin of species”—it’s too easily obvious that it did. Instead, the relevant question becomes one of why it produced the species we now see.

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