Home » Evolution » “Progressive” Evolution: Part III

“Progressive” Evolution: Part III

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JP Rushton

Richard Lynn

L:inda Gottfredson


1950 words

PumpkinPerson seems to be making his blog “more politically correct“. So he seems to be removing his posts that he may deem “insensitive” to certain people. You run a (mostly) HBD blog. People who go to a HBD blog must know that they may come across certain truths that they may find uncomfortable–and even ‘offensive’. This seems like it’ll be my last reply to PP on this matter as he has removed the thread we were conversing about this matter in. Now that PP is becoming more ‘PC’, is he going to disavow his views on “progressive” evolution, “superiority and inferiority” when speaking about organisms and human races and “the concept of ‘more evolved'”?

RR: You’ve stated numerous times that evolution is progressive. Which is why I assume you’re equating “progress” with “more evolved”. Do you believe that more evolved implies progress or that progress implies more evolved?

PP: I PERSONALLY believe more evolved life is on average, superior to less evolved life, but there is nothing intrinsically progressive about being more evolved, and there’s no reasons for opponents of progress to avoid the term. In some cases, the more evolved form is clearly inferior such as when a dog evolved into a cancer.

That’s the point. The ‘more evolved’ organism is more often than not ‘inferior’ compared to its predecessor. This shows that there is no ‘progress’ to evolution. And the “more evolved” form became “inferior” to its predecessor due to changes in environment. If those environmental pressures were different, a whole slew of phenotypic changes would have occurred to have the “less evolved, inferior” organism be “superior” to its predecessor. This line of reasoning shows how idiotic of a concept “progress” in evolution is.

RR: Moreover, ancestral state reconstructions of absolute brain mass, body mass and EQ revealed patterns of increase and decrease in EQ within anthropoid primates and cetaceans.

PP: But the OVERALL pattern has been one of increase. The average brain size of ALL living mammals has TRIPPLED in 65 million years.

I just showed that there are increases AND decreases in the fossil record. No one denies that there has been an upward trend in brain size. However, as I’ve said to you previously, our brains have been shrinking for 20ky, with there being evidence that it’s been decreasing for 20ky. Sure, the trend over the past few million years shows an increase, but the trends for the past 30k years or so show a decrease and this is due to agriculture.

RR: Just showed this is wrong. (On morphology being an indicator of speciation)

PP: No you just cited a paper that agrees with your definition of species. That’s not an argument.

I cited this paper by Ernst May, What is a Species, and What is Not? where he says:

I analyze a number of widespread misconceptions concerning species. The species category, defined by a concept, denotes the rank of a species taxon in the Linnaean hierarchy. Biological species are reproducing isolated from each other, which protects the integrity of their genotypes. Degree of morphological difference is not an appropriate species definition. Unequal rates of evolution of different characters and lack of information on the mating potential of isolated populations are the major difficulties in the demarcation of species taxa.

Just because you believe that speciation is based on morphology doesn’t make it true, PP.

RR: Sure they are CORRELATED, but it doesn’t imply a cause. A relationship is not a cause. I just showed you a paper that shows you’re wrong but whatever.

PP: But a correlation is enough to show that evolution is progressive. Evolution correlates with progress = evolution is progressive.

Now he explicitly says that evolution is progressive. No matter how many times I point this out to him, he still wants to believe this idiotic notion that has no basis in evolutionary biology.

RR: How would this be gauged? Would you say to look at the LCA and gauge morphological changes?

PP: That’s one way.

Well, now the onus on you is to provide evidence for your claim that there was no–or ‘hardly’–any morphological changes in equatorial populations. You have to prove that they stayed similar to the LCA. Good luck!

PP: No I’m arguing that FEWER changes occurred in Africa because there were fewer splits in the African branch (at least as conceptualized by Cavalli-Sforza)”

This is MEANINGLESS. This is a HUGE intuitive misconception on how people read phylogenies. Just because Africans didn’t ‘split’ based on phylogenies DOESN’T MEAN that they had little to  no morphological changes. The racial phenotypes we code are recent, so this throws a wrench into your intuitive misconceptions on phylogenies.

RR: Prove it!

PP: The proof is that those humans who scientists believe have preserved the phenotype of the earliest modern humans (i.e. Andaman islanders, Papua New Guineans) all look very Negroid, as do those forensic reconstructions of ancient skulls you reject.

This isn’t proof. Just because scientists (like who?) ‘believe’ that Andaman Islanders and Papuans (no, no and no!!) “preserved the phenotypes of ancient humans” doesn’t mean that they are in any way, shape, or form SIMILAR to the original populations who migrated out of Africa 70kya!!!

Ancient skull reconstructions are meaningless. You cannot infer what type of lips an ancient human had. There are numerous problems with facial reconstructions, most specifically for this conversation, you cannot gauge certain things JUST from a skull:

The finished product only approximates actual appearance because the cranium does not reflect soft-tissue details (eye, hair, and skin color; facial hair; the shape of the lips; or how much fat tissue covers the bone). Yet a facial reconstruction can put a name on an unidentified body in a modern forensic case—or, in an archaeological investigation, a face on history.

It can ‘put a face to history’, however this reconstruction of, for instance, Mitochondrial Eve DOES NOT show what she actually looked like, specifically her lips, as seen above.

RR: I fully understand what you’re saying. Except I’ve shown how it’s wrong! You can’t say one branch means morphological change AND EVEN THEN, morphological change does not equal speciation as shown in the Mayr paper.

PP: You can say that if one branch has lots of splits, it implies environmental changes and pressures (since generally speaking, that’s what causes splits) and environmental changes generally cause morphological changes, which is one definition of species.

But this definition of species is wrong as I’ve just shown. Ernst Mayr shows, in the paper of his linked above, that morphology is not enough to denote speciation.

RR:Do you know better than people who do this for a living? There are multiple papers on misconceptions of cladograms and the like. I get its original nd I respect that. You’re a smart mother fucker pp. But that doesn’t mean you’re right here.

PP: I understand why you think I’m reading the trees wrong. I used to think the exact same way as you, and the sources you cite. Laymen shouldn’t make the simplistic assumption that higher branches = more evolved and that’s why scientists try to dispel that notion. Because the tree is just there to show relatedness, and evolution can happen or not happen at any point in the tree, no matter how many splits or non-splits occur.

Now you’re getting it!

PP: However once we understand all that, we have to ask ourselves, even though IN THEORY, any branch on the tree can evolve in any direction, and there’s nothing about the tree that implies a hierarchy, IN REALITY, is there a correlation between tree position and brain size and other measures of “progress”? I’ve provided evidence that there is. You can either ignore the evidence because it doesn’t fit the theory that branch placement is irrelevant, or you can realize that evolution is a little more nuanced than some simplistic introductory Berkeley paper implied.

Now you’re not. First off, the Berkely paper is not ‘simplistic’, nor is one of the papers that the Berkely papers cites, Understanding Evolutionary Trees by Gregory (2008). He shows the most common misconceptions one has on reading phylogenies. And most–if not all–of your misconceptions on phylogenies are brought up in the paper with great detail into the misconceptions as well as how to correct the misconceptions that one has while reading phylogenies. I’ve said to you, time and time again, that brain size is PREDICATED on the amount of kcal that one consumes. If were to eat 1000 kcal a day for, say, 2000 years, what would happen to our brain size as well as our body size? Would they stay the same, grow bigger or get smaller? Adequate kcal–as well as adequate nutrients–are the driver of brain size. Without those two variables, brain size wouldn’t have been increasing. Moreover, as I’ve documented two weeks ago, H. floresiensis showed a decrease in brain size as well as body size, having evolved from either H. erectus or H. habilis. This directly shows that brain size is dependent on the surrounding environment as well as the quality and quantity of the food that the organism consumes. Branch placement IS irrelevant. You can rotate the branches all around and that would throw your theory out the window. This is what you don’t understand.

Evolution IS NOT PROGRESSIVE. However, this scala naturae belief is still with us today, as documented by Rigatto and Minelli (2013). They say:


Professional papers in evolutionary biology continue to host expressions in agreement with the pre-evolutionary metaphor of the scala naturae (the great chain of being), when contrasting ‘lower’ to ‘higher’ representatives of a given branch of the tree of life. How pervasive is the persistence of progressionist, pre-evolutionary language in contemporary papers?


We document here the prevalence of this unexpected linguistic survival in papers published between 2005 and 2010 by 16 top scientific journals, including generalist magazines and specialist journals in evolutionary biology. Out of a total of 67,413 papers, the unexpectedly high figure of 1,287 (1.91%) returned positive hits from our search for scala naturae language.


A quantitative appreciation of the survival of progressionist language in scientific papers is the first step towards its eradication. This will obtain by improving skills in tree thinking as well as by more careful editorial policy.

Wow! 1.91 percent, 1,287 papers returned positive hits for ‘great chain of being’ language. These terms need to be removed from evolutionary biology as they don’t allow the appreciation of the randomness in the evolutionary processes.

Evolution is a random process. It’s an unconscious, non-linear event as I have documented extensively over the past month.

I’ll end with a quote from Ernst May’s book What Evolution Is:

Another widespread erroneous view of natural selection must also be refuted: Selection is not teleological (goal-directed). Indeed, how could an elimination process be teleological? Selection does not have a long-term goal. It is a process repeated anew in every generation. The frequency of extinction of evolutionary lineages, as well as frequent changes in direction, is inconsistent with the mistaken claim that evolution is a teleological process. Also, there is no known genetic mechanism that could produce goal-directed evolutionary processes. Orthogenesis and other proposed teleological processes have been thoroughly refuted (see Chapter 4).

To say it in other words, evolution is not deterministic. The evolutionary process consists of a large number of interactions. Different genotypes within a single population may respond differently to the same change of the environment. These changes, in turn, are unpredictable, particularly when caused by the arrival at a locality of a new predator or competitor. Survival during a mass extinction may strongly be affected by chance. (Mayr, 1964: 121)


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