The Evolution of Man
The Ascent of Man,
Drawing by A. Busetto from Circa...
reproduced with permission of IBACN, Regione Emilia-Romagna, Italy

The image shown above gives the classic representation of what evolution is.  The progression from (what is anthropocentrically considered) a lower to a higher form of life.  In this case we have a famous illustration of the evolution of man, a popular topic that has been reproduced, modified, and parodied many times, showing man's progression from an ape-like ancestor through various intervening stages of ape-men, to the 21st century space man of the future.

This idea of evolution as a straight-line from the slime to man and beyond is a meme that really has very little to do with true Darwinism, despite superficial appearances to the contrary.  As popular science writers like Stephen Jay Gould have explained, all that Darwinian selection means is that no organism becomes better fitted to survival in its environment.  A nematode parasite is just as valid an example of evolution as a graceful gazelle.  Darwinism is not about progress!

The Evolution as Progress meme is however immensely influential in human thinking.  It appears in Marxism, in Theosophy, in Humanism, in external link Transhumanism, and elsewhere besides.  It is criticised and rebuked by anti-evolutionist religious creationists, who think they are opposing Darwinism, when they are actually opposing something that has nothing to do with Darwinism.

This is not to say that evolution as progress is an invalid concept!  For what is being discussed here is teleology - the idea that evolution goes in straight lines, towards a goal.  This may not be what Darwin himself said, but it is certainly what many who came after him have claimed, and it is as valid as any other worldview.

Moreover, assuming an involution-evolution cosmology - an arc of existence in other words, as propounded by many esoteric thinkers, evolution as progress then becomes the upward branch of that arc. This is metaphysics rather than science (as is the whole idea of teleology), but it is no more or less valid for all that.

Evolution main page

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page uploaded 31 May 2000

content and html by M.Alan Kazlev
html editors used - Netscape Page Composer, then Arachnophilia
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