Orthogenesis is a discredited scientific theory of evolution that predates Charles Darwin. This theory proposed that evolution happened without consideration towards survivability or adaptability. Instead, evolution was driven by an intrinsic drive towards perfection, an essence that entire species had which drove the whole species to collectively evolve in a single direction. In orthogenesis theory, evolution is linear. It does not branch, and even seemingly similar species do not share ancestry or common descent.
Orthogenesis has been completey refuted, and replaced by the modern evolutionary synthesis.
Game and Story Use
- You know that episode of Star Trek where everyone "devolves" and one guy turns into a spider, someone else turns into a fish, etc. Yeah, that's a hint of what's possible in a setting where Orthogenesis is true.
- In an orthogenic setting, a cow might be descended from a Brachiosaurus, and mankind descended from the T-Rex.
- Note that if that were the case, within the orthogenic setting, no other species would be descended from either Brachiosaurs or Tyranosaurs.
- There'd be no Pan Prior or Missing Link, if you traced it far enough back you'd find chimps evolved from the Allosaurus. If you kept going far enough back you'd see the T-Rex and ol' Alice also had no common ancestors, either.
- An interesting implication of this theory is that in the past there is exactly the same number of species as today, but not less. The same amount of diversification occurs at every stage of evolution. Likewise, in orthogenic theory, and entire species evolves at once (though it may still be over time) towards the same state. Observation of extinction or speciation pokes holes in Orthogenesis.
- You could run a fun game with a very limited number of species and an orthogenic paradigm (and possibly reincarnation). Each player takes the role of an entire fantasy species, or it's leader. At the end of every major plot point, you jump ahead 30,000 years. At that time, you give each player a pool of experience points to spend evolving their species.