Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nativist Evolution (take one)

On April 20, 2007 the EES met to talk about evolution in a way that wasn't totally focused on "natural selection" but more on the sources and kinds of variation that it are available to it (and why). We basically bit off more than we could chew because there are a lot of neat ideas lurking here that our conversation looped around but never really brought into focus. (If you're wondering about the "nativism" in the title, you'll be in the right ballpark if you imagine idealism, platonism, or better still, looking for ways to apply psychological nativism to "evolution interpreted as a mindful process".)

How the Leopard Changed Its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity

Brian C. Goodwin, 2001

The link will take you to "the sorts of fragments of text that might induce you to buy the book" which are enough to smell the ideas (if not see them fully realized). There's a lot in here documenting the easy-to-implement structures and patterns that you might argued evolution "discovered" (if you're disposed to see things that way) like fractals and so on.

The Jigsaw Model: An Explanation for the Evolution of Complex Biochemical Systems and the Origin of Life
John F. McGowan, 2000

An essay on "how things might be set up so that single mutations generate correlated traits". The paper is interestingly (to me anyway) steeped in creationist conceptualizations of evolution (the text is pro-evolution... but it's striking in taking creationist objections to "blind evolution" as having a point able to be addressed by thinking about ways biological traits might hypothetically be encoded).

The Rate of Compensatory Mutation in the DNA Bacteriophage {PHI}X174
Art Poon and Lin Chao, 2005

...and the creationist resonances and hand waving were just sort of asking for a counterpoint with "actual real quantitative biology" in case you were somehow thinking that real world biological systems aren't robust and fixable instead of brittle due to "irreducible complexity" :-P

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