introns and evolution/higher and lower

scarr at scarr at
Fri Mar 11 04:49:56 EST 1994

In article <2lna0t$6j7 at>, morgan at (Morgan J Ryan -- Neil Patterson Publishers) writes:
> Is "higher" really so bad? I'm reading the third edition of John 
> Postgate's classic Microbes and Man (Cambridge, 1992). This guy loves the 
> little critters, and he's not above higher/lower ("without them higher 
> organisms would rapidly cease to exist" p. 14).
> 	The idea I see tossed around is that higher/lower refers to a
> ladder of complexity/evolutionary status/nearness to divine mold, etc. 
> That _would_ be a problem. But the term "higher" is fairly handy if you
> use it to mean _distance above the ground_. Hence higher plants are those
> with vascular structure. Higher animals are those with legs, the longer
> the better. The categories don't resolve any deeper than, say, two or
> three levels below kingdoms. Humans, of course, keep their status as the
> highest organism, since they had the stuffing to hoick themselves off into
> orbit, thus winning the World Champion Organism belt, embossed with the
> motto "veni, vidi, corpus linqui" ("I came, I saw, my body left the
> planet.")
> 	I'm glad that's settled. 
> Morgan Ryan / morgan at
Not to belabor the point, but 'higher' clearly implies 'more North' (cf.
DownUnder). As none of our humanned-spacecraft have gone 'up' in polar
orbit, they have the record for 'outer' but not 'higher'. I conclude that
the northern-most Redwood and Giraffe are the 'highest organisms'.

BTW, don't ask on a vertebrate biology mid-term, "Which is the largest
order of mammals?" Expecting 'Rodentia', you'll be told 'Cetacea' as often 
as not.

This is better than grading


Steven M. Carr
Dept. of Biology
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John's NF A1B 3X9

(709) 737-4776 office / -4713 lab / -4000 FAX
scarr at

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