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