Re: Information theory, entropy, and evolution

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Fri, 24 Feb 1995 13:45:59 +1000

> Thanks, Danny, for once again stepping in when I'm mixing my metaphors all
> over the place. I was less than clear about this. But I suspect this is one
> of these areas in which we may just not see eye to eye... as will
> undoubtedly occur with matters Topothesian... ;-)

For those who don't understand this, Steve is organising the creation
of a new e-journal, and was lucky (or unlucky :-) enough to convince
me to become an editor. We've already had a bit of a tussle over
the title -- he wanted to put the dreaded "cyber" prefix in somewhere
and I vetoed it :-). We finally settled on Topothesia.

> What I was suggesting is that evolution may in fact possess a direction
> toward greater order and self-organization ( = negentropy), a possibility
> vigorously denied by Monod and other neo-Darwinists who continue to
> maintain that the only mechanisms in evolution are the pure accidental
> chance of mutation and the ruthless eliminative drive of selection... thus
> there can be no direction, no algorithmic process involved in evolution...
> I don't believe a teleological viewpoint regarding evolution is necessarily
> either vitalist or obscurantist. The question is, is there a drive within
> life toward greater self-organization and not just self-preservation?

Hmmm... I really wish you wouldn't use words like "drive". Is there
anything like the organismal drives pushing life towards greater
self-organisation? I really don't think there is any evidence for
this (or other Gaiaesque style anthropomorphizing of the biosphere).
Have complexity and self-organisation increased with time throughout
the history of life on this planet? Is there some mechanism that
would explain this, or could it be purely contingent? These are
different questions altogether...

Danny Yee.