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Dec6-09, 10:55 PM
Sci Advisor
P: 1,867
Yes, there's this pervasive but wrong idea that evolution somehow has a 'goal' and that there's some kind of universal criteria in nature for what's better or worse.

Evolution doesn't stop, go forward, or go backward. It just happens, and depending on natural selection and the environment, things may change or not. If you think a certain development is good or bad, those are your values, not Evolution's. Why is smarter better? It doesn't seem like Nature has put a big premium on that particular trait. Why not, say, stability? In which case, horseshoe crabs are superior to us. Or all-around hardiness? Then cockroaches are better.

The other pervasive mistaken tendency, is to assume that Evolution works in terms of properties we think are important properties. Things we think are important are sometimes a mere side-effect in evolving some less obvious trait that happens to be more important to survival. Or perhaps just a result of a chance event in our evolutionary history. (Blond hair may only exist because of an ice age)

Sure, we'd all like to have more intelligence, all else being equal. But we don't know that all else can be equal! We don't know how intelligence works or how it's related to genetics, so we simply don't know what the trade-offs would be.