- The Loom
Mediocre Poison Eaters And The Imperfection of Evolution
It’s easy to forget sometimes that evolution is always a work in progress. We contemplate the eye or look upon an oak tree, and ask, how could they be any better? Somehow, in those moments of awe, we forget about detached retinas and sudden oak death. The evolutionary race is not in fact won by the perfect, but by the good-enough. And it just so happens that one of the best illustrations of evolution’s mediocrity is unfolding in front of us right now.
This episode of evolution is entirely of our own doing. In 1936, a chemical called pentachlorophenol went on the market. It was hugely popular as a way to preserve telephone poles and lumber against fungi and termites.