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Re: Progress schmogress (was Re: competition)

One way to clarify this issue might be to substitute "change" for "progress."

For example, there is more carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide air polution now
then there was say two hundred years ago, and there are more automobiles (by
far) then there were two hundred years ago.

So, is one to conclude (erroneously) that automobiles have adapted to the
pollution and because there are more of the four wheeled machines now than in
1801 then automobiles have progressed and are the more successful species than,
say, dodo birds?

Well, of course, this is an inexact analogy that mixes apples and oranges, but
the principal is the same. The fact that there is more of one animal than
another doesn't mean the more numerous animal is the more successful. Rather,
one might conclude that what with climate and atmospheric change, one animal has
adapted to the change better than another.That ignores, naturally, ideas like
memes and emotions and other sorts of items that muddy the issue.

I think, though, that this is why "progress" as an evolutionary idea influenced
by anything other than certain teleological religious notions is not very
useful. "Change" is useful and "adaptation" is useful, but both are situational
rather than progressive (except in the sense that change is, apparently, causal,
and "progresses" from one state to another, but doesn't necessarily "improve" in
any absolute sense from any other than an arbitrary starting point).


Tim Williams wrote:

> Eriuc Lurio wrote:
> >There are twenty thousand teleosts and two celocanths, which group is
> >better
> >at being fish?
> I would say teleosts are better at being teleosts and coelacanths are better
> at being coelacanths.  Apples and oranges.
> I'm guessing that you wish to imply by your statement that "more species =
> more successful = more progress".  How about this then; the family Hominidae
> has only four living species (and three of those are not doing so well these
> days), while there are over 1600 species of mosquitoes (Culicidae) in the
> world today.  Did skeeters therefore undergo more "progress" than naked
> apes?
> Rather than attemptying to define what "progress" might mean in an
> evolutionary context, it may be better just to discard the term altogether.
> The word misleads more than educates.
> Tim
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Timothy J. Williams
> USDA/ARS Researcher
> Agronomy Hall
> Iowa State University
> Ames IA 50014
> Phone: 515 294 9233
> Fax:   515 294 3163
> _________________________________________________________________
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