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The following are quotes added to my Unclassified Quotes database in April 2008.
The date format is dd/mm/yy. See copyright conditions at end.
[Index: Jan, Feb, Mar, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec]
1/04/2008 "Since the first edition of this work appeared, Mr. Darwin has published his `Descent of Man.' Therein he shows elaborately the resemblances which exist both in structure and mode of development between. man's body and the bodies of inferior forms. He also calls attention to similarity in diseases, parasites, the effects of medicines, stimulants, &c. All this, however, merely amounts to a proof of what no one denies, namely, that man is an animal; and consequently to the, establishment of an a priori probability that if other animals have arisen by `Natural Selection,' the animal man has also arisen in like manner, unless a valid objection can be raised from some other, part of his nature. It is patent that an objection can be raised from his intellectual and moral faculties, and accordingly Mr. Darwin endeavours to show that there is no difference of kind between these faculties and the psychical powers of brutes. In this endeavour he fails utterly. The result is that Man (the totality of his being and not his anatomy only being considered) is seen, yet more clearly from this very failure, to differ from every other animal by a distinction far more profound than any which separates each irrational animal from every other." (Mivart, S.J., "On the Genesis of Species," Macmillan & Co: London & New York , Second edition, 1871, p.319. Emphasis original) 4/04/2008 "It often happens that when a Greek or Latin word is given a new lease on life in one of the major modern languages, and especially in English, the original meaning of the word may be replaced by a rather different one. This is particularly the case when a word, which was a strongly transitive verb in the classical context, is resuscitated as a generic noun in the modern diction. The word evolution is a case in point. The root of that all-important modern noun is the Latin verb evolvere. Whether used by historians like Tacitus and Livy or by poets like Ovid and Catullus or by philosophers like Lucretius, Seneca, and Cicero, the verb evolvere either meant to eject something with a rolling or coiling motion, or to cause something to flow out or roll out from somewhere, or to unwind something, or to unwrap or uncover something. In all these cases it was clearly assumed that the thing or the object of the action had already been there. Only one and uncertain case is found in classical Latin literature for the noun form evolutio of the verb evolvere, according to the testimony of the two-volume Oxford Latin-English dictionary." (Jaki, S.L., "Monkeys and Machine-Guns: Evolution, Darwinism, and Christianity", in "The Absolute beneath the Relative and Other Essays", University Press of America: Lanham MD, 1988, pp.188-189. Emphasis original) 4/04/2008 "The aura that has grown around the modern word evolution is precisely the make-believe that something, and often something very big, can ultimately come out from somewhere where it had not been beforehand, provided the steps of that process are very numerous and practically undetectable. This is not a new- fangled diagnosis of the process imaginatively called evolution. More than a hundred years have already gone by since the public was regaled with an inimitable dictum produced with an eye on Darwinism: "A logical theft is more easily committed piecemeal than wholesale. Surely it is a mean device for a philosopher to crib causation by hairsbreadths, to put it out at compound interest through all times and then disown the debt." 1 Those evolutionists who want no part of an evolutionism steeped in the foregoing trick cannot, however, make nonexistent the frequent presentation of evolution in that deceitful sense. Furthermore, they should feel gratified when such a trick is identified and discredited right at the very start of the discussion. Clear air is a necessity not only for physical survival but also for mental balance. Once castrated of this pseudogenerative power to produce rabbits and bigger pieces, such as elephants and dinosaurs, to say nothing of such intangible jewels as the human mind, from under an empty hat, the word evolution should perhaps better yield to the word development. This word, so useful and modest-just think of John Henry Newman's masterful articulation of it-has at least the advantage of being much closer to the original meaning of evolvere, that is, to the unfolding of something that in essence at least had already been there. This substitution will be violently resisted by Darwinists, for the essence of Darwinism is that there are no essences, except one essence, which is sheer matter." (Jaki, S.L., "Monkeys and Machine-Guns: Evolution, Darwinism, and Christianity", in "The Absolute beneath the Relative and Other Essays", University Press of America: Lanham MD, 1988, pp.189-190. Emphasis original) 4/04/2008 "Liberal Christian admirers of Darwin would now recall his reference to the Creator at the end of the Origin of Species. They had better do their homework properly. That reference, inserted only from the second edition on, prompted Darwin to speak privately of his shame for "having truckled to public opinion." 2 The high Victorian times still wanted to have a bit of religious wrapping about rank irreligiosity. "Darwin should have felt even more ashamed for having spoken in his Autobiography of his imperceptibly slow "evolution" from belief into mere agnosticism. As one who through much of his adult life had to dissimulate his true views lest a deeply religious and beloved wife be hurt, Darwin finally came to believe that he was not dissimulating anything. He might have been cured of his illusion about the evolution of his religious beliefs had he reread in his late years his early Notebooks. Available since the early 1970s in easily accessible edition, those Notebooks make it absolutely clear that the Darwin of the late 1830s was a crude and crusading materialist. There was no gradual evolution from the official naturalist of the Beagle who, as behove a good fundamentalist, had lectured shipmates with Bible in hand on the evil of swearing, to the author of those Notebooks. The transition was rather rapid, indicating a sudden and thorough disillusion which turns one's erstwhile object of love into a target of hatred to be exposed and destroyed by all possible means." (Jaki, S.L., "Monkeys and Machine-Guns: Evolution, Darwinism, and Christianity", in "The Absolute beneath the Relative and Other Essays", University Press of America: Lanham MD, 1988, pp.189- 190) 4/04/2008 "Darwin quickly isolated the notion of species as the central target of his attacks on God, supernatural, revelation, and Bible. This showed not so much his acumen as the patently indefensible character of the production on the third and fifth days of plants and animals `according to their kinds' as a divine warrant of the fixity of species. What is a proof of uncommon acumen is Darwin's relentless spotting of data, direct and circumstantial, in support of his evolutionary vision in which all, from the simplest organism to man, followed with inevitable necessity once the original soup of life was available. To his credit, Darwin did not make the claim made by Haeckel and others that science had ascertained the existence and qualities of the original soup. But his conviction was firm about the purely natural emergence of such a soup some billions of years ago.." (Jaki, S.L., "Monkeys and Machine-Guns: Evolution, Darwinism, and Christianity", in "The Absolute beneath the Relative and Other Essays", University Press of America: Lanham MD, 1988, pp.189- 190) 4/04/2008 "However, Darwin never appreciated what at one point dawned on his most trusted ally, T.H. Huxley, that the mental spectacle of a forever-evolving life was a metaphysical vision. 3 That Herbert Spencer, who with enormous verbal skill kept portraying the evolution of the most nonhomogeneous from the most homogeneous, was for Darwin one of the greatest philosophers of all times, shows something of Darwin's blindness to elementary fallacies in reasoning." (Jaki, S.L., "Monkeys and Machine-Guns: Evolution, Darwinism, and Christianity," in "The Absolute beneath the Relative and Other Essays," University Press of America: Lanham MD, 1988, pp.190-191) 5/04/2008 "The complexity of these broader issues will seem all the more obvious with a closer look at the', idea of evolution itself. Only in the most general sense can we talk about the idea of evolution, as though it were a unified concept. At this level, `evolution' means no more than the belief that the existing structure of the world we live in has been formed by a long series of natural changes.(Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, p.8. Emphasis original) 5/04/2008 "As soon as we begin to unpack this basic statement, we realize that there are many different ways in which these changes can be imagined to have taken place. Many different concepts of natural change have, in fact, been explored by scientists at one time or another, with a consensus emerging only after considerable debate over alternatives. Geologists disagreed for centuries over the basic nature of events that have shaped the earth's surface, and the modern theory of continental drift has emerged only in the last few decades. Biologists too have postulated a whole range of different ideas about how life may have evolved. The Darwinian theory of natural selection is only one of the possibilities. Widely popular since its synthesis with Mendelian genetics in the 1930s, it now is being challenged once again by a number of working biologists. A basic framework is needed for trying to understand the many theories that have been suggested to account for the development of the earth and its inhabitants." (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, pp.8-9. Emphasis original) 5/04/2008 "Even the word `evolution' is of little use to us here because it has been given many different meanings (Bowler, 1974). The Latin evolutio means `to unroll' and implies no more than unpacking a structure already present in a more compact form. The first biological use of the term `evolution' was to describe the growth of the embryo in the womb, which many people today still imagine to be a kind of small-scale model of the more general process of life's development on earth. Many early embryologists, however, believed that the growth of the embryo was no more than the expansion of a preformed miniature of the complete organism, already present in the fertilized ovum. This would be a process of a character quite unlike the popular image of progressive evolution, although it could quite aptly be described by the original Latin meaning. By 1800, this `preformation theory' had been discredited, and the evolution of the embryo was thought to be a goal-directed process by which a complex structure was built up out of unformed matter. This comes closer to the modern idea of evolution, but it is important to note that by using the growth of the embryo as a model, one is given the impression that living structures ascend a fixed pattern of development toward a predetermined goal. The earliest applications of the word `evolution' to the history of life on earth carry a similar implication because many nineteenth-century naturalists thought that the embryo recapitulates the ascent of life toward the pinnacle of creation: man." (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, p.9) 5/04/2008 "The progressionist implication was retained in a rather different form by the philosopher Herbert Spencer, the person who did most to popularize the term `evolution' in its modern context. Spencer advocated a system of cosmic progress, which included a theory of the inevitable evolution of life toward higher forms. Darwin's theory came to be tagged `evolution,' even though he seldom used the term himself; and most people still imagine that evolution is an essentially progressive process. Both Darwin and Spencer made an important step beyond the embryological concept because they believed the process was open-ended, rather than directed toward a single goal such as man. Spencer still insisted that evolution involved a necessary advance toward higher levels of organization, thus introducing a more sophisticated concept of progress. But Darwin was suspicious even of this, because he felt that the concept of biological progress was very difficult to define. The popular idea of evolution as progress is now seen to be inadequate on two counts. It is ambiguous, because we can define progress either as a movement toward a predetermined goal or in terms of ascending levels of general complexity. It is also misleading, because some interpretations of evolution involve only change, without implying any form of progress." (Bowler, P.J., "Evolution: The History of an Idea," , University of California Press: Berkeley CA, Revised edition, 1989, p.9) 5/04/2008 "It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." (Darwin, C.R., "On the Origin of Species: A Facsimile of the First Edition," Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1975, pp.489-490) 5/04/2008 "Bonnet is often credited with the first use of `evolution' as a biological term (Osborn, 1929; Carneiro, 1972). Yet Haller coined it in 1744 as a name for preformationism: `But the theory of evolution proposed by Swammerdam and Malpighi prevails almost everywhere Sed evolutionem theoria fere ubique obtinet a Szuammerdamio et Malphighio proposita] ... Most of these men teach that there is in fact included in the egg a germ or perfect little human machine ... And not a few of them say that all human bodies were created fully formed and folded up in the ovary of Eve and that these bodies are gradually distended by alimentary humor until they grow to the form and size of animals. (Cole, 1930, p. 86; Adelmann, 1966, pp. 893-894)' Haller had made a sound etymological decision, for the Latin `evolutio' denotes an unrolling of parts already existing in compact form, as in a scroll or the fiddlehead of a fern (Bowler, 1975)." (Gould, S.J., "Ontogeny and Phylogeny," Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1977, pp.28-29) 5/04/2008 "The transformation of this word to its opposite meaning of organic change is an interesting tale. The seeds of ambiguity were present from the start, for `evolution' had also been a widely understood, albeit uncommon, word in the English vernacular for some time. The Oxford English Dictionary traces its first use to mid-seventeenth-century poetry. In this general and figurative sense, `evolution' could refer to `almost any kind of connected series of events' (Bowler, 1975, p. 99). Moreover, some English epigeneticists occasionally used the vernacular meaning to describe ontogeny (Bowler cites passages from J. T. Needham, 1745, and from Erasmus Darwin, who spoke, in his Botanic Garden of 1791, of `the gradual evolution of the young animal or plant from the seed'). But by the 1820s and 1830s, as the theory of preformationism moved towards extinction, confusion began to surround the technical meaning of evolution in embryology as well. Serres (1827a, p. 57) noted that Haller had not imagined the homunculi in human ova as perfectly proportioned miniatures of adults (he seems unaware that no serious preformationist held this extreme view). He therefore supposed, quite incorrectly, that Haller had coined `evolution' to characterize a view midway between preformationism and epigenesis: `This word was a formal protest against preexistences. For, by these `evolutions,' the embryo was no longer the exact miniature of the completed animal; it passed through diverse stages which were no longer its original state; in a word, it changed.' A. J. L. Jourdan (1835), in translating C. G. Carus into French, used `evolution' to signify the epigenetic aspects of development." (Gould, S.J., "Ontogeny and Phylogeny," Belknap Press: Cambridge MA, 1977, 1977, p.29) 24/04/2008 "Cronin's entire book promotes what I like to call the Senator Aiken strategy for untenable positions. This fine legislator once proposed a wonderfully simple solution for the morass of our military involvement in Vietnam: Why don't we simply declare victory and get out! Cronin does much the same. She proclaims victory, dogmatically and vociferously, over and over again, for the gene-selectionist version of strict adaptationism (`modern Darwinism' in her neologism). In one remarkable passage she even tells us that Darwinism has triumphed on other unknown planets because evolution can work in no other way!" (Gould S.J., "The Confusion over Evolution," Review of The Ant and the Peacock by Helena Cronin, The Miner's Canary by Niles Eldredge, and On Methuselah's Trail, by Peter Douglas Ward. The New York Review of Books, Vol. 39, No. 19, November 19, 1992, pp.47-54, p.49) 28/04/2008 "You asked: "Do you think evolution exists at all?" I reply: Yes. Every ID proponent I know acknowledges that random mutation and blind natural selection are real phenomena that can cause at least some changes within species. Moreover, they also acknowledge that species have undergone at least some degree of change in the past. ID proponents simply don't think such random and blind processes can account for the origin of many complex biological features, like irreducible complex molecular machines, or the explosion of new body plans that appear in a geological instant during the Cambrian explosion. Also, you asked about whether I accept anti-biotic resistance (i.e. antibacterial soap) as an example of evolution. Again, every ID- proponent I know agrees that anti-biotic resistance is a real evolutionary phenomenon. But we generally observe that anti-biotic resistance typically involves trivial biochemical changes that do not explain the origin of complex biological systems." (Luskin, C. "Answers to Student's Questions about Evolution and Intelligent Design," Evolution News & ViewsDecember 31, 2007. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/12/) 28/04/2008 "For it is plain that what Nature can be supposed able to do by way of choice must depend on the supply of the variations from which she is supposed to choose. She cannot take what is not offered to her; and so again she cannot be supposed able to accumulate unless what is gained in one direction in one generation, or series of generations, is little likely to be lost in those that presently succeed. Now variations ascribed mainly to use and disuse can be supposed capable of being accumulated, for use and disuse are fairly constant for long periods among the individuals of the same species, and often over large areas; moreover, conditions of existence involving changes of habit, and thus of organisation, come for the most part gradually; so that time is given during which the organism can endeavour to adapt itself in the requisite respects, instead of being shocked out of existence by too sudden change. Variations, on the other hand, that are ascribed to mere chance cannot be supposed as likely to be accumulated, for chance is notoriously inconstant, and would not purvey the variations in sufficiently unbroken succession, or in a sufficient number of individuals, modified similarly in all the necessary correlations at the same time and place to admit of their being accumulated. It is vital therefore to the theory of evolution, as was early pointed out by the late Professor Fleeming Jenkin and by Mr. Herbert Spencer, that variations should be supposed to have a definite and persistent principle underlying them, which shall tend to engender similar and simultaneous modification, however small, in the vast majority of individuals composing any species. The existence of such a principle and its permanence is the only thing that can be supposed capable of acting as rudder and compass to the accumulation of variations, and of making it hold steadily on one course for each species, till eventually many havens, far remote from one another, are safely reached." (Butler, S., "The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part I," in "Essays on Life, Art and Science," , Chelsea House Publishing: New York NY, 1983) 28/04/2008 "The answer to this is, that the theory which Messrs. Darwin and Wallace have persuaded the public to accept is demonstrably false, and that the opponents of evolution are certain in the end to triumph over it. Paley, in his `Natural Theology,' long since brought forward far too much evidence of design in animal organisation to allow of our setting down its marvels to the accumulations of fortunate accident, undirected by will, effort and intelligence. Those who examine the main facts of animal and vegetable organisation without bias will, no doubt, ere long conclude that all animals and vegetables are derived ultimately from unicellular organisms, but they will not less readily perceive that the evolution of species without the concomitance and direction of mind and effort is as inconceivable as is the independent creation of every individual species. The two facts, evolution and design, are equally patent to plain people. There is no escaping from either. According to Messrs. Darwin and Wallace, we may have evolution, but are on no account to have it as mainly due to intelligent effort, guided by ever higher and higher range of sensations, perceptions, and ideas. We are to set it down to the shuffling of cards, or the throwing of dice without the play, and this will never stand." (Butler, S., "The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part I," in "Essays on Life, Art and Science," , Chelsea House Publishing: New York NY, 1983) 28/04/2008 "Let us now note the courses forced upon biologists by the difficulties of Mr. Darwin's distinctive feature. Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace, as is well known, brought the feature forward simultaneously and independently of one another, but Mr. Wallace always believed in it more firmly than Mr. Darwin did. Mr. Darwin as a young man did not believe in it. He wrote before 1889, "Nature, by making habit omnipotent and its effects hereditary, has fitted the Fuegian for the climate and productions of his country," ["Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle," 1839, iii. p. 237] a sentence than which nothing can coincide more fully with the older view that use and disuse were the main purveyors of variations, or conflict more fatally with his own subsequent distinctive feature. Moreover, as I showed in my last work on evolution, ["Luck, or Cunning, as the main means of Organic Modification?," Longmans, 1887, pp. 179, 180] in the peroration to his `Origin of Species,' he discarded his accidental variations altogether, and fell back on the older theory, so that the body of the `Origin of Species' supports one theory, and the peroration another that differs from it toto caelo. Finally, in his later editions, he retreated indefinitely from his original position, edging always more and more continually towards the theory of his grandfather and Lamarck. These facts convince me that he was at no time a thorough-going Darwinian, but was throughout an unconscious Lamarckian, though ever anxious to conceal the fact alike from himself and from his readers." (Butler, S., "The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part I," in "Essays on Life, Art and Science," , Chelsea House Publishing: New York NY, 1983) 28/04/2008 "Besides, thanks to the works of Mr. Spencer, Professor Mivart, Professor Semper, and very many others, there has for some time been a growing perception that the Darwinism of Charles Darwin was doomed. Use and disuse must either do even more than is officially recognised in Mr. Darwin's later concessions, or they must do a great deal less. If they can do as much as Mr. Darwin himself said they did, why should they not do more? Why stop where Mr. Darwin did? And again, where in the name of all that is reasonable did he really stop? He drew no line, and on what principle can we say that so much is possible as effect of use and disuse, but so much more impossible? If, as Mr. Darwin contended, disuse can so far reduce an organ as to render it rudimentary, and in many cases get rid of it altogether, why cannot use create as much as disuse can destroy, provided it has anything, no matter how low in structure, to begin with? Let us know where we stand. If it is admitted that use and disuse can do a good deal, what does a good deal mean? And what is the proportion between the shares attributable to use and disuse and to natural selection respectively? If we cannot be told with absolute precision, let us at any rate have something more definite than the statement that natural selection is `the most important means of modification.'" (Butler, S., "The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part I," in "Essays on Life, Art and Science," , Chelsea House Publishing: New York NY, 1983) 28/04/2008 "And what was Mr. Darwin's system? Who can make head or tail of the inextricable muddle in which he left it? The `Origin of Species' in its latest shape is the reduction of hedging to an absurdity. How did Mr. Darwin himself leave it in the last chapter of the last edition of the `Origin of Species'? He wrote:- `I have now recapitulated the facts and considerations which have thoroughly convinced me that species have been modified during a long course of descent. This has been effected chiefly through the natural selection of numerous, successive, slight, favourable variations; aided in an important manner by the inherited effects of the use and disuse of parts, and in an unimportant manner-that is, in relation to adaptive structures whether past or present- by the direct action of external conditions, and by variations which seem to us in our ignorance to arise spontaneously. It appears that I formerly underrated the frequency and value of these latter forms of variation, as leading to permanent modifications of structure independently of natural selection.' The `numerous, successive, slight, favourable variations' above referred to are intended to be fortuitous, accidental, spontaneous. It is the essence of Mr. Darwin's theory that this should be so. Mr. Darwin's solemn statement, therefore, of his theory, after he had done his best or his worst with it, is, when stripped of surplusage, as follows:- `The modification of species has been mainly effected by accumulation of spontaneous variations; it has been aided in an important manner by accumulation of variations due to use and disuse, and in an unimportant manner by spontaneous variations; I do not even now think that spontaneous variations have been very important, but I used once to think them less important than I do now.'" (Butler, S., "The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part I," in "Essays on Life, Art and Science," , Chelsea House Publishing: New York NY, 1983) 28/04/2008 "Explaining is a difficult art. You can explain something so that your reader understands the words; and you can explain something so that the reader feels it in the marrow of his bones. To do the latter, it sometimes isn't enough to lay the evidence before the reader in a dispassionate way. You have to become an advocate and use the tricks of the advocate's trade. This book is not a dispassionate scientific treatise. Other books on Darwinism are, and many of them are excellent and informative and should be read in conjunction with this one. Far from being dispassionate, it has to be confessed that in parts this book is written with a passion which, in a professional scientific journal, might excite comment. Certainly it seeks to inform, but it also seeks to persuade and even - one can specify aims without presumption - to inspire. I want to inspire the reader with a vision of our own existence as, on the face of it, a spine-chilling mystery; and simultaneously to convey the full excitement of the fact that it is a mystery with an elegant solution which is within our grasp. More, I want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence. This makes it a doubly satisfying theory. A good case can be made that Darwinism is true, not just on this planet but all over the universe wherever life may be found." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.xiv) 29/04/2008 "TheDarwinian theory is in principle capable of explaining life. No other theory that has ever been suggested is in principle capable of explaining life. I shall demonstrate this by discussing all known rival theories, not the evidence for or against them, but their adequacy, in principle, as explanations for life." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.288). 29/04/2008 "Thetheory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity. Even if the evidence did not favour it, it would still be the best theory available! In fact the evidence does favour it. But that is another story." (Dawkins, R., "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 1986, p.317. Emphasis original) 29/04/2008 "Consider another thought experiment, this time from evolutionary biology. When I was an undergraduate obliged to write speculative essays on `the origin of the Chordates' and other topics of remote phylogeny, one of my tutors rightly tried to shake my faith in the value of such speculations by suggesting that anything could, in principle, evolve into anything else. Even insects could evolve into mammals, if only the right sequence of selection pressures were provided in the right order. At the time, as most zoologists would, I dismissed the idea as obvious nonsense, and I still, of course, don't believe that the right sequence of selection pressures ever would be provided. Nor did my tutor. But as far as the principle is concerned, a simple thought experiment shows it to be nearly incontrovertible. We need only prove that there exists a continuous series of small steps leading from an insect, say a stag beetle, to a mammal, say a stag. By this I mean that, starting with the beetle, we could lay out a sequence of hypothetical animals, each one its similar to the previous member of the series as a pair of brothers might bet and the sequence would culminate in a red deer stag. The proof is easy, provided only that we accept, as everyone does, that beetle and deer have a common ancestor, however far back. Even if there is no other sequence of steps from beetle to deer, we know that at least one sequence must be obtained by simply tracing the beetle's ancestors back to the common ancestor, then working forwards down the other line to the deer. We have proved that there exists a trajectory of stepwise change connecting beetle to deer and, by implication, a similar trajectory from any modern animal to any other modern animal. In principle, therefore, we may presume that a series of selection pressures could be artificially contrived to propel a lineage along one of these trajectories." (Dawkins, R., "TheExtended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1983, pp.3-4)
* Authors with an asterisk against their name are believed not to be evolutionists. However, lack of
an asterisk does not necessarily mean that an author is an evolutionist.
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Created: 30 March, 2008. Updated: 20 March, 2010.