Re: That (not so) idiot Darwin

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Wed Jan 17 2001 - 20:56:17 MST

On Wednesday, January 17, 2001 11:14 AM J. R. Molloy wrote:
> > At first glance, this is somewhat similar to the argument in _Evolution
> > as Entropy_.
> Yes, it has some parallels, I suppose. Anyway, for me to feel comfortable
> with this terminology, I'd like to see the term extropy correspond to
> evolution, and entropy to devolution. That makes more sense to me. The
> only kind of evolution that I can see as entropic would involve a change
> in the meaning of evolution such that it implies a movement toward the
> heat death of the universe. To me, that connotes the devolution of
> complexity.

This seems to be more an argument from intuitiveness than anything else.
That doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. Even so, what Brooks and Wiley
are getting at is that a lot of biological phenomena including evolution
(they also treat ontogeny and other phenomena) can be explained as instances
of increasing information entropy.

Also, you seem to restrict "evolution" to progress. I would not equate the
two. Over time, evolving systems usually become more complex, but this does
not necessarily mean each component is all that complex. Think of parasites
that lose everything but the ability to latch on to a host, feed, and

"Devolution" is a term I would hardly use at all because it seems arbitrary.
Is the equine line losing toes an example of evolution or devolution? What
about birds losing teeth? The cetaceans adapting to an aquatic environment?
See what I mean? To me, it's evolution, but then all changes over time at
that level are, to me, evolution in action. I might be inclined to restrict
"evolution" to stuff that is irreversibly changed. Thus, extinction is more
evolutionary than, say, those moths in England changing color. The former
is permanent; the latter transitory -- i.e., the color trait is reversible.
(Of course, I would not use devolution at all.)

That said, I'm a bit afraid of even doing that since it would bias
evolutionary theories in favor of ones that use thermodynamics, such as the
Brooks-Wiley one or Wicken's. (We haven't gone over Wicken here. I forget
the reference right now.)


Daniel Ust

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