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Evolution And Complexity

Matthew Martyniuk Wrote:

>This is getting a bit off topic, so let me ask this: Given how complexyou see 
>humans, as we're the only species theoretically capable ofexpanding our 
>>species into space for an extended period of time (givensome hypothetical 
>sci-fi level technology of the future), why arguethat Mammalia should be 
>>ranked as a class, rather than rank Homo (oreven Primates) itself as class 
>even a kingdom? Surely the platypus hasno chance of building a rocket, so >why 
>does it get into the sameexclusive, complex club as humans? In other words, if 
>you'redetermining taxonomy by complexity, what's the metric? How >complex 
>iscomplex enough to earn membership in a new taxonomic class?

  I was not suggesting that we base anything around humans. There is an area of 
active research called emergence theory  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcuBvj0pw-E  which is the study of how 
complexity can emerge from simplicity; this has nothing to do with human 
centricity. What I was suggesting is that another dimension to the 
classification of life may be found in a study increasing complexity. Of course 
this might be mostly useless in the context of phylogenetics, but *could* be 
useful in fields such as exobiology and cosmology. Within this context, mammals 
and archosaurs may be roughly analogous in that both have evolved 4 chambered 
hearts, many have/had insulation, complex social behavior, complex brains, 
complex respiratory systems etc. these adaptations have enabled both to 
populate virtually every area of the globe. Animals such as eusocial insects 
need to be considered as well, since the argument could be made that some are 
actually "super-organisms". Advanced cephalopod brains should also be compared 
to the brains of mammals and archosaurs.
>species into space for an extended period of time (givensome hypothetical 
>sci-fi level technology of the future) 
I think many are getting hung up on this because I included archosaurs and 
mammals as groups that have the potential to give rise to sapient life. This 
was more a comment on the complexity of some archosaurian and mammalian brains 
relative to most other vertebrates. A complex brain must exist before an 
*extremely* complex brain can evolve. We at least know sapient life evolved 
from within mammalia (humans), and if corvids are anything to go by, it's 
possible that if dinosaurs had not gone extinct, one lineage *may* have 
produced a species as intelligent as H. sapiens. Again, I'm not suggesting that 
everything revolve around this one point. I am also not suggesting that a 
species like H. sapiens is an inevitability. There may be billions, or even 
trillions of planets in the universe that have evolved complex life, and yet go 
their entire history without producing a single technologically advanced 
species before being consumed by their expanding sun. It may turn out that 
complex life is rare and that most forms of life in the universe are microbes. 
However, it should also be remembered that abiogenesis may have required 
trillions of trials in oceans filled with organic compounds before the first 
primitive, inefficient replicators emerged. And so millions or even billions of 
"trials" may be needed to produce life as complex as archosaurs and mammals, 
with only a few of those giving rise to sapient life, and perhaps fewer still 
producing advanced civilizations, but it may only take *one* space faring 
species to give rise to billions of new intelligent life forms.     
>(givensome hypothetical sci-fi level technology of the future)
Please keep in mind that much of the research of future space-flight is not 
'Star Trek' and it is not fanciful; Dr. Robert W. Bussard should not be 
confused with Gene Roddenbery. There is also more to this than space craft: if 
humans eventually invent strong AI, that is to say AI that is comparable to 
humans in intelligence, we may become the progenitors of new species of human, 
or even a new form of life altogether. Gregory S. Paul has actually written 
about this subject in his book 'Beyond Humanity: Cyberevolution and Future 
Minds'. So even if humans have the most complex brains in Earth's history, 
there is no reason to think we are the 'pinacle' of evolution anymore than we 
should think lobe finned fish were the pinnacle of fish evolution simply 
because they were the precursors of terrestrial vertebrates. If humans do 
spread out in to the galaxy, the isolation that would result may produce 
millions of new species life, which in turn may diversify into entirely new 
clades, or even completely new forms of life. Sapient life has the added 
benefit of being able control its own evolution, which may result exponential 
increase in intelligence/complexity. Even with slower than light travel (.2 C) 
this could happen within a span of only a few million years. 
So within this *context* there may be some justification in thinking of some 
clades such as mammals, archosaurs and any possible analogs in terms of 
relative complexity to other life forms. Whether the label "class" should 
continue to be used is somewhat beside the point, I am simply suggesting that 
there *may* be another dimension to the classification of life along with 
synapomorphies. How useful this would be I'm not sure, I'm not a scientist, or 
a researcher in these fields...I'll leave that up to you guys.
Simeon Koning.