Brent Meeker writes:
> >I'll rephrase that: everything that happens in
> > nature is by definition in accordance with evolution, but those species that destroy themselves
> > will die out, while those species that don't destroy themselves will thrive. Therefore, there
> > will be selection for the species that don't destroy themselves, and eventually those species
> > will come to predominate. 
> First, that doesn't mean the eventually dominant species will be intelligent - by weight bacteria 
> are the predominant species on Earth.  Second, it assumes a kind of static equilibrium.  It may be 
> that there are cycles in which similar species become predominant, kill themselves off, and then 
> re-evolve.  Or it may be that there is a kind of chaotic succession of different species becoming 
> predominant.

In retrospect "predominate" was not a good word word to use. Evolution doesn't care about power or superiority, and it is a mistake to assume that intelligent life is somehow the pinnacle of evolution. That would be like a giraffe assuming that evolution ultimately intends to give rise to creatures with very long necks, and that God's neck is infinitely long. Intelligence, like a long neck, is just another ploy to get your genes passed on. Assuming a static equilibrium is also wrong, as you suggest. We like to think that once we develop civilization it will never die out, but again evolution doesn't care about what we think, and we might be wiped out by a nuclear war or a supernova tomorrow. But if it is physically possible for life to spread through the galaxy, then given enough time, it will do so. The fact that it hasn't yet happened that we can tell means there hasn't been enough time, or that it's very difficult to do, which amount to the same thing. I very much doubt that it's physically impossible.
> >When you think about it, the theory of evolution is essentially a
> > tautology: those species which succeed, succeed.
> I don't think that's a fair characterization.  Darwin said that the species with the highest rate 
> differential reproduction will succeed - and that's separately analyzable attribute.

The species with the highest rate of reproduction occupying the one biological space will succeed at the expense of the other species if their co-existence is incompatible. If their co-existence is compatible multiple species can co-exist in dynamic equilibrium, and multiple species can co-exist independently of their reproduction rates in separate biological spaces. The mechanisms of evolutionary success are infinitely variable, but I still think the basic idea is astoundingly simple: the phrase "reproduction with random variation in a randomly variable environment" *necessitates* evolution, even without knowing any details of the biological processes involved.
Stathis Papaioannou

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