The Evolution of Traffic Lights

Red trafic light is clearly visible whatever is behind shrubs or sky.

There is a story behind these pictures. They were taken on a holiday at a traffic light specifically for children to cross the street to go to school. That day they didn’t turn off the traffic light though no schoolboy, no schoolgirl were around. I had to push the button my own, and the cars had to stop for nothing but me taking these photos.

By constrast, green trafic light is hardly perceivable in front of green vegetation.

Following Dobzhanski’s notion that ‘Nothing (in Biology) Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution‘  I will explain traffic lights now. Well, someone may counter traffic lights clearly are not biological beings. I can agree with that, but fauceir theory is about evolution everywhere not solely in biology, and furthermore traffic lights are fully integrated into biological systems. Their environment is mostly biological (trees and bushes) and they effect predominantly on biological beings, us or our eyes to be more particular. And this exactly is the reason why traffic lights are shaped by evolution. Our eye’s capabilities to perceive light is different depending on color. We need the least intensity of light to recognize red color whereas we need the most for green. Probably this has been shaped by evolution, too, as green is the color of chlorophyll and therefore present in almost all plants – nothing dangerous in particular, while red is the color of fire, which has to be detected as early as possible to better escape a blaze.

Yes, and a similar story happened with traffic light. Once upon a time, there were different human tribes that used various types of colors in their traffic lights, but finally only these human tribes survived that used red for stop. The others, unfortunately, braked to late and died in accidents. Admittedly, this is my favored hypothesis why Neanderthals went extinct, really, at least 50% of them. (The other portion have been killed by Fred Flintstone, who didn’t care about trafic lights at all, but this is an other story.)

Now calculating the selective pressure on the population, we may conclude that traffic light selection took place about several million years ago and finished to my knowledge only a few decades back from now. Well, as the evolution pressure is not so firm in respect to whether left-hand or right-hand driving the natural selection is still going on, and I’m a bit worried about our next holiday when again I have to drive on the left side.

Of course, I’m just kidding, we all know that traffic light evolution took place in a relatively short space of time, and we also know that though unfortunately always accidents can happen, no tribe has been extinguished only because not accepting other traffic light colors.  We humans are crowned with intelligence. We can foresee what happens if and change accordingly. This accelerates  the pace of evolution and decreases the collateral damage enormously. Our intelligence, our knowledge, the theories and concepts that we have in mind are all fauceirs by themselves that help to cut short the distance of an evolutionary process. Why declaring this so obvious fact? Because it happens in biology as well: jumping genes, transposable elements, gene duplications with subsequent modification, to name but a few examples where evolution is accelerated by using already existing complex structure, a mechanism that can be easily explained by fauceir theory everywhere in the world.


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