I too would like to see the "micro-" and "macro-" prefixes to "evolution"
used consistently as well. Still, I suspect that there will always be
some ambiguity given that there aren't a lot of clear-cut boundaries which
have been identified for a definite demarkation. Most frequently, I have
seen "macro-" used to include changes above the level of species. There are
references, such as noted by Paul, where the "macro-" prefix is used
to also include variation produced by mechansisms other than "allelic
substitution"/"micro-evolution". It's very unclear, however, what is meant
by "above micro- evolutionary mechanisms", although most recently it seems
that regulatory "programs" are gaining attention. But the distinction
remains fuzzy in the minds of most people I've talked to.
I do concur with Allan that among popular creationist literature (which
is the sub-topic that started this conversation), the macro/micro division
frequently correlates with "evolutionary changes I don't believe could
happen" vs. "evolutionary changes I can accept". This is nothing shocking
or new, and two minutes with the Google search engine easily confirms this.
And even for a particular author, the application can be quite
inconsistent. For instance, the human/great ape split often falls into
the "macroevolutionary"/"questionable" category whereas the variation in
entire bird, bat or insect groups are accepted as potential micro-
evolutionary events. Another problem with such creationist uses (as
opposed to what is proposed in scientific literature) is that it may also
imply that mechanisms of macroevolutionary events are beyond investigation.
This makes it hard to formulate a means of evaluating an explanation
for the existence of and relationships between "macro-evolutionary"
divisions. Given current understanding, I suppose the strongest case
could be made for progressive creation via modification of locally
extant organisms over a long period of Earth's history ("Old-earth,
unnatural, common descent").
On a separate note:
Peter Ruest appears to distinguish macro/micro, in part, in terms of
information transformation or acquisition. However, I haven't seen much
of anything in the literature that would allow one to easily divide the
vertebrates along such lines, let alone primates. Gene numbers, genome
lengths, gene diversity & etc. have all been considered as metrics but
few consider them to be anything but rough and somewhat ambiguous
measures; first-approximations at best.
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