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Re. Progress

>I've seen 'primitive' used to mean 'appearing early in the line leading
>to...' and 'advanced' meaning 'specialized' or just 'later'.  Anything wrong
>with these usages?

@@@In my opinion there's a lot wrong with these usages, mainly because they
give non-specialists (and some specialists!) entirely the wrong idea about
the process of natural selection. There also seems to be something rather
insidious about the continued use of these misinterpretable terms when you
consider that for 'earlier' you could just use the word 'earlier', and for
'later' you could just use 'later'. Why use 'primitive' and 'advanced' with
all their associated perjorative baggage when there are simple, logical,
precise alternatives that cannot be misinterpreted?

>More broadly, can't 'progress' be used to mean 'better adapted'? This is not
>referring to a Great Ladder, but aren't certain adaptations like flight such
>major advantages that one would be able to refer to a line of animals better
>and better at flying as making progress toward flying?  If so, couldn't
>intelligence be considered one of these major adaptations?  (Remember that
>like flight significant intelligence has developed in many lines of
>animals.) I prefer to think of such definitional distinctions as
>rather than 'hedging'...

@@@Flying and intelligence are sucessful adaptations, and there were times
when, with hindsight, both 'got better' in particular lineages, but to say,
for instance, that lineages were 'making progress towards flying' suggests
that natural selection somehow knew where it was going. You would then also
have to say that whereas some lineages made progress towards flying,
others, like secondarily flightless dinosaurs and ostriches, made progress
back towards not flying. Easier and less risky, especially when lay-people
are listening, to describe the changes and the reasons for them (if known)
and leave it at that.

Take care