Essay talk:Why I Love Evolution

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Do you all get what I was trying to say, the sheer optimism I find in evolution? 'Cause I'm not sure I really got that across. --Wandalise me Bohdan! RA talk stalkOver 320 edits! 20:09, 24 December 2007 (EST)

I got it, and I only read the first and last sentences. Which mean that it was well organized. humanUser talk:Human 21:48, 24 December 2007 (EST)

Cut Paragraph[edit]

This was originally in the essay, but I felt it really didn't belong there, so I moved it here. Hopefully some of you will appreciate it and comment nonetheless:

On an only vaguely related tangent, these ideals have infected fiction, particularly fantasy. These ideals are probably apotheosized by J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings and taken to the extreme in his Silmarillion. Sometimes it seems like every other paragraph is about how, great as this castle or ancient ruin is, it was done so much better by a greater race long ago (which is partly why I hate Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion). For example, it is mentioned how there Minas Tirith, great as it is, was once nothing more than a guardian city, along with seven others (or something like that) to a much greater city. What utter bullshit... did Tolkien believe we could never match the heights of the past? But back to the main subject.
--Wandalise me Bohdan! RA talk stalkOver 320 edits! 20:12, 24 December 2007 (EST)

In all fairness, I doubt that "we can only degenerate" is the reason why the "vanished utopia" theme is so common in fantasy. More likely, it's the fact that writing about a utopia itself is, Hesse notwithstanding, usually a quite boring experience, and often maturbatory. If everything's perfect and wonderful, there's no drama for the tension to work with. Besides, if you do write about a utopia, you've got to write about why it's a utopia in the first place, and that's pretty tough to do without getting into a lot of things most fantasy authors try to avoid. --Kels 13:33, 25 December 2007 (EST)


What a typical rationalwiki essay. -- 21:08, 24 December 2007 (EST)

GET BENT! Please forgive me (not you,, Edgey's drinkin' heavily this Christmas Eve. --Edgerunner76 21:12, 24 December 2007 (EST)
Rock on Edge. I love your NASCAR sig, by the way. humanUser talk:Human 21:48, 24 December 2007 (EST)

Uh, no...[edit]

I'm sorry, but this is incorrect pretty much from the first sentence. Unless you're looking at the most hard-core forms of Calvinism and such, the Abrahamic religions do not believe that is only capable of degeneration. He is also capable of achieving salvation, because that absoutely requires a conscious act, whether that be good works and repentence (Catholicism) or simply belief (Protestantism).

As for Tolkien and the "Golden Past", he's drawing on a very ancient literary tradition there, just like everything else related to his works. --AKjeldsenGodspeed! 14:16, 25 December 2007 (EST)

Only get better?[edit]

I like a lot of what you say, and I like where you're coming from, but I'll take with issue with AKjeldsen above. The form of Christianity with which I used to be involved explicitly stated that mankind could only get worse as a species. I well remember the phrase "We must thank God that this is the last degeneration." - by which they meant that mankind was devolving form some supposed perfect original. I am not qualified to say how far other forms of Christianity follow this idea.

I'm afraid I take issue with you however when you state that evolution says that We can only get better. - and you go on to define better as including "smarter, happier".

Evolution says that we must continue to be well adapted to our environment. If we are well adapted to a stable environment and our predators and parasites are being held at bay then there really is not much reason for us to evolve at all. This explains the existence of the "living fossils" which we find from time to time.

In fact, the species could find that being less smart has makes us more fit for survival than being more smart. Think of cave living species - they frequently lose their sight, or island-living birds which become "better" by losing their ability to fly.

Finally, I think you may be confusing social evolution with biological evolution. At one point you say "We can only get better." (I assume biologically) and at another you say Civilization can only get better. But these are really two rather different ideas.

Sorry to come across as being so negative, as I really like your optimistic tone.--Bobbing up 15:00, 25 December 2007 (EST)

As I explicitly stated in the essay, it's the idea that evolution embodies, not just the theory itself. So whether I was informed by social evolution or biological evolution doesn't really matter.
To address your other argument, given a diversity of environments, evolution pretty much guarantees that life will grow more complex. The keyword is "diversity". If a planet's environment is inherently stable—say, a cave system—then yes, life would evolve to only those cave systems, and, once it reached the point where it was "perfectly adapted" (assuming such a state is possible), then life would stop evolving. However, if the environment is unstable—such as Earth's, with its incredible range of climates and conditions—then the only "perfectly evolved" (and dominant) species is/are one(s) capable of changing the environment itself to suit its needs, i.e. intelligent life. So you could argue that, given the aforementioned conditions, evolution favors intelligent life. --Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 17:59, 25 December 2007 (EST)
On, the first point, my point was that you seem to be using the two ideas at the same time. Nevertheless, I fully accept that where the term evolution is used in the more generalized way it is frequently used as a synonym for "development".
I agree that in a varied and changing environment evolution will produce complexity - it can hardly be denied as that is what we see around us. But, as you imply, in a simple static environment complexity (or "improvements") are unneeded. Which brings me back to my point - biological evolution does not necessarily imply "progress".
Finally, I am by no means convinced that evolution favors intelligent life. We know it obviously favors microbes, earthworms and cockroaches because there are so many of them. There are substantially fewer vertebrates and, and, apart from ourselves, none of them have what we would call intelligence. The fact that this remarkable attribute is so uncommon would seem to argue that evolution doesn't particularly favor it. --Bobbing up 12:28, 26 December 2007 (EST)

Bob, might I ask which denomination that was? Sounds like a pretty strange combination of strong predestination and premillennialism, which you won't find in most parts of Christianity. --AKjeldsenGodspeed! 08:35, 26 December 2007 (EST)

I don't want to be coy, but didn't we talk about this in the forum?--Bobbing up 12:28, 26 December 2007 (EST)

"the only "perfectly evolved" (and dominant) species is/are one(s) capable of changing the environment itself to suit its needs, i.e. intelligent life." Almost all life forms alter their environments, in many cases, to suit their needs (think anthills, trees releasing chemicals into the soil to prevent others from growing, rhinoviruses making people sneeze to spread them...). One could argeu the changes humans have made have made our environment worse - sure, we build houses, but we also dump toxic chemicals into our air and water. And there are species that are "refectly adapted" because their environment is static, like sharks, which haven't changed in millions of years. Just sayin' is all. humanUser talk:Human 14:09, 26 December 2007 (EST)

I like the essay, RA, and you make a good point about the danger of ideologies that long for a golden age in the past and bemoan how we have degenerated since some imagined fall from grace. But modern evolutionary theory does not suggest in any way that species get "better" over time. Darwin and all the scientists who worked on the theory early on did indeed believe that we are the crown of creation and that evolution was a process of improvement. While the public still equates evolution with progress, and it is often still taught that way below the university level, biologists know that evolution is only about survival, not improvement. The cockroach is as evolved as we are (or more so) from the POV of evolutionary theory. Rational Ed5 or 6 edits 08:22, 26 March 2008 (EDT)