Darwinism Evolution

Stuart Kauffman critiquing Darwinism

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I was reviewing recently Stuart Kauffman’s critique of the Darwinian selection mechanism and thought I would share the upshot of it here, especially in light of the recent discussion at UD concerning Haldane’s Dilemma:

If selection could, in principle, accomplish “anything,” then all the order in organisms might reflect selection alone. But, in fact, there are limits to selection. Such limits begin to demand a shift in our thinking in the biological sciences and beyond. We have already encountered a first powerful limitation on selection. Darwin’s view of the gradual accumulations of useful variations, we saw, required gradualism. Mutations must cause slight alterations in phenotypes, But we have now seen two alternative model “worlds” in which such gradualism fails. The first concerns maximally compressed programs. Because these are random, almost certainly any change randomizes the performance of the program. Finding one of the few useful minimal programs requires searching the entire space ­requiring unthinkably long times compared with the history of the universe even for modestly large programs … But the matter is even worse on such random landscapes. If an adapting population evolves by mutation and selection alone, it will remain frozen in an infinitesimal region of the total space, trapped forever in whatever region it started in. It will be unable to search long distances across space for higher peaks. Yet if the population dares try recombination, it will be harmed on average, not helped. There is a second limitation on selection. It is not only on random landscapes that evolution fails. Even on smooth landscapes, in the heartland of gradualism, just where Darwin’s assumptions hold, selection can again fail and fail utterly. Selection runs headlong into an “error catastrophe” where all accumulated useful traits melt away…. Thus there appears to be a limit on the complexity of a genome that can be assembled by mutation and selection!

Stuart Kaffman, At Home in the Universe: The Search for Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 183-184.

4 Replies to “Stuart Kauffman critiquing Darwinism

  1. 1
    kairos says:

    Finding one of the few useful minimal programs requires searching the entire space­ requiring unthinkably long times compared with the history of the universe even for modestly large programs

    Bill, but isn’t this quite the same argument you argued with NFL? And if this is the case, what does K. say about all the criticism you have received about?

  2. 2
    JGuy says:

    Excerpts of SK’s 2002 chat on ISCID.

    “Downard
    Dr. Kauffman, would you care to comment on William Dembski’s Complex Specified Information arguments, and the extent to which you think they are applicable to actual biological systems?

    Stuart Kauffman
    Well, I debated William. I think the basic question he asks is perfectly reasonable. How would we recognize a signal from space as non-noise for example. But in the biological realm, I feel he has not made his case. There are too many alternative explanations, based on Darwinian selection, to get such complex specified information.”
    ———————————–
    Downard
    It would seem that it wouldn’t make much of a difference where the “information” was in some abstract sense, but whether the increase in complexity (however measured) was occurring as a natural process. Your comment, Stuart?

    Stuart Kauffman
    You may be right. One of the deep puzzles is why the universe has become complex. Why has the biosphere become complex? Why has the number of ways of earning a living increased so dramatically? We have no theory about this overwhelming feature of our universe. I propose in Investigations that biospheres, on average, increase the diversity of “what can happen next”, their “adjacent possible”, as fast as they can without destroying the order already achieved. At least it is a possible start in this direction.

    ———————————–
    “Stuart Kauffman
    I think the design question is legitimate. I just worry about the methodologies, and hidden reference to a creator.”

    source: http://www.iscid.org/stuartkauffman-chat.php

  3. 3
    JGuy says:

    late: [all emphasis mine]

  4. 4
    JGuy says:

    [Off Topic}
    Some may have already seen the video Mike Gene link’s to named “The Inner Life of the Cell” – made by Harvard University. [An amazing video with a background of music. You get a feel for and see specified complexity.]

    However, here is the same video with a narrative of what you are seeing (links on top row). It is interesting, and helps in understanding more of the purpose/meanings of the specification seen.

    http://multimedia.mcb.harvard.edu/media.html

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