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Re. Progress





At 10:47 03/05/00 EDT, you wrote:
<< Every year I struggle to remove the baser notions of progress in
evolution  from 150 first year undergraduates, and it's invariably a
struggle. >>

Have you ever given thought to >why< this is such a struggle? It might be
because you are struggling >against truth.<
>
>If evolution does not engender progress, then why were all the
earliest-known life forms on earth unicellular prokaryotes? Why didn't all
kinds of life forms--from prokaryotes to eukaryotes to multicellular plants
and animals--appear all together at the end of the Hadean Era? The entire
history of life on earth is the story of progress from simple life forms to
more complex life forms, from monotony to diversity. Naturally, this
doesn't happen in every lineage, only in a very few lineages--but over the
course of several billion years these few lineages make all the difference.

@@@Jeesh George, read around a bit. This is a thorny philosophical problem
that's been batted around for years, and no one has come up with a
satisfactory defense of the idea that evolution is inherently progressive.
And the 'we started off with prokaryotes and ended up with elephants'
argument has never stood up (and certainly not as a bald assertion based on
opinion). Even random processes tend to go to the right if they're
prevented from going to the left. Life is prevented from going to the left
because you don't get much simpler than bacteria. (And 'simple' life forms
were assembled first - this is just obvious - and extinction events have a
marked tendency to skip the 'simple' ones). The longer you leave lineages
going randomly, the further to the right they'll go. To call this
'progress' is like saying that a staggering drunk miraculously makes
progress to the right even though everyone can see there's a brick wall on
his left. The tendency is rightward, but you can't call random staggering
inherently progressive.

I think we better get back to dinosaurs...