Imagine two different tribes of biologists. The first tribe is comprised of very fast people. They survived for thousands of years by studying biology and being faster than their competitors. The second tribe is comprised of very strong people. They survived for thousands of years by studying biology and being stronger than their competitors. After all this time, the first tribe is filled with very fast biologists and the second tribe is filled with very strong biologists.
Now imagine that two biologists, one from each tribe, are evaluating the fitness of two organisms. One of the organisms is fast, the other is of average speed. Other than the difference in speed, they are identical. The strong biologist recognizes that one is faster than the other, but does not find this to be significant and assigns the two organisms equal fitness. The fast biologist recognizes that one is faster and assigns it a slightly higher fitness because of its speed advantage.
Is the difference in fitness evaluations a matter of scientific opinion? If it were an opinion that the fast organism was fitter, this would be a scientific opinion based upon environmental and competitive factors. Given different competition and environment, the evaluation would have come out differently. However, the fast biologist and her entire tribe have survived by being faster than their competition. Her evaluation is not only scientifically based but also partly based upon her evolutionary heritage and Weltanschung that is finely attuned to how speed is beneficial. It is these factors, unique to people of this tribe, that give more weight to speed as evolutionarily significant and makes it more than just a case of scientific disagreement.
Is the fast biologist unfairly biased? If we consider the perspective of the strong biologist, we can see that the strong biologist has no greater claim to her appraisal of an organism’s fitness: strength is just as arbitrary a trait as speed and this thought experiment could have equally been set up with two organisms that only differed in strength. Hence the fast biologist could equally claim the strong biologist is unfairly biased toward strength and away from speed. Generalizing, we can say that no one perspective, be it speed, strength, sight, etc., or any combination of traits, is privileged. Hence their is no unfair bias because every scientific perspective based upon evolutionary heritage and an associated Weltanschung is as legitimate as any other.
Lastly, consider that every biologist will recognize the same amount of phenotypic difference between two organisms; difference in phenotype does not permit variation in interpretation. Therefore any difference in fitness evaluation is not due to a perceived physical difference by the biologists in the organisms studied.
Therefore this thought experiment implies that our determinations of fitness are not independent of the evolutionary history of the biologist(s) making those determinations. Insofar as we cannot escape our own biology and how it shapes our views, it will determine the fitness value we assign to organisms, if only to a small extent.
In one sense everything on Earth has been evolving for the exact same amount of time, since the dawn of life, and hence no organism alive is any more evolved than any other.
However, from the perspective of the fast biologists, the fast organism is more evolved. Insofar as the fast biologists believe that life is evolving towards moving faster, the organism that moves faster has adapted before the other organisms. So, in the special circumstance of a population perceiving evolution to move regularly towards a trait, an organism with that trait can be considered more evolved.
—– the analogs —–
evolutionary significant events are specific adaptations :: physically significant events are light flashes
regular evolutionary change is a population with trait selection :: regular motion is a non-accelerating inertial frame
difference in phenotype does not permit variation in interpretation, regardless of observer :: failure of addition of velocities of light, regardless of observer.
upper limit to adaptation- by definition, no jumps :: speed of light in vacuum defined as c