Nicholas Landau nlandau at
Tue Sep 3 15:25:06 EST 1996

arthurc at (Arthur Chandler) writes:

> My dictionary gives a definition to this term in such a way as to imply 
>it is a working concept in biology:
>    Biology. Degeneration as distinguished from evolution.

> Is this term an often-employed construct or model in biology? And does 
>it imply that evolution means a kind of progress?
> Thanks for any help you can provide.

Never heard the term used professionally, myself.

Evolution is not defined as "progress."  It is defined as a change in
gene frequency in a population over time.  If the frequency of people
with tails in a human population increased over three generations,
for example, this would be evolution.  This despite the fact that
there exists a popular notion that the loss of the tail was a
progressive development for primates.

Evolution cannot "run backwards."  It is not a directed phenomenon,
although it can proceed in a given direction at a given time.

Divest yourself of teleological thinking, and the kosmik truth will
seem less muddied.  Well, if you are a nihilist, anyway.

Nick Landau
Dept. Biochemistry and Microbiology
Rutgers University

More information about the Microbio mailing list