Recently, PumpkinPerson has been stating that one population can be ‘more evolved‘ than another which doesn’t make any biological sense. PP’s basic thesis is that since we are the last branch on the tree in comparison to the lifeforms that came before Homo Sapiens, that due to that, we are ‘more evolved’ than other organisms on the planet. I get where he’s coming from; he’s just extremely wrong.
Organisms evolve to better adapt to their environment through Natural Selection (NS). NS does select for positive traits, however, evolution is not a linear process. PP also claims that “evolution is progressive“. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Stating that evolution is “progressive” means that evolution through NS is progressing to an “endgame”. Though, we know there is no “endgame” with evolution, as evolution just happens.
Evolution is not progressive. NS may select for traits not suitable for that environment, as NS is “not all-powerful”. Selecting for one advantageous trait may change another trait for the worse. (See “Misconceptions on Evolutionary Trees“, which is what PP did, from Berkely).
PP asks “Who is most evolved?”
No organism is “more evolved” than another. NS selects for traits that are advantageous to that current environment (it selects for negative traits as well). Due to this, the word “superior”, the phrase “more evolved” is meaningless comparing human races to one another and humanity as a whole to the other lifeforms on the planet.
PP quotes Rushton as saying
“One theoretical possibility is that evolution is progressive, and that some populations are more advanced than others.” J.P. Rushton, 1989
We know that evolution is not progressive, so due to this, some populations are not more advanced than others. Genetic superiority can be measured subjectively, but not objectively, as each organism has different strengths and weaknesses due to its environment.
PP then implies that bacteria are “less evolved” than we are. However, with recent breakthroughs in the HMP (Human Microbiome Project) we see the huge role that gut microbiota play when it comes to communicating with the brain, how antibiotics that kill gut microbiota also stop the growth of new brain cells, and how altered gut microbiota cause obesity. With more amazing uses and benefits we find involving gut microbiota and human health, can we really say that we’re “more evolved” than these organisms when they account for a huge amount of positive benefits for as a whole.
For another example, cows using their own genes wouldn’t be able to extract the fiber out of the food they eat. They would need special enzymes to break down the cell wall to extract the nutrients from the food. Though, evolving the genes to do this would take an extremely long time. This is where gut microbiota come in. Trillions of microbiomes live in the cows’ 4 stomachs. The microbiomes living in the cows’ gut processes the food back and forth through the mechanical grinding of the cows’ mouth and thus, the nutrients are extracted by the microbiomes that way.
In this instance, is a cow superior to its microbiomes if a cow’s microbiomes make it possible for it to digest its food?
PP then asks “Does more evolved mean superior?”
No, it doesn’t. There is no way to quantify this, as evolution is not progressive. Furthermore, saying that one organism is “more evolved” than another doesn’t make any sense since, as noted earlier in this article, each organism is suited to the environment it evolved in through NS.
PP then says that he prefers a 3 race model, when a 5 race model makes more sense. These populations are “Africa, Europe, Asia, Melanesia and the Americas.”
I assume he would put ‘Natives’ with Asian Mongoloids, but ‘Natives’ have been genetically isolated in the Americas for so long that they formed their own distinct clade away from other populations due to no introgression between them, when other populations have admixture from other parts of the world:
Significant genetic input from outside is not noticed in Meso and South American Amerindians according to the phylogenetic analyses; while all world populations (including Africans, Europeans, Asians, Australians, Polynesians, North American Na-Dene Indians and Eskimos) are genetically related. Meso and South American Amerindians tend to remain isolated in the Neighbor-Joining, correspondence and plane genetic distance analyses.
Hence, a 5 race model makes more sense as these populations show genetic differentiation between each other.
Still, others may take the concept of “more evolved” and believe that one race is “more evolved” than another. That’s another wrong statement.
The assumption here is that populations that evolved closer to the equator had evolution “stop” for them due to “ease of lifestyle” (life is easy nowhere). That too makes no evolutionary sense. If that were so, how did Africans evolve the sickle cell trait? Evolution is a constant, ongoing process and does not ‘speed up or slow down’ based on the environments in which ancestral evolution has occurred.
To state that evolution ‘is faster or slower’ in certain populations of humans is like saying ‘evolution has slowed for man since 50kya’ as anti-human-evolutionists have said:
“Something must have happened to weaken the selective pressure drastically. We cannot escape the conclusion that man’s evolution towards manness has suddenly come to a halt.” – Ernst Mayr
“There’s been no biological change in humans in 40,000 or 50,000 years. Everything we call culture and civilization we’ve built with the same body and brain.” – Stephen Jay Gould
Stating that evolution occurs faster in certain populations is on the complete opposite of the “evolution stopped for humans 50kya” camp, which we know is not true and evolution has sped up in the last 10kya.
To say that one organism, or population for that matter, is more evolved than another makes no biological sense. Each organism is suited to its own environment and where it evolved. Even then, different organisms evolve different traits depending on what they have to do in that ecosystem to survive. Darwin’s finches are a perfect example of that.