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One of the more common misconceptions with a history long before Darwin is that evolution is progressive that things get more complex and perfect in some way In fact this view is attributed more to social and religious attitudes of 18th and 19th century European culture than to any evidence It was a given that things are getting better and better every way every day This persisted until long after Darwinism until the middle of this century eg Teilhard de Chardin Even Darwin was ambiguous about it talking on occasion about perfection as a result of selection At the time of the modern synthesis note 9 in the 1940s the notion of progress was quietly dropped with a few exceptions like Dobzhansky and Huxley within the synthesis and Schindewolf and Goldschmidt outside it Of course heterodox writers usually not biologists like Teilhard and Koestler remained progressionists long after this But by the 1970s progress had been abandoned by working biologists Recently the issue has resurfaced shorn of the mysticism of earlier debates Biologist JT Bonner argued that there was a rise in complexity of organisms over the long term 1988 and others were arguing for a form of local progress under the terms arms race Dawkins and Krebs 1979 and escalation Vermeij 1987 Gould 1989 felt so strongly about it he was moved to deny that at least since the Cambrian explosion there has been any progress at all Much of the modern debate centres on what counts as progress Gould 1996 thinks that the apparent trend to complexity is just a matter of random evolution that started at a minimal wall of complexity Others cf Nitecki 1988 claim that there is only progress because any increase over zero is a net increase and that different measures will give different results The traditional notion of progress as an increase in perfection or optimality has been abandoned for it rested on a view
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