Evolution is not progress

Una Smith una at phy.duke.edu
Wed Jul 8 10:56:44 EST 1992


A number of people hated my list, below, and posted
or sent me private complaints about the anthropomorphic
aspects of the last 3 items.

> 	1. Life
> 	2. Cells
> 	3. Multi-vessicle cells
> 	4. Multi-cellular organisms
> 	5. The brain
> 	6. The mind (distinct from the brain)
> 	7. Culture (in the sense of human culture)

As Arseny has pointed out, this list is not my own original
idea, but merely my own interpretation of a common theme.
I did say that I'd be shooting myself in the foot for giving
this list, but in the past month I have been approached
repeatedly by people who seemed to want to talk about 
nothing else, so I think it's a very real issue which 
merits discussion.

I'd like to point out that item 5 (brain) is not a feature
unique to humans, and whether item 6 (mind) is unique to
humans (on this planet anyway) is a hot topic of debate.
Even the last item, culture, does not necessarily belong to
humans alone.  There are other people who use email and
who are far better able to debate the fine points of these
latter items on the list than I.  To those critics who say
the anthropomorphic aspects of items 5-7 "make the entire
list suspect", I can only ask:  Why?

> All other instances of evolution as so-called progress
> depend on special pleadings for "improvement" in some
> aspect of the quality or quantity of a type of organism.

I'll stand by this, however much people in this newsgroup
or elsewhere argue that, by defining "progress" in the
right way, it can be made synonymous with "evolution".
On an off day, I would even take the hard line that not
even my list of emergent levels of organization fit the
usual criteria of "progress".

	Una



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