Darwin is having a moment and the coronavirus pandemic is providing myriad case studies in evolutionary biology. What applies to living organisms, applies equally to human institutions and communities, particularly diverse and unequal institutions and communities like those in the art world.
But first, some background. Evolution is a fact, supported by scientific evidence: new species develop over time, while others go extinct. Darwin’s big idea was not evolution itself, but rather the theory of evolution by natural selection, the mechanism that accounts for the origin of species: genetic variation exists within populations and this variation, subject to adaptive pressures, results in changes in gene frequencies within populations over time—i.e. survival of the fittest. But selective breeding also alters population genetics, and so some change can happen by artificial means—a farmer, for example, can choose to cultivate certain plants an animals, favoring certain specific characteristics. Eugenics is selective breeding controlled by the powerful in service of their individual agendas.