Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Do any illustrations of evolution by natural selection actually illustrate evolution by natural selection?
Rebecca Price
2nd Author
3rd Author
Masters in Art and Science
Number of Pages
University of the Arts London
Thesis Supervisor
Heather Barnett
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Art and Science
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
Art, Illustration, Evolution, Science, March of Progress, Tree of Life, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, Natural Selection, Inaccurate depictions
Abstract: 200-500 words
This thesis seeks to examine the most popular images that supposedly depict evolution by natural and sexual selection and whether they are a contributing factor to what is still a widely misunderstood theory. Focusing on Ernst Haeckel's classic Tree of Life, The March of Progress by Rudy Zallinger and a few more obscure but still problematic images, I investigate the variations and misinformation perpetuated by these images. Though some are more accurate than others, none is without issue. The most common is the archaic idea of a hierarchy with humans inevitably at the top with all other life seeking to progress towards us. This may be comforting and flattering, but is ultimately without evidence. Incorrect notions of linear evolution, of increasing improvement and predictability are all encouraged through these images and run rampant through our ideas of what evolution involves. The oversimplification necessary to depict evolution appears to only invite inaccuracies. I therefore propose that instead of one illustration, a series of images would be more appropriate, if not an entire artist's practice with many different pieces which together explain evolution better than any of them could alone.