Re: Gould and complexity

From: Phil Goetz (
Date: Fri Feb 04 2005 - 14:37:32 MST

--- fudley <> wrote:

> On Thu, 3 Feb 2005 "Phil Goetz"
> > We are not discussins dogs, chimps,
> > or humans. We are discussing how
> > evolution works.
> I donít know about you but I am discussing if
> evolution tends over time
> to produce some animals with more complexity than
> before. I donít care
> what Gould says I think it does; if in the process
> of making these
> advances it also produces organisms with less
> complexity that is an
> unimportant byproduct.

That is not what we are discussing.
We acknowledged at the outset of this discussion
that the most complex species created by evolution
tend to get more complex over time. If that's all
you're interested in, there is no need for you to
participate, and certainly not to criticize
arguments that you don't actually disagree with.

The question is whether increased complexity is
in general more adaptive than decreased complexity.
If this were true, we would expect that evolution
would continue to generate more-complex creatures
at a (perhaps) linear rate over time, whereas if
the observed complexity is a result of a random
walk with a left wall (as Gould and others say),
then the rate at which complexity increases would
probably decrease over time. In the former case,
we would expect the universe to be full of
hyperintelligent ETs. In the latter, we might not.
The former case is felt by many to be congruent
with their intuition that nature and humanity
conspire in a general trend to exponentially-
increasing complexity and knowledge. My main
interest in this topic is in debunking it as
one of the arguments people use for their
(IMHO mistaken) notion that natural forces lead
to exponentially-increasing rates of change.

- Phil

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