Evolution Reflected in Development

Below is an image of the developmental path from human conception to adult in comparison with evolutionary path from prokaryote to human.

Unlike Haeckel’s biogenetic law with its focus on physical forms, the comparison above also concerns activity, lifestyle and behaviour. Comparative stages may be vastly different in detail, but the similarity of general lifestyles and consecutive stages are there to be observed.

Human life begins in an aquatic environment. Toddlers gradually learn to walk upright from a previous state of crawling and moving around on all fours. The brains of children develop through daily interactions and experiences. This brain development accompanies the child’s increasing ability to achieve complex manipulation skills using hands that have been released from the task of providing support and locomotion, and also the practice of producing sounds using the various muscles of the mouth. Well developed brains allow for rational thinking and the creative use of language.

Human minds have brought about technological advances which have allowed human activities to engulf the planet. Signs of intelligent human activity are evident a good distance beyond the earth spreading ever further out into space.

The various forms of extant animals and all other life forms have evolved as an integral component of the living earth and the whole forms a dynamic system.

The various animal forms should be studied in the context of the complete system in both time and space.  Conditions would have been very different prior to the terrestrial colonization of earthly life In all probability none of the present aquatic animals would bear any resemblance to the aquatic ancestors of humans and other higher vertebrates save that at some stage they all require an aquatic environment for their continued existence.

From a point of view which regards physical organisms as the individual expressions of overarching general forms, the evolution of cetaceans need not have involved moving to the land only to return to the water at a later time. They may have reached the mammalian stage of evolution but in a way that was suitable for an aquatic lifestyle. They adopted the archetypal mammalian form in a way that suited an animal living in an aquatic environment and there would be no need to posit a terrestrial stage in their evolution.

It’s my belief that higher consciousness is ever present. Evolution is the process whereby higher forms of consciousness descend from the group level to the individual level. The most fully developed individual consciousness which I am aware of on earth can be found in humans but it is still rudimentary compared to the higher level group consciousness.

Plasticity is a fundamental feature of living systems at all levels from human brain development to the radiation of multicellular life. Paths are formed by branching out and becoming fixed along certain lines. It would be impossible to forecast specific paths but, nonetheless, there is a general overall direction.

Now that biological life has reached the stage where social organisms have become individually creative and rational, the all encompassing Word is reflected in single beings. This could not have come about without preparation and the evolution of earthly life is the evidence of this preparation. We, as individuals, are only able to use language and engage in rational thinking because our individual development has prepared us to do so. Likewise humanity could not arrive at the present state of culture without the evolutionary preparation in its entirety.

Focussing in at the lower level gives a picture of ruthless competition, of nature “red in tooth and claw”. But from a higher vantage point life benefits from this apparent brutality. For instance if a sparrowhawk makes regular hunting visits to a suitable habitat in your neighbourhood it signifies that this environment supports a healthy songbird population. In the case of the continued evolution of physical forms, survival of the breeding population is more important than any individual’s survival. In the evolution of consciousness the individual is the important unit.

I think it is a mistake to see biological evolution as a blind random groping towards an unknown and unknowable future.

896 thoughts on “Evolution Reflected in Development

  1. Seriously though. We have discussed this stuff before: You see a parallel between (human) development and (human) evolutionary progression and therefore assume that evolution is working to some predetermined outcome. Most others here do not accept this line of reasoning. So what’s new?

  2. Corneel:
    Possible duplicate of this post.

    You keep a better track of past activity than I do. That thread seems to have gone down a narrow topic of discussion about light and colour.

    But there were quite a few contributors, so I don’t mind repeating myself in the hope that it will bring up some fresh more general discussion. My previous attempt didn’t produce much in the way of discussion.

    I’m not aware of any rules saying that we can’t post additional threads on the same subject, but if people object I won’t complain if it’s deleted.

  3. Corneel:
    Seriously though. We have discussed this stuff before: You see a parallel between (human) development and (human) evolutionary progression and therefore assume that evolution is working to some predetermined outcome. Most others here do not accept this line of reasoning. So what’s new?

    You never know how thinks will develop and I hope to get further arguments for me to think about. I don’t see much point in putting forward views that everyone is going to agree with.

    And of course no outcome is fully guaranteed.

  4. Corneel: So what’s new?

    Agnes Arber was an extremely good botanist as her study on “Water Plants” shows. She could speak with some authority on scientific subjects.

    In her book, “The Mind and the Eye”, she has many very insightful things to say about philosophy and science. She quotes a gem from Heraclitus, “Nature loves to hide”, which Goethe would have agreed with. He devoted much of his time and effort to the study of “natures open secret”.

    Further she writes:

    Hitherto we have spoken as if a question, once selected, remains constant to itself; but this is by no means always the case. During the hunt for a solution, the problem changes under the worker’s hand, and may also outgrow its first formulation. It is indeed, one of the marks of a man born for research, that his problems do not remain static, but come to life, and quietly themselves assume the direction of his work.

    Seen as a series, the problems, which any biologist sets before himself, must be considered not only in connection with the thought of the time, but also in relation to his own individual development. If the person is fully integrated, these problems are not a sporadic group of discrete efforts, but form a sequence showing a transition from juvenile to mature phases, as continuous as the developmental history of a plant or an animal.

    So what is new?

    The observation that I made in both threads remains the same. The development of an individual human follows a path which, if the standard account is to be believed, in a general way mirrors the evolution of life from the original cell to the human form.

    We can ask ourselves why this is the case and how it comes about. In the few years between these two threads I like to think that I have not remained static. Some processes involved have become more clear to me and some new questions have arisen. Researchers are always revealing new facts which are relevant to these questions and accessing their findings is much easier these days.

    The problems these questions bring up are not of the type we face in everyday life which we feel as a burden. They are more in the nature of mathematical problems or crossword puzzles that we derive a lot of pleasure in tackling. And the beauty is that new questions will always come to the surface and so we will never run out of problems to confront.

    To paraphrase Goethe, all is new, but everything remains the same.

  5. CharlieM: The observation that I made in both threads remains the same.

    Yes, you are stuck. The similarities between human development and human evolution you describe are either superficial or clearly contrived. This results in very poor argumentation.

    Did you ever read Stephen Jay Gould’s “Wonderful Life”? It seems somewhat relevant to your OP as it strongly argues for the major role of historical contingency in the evolution of life (“replaying the tape of life”). Your take appears to be deterministic, more similar to the stance of Simon Conway Morris. Perhaps it would help if you anchored your argument in such debates. Even so, you’ll have to become a lot more persuasive in order to resurrect the concept of orthogenesis from its grave.

  6. Corneel:
    CharlieM: The observation that I made in both threads remains the same.

    Corneel: Yes, you are stuck. The similarities between human development and human evolution you describe are either superficial or clearly contrived. This results in very poor argumentation.

    If you think that the progress from single to multi-cellularity, from aquatic to terrestrial habitat, from crawling to bipedalism, and from instinctive behaviour to individually learned behaviour are superficial, then what do you see as fundamental changes in both development and evolution?

    We obviously have pretty different opinions on which changes are significant so I am very keen to find out what you consider to be fundamental changes.

  7. CharlieM: If you think that the progress from single to multi-cellularity, from aquatic to terrestrial habitat, from crawling to bipedalism, and from instinctive behaviour to individually learned behaviour are superficial, then what do you see as fundamental changes in both development and evolution?

    I didn’t say the changes were superficial. I said the similarities that you perceive there to be between development and evolution are superficial.

    I once observed a toddler going from crawling to scooting around on his rear, instead of learning to walk. Try fitting that in in our evolutionary timeline.

  8. Corneel: Did you ever read Stephen Jay Gould’s “Wonderful Life”? It seems somewhat relevant to your OP as it strongly argues for the major role of historical contingency in the evolution of life (“replaying the tape of life”). Your take appears to be deterministic, more similar to the stance of Simon Conway Morris.

    I do have a couple of Gould’s books and do remember borrowing “Wonderful Life” from the library, but it was decades ago. I also have a copy of “The Crucible of Creation”, by Conway Morris. I am well aware of Gould’s idea of life evolving from the “left wall”.

    The diagram in the op shows the comparison between human individual development and evolution up to the human, but one could also be constructed from the point of view of rodents or passeriform birds or angiosperms or any other branch of life.

    In fact it would be a good exercise to do. Looking at the various stages all organisms pass through would be a very interesting project. To see how the different organisms have variously extended or contracted these stages.

    Perhaps it would help if you anchored your argument in such debates. Even so, you’ll have to become a lot more persuasive in order to resurrect the concept of orthogenesis from its grave.

    The good thing about our vantage point of looking back from the present is that the past is to some extent laid out before us. It is not as though we need to speculate about what direction evolution will take in the future. We can build a picture of the paths evolutionary history and development have taken to reach the stage where we find ourselves at this moment in time.

    And focusing in on the evolutionary trajectory from life’s beginnings up to humans it is a journey that has progressed from non specific creatures to individual conscious creators. The trajectory from non specific creatures to, say, the brown trout would tell its own story. But I don’t believe that they are in a position to tell it.

  9. Corneel:
    CharlieM: If you think that the progress from single to multi-cellularity, from aquatic to terrestrial habitat, from crawling to bipedalism, and from instinctive behaviour to individually learned behaviour are superficial, then what do you see as fundamental changes in both development and evolution?

    Corneel: I didn’t say the changes were superficial. I said the similarities that you perceive there to be between development and evolution are superficial.

    Is the progression from single cell to a multicellular form superficial? Is the transition from water dwelling to land dwelling superficial? Is the advancement towards a higher degree of internal temperature regulation superficial? Is an increase in individual learning ability superficial?

    Corneel: I once observed a toddler going from crawling to scooting around on his rear, instead of learning to walk. Try fitting that in in our evolutionary timeline.

    Yes I have seen that too, but in normal development they do eventually learn to walk on two legs. But shuffling around like this is still an inter-stage between a horizontal position with the body against the earth to a vertical stance with the body held clear of the earth.

  10. CharlieM: I do have a couple of Gould’s books and do remember borrowing “Wonderful Life” from the library, but it was decades ago. I also have a copy of “The Crucible of Creation”, by Conway Morris. I am well aware of Gould’s idea of life evolving from the “left wall”.

    Excellent. Then you could comment on what contingency means for your hypothesis. What would have happened if the vertebrate lineage was wiped out in its early stage?

    CharlieM: In fact it would be a good exercise to do. Looking at the various stages all organisms pass through would be a very interesting project. To see how the different organisms have variously extended or contracted these stages.

    Please mind that biogenetic law is as dead as orthogenesis. I doubt that your version including “general lifestyle” will fare any better.

    CharlieM: And focusing in on the evolutionary trajectory from life’s beginnings up to humans it is a journey that has progressed from non specific creatures to individual conscious creators.

    What are “non specific creatures”? Never ever heard of them. Could you describe them?

    CharlieM: Is the progression from single cell to a multicellular form superficial? Is the transition from water dwelling to land dwelling superficial? Is the advancement towards a higher degree of internal temperature regulation superficial? Is an increase in individual learning ability superficial?

    You forgot opposable thumbs.

    CharlieM: But shuffling around like this is still an inter-stage between a horizontal position with the body against the earth to a vertical stance with the body held clear of the earth.

    A stage that never occurred in our evolutionary history, because human toddlers have a morphology that is unlike any of our ancestors. A lot of behaviour comes with what morphology allows: I have never seen any toddlers swinging through the trees. To me it looks like you are cherrypicking in order to make the comparison work.

  11. CharlieM,

    If you think that the progress from single to multi-cellularity, from aquatic to terrestrial habitat, from crawling to bipedalism, and from instinctive behaviour to individually learned behaviour are superficial, then what do you see as fundamental changes in both development and evolution?

    Your thesis seems to be that the similarities between an evolutionary progression and the development of instances of a current stage in that progression have some kind of deep link. Which I would not dispute, except in the case of the direction of that link. It seems inevitable, for example, that an originally unicellular organism that introduced a life cycle with alternating unicellular/multicellular stages would appear to ‘recapitulate’ its unicellular origins during that cycle. What’s the alternative? Little homunculi?

    You only see the links you wish to see. Evolution does not, for example, reduce multicellular organisms back to unicellular over evolutionary time, whereas life cycles do, so the analogy breaks down. Evolution simply produces a series that is ‘increasingly multicellular’ at one somewhat arbitrary point in its life cycle, which is inevitably reflected in development of instances, since they can’t start off maximally differentiated.

  12. Corneel:
    CharlieM: I do have a couple of Gould’s books and do remember borrowing “Wonderful Life” from the library, but it was decades ago. I also have a copy of “The Crucible of Creation”, by Conway Morris. I am well aware of Gould’s idea of life evolving from the “left wall”.

    Corneel: Excellent. Then you could comment on what contingency means for your hypothesis. What would have happened if the vertebrate lineage was wiped out in its early stage?

    I would prefer to discuss evolution as it has occurred and not to engage in any what if scenarios. But because you have asked I’ll tell you what I think. Animals would have arisen from another line. And they would have developed on similar lines to vertebrates. Much like we see placental and marsupial mammals or enantiornithines and modern birds. Different lines produce remarkably similar body forms.

    CharlieM: In fact it would be a good exercise to do. Looking at the various stages all organisms pass through would be a very interesting project. To see how the different organisms have variously extended or contracted these stages.

    Corneel: Please mind that biogenetic law is as dead as orthogenesis. I doubt that your version including “general lifestyle” will fare any better.

    These are both reasonable general ideas that don’t sit well with modern evolutionary theory. If they are dead I suspect they didn’t die of natural causes. In my best Taggart voice, “There’s been a murder” 🙂

    CharlieM: And focusing in on the evolutionary trajectory from life’s beginnings up to humans it is a journey that has progressed from non specific creatures to individual conscious creators.

    Corneel: What are “non specific creatures”? Never ever heard of them. Could you describe them?

    Various forms have been proposed. Such as described here
    “The last universal common ancestor, rather than a primitive blob of chemicals, likely was more complex, even having so-called organelles or miniature organs.”

    CharlieM: Is the progression from single cell to a multicellular form superficial? Is the transition from water dwelling to land dwelling superficial? Is the advancement towards a higher degree of internal temperature regulation superficial? Is an increase in individual learning ability superficial?

    Corneel: You forgot opposable thumbs.

    Are you trying to evade giving an answer? 🙂

    Opposable thumbs on their own are of little value compared with opposable thumbs combined with highly mobile arms freed from the task of providing locomotion and support, creative minds and highly developed social interactions.

    The human hand is supposed to have developed as a gift from our tree dwelling ancestors. In that case for my feet I will thank our ground dwelling ancestors. In my opinion humans were never tree dwellers in the same way that many other primates are. Compare human feet with those of animals such as chimps or orangutans (see image below). Human hands were not designed for grasping branches, they were designed for grasping in general. And our feet are designed for support and locomotion.

    CharlieM: But shuffling around like this is still an inter-stage between a horizontal position with the body against the earth to a vertical stance with the body held clear of the earth.

    Corneel: A stage that never occurred in our evolutionary history, because human toddlers have a morphology that is unlike any of our ancestors. A lot of behaviour comes with what morphology allows: I have never seen any toddlers swinging through the trees. To me it looks like you are cherrypicking in order to make the comparison work.

    Are you saying that the ancestors of humans never crawled out of the water to take up residence on land and eventually took up a bipedal stance? How far back in the history of life do you think the ancestors of humans reach?

  13. Ungulates are suited to living on the land, animals such as monkeys and some great apes are suited to climbing trees. Their limbs are specialized to do so. Humans are more generalized as both these options are open to us. Flying birds have even more options available to them if we disregard the way we humans cheat. But this comes at the cost of having limbs free to be skilfully dexterous. Their beaks can be used skilfully but they do not match the two hands of humans.

    Note: I posted the previous image before it was ready. Here it is again with the orangutan foot enlarged.

  14. CharlieM: Animals would have arisen from another line. And they would have developed on similar lines to vertebrates.

    Nitpick: all vertebrates are animals. But that means you allow for some plasticity in the playing out of evolution, right? How about the great extinctions? Has there been risk of evolutionary “miscarriage”?

    CharlieM: These are both reasonable general ideas that don’t sit well with modern evolutionary theory. If they are dead I suspect they didn’t die of natural causes. In my best Taggart voice, “There’s been a murder”

    True enough. There were good reasons for disposing of them. If you wish to salvage outdated theories, an examination of those reasons is in order.

    CharlieM: Me: What are “non specific creatures”? Never ever heard of them. Could you describe them?

    Charlie: Various forms have been proposed. Such as described here
    “The last universal common ancestor, rather than a primitive blob of chemicals, likely was more complex, even having so-called organelles or miniature organs.”

    Sounds rather specific to me. So humans evolved from specific complex creatures, right?

    CharlieM: Are you trying to evade giving an answer?

    Perhaps you missed it, but I already answered your question: I do not deny these are interesting evolutionary transitions, but I do not see an evident parallel with human development. The comparison is superficial. Allan left a comment along the same lines: it’s not just me.

    CharlieM: In my opinion humans were never tree dwellers in the same way that many other primates are. Compare human feet with those of animals such as chimps or orangutans (see image below). Human hands were not designed for grasping branches, they were designed for grasping in general. And our feet are designed for support and locomotion.

    You appear to forget that we share ancestors with chimps and orangutans. Somewhere in our evolutionary past, our ancestors had an arboreal life style. You need to come to terms with the fact that our “general lifestyle” during that stage left no trace in our early life development.

    CharlieM: Are you saying that the ancestors of humans never crawled out of the water to take up residence on land and eventually took up a bipedal stance?

    Ah, the “so you are saying” gambit. No, I am not saying that. I just pointed out some evident examples where human evolution and human development are NOT concordant. You need to grapple with those.

  15. CharlieM,

    Are you saying that the ancestors of humans never crawled out of the water to take up residence on land and eventually took up a bipedal stance?

    What do you think the theoretical basis is for this claim?

  16. Allan Miller:
    CharlieM: If you think that the progress from single to multi-cellularity, from aquatic to terrestrial habitat, from crawling to bipedalism, and from instinctive behaviour to individually learned behaviour are superficial, then what do you see as fundamental changes in both development and evolution?

    Allan Miller: Your thesis seems to be that the similarities between an evolutionary progression and the development of instances of a current stage in that progression have some kind of deep link. Which I would not dispute, except in the case of the direction of that link. It seems inevitable, for example, that an originally unicellular organism that introduced a life cycle with alternating unicellular/multicellular stages would appear to ‘recapitulate’ its unicellular origins during that cycle. What’s the alternative? Little homunculi?

    Well at least there’s some agreement there. I would call this the whole reflected in the parts or even the fractal nature of these processes, but that might be a bit too much for you to accept even if it is saying the same thing in a different way.

    I’m not sure what it is about the direction that you are disagreeing with. We could take an example of any extant species and match an individuals development with its evolutionary history. So what is unique about the direction leading to humans. Well we are the only species that has actually thought about the evolution and mapped out what we believe to be the sequence of events that lead to the present multiplicity of life. And we are the only species that has shown any awareness of individual development of multicellular organisms from a single cell to the multiplicity of somatic cells. Through humans, nature is able to look back at herself.

    Allan Miller: You only see the links you wish to see. Evolution does not, for example, reduce multicellular organisms back to unicellular over evolutionary time, whereas life cycles do, so the analogy breaks down. Evolution simply produces a series that is ‘increasingly multicellular’ at one somewhat arbitrary point in its life cycle, which is inevitably reflected in development of instances, since they can’t start off maximally differentiated.

    Evolution is a very lengthy process and modern humans have been around for an extremely short time. How do you know how evolutionary processes operate in the long term? You think of evolution as one single expansion, but are we in any position to predict how it will proceed in the future. And why would it need to reduce to a single cell? Life, death and procreation can feature at all levels. We are made up of cells which multiply and die constantly throughout our lives. And at a higher level therapod dinosaurs are thought to have given birth to modern birds prior to their demise.

  17. CharlieM,

    I’m not sure what it is about the direction that you are disagreeing with.

    You are trying to get some kind of causal arc out of it – that they are under some common constraint to resemble each other. I disagree. I think each life cycle will inevitably go through stages which have some resemblance to more ‘primitive’ stages of the evolutionary progression, when taking its most complex point as the currently-achieved pinnacle. The one flows from the other.

    We could take an example of any extant species and match an individuals development with its evolutionary history.

    For similar reasons.

    So what is unique about the direction leading to humans.

    Nothing! A huge chunk of it also led to rats, flatworms, puffer fish …

    Allan Miller: You only see the links you wish to see. Evolution does not, for example, reduce multicellular organisms back to unicellular over evolutionary time, whereas life cycles do, so the analogy breaks down.

    Charlie: Evolution is a very lengthy process and modern humans have been around for an extremely short time. How do you know how evolutionary processes operate in the long term?

    This seems a bit of a desperate way to salvage things! The things that don’t fit your analogy just haven’t happened yet. 🤔 It seems quite a climbdown from humans as self-aware pinnacle of perfection to anticipate the next stage being us chucking out single cells that don’t develop somas.

  18. CharlieM: And we are the only species that has shown any awareness of individual development of multicellular organisms from a single cell to the multiplicity of somatic cells.

    So, according to this view, Shakespeare was not fully human: only in 1665 did humans achieve their potential, apparently. Parochial git that I am, I would argue that it wasn’t until 1944, when my man Oswald really brought humanity to our apex of genetic self-awareness. It does smack a bit of the “digital wristwatches and cosmetic surgery” exceptionalism, though…
    I may have gotten carried away with one of Charlie’s analogies. Happens a lot.

  19. Charlie:
    higher forms of consciousness descend from the group level to the individual level.

    Does this mean anything ?

  20. What a weird mish-mash of strange, unconnected, unexplained ideas.
    For eg, what the hell does this mean …

    … the all encompassing Word is reflected in single beings. This could not have come about without preparation …

    What is the ‘Word’ ?
    What is ‘preparation’ ? (who is doing the preparing ?)

    This is all gibberish.

  21. graham2,

    It’s poetry. It’s not meant to make sense but to appeal on an emotional level. Try declaiming it to others (maximum of six outdoors) and you’ll see the effect.

  22. Corneel:
    CharlieM: Animals would have arisen from another line. And they would have developed on similar lines to vertebrates.

    Corneel: Nitpick: all vertebrates are animals. But that means you allow for some plasticity in the playing out of evolution, right? How about the great extinctions? Has there been risk of evolutionary “miscarriage”?

    There is always a risk of death from external sources at all levels of life.

    CharlieM: These are both reasonable general ideas that don’t sit well with modern evolutionary theory. If they are dead I suspect they didn’t die of natural causes. In my best Taggart voice, “There’s been a murder”

    Corneel: True enough. There were good reasons for disposing of them. If you wish to salvage outdated theories, an examination of those reasons is in order.

    Even Allan believes in some sort of recapitulation. And we can examine the evolutionary past without the need to speculate on orthogenesis.

    Corneel: What are “non specific creatures”? Never ever heard of them. Could you describe them?

    Charlie: Various forms have been proposed. Such as described here
    “The last universal common ancestor, rather than a primitive blob of chemicals, likely was more complex, even having so-called organelles or miniature organs.”

    Corneel: Sounds rather specific to me. So humans evolved from specific complex creatures, right?

    The problem is nobody knows which specific creatures. From the beginning throughout all the major transitions no direct ancestors can be pinpointed. The most that can be said about fossil discoveries is that they could be related to an extant form, or the ancestors of an extant form would probably have looked similar to a particular fossil.

    CharlieM: Are you trying to evade giving an answer?

    Corneel: Perhaps you missed it, but I already answered your question: I do not deny these are interesting evolutionary transitions, but I do not see an evident parallel with human development. The comparison is superficial. Allan left a comment along the same lines: it’s not just me.

    You do not see any comparison between a baby taking its first breath and a water dwelling species emerging from the water and beginning to breath air through its lungs?

    CharlieM: In my opinion humans were never tree dwellers in the same way that many other primates are. Compare human feet with those of animals such as chimps or orangutans (see image below). Human hands were not designed for grasping branches, they were designed for grasping in general. And our feet are designed for support and locomotion.

    Corneel: You appear to forget that we share ancestors with chimps and orangutans. Somewhere in our evolutionary past, our ancestors had an arboreal life style. You need to come to terms with the fact that our “general lifestyle” during that stage left no trace in our early life development.

    You take it as a fact that we used to live in the trees. What if you are wrong?

    If you are using chimps and orangutans as a comparison for the form that humans used to resemble, Does that mean you believe that from the split we have changed extensively while these other primates have remained similar to the earlier form.? That is very close to saying we evolved from great apes.

    CharlieM: Are you saying that the ancestors of humans never crawled out of the water to take up residence on land and eventually took up a bipedal stance?

    Corneel: Ah, the “so you are saying” gambit. No, I am not saying that. I just pointed out some evident examples where human evolution and human development are NOT concordant. You need to grapple with those.

    And you gave an example of living in the trees. But our tree dwelling past is just speculation which you unquestioningly take to be a fact.

  23. colewd:
    CharlieM: Are you saying that the ancestors of humans never crawled out of the water to take up residence on land and eventually took up a bipedal stance?

    Corneel: What do you think the theoretical basis is for this claim?

    It was a question, not a claim. But belief in it does necessitate the theory of common descent.

  24. Allan Miller:
    CharlieM, I’m not sure what it is about the direction that you are disagreeing with.

    Allan Miller: You are trying to get some kind of causal arc out of it – that they are under some common constraint to resemble each other. I disagree. I think each life cycle will inevitably go through stages which have some resemblance to more ‘primitive’ stages of the evolutionary progression, when taking its most complex point as the currently-achieved pinnacle. The one flows from the other.

    I’ve just read a nice article by Craig Holdrege, Creativity, Origins, and Ancestors: What Frog Evolution Can Teach Us”

    He writes: “But instead of looking for causes in the past — instead of trying to explain evolution through speculative mechanisms — we can shift the focus of research to building up a picture of the immensely creative processes, relations, and patterns that the study of evolution reveals. In one way this is a much more modest undertaking than the attempt to explain our origins as contemporary evolutionary science does. But this undertaking is at the same time demanding. It calls for recognizing and holding back speculation; it calls for our thinking to stay close to the phenomena and to glimpse the reality speaking in the patterns and connections. A deeper understanding of evolution will evolve to the degree that human consciousness evolves. Gathering more facts can be important, but developing our minds to allow more to reveal itself within the field of facts is even more essential.”

    I share much of his views on this. You could always read the article if you have time. It’s quite short.

    CharlieM: We could take an example of any extant species and match an individuals development with its evolutionary history.

    Allan Miller: For similar reasons.

    Yes, indeed.

    CharlieM: So what is unique about the direction leading to humans.

    Allan Miller: Nothing! A huge chunk of it also led to rats, flatworms, puffer fish…

    You don’t see anything unique about human evolution from the time of the first modern humans leading on to human culture and the present?

    Allan Miller: You only see the links you wish to see. Evolution does not, for example, reduce multicellular organisms back to unicellular over evolutionary time, whereas life cycles do, so the analogy breaks down.

    Charlie: Evolution is a very lengthy process and modern humans have been around for an extremely short time. How do you know how evolutionary processes operate in the long term?

    Allan Miller: This seems a bit of a desperate way to salvage things! The things that don’t fit your analogy just haven’t happened yet. It seems quite a climbdown from humans as self-aware pinnacle of perfection to anticipate the next stage being us chucking out single cells that don’t develop soma

    Life, creation of new forms out of the old, and death, are observed at all levels.. This is an essential feature of life. Our children are similar to us but they are unique. Birds are similar to therapod dinosaurs but unique. Earthly life is not immortal but from our position within it there is no way we can envision what will emerge from it in the future. New forms of life throughout the galaxy or even the universe? Who knows? Why do you see no future after all earthly life dies, as it must?

  25. CharlieM to Allan: And at a higher level therapod dinosaurs are thought to have given birth to modern birds prior to their demise.

    More nitpick: Since we include modern birds into this group, theropod dinosaurs never met their demise.

    I also note that chicks do not recapitulate their evolutionary history of quadruped locomotion. I suspect that the repurposing of avian forelimbs has something to do with this.

    CharlieM: Even Allan believes in some sort of recapitulation. And we can examine the evolutionary past without the need to speculate on orthogenesis.

    Perhaps I misunderstand. I got the impression that speculating on orthogenesis was the whole point of your OP.

    CharlieM: You do not see any comparison between a baby taking its first breath and a water dwelling species emerging from the water and beginning to breath air through its lungs?

    You do not see that a human baby does not resemble Tiktaalik AT ALL?

    I can see some resemblances, but I hardly think they warrant your conclusion that evolution is pushing for human-like creatures.

    CharlieM: You take it as a fact that we used to live in the trees. What if you are wrong?

    Charlie, there is a friggin’ monkey in the figure in your OP. Why did you put it in?

    CharlieM: If you are using chimps and orangutans as a comparison for the form that humans used to resemble, Does that mean you believe that from the split we have changed extensively while these other primates have remained similar to the earlier form.? That is very close to saying we evolved from great apes.

    Yes, that is why I do not believe other primates resemble our ancestral morphology any more than we do. For example, human wrist morphology is believed to be ancestral, whereas chimps and gorillas have a derived morphology adapted for knuckle walking.

  26. CharlieM: Corneel: What do you think the theoretical basis is for this claim?

    This is not me. It was Bill Cole’s question.

  27. colewd: What do you think the theoretical basis is for this claim?

    The fact we still have some who like to sealion conversations.

  28. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM: And we are the only species that has shown any awareness of individual development of multicellular organisms from a single cell to the multiplicity of somatic cells.

    DNA_Jock: So, according to this view, Shakespeare was not fully human: only in 1665 did humans achieve their potential, apparently. Parochial git that I am, I would argue that it wasn’t until 1944, when my man Oswald really brought humanity to our apex of genetic self-awareness. It does smack a bit of the “digital wristwatches and cosmetic surgery” exceptionalism, though…
    I may have gotten carried away with one of Charlie’s analogies. Happens a lot

    Where, in the example (not an analogy) that I gave, did you read into it that this is a particular requirement for reaching our human potential? Does this potential you talk about have a ceiling that can be reached at a particular time or is it to be aimed at but never reached?

    We are constantly learning about life. My example was an instance of knowledge that every learned person could and probably does know at this present time.

  29. graham2:
    Charlie: higher forms of consciousness descend from the group level to the individual level.

    graham2: Does this mean anything ?

    Does F=ma mean anything to a 6 month old baby? You should really qualify that question. Does it mean anything to some, possibly most, of the people I interact with here? Probably not! It obviously means something to me otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned it.

  30. CharlieM: Does it mean anything to some, possibly most, of the people I interact with here? Probably not! It obviously means something to me otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned it.

    There is supposed to be this thing called “communication”.

  31. graham2: What a weird mish-mash of strange, unconnected, unexplained ideas.
    For eg, what the hell does this mean …

    … the all encompassing Word is reflected in single beings. This could not have come about without preparation …

    What is the ‘Word’ ?
    What is ‘preparation’ ? (who is doing the preparing ?)

    This is all gibberish.

    The Word? – It may be all gibberish to some physicalists/materialists, but it need not be for idealists. If one believes that mind is primal then the “Word” of “Logos” can be thought of as a creative principle equivalent to mind. You can be opposed to a viewpoint without it being gibberish to you. I can understand materialism so it’s not gibberish to me even if I lean towards idealism and so am somewhat opposed to it.

    Both Plato and St. John talked about this creative principle. If you think they are talking gibberish you are admitting that what they say is beyond your understanding.

    Preparation? – Infants and children develop in preparation to become adults. Likewise without our evolutionary history which has prepared us to be the thinking, mindful beings we are today.

    Who Is doing the preparing? – That depends on one’s beliefs. Some would say gods, some God, some Christ, some the heavenly hierarchies,

  32. Alan Fox: graham2,

    It’s poetry. It’s not meant to make sense but to appeal on an emotional level. Try declaiming it to others (maximum of six outdoors) and you’ll see the effect.

    Majority rules Okay. 🙂

  33. CharlieM: You do not see any comparison between a baby taking its first breath and a water dwelling species emerging from the water and beginning to breath air through its lungs?

    Nope, I really do not. I can write sentences that maximize the apparent overlap, as you do here, but the actual processes involved are dramatically different. I encourage you to educate yourself about HOW an amphibian moves between the aquatic and air-breathing environments, and HOW a mammal switches from the aqueous environment to breathing air at birth.
    Your argument for human exceptionalism based on our knowledge of cellular biology is something of an own goal. In its defense, you are reduced to pointing out that humans, pre-1665, were on a trajectory towards such self-knowledge. Okay. How do you know that dolphins are not on a similar trajectory, culminating in digital wristwatches and cosmetic surgery? Apart from the present lack of wrists, that is?

  34. graham2,

    I have sometimes started to read a book, formed the early opinion that it isn’t much good, then continued in the hope it may get better. I’m always disappointed.

  35. Corneel:
    CharlieM to Allan: And at a higher level therapod dinosaurs are thought to have given birth to modern birds prior to their demise.

    Corneel: More nitpick: Since we include modern birds into this group, theropod dinosaurs never met their demise.

    Interbreeding groups of theropod dinosaurs such as T. rex did meet their demise.

    Corneel: I also note that chicks do not recapitulate their evolutionary history of quadruped locomotion. I suspect that the repurposing of avian forelimbs has something to do with this.

    Watch this video You will see that the chick uses its forelimbs to assist in crawling out of the egg.

    This wonder in the variety of life is that there are examples of how the individual kinds contract and expand particular areas and stages of development in both space and time. Unlike humans in which the first breath is taken immediately after birth, in birds the lungs fill with air from the first breath which is taken prior to the egg shell being pierced during hatching. Also unlike humans some other mammals and some birds can walk within minutes of birth or hatching. Timing of development has a great amount of variety between groups.

    Frogs are a good example of processes occurring in the wider environment which in placental mammals occurs within the body of the mother and in birds takes place inside the protective egg shell. The transition from tadpole to frog is equivalent to birth and hatching in mammals and birds. What frogs trust to the environment female mammals have condensed into their own bodies.

    CharlieM: Even Allan believes in some sort of recapitulation. And we can examine the evolutionary past without the need to speculate on orthogenesis.

    Corneel: Perhaps I misunderstand. I got the impression that speculating on orthogenesis was the whole point of your OP.

    The speculation is on how life has evolved from beginning to present. If it was by common descent from relatively simple single celled beginnings then the path of humans from that beginning up to the creatures we find ourselves to be at this moment in time is evident, no need for speculation if evolution is assumed.

    CharlieM: You do not see any comparison between a baby taking its first breath and a water dwelling species emerging from the water and beginning to breath air through its lungs?

    Corneel: You do not see that a human baby does not resemble Tiktaalik AT ALL?

    I can see some resemblances, but I hardly think they warrant your conclusion that evolution is pushing for human-like creatures.

    You say, “a human baby does not resemble Tiktaalik AT ALL” and then you say, “I can see some resemblances”. Which is it? Don’t forget I wrote, “Unlike Haeckel’s biogenetic law with its focus on physical forms, the comparison above also concerns activity, lifestyle and behaviour”. There are a few physical resemblances, such as both having four limbs, but it is the change in behaviour to air breathing that is my main point here.

    CharlieM: You take it as a fact that we used to live in the trees. What if you are wrong?

    Corneel: Charlie, there is a friggin’ monkey in the figure in your OP. Why did you put it in?

    Imagine this diagram to depict, not the progression of a single being, but a drawing of a family. The top series shows a father on the right with his children behind him at various stages of their development. The lower series are all extant creatures that are at a particular stage that they have reached in their evolution at this time. One could be the general representation of a hag fish and further along a newt, further along a monkey or a non-human great ape and then ending with an image of a man. These are all creatures that can be observed today, and that is my point.

    CharlieM: If you are using chimps and orangutans as a comparison for the form that humans used to resemble, Does that mean you believe that from the split we have changed extensively while these other primates have remained similar to the earlier form.? That is very close to saying we evolved from great apes.

    Corneel: Yes, that is why I do not believe other primates resemble our ancestral morphology any more than we do. For example, human wrist morphology is believed to be ancestral, whereas chimps and gorillas have a derived morphology adapted for knuckle walking.

    So in this feature at least, you take these apes to have diverged from the human form. The way they are able to use their hands has become much more restrictive than the way we humans can use our hands. Rodents, ungulates and birds are even more restrictive and one-sided in how they make use of their forelimbs.

    Great apes have developed forelimbs that are the closest to human forelimbs but they have not developed minds along with the bipedal stance that can make use of these attributes in the way that humans can. Humans have developed these multiple features in a harmonious way and that has allowed us to evolve the culture that we have. cetaceans evolved the intelligence but do not have the limbs to put this intelligence into practice. Birds have evolved the bipedalism but again their forelimbs are not suitable for manipulative prowess. In great apes these features are more in balance but at a slightly lower level. They are close to being bipedal, close to us in intelligence and close to us in manipulative skills.

  36. Corneel:
    CharlieM:
    colewd: What do you think the theoretical basis is for this claim?

    Corneel:: This is not me. It was Bill Cole’s question.

    Apologies to you both for me rushing my replies and not paying enough attention.

  37. Adapa:
    colewd: What do you think the theoretical basis is for this claim?

    Adapa: The fact we still have some who like to sealion conversations.

    The more contributors and more questions asked the better as far as I’m concerned.

    It stimulates the mind not just to take it for granted but to think about how we came to believe that our ancestors emerged from the oceans.

  38. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM: You do not see any comparison between a baby taking its first breath and a water dwelling species emerging from the water and beginning to breath air through its lungs?

    DNA_Jock: Nope, I really do not. I can write sentences that maximize the apparent overlap, as you do here, but the actual processes involved are dramatically different. I encourage you to educate yourself about HOW an amphibian moves between the aquatic and air-breathing environments, and HOW a mammal switches from the aqueous environment to breathing air at birth.

    In other words you believe you know more than me about the details of the lifecycles of these creatures and you can educate me on these matters. Well I am eager to learn so perhaps you can fill me in on the details of amphibian development?

    DNA_Jock: Your argument for human exceptionalism based on our knowledge of cellular biology is something of an own goal. In its defense, you are reduced to pointing out that humans, pre-1665, were on a trajectory towards such self-knowledge. Okay. How do you know that dolphins are not on a similar trajectory, culminating in digital wristwatches and cosmetic surgery? Apart from the present lack of wrists, that is?

    Dolphins are on their own path, why would they want to aspire to invent wristwatches when that has already been done by humans? I believe that the beings that comprise cetaceans have an extensive future of their own but I would not want to speculate on what that is.

  39. graham2:
    I tried to get some sense out of Charlie, but no dice.

    Don’t give up. I know that you can do it with a little effort 🙂

  40. CharlieM: Interbreeding groups of theropod dinosaurs such as T. rex did meet their demise.

    True, but T. rex did not “give birth to modern birds”. Either way, your statement is incorrect. Will you please accept a correction for once?

    CharlieM: Watch this video You will see that the chick uses its forelimbs to assist in crawling out of the egg.

    Crawling out of the egg is a developmental stage now? You are really reaching.

    CharlieM: You say, “a human baby does not resemble Tiktaalik AT ALL” and then you say, “I can see some resemblances”. Which is it? Don’t forget I wrote, “Unlike Haeckel’s biogenetic law with its focus on physical forms, the comparison above also concerns activity, lifestyle and behaviour”.

    You are missing the point: You are so preoccupied with superficial resemblances that you are missing all the obvious differences. Activity, lifestyle and behaviour of early tetrapods probably was as different from that of human babies as their morphology. Behaviour does not fossilize though.

    CharlieM: Imagine this diagram to depict, not the progression of a single being, but a drawing of a family. The top series shows a father on the right with his children behind him at various stages of their development. The lower series are all extant creatures that are at a particular stage that they have reached in their evolution at this time.

    Yet the line directly above says: “Below is an image of the developmental path from human conception to adult in comparison with evolutionary path from prokaryote to human.”
    But if it pleases you, I can pretend that you meant it to be a family and a small zoo all along. Regrettably, it ceases to make sense at all then. You see some superficial resemblance between members of a large family and a collection of extant animals and therefore … what?

    CharlieM: So in this feature at least, you take these apes to have diverged from the human form. The way they are able to use their hands has become much more restrictive than the way we humans can use our hands.

    You are trying to change the subject again instead of engaging with the criticisms: Our ancestors had an arboreal life style and no trace of it shows up in any of the children* of the family where the poor mother appears to be delivering every other month.

    * ETA: Given the quadruped chick hatching, I can see where this will be going. Oh well!

  41. Corneel
    CharlieM: Interbreeding groups of theropod dinosaurs such as T. rex did meet their demise.

    Corneel: True, but T. rex did not “give birth to modern birds”. Either way, your statement is incorrect. Will you please accept a correction for once?

    The foolowing qute is attributed to Heraclitus

    “Whatever lives has death in itself through the stream of becoming that is running through everything, but death again has life in itself. Life and death are in our living and dying. Everything has everything else in itself; only thus can eternal becoming flow through everything.”

    I can appreciate that for you Heraclitus may live up to his epithet as “The Obscure”. Theropod dinosaurs as known from the fossil record are no longer with us, but modern birds are. Birds are thought to have originated through the death of theropod dinosaurs in the same way that a new potato plant originates from the death of the seed potato.

    CharlieM: Watch this video You will see that the chick uses its forelimbs to assist in crawling out of the egg.

    Crawling out of the egg is a developmental stage now? You are really reaching.

    The brevity is not a factor in understanding that it is an important transition from one form of existence to another.

    CharlieM: You say, “a human baby does not resemble Tiktaalik AT ALL” and then you say, “I can see some resemblances”. Which is it? Don’t forget I wrote, “Unlike Haeckel’s biogenetic law with its focus on physical forms, the comparison above also concerns activity, lifestyle and behaviour”.

    Corneel: You are missing the point: You are so preoccupied with superficial resemblances that you are missing all the obvious differences. Activity, lifestyle and behaviour of early tetrapods probably was as different from that of human babies as their morphology. Behaviour does not fossilize though.

    I do not share the point you are trying to make that the journey from water to land and equally the journey a baby makes down the birth canal are both superficial transitions.

    CharlieM: Imagine this diagram to depict, not the progression of a single being, but a drawing of a family. The top series shows a father on the right with his children behind him at various stages of their development. The lower series are all extant creatures that are at a particular stage that they have reached in their evolution at this time.

    Yet the line directly above says: “Below is an image of the developmental path from human conception to adult in comparison with evolutionary path from prokaryote to human.”
    But if you please, I can pretend that you meant it to be a family and a small zoo all along. Regrettably, it ceases to make sense at all then. You see some superficial resemblance between members of a large family and a collection of extant animals and therefore … what?

    Ancestors are not directly observable so I am looking at todays animals as representative of stages that humans have moved past in our evolutionary history. The evolution of fish have taken place solely within the water. They have not emerged as have terrestrial animals. This does not alter the fact that they have gone through their own evolution meanwhile. If human ancestors did indeed live an aquatic existence then they have moved beyond that aquatic stage of their evolution.

    CharlieM: So in this feature at least, you take these apes to have diverged from the human form. The way they are able to use their hands has become much more restrictive than the way we humans can use our hands.

    Corneel: You are trying to change the subject again instead of engaging with the criticisms: Our ancestors had an arboreal life style and no trace of it shows up in any of the children of the family where the poor mother appears to be delivering every other month.

    And you still haven’t provided me with your evidence that our ancestors had an arboreal lifestyle.

  42. Charlie, let’s recap your conversation with Corneel:

    Corneel
    The similarities between human development and human evolution you describe are either superficial or clearly contrived. This results in very poor argumentation.
    Charlie
    If you think that the progress from single to multi-cellularity, from aquatic to terrestrial habitat, from crawling to bipedalism, and from instinctive behaviour to individually learned behaviour are superficial, then what do you see as fundamental changes in both development and evolution?
    Corneel
    I didn’t say the changes were superficial. I said the similarities that you perceive there to be between development and evolution are superficial.
    Charlie
    Is the progression from single cell to a multicellular form superficial? [x4]
    Are you trying to evade giving an answer?
    Corneel
    Perhaps you missed it, but I already answered your question: I do not deny these are interesting evolutionary transitions, but I do not see an evident parallel with human development. The comparison is superficial. Allan left a comment along the same lines: it’s not just me.
    Charlie
    You do not see any comparison between a baby taking its first breath and a water dwelling species emerging from the water and beginning to breath air through its lungs?
    Corneel
    You are missing the point: You are so preoccupied with superficial resemblances that you are missing all the obvious differences.
    Charlie
    I do not share the point you are trying to make that the journey from water to land and equally the journey a baby makes down the birth canal are both superficial transitions.
    [Emphases in original !]

    You continue to mischaracterize other peoples’ points, despite being repeatedly corrected. The charitable explanation is that you cannot read even simple sentences in English.
    Either way, it’s not a good look.

    CharlieM: In other words you believe you know more than me about the details of the lifecycles of these creatures and you can educate me on these matters. Well I am eager to learn so perhaps you can fill me in on the details of amphibian development?

    Well, it is your analogy — the burden would be on you to support it. Evidently I do know more about this than you. In addition to learning about the multitude of amphibian breathing methods, you might want to check out the ductus arteriosus and the foramen ovale, for instance. What are they analogous to, and in what specific way?

    CharlieM: Dolphins are on their own path, why would they want to aspire to invent wristwatches when that has already been done by humans?

    Why would they not? Plenty of examples of things developed more than once: echolocation, anybody?

    I believe that the beings that comprise cetaceans have an extensive future of their own but I would not want to speculate on what that is.

    and yet you just did, when you ruled out digital wristwatches and cosmetic surgery. Might be your fastest self-contradiction yet, but the competition is fierce
    Keep up the good poetry, Charlie, but please stay away from the “So what you are saying is…” gambit: that’s rude.

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