[Marxism] Gould

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Fri Aug 12 08:48:55 MDT 2005

Socialism Today           Socialist Party magazine 


GOULD ARGUED AGAINST those who suggest that evolutionary development is
driven by a purpose - that there is a guiding hand, as it were, in
evolutionary development - an inevitable progress up a 'ladder' from lower
to higher life forms and, finally, to homo sapiens. Natural selection itself
does not imply a progression from lower to higher life forms, argues Gould:
"Life is a ramifying bush with millions of branches, not a ladder. Darwinism
is a theory of local adaptation to changing environments, not a tale of
inevitable progress. 'After long reflection', Darwin wrote, 'I cannot avoid
the conviction that no innate tendency to progressive development exists'."
(An Urchin in the Storm, p211)

CB: True. Because adaptive fitness is always a relative term, relative to a
specific environment. When the environment changes, as it always will, what
used to be adaptive can become maladaptive, as with the mass extinction of
dinosaur species. There is no absolute progress, because there is no
absolute fitness, only relative progress in adaptations that are temporarily
the fittest relative to an existing environment. This is Darwinian

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