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Re: Progress in evolution



In a message dated 95-10-26 10:58:36 EDT, Robert.J.Meyerson@uwrf.edu (Rob
Meyerson) writes:

>I have a small objection to the word "primitive" anyway, as it seems to go=
> back to some of the earlier views on evolution.  Historically, we have=
> viewed evolution in terms of progress or simply "getting better" through=
> time (since our species is at the top of the heap, and therefore the=
> greatest;-)  Recent work has supported the premise that progress simply=
> doesn't apply to evolution; that if one takes any animal (from any
lineage)=
> and looks at it within the time that it lived, we see that it was just as=
> perfectly adapted to its environment as any animal today.  I see nothing=
> primitive in that.

Let's see some synonyms for "primitive" as an antonym to "derived."

I view the current trend to consider humankind as "just another small branch
on the evolutionary tree" as bad philosophy--perhaps a misguided search for
some way to absolve our species of the guilt of virtually wrecking the world.
Humans ARE competitively superior to other organisms--just look at how we
have overrun this poor planet, and how we are destroying the other life forms
with which we coexist. The awareness of our superiority confers on us a
tremendous responsibility toward other organisms, because they are
essentially helpless against our onslaught. "With great power comes great
responsibility," as Stan Lee (of all people) once wrote.

Whether or not there is any validity to the notion of "progress" in
evolution, there is certainly some validity to the notion of an increase in
complexity of organisms through time. Humans are the most complex organisms
to ever have evolved on earth. This complexity would have been impossible to
attain without a lengthy time span in which the random evolutionary process,
by incrementally adding to the complexity of the organisms along our lineage,
could have created it.