As a Political Science – World Politics major, it may not be very obvious how the study of evolution is related to my field of study, however evolution truly is a unifying study that can be used to explain a variety of things. I will start with a very broad example of how evolution affects my field and I will then go into more specific examples of where this study has made great contributions.
One broad and more obvious way that the study of evolution is incorporated into political science is in the very debate on whether it should be taught in schools. The decision to cut it from public education would be something that related government agencies would be involved in. As a Political Science major, I have even taken part in debates and discussions as to whether this should be a part of the regular curriculum. I have always supported the teaching of evolution in schools, however after this lesson, my opinion is even stronger than before. Specifically, after reading the Alters and Alters article, I understand more just how evolution influences every other scientific field and how it really unifies them. The reason people are the way they are today is because organisms with reproductive advantages will more likely live to reproductive age and pass those genes to their offspring which creates a larger population with favorable genes. The study of these genes helps other science fields by giving them the ability to group certain organisms based on their genes, study traits that have evolved, and much more that can even help scientists come up with explanations and cures to some diseases. The understanding of this is crucial and this is why I strongly believe that scientists should be more involved with politics. Too many times, there are controversial issues such as this, or even more current issues such as climate change, where politicians who do not understand the science behind them are making the decisions. If more scientists were also politicians, perhaps the proper decisions would be made on those topics that require a scientific base.
Another more specific example of how the study of human evolution and genetics has been used in my field is in the studies on slavery and its effects on current politics. As we learned in week one, due to the heterozygote advantage and balancing selection, there are certain genotypes that are more resistant to falciparum malaria. Many people living in Africa adapted to this environment and evolved to become resistant to this strand of malaria. As the demand for crops from the new world such as cotton and tobacco grew stronger, the English settlers needed more labor to satisfy their needs. The obvious choice would have been the Native Americans who were already living on the land, which they did try. Native Americans had never been exposed to the European malaria though, so they died very quickly and were not a reliable source of labor. The Africans however were already resistant to this malaria because of their environment and how their genes had already evolved. This meant that they could handle the hard labor especially since they were accustomed to being under the sun all day. So this genetic adaptation is what led to the enslavement of African Americans which still effects politics today. Enslavement led to racism which led to politics that favored whites such as redlining in Detroit. Redlining was literally the process of taking a map and drawing red lines that determined where African Americans could and could not live which led to concentrated poverty. Racists practices also kept Africans in an inferior economic position that stopped them from advancing and perpetuated the cycle of poverty and all of this combined eventually contributed to the downfall of Detroit as a whole.
So it definitely takes a lot to step back and see the bigger picture, but it was evolution and genetic adaption that led to slavery which America is very clearly still feeling the effects of. As a political science major, I am very aware of the effects slavery has had on the politics of many areas such as Detroit and I believe it is important to understand how all of this began. This is why learning about evolution is important, even if you are in a non-science major like myself. I do not necessarily look at my field in a new light now because I have previously been exposed to the importance of combining science with social science, however I hope that others can see the importance of the link after this lesson and perhaps after my blog post.