Sounds Familiar

Here’s an excerpt from Adam Wilkins’s paper, “Between ‘‘design’’ and ‘‘bricolage’’: Genetic networks, levels of selection, and adaptive evolution” (PNAS 2007  vol. 104, pp. 8591-8596).

In evolutionary biology, perhaps more than in any other branch of biology, the use of metaphors is especially marked. Evolutionary biology, in fact, was founded on a metaphor, ‘‘natural selection,’’ which was Darwin’s explanation of the evolutionary process by means of a term that leaned on the ways that breeders artificially select and develop new varieties of animals and plants…..Two of the most prominent metaphors, however, are those of ‘‘design’’ and ‘‘bricolage.’’ Design, in fact, figures in the title of the Colloquium from which this article results, and, as Francisco Ayala discusses in this issue of PNAS (19), the challenge for evolutionary biologists is to explain how seemingly well designed features of organism, where the fit of function to biological structure and  organization often seems superb, is achieved without a sentient Designer. In reality, although organisms often seem designed efficiently for one trait, much is clearly suboptimal and many morphological/anatomical traits are baroque in their construction, defying the simplest notions of what constitutes good design. Furthermore, even the optimality of the well designed features is often at the slight expense of other traits, the phenomenon of ‘‘tradeoffs’’ (20).

An important role for metaphors.    Good design vs. bad design as a metric to distinguish a “sentient Designer” from a blind watchmaker.  Tradeoffs in the context of design.

Yep, all part of the growing story.

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