Re: directed evolution

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Thu Jan 18 2001 - 08:54:52 MST

On Wednesday, January 17, 2001 7:10 PM Damien Broderick wrote:
> >Note: by directed evolution or orthogenesis is _not_ meant that some mind
> >directing it. It just means that evolution has a direction -- at least,
> >some cases. The cause of this could be no more mystifying that
> >self-organization.
> I believe you've changed the definition mid-course.

I'm using it only in the sense which I learned to use it over the past
decade or so. This is the way it is used in most technical or philosophical
treatments of evolutionary theory.

Also, the Latin-derived term used for "directed evolution" is
"orthogenesis." My dictionary -- _Webster's Ninth New Collegiate
Dictionary_ (1991) -- defines the latter as "variation of organisms in
successive generations that in some evolutionary theories takes place in
some predestined direction and results in progressive evolutionary trends
independent of external factors." No mention of God, theology, or
creationism there. (Not surprising, since the term was coined in the late
19th century.)

I only clarified my defintion -- the one most evolutionary biologists and
philosophers of biology use -- when I noticed that Samantha and others were
using it to mean roughly "directed by some mind including a divine one."
Granted, it's no big leap to go from "directed evolution" to "directed by
God." The words are just too close. However, in evolutionary circles --
not the creationist debating circles, which are pop science at best -- the
term is used differently than what you'd expect.

Of course, in my context, I'd never really considered "directed evolution"
to mean "directed by a mind.":) It always seemed to me to be a plausible
alternative to either genetic drift (neutral evolution) or environmental
selection (natural selection, which in itself is confusing since neither
directed evolution nor genetic drift posit unnatural causes of evolution:).

> The more usual
> connotation of directed evolution, sans theology, might be closer to the
> program under investigation by the Arnold group, led by Frances H. Arnold,
> Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, Division of Chemistry
> and Chemical Engineering, Caltech. E.g.:

I see. Well, he defines his usage from the start. It's only words. I'm
using the words in a different way. I think my pointing out that directed
evolution -- perhaps we can use "orthogenesis" to avoid confusion -- was
valid here, especially since most here tend to collapse valid evolutionary
theory into environmental selection.

> >Of course, it seems to have gone the way of most threads here. People
> >telling jokes. People attacking each other's character and intelligence.
> That's because the use of the term in the main stem of the thread was (or
> seemed) crypto-theological. What other response than parody and mockery do
> you expect on this list?

I believe you are being too charitable here. Start a thread on any topic
here and see where it winds up. The end state -- the equilibrium of the
list -- seems to be parody, mockery, and personal attack. Granted, this is
NOT peculiar to this list. I've seen it happen on other unmoderated lists.
(That said, Extropy list is still valuable -- to me. I wouldn't have stayed
on it all these years if not.:)


Daniel Ust

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