The Myth of the Evolutionary Ladder

Hello there free-thinkers,

Today I am going to be blogging about the so-called evolutionary ladder, and the myths which surround it. The evolutionary ladder is an image which appears in most high-school textbooks, supposedly showing how biological life evolves into the top of the line humans which are around today, and that all other animals are below us. It often looks something like this:-

Early biology often surrounded this concept of humans as the peak of the animal kingdom

It starts with the lowest-of-the-low, the plants, because they are dumb and don’t have a brain. Then the jellyfish, because they are the combination of a lot of smaller animals, and they have a sense of being alive. Next comes the insects, because they are small and aren’t smart. Onto fish, they are bigger than insects, so they take a higher position. Reptiles next, because at least they live on land, that makes them better than all the other animals so far. Birds come next, because they are war-blooded, just like humans. Mammals come next, because they are the last step before becoming the best organism ever, the human.

This is a very arrogant way to think about the world around you, and it is also factually false, for a few reasons.

This ladder does not show a path of evolutionary change, the world did not start out with only plants, and then evolve up the ladder, it is best to describe evolution as a tree, with all of these animals, the ones around us at the moment, as the leaves of this tree.

It is also untrue that humans are the best when it comes to evolution. All of these animals are around today because they are good at evolution. If this ladder were true, we would expect to see a lot less trees than we do humans, but we don’t, there are a whole lot more trees and plants on this planet than there are humans. All of the organisms alive today are the best at what they do, that’s why they thrive.

It is very arrogant to assume that humans are the best evolutionary creatures on this planet, and it is probably true that humans are actually very bad from an evolution standpoint. It was Charles Darwin himself who once stated, “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.”, and this quote is true. The fittest organism is not the strongest or the fastest animal, it is the animal which is best able to adapt to its environment. If this is true, then bacteria should take the top of the ladder, and humans right down the bottom. Humans are very slow in their evolution because we have a very slow reproduction rate, meaning that they cannot adapt very quickly, meaning that they are not fit. However, most bacteria can reproduce at a rate of knots, meaning that they are very fit. Humans are not really very good from an evolution viewpoint, which is why the evolutionary ladder should be either turned upside down, or morph into a branching tree, with each of today’s organism perched at the top of the tree.

That’s all for today, I’ll leave you with a quote from Steven Novella, “Evolution is a messy branching bush, and we’re just finding more and more twigs all over the place”, Steven Novella, A neurologist and skeptic of some note.

15 thoughts on “The Myth of the Evolutionary Ladder

    • Actually, it is the watered down version of evolution which is taught in highschool textbooks which makes no sense. The basis of evolution, that small variations of species over billions of years, will result in massive changes, actually makes the most sense out of anything… more sense than a 6000 year old earth with all the evidence pointing towards a 3 billion year old earth just being there to ‘test our faith’.
      Even if evolution didn’t make sense, it does, by the way, that doesn’t mean that it can’t have happened, because all the evidence points towards it. The argument from personal incredulity, “I can’t imagine it, therefore it isn’t true”, is fallacious because humans were not evolved to imagine 3 billion years.

      • “The argument from personal incredulity, “I can’t imagine it, therefore it isn’t true”, is fallacious because humans were not evolved to imagine 3 billion years.”

        Key word: Imagine. I rather focus on REAL science, not the imaginary.

        • That was exactly me point sir, thank you. The point is that the science of evolution has real facts, where as all creationism has for proof is IMAGINATION and the idea that Becasue you cannot imagine it does not make it possible. Please try to listen to my actual argument, and not cling to some symantical argument.

        • If you have made comments that have shown up, it is because I must approve of all comments that go onto my blog. What I check for is blatant spam, clearly ad hominem attacks, and obscene posts. I do allow alternate view comments to be posted. Any other censored post is the work of the default wordpress spam program, akismet, which automatically removes posts which may be spam. I will give you some advise, try to put all your ideas in one post, so that you do not look like a spammer.
          I apologize for any comments which have been removed by the system.

  1. I’m surprised that this appeared in a textbook, especially in the European area of the world. I would raise a complaint to my school administrators. This is obsolete and should not be peddled as knowledge. Great post though.

    • Yeah, it does not appear in European textbooks as much as American and Australian textbooks. The textbook industry in America and Australia is very worn-out and needs to have a do-over, so that the content is decided by scientists, and not politicians.
      I must also say that not all textbooks have this in it, some textbooks are pretty good. But its occasional things like these which sneak into a textbook, get taught to a group of children, and those children go on believing that for the rest of their life.
      I as a student have very little power of the textbook industry, all I can do is complain to those in charge.

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