Re: That (not so) idiot Darwin

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Wed Jan 17 2001 - 08:35:43 MST

On Wednesday, January 17, 2001 12:05 AM Samantha Atkins wrote:
> > Being a creationist is pretty dumb, true. However, "directed evolution"
> > least sounds plausible, and merrits some attention. Further, the idea
> > it's not all evolution, that something else important might be going on
> > which we can't see yet, that merrits attention too.
> Directed evolution does not merit attention unless there is good
> evidence for it. The merely plausible or possible doesn't merit
> attention all by itself.

Regarding evidence for directed evolution, one would need a way of testing
such hypothesis. This is why I posted "Testing Evolutionary Explanations"

> This something we can't see yet is another way of saying we have no
> evidence for any such or reason to pay attention to it before there is
> any such reason.

I think the case for directed evolution is a lot stronger than mere
speculation. Brooks and Wiley believe current "[e]volutionary theory has
not come to grips with the apparent lawlike behavior of biological systems."
(_Evolution as Entropy_ 2/e, p3) An example of this is size increase in
life forms. The biggest organisms seem to be bigger over time. The sequoia
of today is much bigger than any tree species that lived previously. The
blue whale is much bigger than the biggest dinosaurs. (For vertebrates,
such increases have been dubbed instances of Cope's rule. See the Bonner
book mentioned below, p28.)

Note: by directed evolution or orthogenesis is _not_ meant that some mind is
directing it. It just means that evolution has a direction -- at least, in
some cases. The cause of this could be no more mystifying that
self-organization. (See Stuart A. Kauffman's _The Origins of Order:
Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution_. Kauffman is Mr.
Self-Organization in evolutionary circles.)

Of course, a lot of work has been done since they wrote that. I bring up
the above examples because they point to a trend in evolution -- a
direction. John Tyler Bonner, in his _The Evolution of Complexity by Means
of Natural Selection_ (published the same year as the Brooks-Wiley work),
offers an adaptive explanation of size increase. He argues that size
increase allows organisms to enter spaces where competition is less. (p33)
a larger organism usually is, e.g., harder to hunt or kill. Lions don't
hunt elephants...

He also argues that size increases can help an organism become less
dependent on the immediate environment. (Chapter 3) Smaller organisms,
e.g., usually live shorter lives, can't store as much food, change more in
tune with their environment (think of heat storage in larger forms), and so
on. (See also Jennifer A. Kitchell's "The Reciprocal Interaction of
Organism and Effective Environment: Learning More about 'And'" in _Causes
of Evolution: A Paleontological Perspective_.)

> But there are quite good lists and resources dedicated to these
> questions already.

Please name them!

> Why is it good or worthwhile to discuss it in any
> reasonable detail (and it does get detailed really rapidly if it is
> worth the bandwidth) here on this list?

We all have our reasons for bringing up stuff here. I think, however, the
direct relation to extropianism and transhumanism is that both those idea
systems have notions, vague or no, on the future evolution of life and
humanity. So understanding evolutionary theory and history might give us
some perspective on all of this.

Of course, it seems to have gone the way of most threads here. People
telling jokes. People attacking each other's character and intelligence.
Etc. If I were cynical -- and I am -- I'd just say this is the usual
direction of this list.:)


Daniel Ust

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:20 MDT