The Logic of Evolution

A few months back, Simon Conway Morris wrote:

Indeed it is now legitimate to talk of a logic to biology, not a term you will hear on the lips of many neo-Darwinians. Nevertheless, evolution is evidently following more fundamental rules. Scientific certainly, but ones that transcend Darwinism. What! Darwinism not a total explanation? Why should it be? It is after all only a mechanism, but if evolution is predictive, indeed possesses a logic, then evidently it is being governed by deeper principles. Come to think about it so are all sciences; why should Darwinism be any exception?

The non-teleological view of evolution is that it is not really a biological process itself, but instead is the consequence of many smaller biological processes. Evolution is something that just happens and its mechanisms are brute givens. But a teleological view of evolution likens it to a biotic process, roughly analogous to ontogeny.  There is a form and logic to evolution.  One might even say that evolution is a function or a program.

So is evolution really nothing more than the by-product of messy molecular interactions?  Or is it far more sophisticated, itself being somehow shaped by design? What I can say is this.  Over a decade ago, biologist Bruce Alberts had this to say about the cell and its contents: “But, as it turns out, we can walk and we can talk because the chemistry that makes life possible is much more elaborate and sophisticated than anything we students had ever considered.” Some time in the future, another leading scientist will write something like this: “But, as it turns out, we exist because evolution has been much more elaborate and sophisticated than anything we students had ever considered.” And that day is getting closer.

HT: Heddle

Advertisements

3 responses to “The Logic of Evolution

  1. So is evolution really nothing more than the by-product of messy molecular interactions? Or is it far more sophisticated, itself being somehow shaped by design?

    The conclusion of most evolutionary biologists is that while genes are the units of evolutionary change, it is populations of organisms who themselves are the ones evolving. This is reflected by the common definition for evolution, “Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.”

    To what is shaping evolution though you ask, three things are typically considered: (1) Random mutation; (2) Non-random selection (although the contingencies influencing what heritable traits are selected for are so convoluted as to appear quite random); and (3) the opposing forces of gene flow and gene drift between populations (i.e. reproductive isolation or interbreeding).

    That’s about it. Sophisticated? No. Convoluted by the interaction of countless elements? Yes.

  2. “(1) Random mutation; (2) Non-random selection (although the contingencies influencing what heritable traits are selected for are so convoluted as to appear quite random); and (3) the opposing forces of gene flow and gene drift between populations (i.e. reproductive isolation or interbreeding).”

    Is Morris denying that this explains evolution? Lynn Margulis certainly does. And Mike, are you jumping off the neo-Darwinian bandwagon?

  3. Good question Bilbo.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s