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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 4:24 pm 
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Starting a new topic rather than discussing this under the story, Connection, in which it came up.

Here is a quote from a comment:
"But yeah, a strong maternal instinct like that generally indicates a fairly evolved species."

I'm curious about the connotations of that word, "evolved". I got from the above sentence the feeling that, because maternal instinct is valued by modern anthropoids (i.e., humans) in general, and the writer in particular, maternal instinct is considered "more evolved" and therefore "better". But as I understand evolutionary theory, the forces of evolution don't care about maternal instinct, or upright posture, or intelligence ... and at any time, those traits could prove to be detrimental to survival and therefore evolutionary dead ends. What is "better" for the species now may be lethal to the species later (example: dodos nesting on the ground).

I was wondering if anyone else has thought about that word and how the human race uses it to justify its perceived place at the top of the pile.


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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 5:04 pm 
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Well obviously the first step is to admit it means nothing at all in that context. It's an opinion rather than a measurable thing, much like 'civilized' where it sounds like it means something, but doesn't.

For myself, I think of something as 'highly' evolved when it meets one of two criteria:

1. The critter has some complex specialty organ/appendage/whatever that is uniquely helpful for a specific thing relevant to that creature and possessed by only a small number of things. The cool trick a bombardier beetle does or the light on an anglerfish.

2. The critter has developed the ability to selectively override instinct in everyday situations, and to learn new tasks or behaviors that would not have been coded for in their instincts.

For both of those it's still a fuzzy thing... they're subjective.

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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 8:21 pm 
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Erm don't want to spoil your point but most of the 'highly' (for want of a better word, perhaps complex would be better) evolved organisms do possess extremely strong maternal instincts. Case in point, Alligators and Sharks, they haven't needed to change their design in about a million years. give or take and both possess the sort of mothering instincts that have got them noticed. There's even a Nurse Shark, so named because of it's protective instinct. Generally the more complex a species, the less young they bare but the more time they invest in protecting and nurturing those young to maturity. Added to which those species with really highly evolved neural networks need to learn behavior and traits in order to make full use of their brains, and they learn best from their parents and older siblings, pack members.

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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 8:39 pm 
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From the quote, it sounds like a better fit for "evolved" would be "intelligent," "social," or even "humanlike." Humans, and other intelligent animals that I know of, such as apes, elephants, and dolphins, all have a strong maternal instinct. Notice also that all those examples are mammals.

Perhaps a good definition for highly evolved would be that no more evolution takes place - the species has reached its pinnacle of development and has stagnated. A good example would be the shark, which have been around for millions of years. A bad example using this definition in my opinion would be humans. After all, our species has only existed in its current form for 200,000 years.

Another potential way for something to be called "highly evolved" could be to only consider a specific trait. For example I would call humans highly evolved with regards to intelligence, but not at all towards survival around deep sea thermal vents, while for certain bacteria this would be the opposite.

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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 8:44 pm 
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Funny how we both mention sharks :)

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PostPosted: Fri May 08, 2009 11:34 pm 
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I submit that insects such as honeybees and ants should be considered as evolved.
Both have ways to transmit information about the location of food, the building of cities, and the defense of their homes. Some ants raise crops of fungi or molds, others herds of dairy aphids. Sounds intelligent to me.

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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2009 2:43 am 
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Quite agree, think its completely different form of intelligence and evolution, one that uses multiple relatively simply organisms to produce an complex hive of emerged behavior and gestalt intelligence but none the less important and again the case holds up, insect hives have incredibly sophisticated ways for producing and maturing young with individuals completely dedicated to this task who never leave the nest/hive, let alone the fact they're centered round a birthing machine. The not a lot of young, lots of time invested rule doesn't fit and the majority of them might be raised to be expendable but they are another example of complex evolution leading to complex maturation techniques. Now I've spent time thinking about it I can't really think of any evolutionary branches that don't have at least some examples of completely dedicated parents or sophisticated maternal (and paternal) instincts with the exception of perhaps coral and other mass spawning critters, but then even some frogs and toads go to extreme lengths to at least give as many of the young a best a starting chance as possible, up to and including a toad that creates blisters in its skin within which the tadpoles mature.

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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2009 4:55 pm 
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You can't really use "evolved" as a predicate adjective that way meaningfully, at least not without clear definitions up front -- there are too many different things it could mean, and most of them are wrong. Greater complexity is not a goal, merely a common side effect. Evolution has no direction other than towards local maxima in the fitness landscape, and as the environment changes that direction will change as well. (In some niches the landscape has been relatively stable, allowing species to approach a local maximum and stay there for a long time. But that's not the most common situation.)

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2009 6:46 pm 
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a big problem is that "evolved " is essentially used interchangeably with "advanced". We as humans like to think of all biology as being a process that has led to us and thus has us as its purpose.

the only way you can get any kind of an actual quantitative scale to judge "evolved" by is if the term essentially means number of years or generations between this organism and the moment of abiogenesis. We can safely assume that the abiogenetic moment was the a very uncomplex form of life (by life here I am essentially meaning self-directed replication), and that each generation of replication from there introduced the chance of copying errors, variation, and selection.

Thus, we are more evolved than our parents, we are more evolved than our ancestors hundreds of millions of years ago, but we are NOT more evolved than modern apes, snakes, beetles, or even bacteria. Modern bacteria has in fact undergone more generations of evolutionary change than us by orders of magnitude.

a view of "evolved" as meaning sophisticated, humanlike, intelligent, etc, is a holdover from a view of evolution as directed and teleological.

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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2009 2:53 pm 
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Quote:
We as humans like to think of all biology as being a process that has led to us and thus has us as its purpose.


Speak for yourself. :lol:

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 8:37 pm 
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On my Biology Honors final today one question was "which species is more evolutionarily advanced." I asked my teacher what she meant by this. According to her it means "more complex." This is also the teacher who, when she taught us evolution earlier this year, repeatedly informed us that "evolution is only a theory."

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:01 pm 
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Particleman42 wrote:
This is also the teacher who, when she taught us evolution earlier this year, repeatedly informed us that "evolution is only a theory."

Unfortunately, I have heard that this is now a requirement in some places (can't remember where, but I'm assuming southish states in the US).


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:39 am 
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Sylme wrote:

Quote:
Quote:
Particleman42 wrote:
This is also the teacher who, when she taught us evolution earlier this year, repeatedly informed us that "evolution is only a theory."

Unfortunately, I have heard that this is now a requirement in some places (can't remember where, but I'm assuming southish states in the US).

Now that's funny! :lol: And true, of course.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:06 pm 
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not required anywhere afaik. WAS required by Cobb County, GA, and Dover, PA until their court cases on the subject.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:34 pm 
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sylme wrote:
Particleman42 wrote:
This is also the teacher who, when she taught us evolution earlier this year, repeatedly informed us that "evolution is only a theory."

Unfortunately, I have heard that this is now a requirement in some places (can't remember where, but I'm assuming southish states in the US).


I fail to see what is unfortunate about stating that evolution is, by strict definition, nothing more than a theory. It has not been proven as a scientific fact. I don't intend to start a debate on the subject, but I will state my opinion that the theory of evolution (specifically as the origin of life from inert materials) is unproven, and thus far unsuportable.

I think a teacher stating and/or stressing the word "theory" to his/her students is encouraging them to maintain an open mind, and to see the world for themselves rather than merely believing what they are told by others. How can that be wrong?

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