Evolution is not progress

Thomas Colthurst thomasc at lobachevskii.geom.umn.edu
Tue Jul 7 13:01:36 EST 1992


In article <3643 at news.duke.edu> una at grumpy.phy.duke.edu (Una Smith) writes:
>
> [ Good point about Darwin not equating evolution and
>   and progress. ]
>
>but didn't find a suitable alternative), many readers
>ignored or did not understand his point, and the trend
>continues among many (mostly non-biologists) even today.
>

I think you would be surprised by this last point.  A
surprisingly large number of biologists who I have talked
to still equate evolution with progress (or that ever
common variation, "mostly progress.")  You can get a
B.S. in bio (and for all I know a PhD) without ever having
taken a class on evolution, the obligatory three week
section on evolution in a general bio class is more
likely to waste its time distinguishing between
Lamarkianism and Darwinism than to make this point. 

>Having said that, I'd like to shoot myself in the foot
>and give an example of what I, as someone who works on
>evolutionary theory, think constitutes evolutionary
>progress:  the evolution of new levels of organization.
>By "new levels of organization", I mean
>
>	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)
>
>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.

The last three "levels of organization" listed here
are such recent adaptions (and questionable ones at
that), so clearly nondistinct, and so obviously
species-centric as to render the whole list suspect. 

>
>Una Smith   una at phy.duke.edu    School of the Environment
>                                Duke University
>                                Durham, NC  27706

-Thomas C

[Disclaimer: I'm not a biologist, but I play one on USENET.]



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