progressive evolution

Richard Gordon gordonr at cc.UManitoba.CA
Tue Jun 20 12:05:12 EST 1995

A reply to 3 messages on progressive evolution.

On 14 Jun 1995, Phillip Bigelow <n8010095 at> wrote:
>   What exactly is "progressive" evolution?  I have never seen that adject=
> used with the word "evolution" before.

>On 14 Jun 1995, Eirikur Sigurdsson <eiriksig at> wrote:
Please explain what you mean by progressive evolution.  Haven't you heard t=
old saying:  "Saying the word progress in the company of seriously thinking
evolutionary biologist is like saying f*** in the vicars tea party".

No offense but I really need to know what you mean before I can comment=20
on it.

On Fri, 16 Jun 1995, Richard M Kliman <rkliman at> wrote:
> What, precisesly, is meant by the term "progressive" evolution?  Is this
> the same thing as "adaptation," or is it something else?  Adaptation
> resulting from the action of natural selection on heritable variation
> need not be progressive.

My reply:
This is the emotionally debated concept that 1) there is a measure by
which organisms can be ranked lower or higher; 2) that evolution more or
less continuously produces organisms of ever higher rank. It has a
sizable literature pro and con. I append a sampling.

I would suggest that an objective measure of evolutionary progress could
be made, but that we will find it in an understanding of the intermediate
logical structure of the genome: the level concerned with cell
differentiation. A comparison of tissue lineage trees or "differentiation
trees" for a large number of species might suffice to generate an
appropriate measure and apply it, without actually sequencing DNA. By=20
abstracting differentiation trees from organisms, we obtain a rigorously=20
definable structure that permits quantitative comparisons. Over=20
evolutionary time, this structure will often grow, and occasionally be=20
pruned. The overall tendency to growth, probably driven by gene or gene=20
cascade duplications, may be the fundamental irreversible process=20
underlying evolution. That irreversiblity is what may account for=20
progressive evolution. Comments?

-Dick Gordon <GordonR at> [Jun20,95]

Works on Progressive Evolution
from Dick Gordon's Bibliography

Campbell, C.B. & W. Hodos (1991). The Scala naturae revisited:=20
evolutionary scales and anagenesis in comparative psychology. J. Comp.=20
Psychol.  105(3), 211-221.=20

Colbert, E.H. (1949). Progressive adaptations as seen in the fossil=20
record. In: G.L. Jepsen, E. Mayr & G.G. Simpson (eds.), Genetics,=20
Paleontology, and Evolution, Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp.=20

Dawkins, R. (1992). Progress. In: E.F. Keller & E.A. Lloyd (eds.),=20
Keywords in Evolutionary Biology, Cambridge: Harvard University Press,=20
pp. 263-272.

Gordon, R. (1992a). The fractal physics of biological evolution. In: D.=20
Beysens, N. Boccara & G. Forgacs (eds.), Dynamical Phenomena at=20
Interfaces, Surfaces and Membranes, Commack, N.Y.: NOVA Science=20
Publishers, pp. 99-111.

Gordon, R. (1994b). Evolution escapes rugged fitness landscapes by gene=20
or genome doubling: the blessing of higher dimensionality. Computers &=20
Chemistry  18(3), 325-332.=20

Gordon, R. (1996). The fractal tree of life: the fractal differentiation=20
of tissues in embryos, and its relationship to the fractal nature of=20
evolution. In: P. Iannaccone & M.K. Khokha (eds.), Fractals in Biological=
Systems: An Analytical Approach, Boca Raton: CRC Press, in preparation.

Gould, S.J. (1994). The evolution of life on the earth. Sci. Am.  271(4),=

Layzer, D. (1980). Genetic variation and progressive evolution. Amer.=20
Nat.  115, 809-826.=20

L=BFvtrup, S. (1986c). On progressive evolution and competitive extinction.=
Env. Biol. Fishes  17(1), 3-12.=20

Nitecki, M.H. (ed.),  (1988a). Evolutionary Progress?,   354p., Chicago:=20
University of Chicago Press.=20

Slatkin, M. (1989). Population structure and evolutionary progress.=20
Genome  31(1), 196-202.=20

Stebbins=CAJr., G.L. (1968). Integration of development and evolutionary=20
progress. In: R.C. Lewontin (ed.), Population Biology and Evolution,=20
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, pp. 17-36.

Stebbins=CAJr., G.L. (1969). The Basis of Progressive Evolution. Chapel=20
Hill: University of North Carolina Press.=20

Zuckerkandl, E. (1976). Programs of gene action and progressive=20
evolution. In: M. Goodman, R.E. Tashian & J.H. Tashian (eds.), Molecular=20
Anthropology: Genes and Proteins in the Evolutionary Ascent of the=20
Primates, New York: Plenum Press, pp. 387-447.

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