reply to post by Toughiv
However, since mankind fully established his position at the "top" i fail to see how we really have evolved?
I'm trying to do a two in one here, so stay with me. It's relevant. First, a bit of history needs to be said on the "Evolution of Evolution".
Evolution is merely descent with modification being acted upon by a natural selector. That's it, in a nut shell. There's more layers to it, such as
genetic drift and Horizontal Gene Transfer, but that's the basics. The only metric of what's "beneficial" or "detrimental" is the environment.
For instance, humanity is not at the "top" of the evolutionary ladder. The idea of evolution has been around since at least the ancient Greeks, but
it was fractured and poorly understood. It's vaguely
similar to our current situation with physics - where we have several different models to
describe different layers of interaction - but we're still missing the key component to tie it all together. We're missing that unifying theory
which describes quantum mechanics, Newtonian mechanics, Einstein's relativity, etc. However, their understanding of the components behind Evolution
were mostly philosophical and poorly understood in comparison to our current understanding of physics.
The rise of Radical Christianity and it's coupling to Government lead to the promotion of special creation by god, enforced by a church which
persecuted, exiled, or killed dissenters. This squelched debate about the subject for a long, long, time (At least in Europe, though many of the
various individual components of the modern theory, such as selection, were hypothesized by various Muslim scholars at various times during the
Islamic Golden Age, before fundamentalism ushered in their own Dark Ages) until the knowledge was rediscovered later by Christians such as Carol
Linneas who invented taxonomy as a method of "cataloging god's creations" by their similarities. By discoveries in archeology, such as the evidence
for extinction. Or by philosophers like Immanuel Kant who postulated common ancestry. This sparked vigorous interest and debate among naturalists and
scholars of their time. Indeed, while we knew a clear pattern of descent with modification was taking place from the rudimentary evidences we had - it
was still seen as a direct work of God by many because a natural explanation could not be found as to the prime driver of evolution.
So... it seems Biggie is pulling a bit of a fast one on us in regards to Erasmus Darwin... and if you read his full work "The Temple of Nature",
you'll find it littered with references to God. I'm not sure of Erasmus's religious affiliation or convictions, but in the very beginning of his
"Additional Notes", he makes in clear that he is not arguing against god as a creator, but that his role is a prime mover. He saw evolution as a
natural means to achieve god's perfection in creation. Hence, perhaps, why he does seem to playfully intertwine his poem with Milton's Paradise
Lost, both in format and in reference. In a way, it seems he was trying to invoke a sense of respectful homage to both Milton and the Bible by use of
mimicry in his poetry - more clearly defining the process of god's creation with "life" being the epic hero making it's the journey towards that
goal of perfection. Hence, we were "created in god's image", not by magical hands and clay - but by a process which God set in motion, touched by
his perfection, to seek perfection.
It is true, Charles Darwin did not create the theory of Evolution. He, through his observations, merely stumbled upon the "key" to the theory - the
recognition of natural selection as a means to explain the direction of evolution and tie the loose ends together. The only thing he was missing was a
quantifiable measure of information to be passed on which we knew existed since antiquity - but was not outlined until Mendel... was not discovered
until Avery... and was not understood until Watson & Crick. Another example of my list of predictions made by science which turned out to be true.
Now, back to your question. What Darwin's theory did was to suggest that there is no arbitrary "goal" of selection... no perfection to be reached,
only ever greater adaptation to a current environment. However, this central idea which so galvanized Evolution - is the concept which is the most
poorly disseminated through the public. In Darwin's day, Haeckel inappropriately placed man at the top of the tree of life.. Spencer's coining of
"Survival of the Fittest"... and the subconscious passing of the "Evolution to Perfection" meme keeps this idea persistent in the public arena.
In many ways, each are adapted to their own environment. Darwin's theory was apparently not well adapted to the subjective desire of men to be
touched by the divine, whereas these misconceptions accommodated such a mindset. In science, where accuracy is the environmental selector, Darwin's
adaptation of evolution was well suited by it's conformity to reality - while "Survival of the Fittest" is only mentioned casually with the
acknowledged caveat that it's inaccurate when taken in the colloquial sense... which is why you never hear of "Darwin's theory of Survival of the
Fittest" in scientific circles, merely "Darwin's theory of Natural Selection".
The truth of the matter is, Evolution is not like "climbing up and down a ladder". It's like -imagine a sculpture that modifies randomly within a
container that slowly changes it's geometry. The sculpture is a single line of descent, and the container it resides in environment. If the
sculpture's random change extends beyond the geometry of the container, further extensions are deleted. The changes that conform to the current shape
of the box, even if they don't promote a more perfect fit, will not necessarily be removed. Likewise, changes which do promote a more perfect fit are
not guaranteed against deletion. This is, of course, incomplete without mentioning at least niches to expand on the above idea. So imagine several
populations of these sculptures all reproducing, molding around each other, pushing each other out of the container... working together at times to
promote each other's survival in the container.. etc, etc.
What I'm trying to say is, evolution does not favor particular forms or outcomes. It just is. The Bear and the Elk are both well suited for their
environments of 300 years ago. Humanity is not well adapted for environments outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Our particular adaptation allows for the
mitigation and modification of our environments through understanding... thus, we expanded into the environments of the Elk and Bear and changed it to
suit us. They are not as well adapted for the change in the environment - and so are being pushed out. In their place, the Crow and the Cow have seen
population booms. The Crow through it's intelligence and adaptability, and the Cow by it's utility to us.
We're not better adapted... we're just differently adapted. Our bodies do not have claws for defense or fur for warmth in winter, but our brains are
adapted for understanding our environment - allowing us to make claws of stone and iron.. to make detachable "fur" such as blankets and coats. We
can fashion wings of iron to advance into the sky, but should the engines stall - we quickly find out how poorly adapted to that environment we truly
I don't think this is too difficult a concept to grasp for anyone, but it IS a lot more complex than simply thinking of evolution as an "Ascendable
Ladder" or "Survival of the Fittest".
(Continued Below, will take a moment to write up)