PumpkinPerson still believes that evolution is progressive. What exactly is evolution through natural selection ‘progressing towards’? Some, like PP, may say it’s progressing towards a better organism for that specific environment. However, there is no end game. That organism will still continue to change based on whatever changes in its environment. One of the most common misconceptions about evolution is that it’s progressive. One assumes that by looking at the progression from the earliest forms of life to today, that humans must be at the top of this ‘evolutionary ladder’ so to speak. However, evolution has no end game, nor is it conscious to be able to have humans be at the top of this ‘evolutionary ladder’. I’ll take the last thing that PP said to me on his blog and reply to it here as well.
Evolution can happen in four ways: migration, mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection (NS). Evolution is a non-conscious, non-linear event that occurs to make an organism more fit for its environment. Progressive evolution assumes that it’s linear and so evolution is a straight line from ‘more evolved to less evolved’. Would that make sense? For evolution to be in a straight line? Or would a branching tree make more sense? PP knows this fact, yet still attempts to say that the ‘newest species are the “most evolved”‘. We can take 2 genetically similar organisms and put them into one cold environment and the other a hotter environment. Will one of them be “more evolved” than the other in a few generations? Or does evolution dictate what changes occur and there is no “more evolved” because each organism is suited to its environment?
No that’s not the point. If two populations are both descended from a common ancestor, and population A remains more similar to that common ancestor than population B, then population A is less evolved, because it’s done less evolving from the common ancestor. Why can’t you grasp this concept, RR?
I do grasp it, it just makes no sense. Because even that organism that “stayed close to the common ancestor” is still markedly different than the common ancestor.
Actually that’s not true. Humans are close to reaching the point where we no longer evolving in the conventional sense. Any further genetic change will be self-directed, via genetic engineering, and not the product of natural selection and genetic drift. And progress needn’t imply an end point, it only implies more recent forms will on average be more adaptable than life from millions of years ago.
This was in response to me saying that evolution would continue until all organisms die out or the Sun explodes. Even the with the genetic change we bring about ourself with CRISPR, we would still be evolving genetically. Umm progress DOES imply an end point. Progress means progression, what is an organism progressing towards? Being more efficient? No. Progression denotes an end game. There IS NO endgame with evolution. Evolution just happens to increase fitness for an organism and population.
I don’t have any misconceptions when it comes to evolution RR. It’s you who is confused. And I’ve seen Dawkins talk about evolutionary progress. He shows some understanding of the concept, but it’s not complete.
Yes you do have misconceptions when it comes to evolution, PP. There is no way to quantify progress in regards to evolution. You can choose some arbitrary traits, but that’s just our perception of it. You cannot objectively say that one organism is “more evolved” than another based on those traits.
I forgot that Dawkins believes in evolutionary progress. That doesn’t change my mind on this matter. I’m sure that Dawkins of all people knows that each organism is suited for its environment, not perfectly, but good enough. Evolution makes organisms good enough in order to transmit its genes to the next generation. How can you say that there is progress when each organism is fit for its environment? How can you believe in this notion when evolution through NS, migration, mutation and genetic drift make each organism unique in order to survive in its own specialized niche? As I will say below, Darwin’s Finches are the perfect example of how evolution is not progressive. They are fit for each environment. The tree finch has a blunt beak for tearing vegetation, the ground finch has a broad beak for crushing seeds, and Warbler finch’s small beak makes it good for eating insects. Each bird evolved from the same ancestor, each evolved in different ecosystems on the same island, but they evolved to do different things based on what they had to do to survive in that ecosystem. This very simple example shows that evolution is not progressive, and that these mutations occur to better help an organism in that niche in the ecosystem.
Next PP quotes Rushton from Race, Evolution, and Behavior where he says:
In their reviews, Lynn (1996a) and Peters (1995) both referred to my ranking of species on evolutionary scales. For Peters, this was a highly contentious idea but in Lynn’s positive review, he described me as proposing that the K-strategy was “evolutionarily more advanced” and that the Oriental race was “the most evolved.” In fact, I did not use either of these phrases in the book, although I had alluded to similar ideas in previous writing. Regardless, the topic of evolutionary progress provides an intellectual challenge of the first order and needs to be addressed. Figure 10.2 (p. 202) does imply a move from simple r-type animals producing thousands of eggs but providing no parental care to more complex K-type animals producing very few offspring.
In his book Sociobiology (1975), E. O. Wilson also promoted the idea of biological progression, outlining four pinnacles in the history of life on Earth: first, the beginning of life itself in the form of primitive prokaryotes, with no nucleus; then the origin of eukaryotes, with nucleus and mitochondria; next the evolution of large, multicellular organisms, which could evolve complex organs such as eyes and brains; and finally the beginnings of the human mind. (Rushton, 1997: 292-3)
I still don’t see how it’s “progressive and more evolved”. Each organism is suited for its environment to make sure that it breeds and continues its genetic lineage. I see how one could say that newer organisms are “more evolved”, however, each organism is suited for its environment.
You have no idea what you’re talking about. Humans who left Africa 60,000 years ago looked like Andaman islanders who clearly look like modern Africans today. Further, facial reconstructions of the African Eve from 125,000 years ago also looks like modern Africans. The notion that modern looking Africans are only 10,000 years old is INSANE. Did they look EXACTLY like Africans today? No. Were they close enough that no one would think twice if they walked down the street in modern clothing? Yes.
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, yet PP thinks that damn reconstructions mean ANYTHING!! Forensic facial reconstruction is one of the most subjective techniques in forensic anthropology. The skin thickness is subjective to the forensic artist, but I’m sure that that means that the facial reconstruction of Mitochondrial Eve is even a close representation of what she actually looked like. The fact of the matter is, facial reconstructions are highly subjective to the individual forensics artist. There is a great example in the link about how facial reconstruction isn’t anywhere near perfect:
A second problem is the lack of a methodological standardization in approximating facial features. A single, official method for reconstructing the face has yet to be recognized. This also presents major setback in facial approximation because facial features like the eyes and nose and individuating characteristics like hairstyle – the features most likely to be recalled by witnesses – lack a standard way of being reconstructed. Recent research on computer-assisted methods, which take advantage of digital image processing, pattern recognition, promises to overcome current limitations in facial reconstruction and linkage.
Keep in mind that PP believes that Australasians are Negroid, despite the fact that I’ve shown him wrong on that time and time again. Phenotype does not always equal genotype. Just because one group is phenotypically similar to another DOES NOT MEAN that they are genetically similar. It’s PP that doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
How is the notion that modern-looking Africans are 10k years old insane? I see PP doesn’t keep up with the latest studies. Is the notion that modern-day Europeans are 6500 years old insane as well?
It shows that there are lineages that become very adaptable despite not being very evolved, and some that don’t need to be adaptable because they lucked into a fixed ecological niche. But generally speaking, across all lineages, more recent forms of life are more adaptable than more ancient forms of life.
This was in response to what I said to him about there being mosses and fungi who’ve stayed pretty similar. This SHOWS that evolution is not progressive. More recent forms of life are more adaptable? You mean that more recent forms of life incurred more mutations to be more adaptable.** Evolution through NS is about being good enough to pass on your genes, that’s it. Whether or not one species is “more evolved” (whatever that means) over another is meaningless as all that’s occurring is genes passing to the next generation. Break down all of these processes to the simplest possible level and this is what we are left with.
Then I cited two links which said:
“There is no ‘progress’ in evolution. No living thing is trying to get anywhere,” Zuk said. “And humans are not at the pinnacle of the evolutionary ladder.”
Evolution, she said, is no engineer, building the perfect organism from scratch every time the environment changes. Rather, evolution is the ultimate tinkerer, always having to make do with the parts on hand. Its creations tend to be imperfect, just fit enough to survive.
To which PP replied:
WRONG! Humans are the highest branch within the homo evolutionary tree which is the highest branch within the primate evolutionary tree which is perhaps the highest branch of the mammal evolutionary tree, which is perhaps the highest branch within the animal evolutionary tree etc. This can be seen in phylogenetic diagrams.
PP, it specifically said evolutionary ladder. Phylogenetic diagrams prove that evolution is non-linear and does NOT go in a straight line. Phylogenetic diagrams prove that evolution is a tree and not just a straight line of ‘progress’.
And yet evolution has created the human brain, the most complex known object in the universe.
That doesn’t say anything to the fact that evolution is not an engineer making perfect organisms for their environment. All an organism needs is to be “good enough”. It’s not survival of the fittest as much as survival of the good enough. Sure evolution ‘created’ the human brain. But that doesn’t make evolution, a non-conscious event, an engineer. Why do so many atheists have so much faith in evolution, putting human qualities into it when evolution through natural selection is just a process of making sure that an organism passes its genes on? It is one hundred percent correct that evolution is the “ultimate tinkerer”, making organisms “just fit enough to survive”.
And the other link I cited, which uses Darwin’s finches as an example of the non-linearity of evolution says:
A study of the DNA of Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos Islands (Petren et al. 1999) provides a good example of why the idea of progress makes no sense in evolution. The study’s findings suggest that the first finches to arrive on the islands were the Warbler finches (Certhidea olivacea), whose pointy beaks made them good insect eaters. A number of other finches evolved later from the Warbler finches. One of these is the Geospiza ground finch, whose broad beak is good for crushing seeds, and another is the Camarhynchus tree finch with its blunt beak which is well adapted for tearing vegetation.
Even though biologists reject the Great Chain of Being or any similar ladder-of-progress explanation of evolution, the idea still persists in popular culture. A more accurate analogy would be that of a bush that branches in many directions. If we think of evolution over time in this way, we’re less likely to be confused by notions of progress because the branches of a bush can grow in various directions in three dimensions, and new branches can sprout off of older branches without implying that those farther from the trunk are better or more advanced than those closer to the trunk. A more recent branch that has split off from an earlier branch-like a species that has evolved from an ancestral species-does not indicate greater progress or advancement. Rather, it is simply a new and different growth on the bush, or more specifically, a new species that is sufficiently adapted to its environment to survive.
To which PP replied:
The idea of progress makes sense when you look at the grand sweep of evolution across BILLIONS OF YEARS. We’ve gone from simple, restricted life forms that could only survive in the ocean, to complex adaptable GOd-like life-forms like humans, that can live in virtually any environment, and travel to space.
This doesn’t say anything to what was quoted, PP. The fact that Darwin’s Finches each evolved on the same island, yet have completely different phenotypes depending on what they have to do to survive shows that evolution is not progressive and that there is no “more evolved” life form, just life forms surviving. Love how you sidestepped that quote.
This is the same tired nonsense. In evolution, almost every time one branch splits into two, it means evolutionary growth has occurred. So if you’re the first branch, and you don’t do anymore branching, you’re less evolved, and typically less complex and versatile than branches that split off after much branching occurred.
Yes PP. Keep repeating the “if you’re the first branch and you don’t do any more branching than you’re less evolved” canard. PP is confusing “more evolved” for more complex.
Let me repeat this quote again because it’s perfect for this discussion:
If we think of evolution over time in this way, we’re less likely to be confused by notions of progress because the branches of a bush can grow in various directions in three dimensions, and new branches can sprout off of older branches without implying that those farther from the trunk are better or more advanced than those closer to the trunk.
But I’M the one who doesn’t get it. Just because changes occur to make new species does not mean that the common ancestor is “less evolved”, it just means that there were different selection pressures that forced these changes to happen!! That’s it!
Just because your teacher told you something years ago doesn’t make it true, PP. It doesn’t mean that your teacher “got it” while everyone else is blinded to the fact of “organisms being more evolved than others”.
Level 1: People who don’t believe in evolution
Level 2: People who think evolution is progressive because they don’t understand the random nature of natural selection (most secular non-scientists fit in this category)
Level 3: People who think evolution is NOT progressive because they understand natural selection is random and geared to specific environments(most scientists and science writers and bloggers fit in this category)
Level 4: People who realize that even random processes will eventually show progress through billions of years of trial and error, and no environment is 100% specific (many of the greatest minds in history reached this stage: E.O. Wilson, Darwin, Rushton)
You’re stuck on Level 3, RR, and so are all the people you quote. I hope your mind can one day make the leap to Level 4.
This is hilarious. The fact that NS is random SHOWS that evolution is not progressive. PP may say “over billions of years through trial and error it made ‘more evolved’ organisms”. I love how PP’s speculations are the final word and what I say and who I quote are conveniently a level below his little hierarchy.
On PP’s “Level 4”:
NS, migration, mutation and genetic drift are how organisms evolve. Changing the mix of the 4 will lead to different outcomes each time. What PP is trying to say here is that I’m conveniently below the level that he’s at because he recognizes evolution as being “progressive” “progressing to be the ultimate organism in that environment”.
On the non-linearity of evolution:
“The idea of sharing a common ancestor leads to the second major misunderstanding inherent in the question,” says Dr Willis, “that evolution is a linear process where one species evolves into another.”
Evolution is really a branching process where one species can give rise to two or more species.
“The fallacy of linear evolution is most clearly illustrated by the analogy of asking; how can I share common grandparents with my cousins if my cousins and my grandparents are still alive?,” says Dr Willis.
“The answer is of course that your grandparents had more than one child and they each went off and started their own families creating new branches of your own family tree.”
The same thing happens in evolutionary families. A species can split into two or more descendant species and they can split again and again across the generations.
But PP would say that the organism who branched into the new one that stayed the same is “less evolved” than the other, when the only difference is that the newer organism faced different pressures which led to different changes!
Let me repeat: evolution is not progressive. Each organism is suited for its environment so that it can pass its genetic code to the next generation. Even an earlier organism is not “less evolved” than one that came after it, because it still has to survive in that ecosystem. The process of evolution leads to a branching pattern of relationships amongst similar organisms.
Ever since Aristotle, people have had an inclination to rank living things in a single dimension of “lower to higher” or “primitive to advanced”. Such rankings have a name, “the Great Chain of Being” or “the Ladder of Life”. But such rankings have no basis in evolutionary biology. All living organisms occupy equivalent positions on the tips of the latest twigs in phylogeny. The “lowliest” worm or microbe is just as “advanced” (i.e., has been just as successful at adaptation and reproduction throughout its lineage) as is the ‘highest” primate or social insect. “Progress” was an essential feature of some pre-Darwinian evolutionary theories, notably Lamarck’s believe in evolution driven by inward striving toward improvement. But modern evolutionary theory supports no clear expectation of progress, at least not in any dimension that has yet been explored.
Isn’t there an obvious sense in which evolution MUST be progressive? Doesn’t natural selection assure that species are always becoming better adapted, so that degree of adaptedness must be increasing over time? Doesn’t the fossil record document continuing advancement toward improved design and complexity? Doesn’t the process of adaptative radiation (continuing speciation with adaptation) guarantee that the ecological world will be ever more precisely subdivided into niches occupied by ever-increasing numbers of species?
In short, no. No one has yet demonstrated any measureable parameter that shows a consistent, reliable increase over time as evolution proceeds. This is an important point. Belief that evolution is always necessarily “improving” something can interfere with clear appreciation of the actual mechanism of evolution, which is simply the replacement of one heritable variant by another because, in specific conditions which include the presence of both variants, one does better than the other.
As I keep saying to PP, each organism is fit for its environment. You can use some arbitrary things to say “this more evolved than that”, but evolutionarily speaking it doesn’t make sense, as I keep saying, because each organism is perfectly suited to its environment.
Yes, bacteria is simpler than a hawk, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less adapted to its environment than a hawk is.
Evolution arises from mutation, genetic drift, migration and finally natural selection. This leads to large random variations amongst individual organisms. Natural selection then acts upon those random variations and over time this leads to differences between organisms which lead to them eventually becoming different species. How one can then make the leap in logic to say that evolution is progressive due to that is beyond me.
We only ASSUME that evolution is progressive because we look at traits that have been selected for and we don’t look at the traits that have been made negative due to the positive selection. Another point that PP likes to bring up is that the increasing complexity and increase in brain size shows how it’s progressive. However, our brains are shrinking. So if evolution was ONLY PROGRESS, why is the “most complex thing in the known universe” getting smaller? And with a decrease in brain size comes a decrease in intelligence. Such progress PP!!! Evolutions has no direction so it CANNOT be progressive. Most people want to assume that evolution is linear and thusly we were here BECAUSE we’d have been here regardless of what happened. This is not true. The fact of the matter is, evolution is a random process. The only reason there is a belief that evolution is progressive is because we strive to make meaning in everything in our lives even when there is nothing there.
Now with the thought that evolution is progressive, comes the thought of more evolved and less evolved races. As I have shown early in this article, Rushton believed that Mongoloids were “more evolved” because they came last. This then assumes that Africans are “less evolved” because they came first. This, however, makes no evolutionary sense. I love Rushton and all he did to bring racial differences to the mainstream, but evolutionary biologist he was not. The assumption here is that East Asians and Caucasians are the newest races, and thusly would have to be more advanced than the Africans. However, these notions are baseless. They are extremely subjective and one cannot say that one race is “more evolved” or “more superior” than another.
As the story is untangled, it will also become obvious how inappropriate it is to talk in terms of the “inferiority” or “superiority” of groups. Consider, for example, the Big Five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. What are the ideal points on these continua? They will differ depending on whether you’re looking for the paragon of, say, a parent or an entrepreneur.
Nicholas Wade says:
From an evolutionary perspective, African populations were just as well adapted to their environment as were those of Europe and Asia to theirs. Small. loosely organized populations were the appropriate response to the difficult conditions of the African continent. But they were not necessarily well suited to high efficiency economies to which European and East Asian populations had become adapted. From this perspective, if valid, it would be unsurprising that African countries should take longer to make the transition into modern economies. (Wade, 2015: 181-2)
And finally I asked Razib Khan what he thought about this back in August. He said:
people who talk in those terms about population genetics are inferior and less evolved. sabine’s statement in my other posts applies: you’re not a serious thinker and label yourself as stupid or ignorant.
This notion of “superiority” when discussing human races, or even organisms as a whole is baseless. When looking at subjective traits then we can say that. BUT objectively, there is no way to quantify this.
Some people in the HBD-sphere, as well as the Alt-right, may say that Eurasians are ‘superior’ to Africans. On what traits? Because looking at a completely different set of traits would have you come to the opposite conclusion. Like with r/K Selection Theory (now known as the CLASH model). People assume that Africans and others who live nearer to the equator are inferior due to how many children they conceive. However, from an evolutionary perspective, the ultimate measure of human success is not production, but reproduction (van den Berghe, 1981). When that single variable is looked at, they are “more evolved” and if PP were to be believed, evolution is going backward for Eurasians since they have fewer children than Africans.
In sum, evolution is NOT progressive. Mutation, migration, and genetic drift set the stage for differences between organisms, then natural selection selects for those advantageous alleles which then get passed on to the next generation. This notion of progressive evolution is ridiculous. Evolution is a branching tree, not a straight line as is commonly thought. Progressive evolution assumes that we are progressing towards something. This is not the case. Evolution just happens, it’s not attempting to “progress” anywhere as these differences between organisms just happen and thusly you cannot say that one organism is “more evolved” than another nor can you say that this organism showed more “evolutionary progress” over another as changes are random.