Re: Stephen Jay Gould and Progress
Wed, 8 Jan 1997 15:24:55 -0500 (EST)

Damien Broderick writes:
>Gould's theme is that natural diversity is usually attributable to nothing
>more interesting than a drunkard's walk away from a wall. Life starts
>simple (against the `left wall') because it can't start any other way.
>Mostly it stays simple, by mensurable metrics. Even now, arguably, most of
>the earth's biomass is simple bacteria. Over time, some variants wander off
>to the right. Humans and other large critters exist off on the right-most
>tail of the curve, but not because there is any `complexification drive'.

I'm not sure about there being no "complexification drive". Brain sizes have
increased markedly over time, and land animals with the intelligence of most
dinosaurs probably wouldn't be viable today. Certainly there aren't any.

Modern plants have phenomenally intricate genetic systems (far more so than
any animal) and presumably this is their compensation for having to do
without behavior. I'm not aware of any analysis of the genetic complexity of
ancient plants, and indeed such a thing would be very hard to do. There may
well be another "complexification drive" going on we can't track.