Re: great chain of being

Phil Nicholls (
Mon, 30 Oct 1995 03:29:49 GMT (H. M. Hubey) graced us with the following

>Alex Duncan <> writes:

>>Your insistence on the idea that some organisms are "evolutionarily
>>advanced" over others reminds me of the idea of the "great chain of
>>being". This idea held some intellectual currency in the time of
>>Linneaus, but bit the dust when Darwin showed up.

>I don't care about Linneaus. Neither do I have to accept
>everything Darwin said. A guy could stand next to a building
>and push against it for a week; he hasn't done any work. Just because
>some organism has been around as long as us (evolutionarily speaking)
>doesn't make it "advanced" or "complex".

What makes an organisms advanced or complex is by comparison to
another organism with respect to a specific feature. Humans have very
complex brains but rather uncomplicated digestive systems compared to,
say, ungulates.

What is important is to remove the notion that humanity is somehow the
primary goal of the evolutionary process, that we are the star on the
top of the christmas tree so to speak.

>if you want to talk about complexity and organization, well, this
>is the right time, not the time of Darwin. See Carl Sagan,
>Dragons of Eden for references to things like information content
>of DNA, brain etc.

The Dragons of Eden is a very entertaining work but it not a good
reference for DNA or the brain as it is at least 15 years out of date.
Telling Alex to read _The Dragons of Eden_ is somewhat like telling a
particle physicist to read _The Tao of Physics_ for a reference on
quantum mechanics.

Phil Nicholls
"To ask a question you must first know most of the answer"
-Robert Sheckley