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I’m very pleased to be part of the Evolution Institute‘s new group blog, The Social Evolution Forum. SEF brings together a range of writers concerned with evolution in a broad sense, from ecology to cultural evolution. To get an idea of what SEF is about, have a look at DS Wilson’s announcement post.

My first post is on a pernicious and persistent misunderstanding of evolution: the myth of progress.

Evolutionary theory is extremely powerful and pervasively misunderstood. Stripped to its core, it describes an interplay between replication, variation, and selection which can generate complexity, diversity, and novelty. Its elegance lies in its simplicity and power, a combination which unfortunately also makes it readily misunderstood.

The idea of evolutionary progress is the most common – and probably the most damaging – misunderstanding of evolution. It lingers behind the phrase “higher animals” and the claim that humans evolved from apes (we are apes). It lurches into full view in the famous March of Progress illustration which has, unfortunately, become iconic of evolution.

You can read the whole thing on the SEF site. While you’re there, have a look at the other inaugural posts by Arun Sethuraman, Lee Alan Dugatkin, Jennifer Raff, Anthony Biglan, Jeremy Yoder, Madhusudan Katti, and Peter Turchin to get an idea of the voices and approaches you’ll find on the Social Evolution Forum.

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