[Paleopsych] Andy Lock: Is Evolution Progressive?

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Tue Jun 28 18:41:28 UTC 2005

Andy Lock: Is Evolution Progressive?

From: evolutionary-psychology at yahoogroups.com On Behalf Of Andy Lock
Sent: 2005 June 24, Friday 23:05
To: evolutionary-psychology at yahoogroups.com

Put all those Victorian lunacies about 'progress' aside: of course evolution is 

The first self-replicating 'organisms' all used non-organic energy sources to 
maintain their organisational properties.  Having thus constructed a conserved 
site of energy, that energy becomes a possible source for other possible 
organisms to maintain their organisation with.

To do that requires the construction of a means of locomotion.

Locomotory organisms, once evolved, constitute inherently new sources of 
organisition-sustaining energy, but to capture it requires something beyond 
trial-and-error guided locomotion: it requires perception as a vicarious 
at-a-distance system to guide locomotion to a moving target (which is not done 
well by trial-and-error, tactilely-controlled, locomotion). 
Perceptually-guided locomotion can be further improved if learning mechanisms 
are added by evolution to an individual's repertoire of skills.

And so on: as evolution throws up new organisms to take account of the 
situation existing at one point in time, it creates new possibilities that can 
be exploited.  Exploitation is obviously not guaranteed, but implied as 
more-or-less possible.

Take the last stage in this process.  In my view, non-human higher primates 
have some inner mental life that can be described as their having intentional 
states.  But non-human higher primates appear, as individuals, to be almost 
totally oblivious to this property of their conspecifics, and consequently 
cannot take it into account as a fact of the world they live in so as to 
control their own actions.  Humans have evolved so as to take this fact of life 
into account: and people wouldn't have 'mindreading skills' if their 
environment only consisted of evolved organisms that didn't have 'minds'.

And that is evolutionary progress: adapting to a world in which that world's 
contents have been painstakingly constructed to take account of an 
ever-so-slightly more complex collection of abilities that were evolved to cope 
with the slightly simpler set of facts those solutions were adaptations to. 
The first predators didn't require 'mindreading abilities', just 
perceptually-guided locomotory abilities.  Not surprisingly, it took all of 
evolutionary time to make 'mindreading' a) worth having; b) likely; but c) not 

I, for one, am glad it happened :-)


More information about the paleopsych mailing list