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Evolutionary Theory (was: Topic of the Day #1)



>Remember, that evolution takes place for a reason. For 
>example, a flightless creature evoloving into a flighted 
>creature will not suffer small, medium sized half formed 
>wing for a few hundred generations, each step will/ must be 
>beneficial to the individual, before it can become benificial 
>to the species.

My turn to nitpick.

I don't think that the above is a completely accurate portrayal of evolutionary 
theory.  To take a cue from S.J. Gould, we should remember that evolution is 
undirected.  Once and a while, a critter will genetically "stumble" upon a 
mutation that turns out to have benificial features, especially if that animal 
now has an advantage over it's competitors.  That critter's offspring that 
"develop" that mutation best will be most likely to breed the next generation, 
and so on and so on.

However, there is no guarantee on what the "end product" (there is no real 
ending in evolution, barring extinction) will look like.  It may turn out that 
environmental stresses will actually turn that mutation into a *detriment*.  In 
this case, the animals that don't have that mutation (or are least effected by 
it) will survive to breed.

Do you remember the old phrase, "Hindsight is always 20/20"?  In the modern 
era, we are looking back on evolution and seeing how certain species have 
changed.  We see how one species evolved into another and say, "It must have 
known what was needed and made the necessary alterations."   This is an 
intellectual trap.  We can see the evolutionary path that a lineage took, but 
we cannot assume that things had to go exactly that one way.  Gould says that 
if we were to "rewind the tape of life" and start all over, things wouldn't 
necessarily end up exactly the same way.


Shalom,

Rob Meyerson

***
Early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.