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Re: Drunk analogy (was Progress)...Still is
<<In terms of the ability of both predator and prey to survive and populate
the environment with their offspring, progress in your sense doesn't seem to
Taking this statement as a generalization rather than as an observation
about cheetahs and gazelles specifically, you're disputing evolution itself.
<<Were gazelles less vulnerable to predation when both they and cheetahs
were slower? Are cheetahs more efficient predators now that both they and
gazelles are faster? Only, it seems to me, If we equate some variable like
'faster' with 'progress', which doesn't seem to take much into account
(small, wiry, superfast cheetahs, for
example, often lose their kills to bigger, butcher predators who haven't
gone so far down the superfast road; was this so much of a problem when both
cheetahs and gazelles were slower but more solidly built?).>>
Cheetahs aren't a particularly good example because their small numbers and
low genetic diversity makes them vulnerable to extinction. They seem more
useful in a discussion of excessive specialization. However, you ask if
'gazelles [were] less vulnerable to predation when both they and cheetahs
were slower?' Ask the question as 'Would gazelles be more vulnerable to
predation if they remained slower but cheetahs were faster?', which is
appropriate to the 'arms race' analogy (cribbed from Dinosaur Heresies), and
the answer becomes clear.
<<If lineages close to the wall [simpler] are more likely to persist through
radical changes in environmental
conditions, then those heading towards the wall in 'normal' times might even
be said (although I would never say it, of course) unwittingly to be making
progress towards relative safety.>>
Your discussion started with language, which results from intelligence.
Intelligence is an adaptation allowing survival in a wide range of
circumstances, and that flexibility, like simplicity, does have survival
value in various situations.
Intelligence is a survival strategy which can be enhanced by increasing
flexibility. There was a time before and after language. This is progress.
Simplicity is a description of some of the set of adaptations in place for a
particular animal at a particular time. How can simplicity progress without
ceasing to be simple? See the difference between an adaptation and a
category of adaptations?
Progress is not inevitably increasing complexity in every adaptation an
animal uses. A more 'advanced' animal has enhanced its capabilities by
increasing the utility (efficiency and effectiveness) of some part of its
set of adaptations. The result of those enhancements may be categorized as
more simple or more complex.
In that sense, animals and plants do 'mov[e] on and improv[e] on the way'
(drawing a different conclusion from Honored Person Kirk).