Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quote of the week, 2014-10-08

But if human conceit was staggered for a moment by its kinship with the ape, it soon found a way to reassert itself, and that way is the "philosophy" of evolution. A process which led from the amoeba to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a progress--though whether the amoeba would agree with this opinion is not known.

Bertrand Russell, Our Knowledge of the External World, Lecture 1

Retrieved from Project Gutenberg

Of course, we know that evolution does not teach there is a process from amoeba to men, but rather, that amoebas and men have a common ancestry of a population of single-celled animals that we might call (for the purposes of this discussion) early eukaryotes. I don't know if Russell was aware of this inaccuracy or not; he makes this sentence in the process of describing philosophical positions, not biology, and so moves on quickly to philosophies that supposedly use evolution as a basis (of which he is not fond).

Still, I agree that the early eukaryotes may not consider either lines of their descendants to have progressed.

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