The following letter appeared in 'Action and Reaction' in the October, 1993 issue of DISCO

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The following letter appeared in "Action and Reaction" in the October, 1993 issue of DISCOVER magazine. The Arrow of Evolution I was extremely pleased with Lori Oliwenstein's Evolution Watch, "Onward and Upward?" in the June issue. The concept of increasing complexity in evolution has remained an intriguing area of research for many scientists, and when I read your article I was impressed to see that DISCOVER took the time and effort to give a more accurate picture. Most schools throughout the nation have consistently taught that evolution is an ongoing process toward perfection of an organism or a species. In truth, as Oliwenstein points out, many biologists are finding that this is not always the case. Numerous discoveries reveal quite a different goal for this remarkable phenomenon. Evolution, especially through natural selection, is a process that enables a species to survive better in an ecological setting. This does not mean that organisms must be more complex. After all, the most abundant animals are bacteria--simple organisms that nonetheless are able to thrive in any habitat. As a result, scientists are uncovering a biological process that works differently under different circumstances. Evolution is not simply the "monkey to man" image so frequently exhibited in high school texts but rather a complex and unique mechanism that incorporates all the elements of nature. In evolution the potential for the species' survival is of crucial importance--and more complexity may not be the result. I hope society discovers this irony of evolution. In doing so, we will learn more about ourselves and acquire a greater understanding of the world around us. John Carvalho Biological and Chemical Sciences Dept. University of Dallas


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