The degree of perceived taxonomic change in various lineages may be directly related to their general morphologic complexity: more complex forms appear to change more rapidly. “Rates of evolution” as customarily reported by paleontologists may therefore be a poor indication of evolutionary changes in the underlying genome. Two approaches were used to examine this problem. (1) We have estimated the degree of morphologic complexity by using the number of descriptive terms per genus, and per family, for 12 major groups of animals. Three general levels of complexity occur: (i) gastropods, bivalves and ectoprocts have relatively few terms; (ii) echinoids, foraminiferans, ostracodes, nautiloids, corals, trilobites, and brachiopods have an intermediate number of terms; (iii) mammals and ammonoids appear to have a relatively large number of terms. These 3 levels of complexity also increase in rate of taxonomic turnover; i.e., an increasing rate of evolution. (2) Using a cluster analysis based on morphologic similarity, we grouped 200 lineages of a computer-generated phylogenetic sequence according to 4 phenetic bases: 3, 5, 10 and 20 morphologic traits. Groups based on a few characters are longer lived and are commonly polyphyletic in comparison with groups based on many characters. In both the real world and the computer simulation, the bias of differential morphologic complexity may account for the observation that “only complicated animals evolve.” Most paleontologic studies of the “rate of evolution” may tell us more about morphologic complexity than about evolutionary rates of genomes.