Crazy evolution movies

io9 has a fun list of “The most ludicrous depictions of evolution in science fiction history”. Star Trek and Doctor Who come in for the treatment, but how can I not quote the most famous movie evolution of all?

In the original Charlton Heston movie, three astronauts from 1971 crash land on an unknown planet in what is now the year 3978. The world is ruled by intelligent apes, who have enslaved the mute, primitive humans. At the risk of spoiling one of the most famous forty-year-old twists in movie history, Heston eventually discovers this strange planet is actually Earth. You can probably spot the problem with this story, evolutionarily speaking. There's absolutely no way apes could evolve into intelligent beings in 2006 years.

To be fair, this scenario is quite consistent with some people’s models of human evolution, in which human language and symbolic thinking arise suddenly in a single evolutionary spasm. Of course, those people are just wrong.

This is going to be very convenient for my students, as I regularly assign this as a paper topic – pick a famous movie or book depiction of evolution and explain how it is inconsistent with what we know about the evolutionary process.