• MikeL
    644
    I just want to pull this thread into a new OP for two reasons. I have been crashing Wayfarer's OP and Pneumenon's OP which is not fair on them, and secondly just in case there are some biologists or anybody else out there who might not know this discussion is happening and wants to join.

    A couple of day's ago Rich and Metaphysician Undercover alerted me to the idea of Creative Evolution, or the Creative Mind. It is very appealing.

    It suggests that the primary driver for evolution to occur is not a Survival of the Fittest Model but rather a Creative Evolution Model. That life actively strives to throw out new variants and in doing maximises its survival. This is different to Survival of the Fittest where variants are not encouraged by evolution but become useful nonetheless in times of great change.

    I have posted part of the thread (which I cleaned up a little to make clearer) that I think explains the position best. It uses divergent evolution - where one species has branched into many various species over time to illustrate the example.

    "I take your point that divergence can be accounted for in the Survival of the Fittest model, but under a Survival of the Fittest model I would be looking for where is the selection pressure to do so was when delicious leaves and grass were already in abundance. The ancestor possums weren't attacking each other so there was no need to seek out new niches to live in. There's no adaptive advantage here. There's only maintaining the status quo, so why risk reshuffling of the DNA too much.

    I guess the Survival of the Fittest model would contend there is equal adaptive advantage for the kangaroo, wombat and koala, so they were all selected for. Normally the environmental forces would have wiped the variants out of existence, except in this case there is a lack of them (your global constraints). The mutant variants got lucky and be damned with thoughts of adaptive advantage.

    When a species is well adapted to its environment though the Survival of the Fittest model would suggest that DNA should be trying to minimize the amount of variant alleles in the population to help ensure its continued survival. It should be increasing the conserved regions of DNA, constraining itself so that it sticks with a winning combination. Allele diversity in the population should fall, or at the least the increase should only be a gradual creep.

    The Creative Evolution Model would contend also that a lack of global constraints enabled the survival of a diverse progeny. It would suggest though, that rather than being an aberration of nature that somehow got out of its intrinsic DNA constraints, it instead would have been almost impossible to stop the variance from arising because variance is the sole driver of life. The organism would have been looking to maximise its amount of variance. For this model to work there would need to be a highly conserved (constrained) portion of DNA and a highly recombinant area. We would expect the allele count in the population to rise rapidly until new species are born."
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    Henri Bergson's major popular work was called 'Creative Evolution', and was published at the beginning of the last century. At the time, Bergson was a prominent public intellectual, but nowadays his name is hardly mentioned in University courses - you wouldn't expect to see Bergson included in a general philosophy curriculum (perhaps unfortunately). Bergson was associated with 'elan vital', which he saw as a creative spirit or energy, but that idea is routinely ridiculed (again, perhaps unfortunately) by subsequent mainstream biology. In any case, the Darwinian 'war and strife of all against all' is somewhat at variance with the 'creative evolution' idea', and 'nature red in tooth and claw' is the favoured model.

    The organism would have been looking to maximise its amount of variance.MikeL

    That idea, perhaps, has a precedent in the very ancient notion of the 'pleroma'. Whilst that word has subsequently taken on a number of religious or esoteric meanings, it was originally associated with the saying that 'nature abhors a vacuum'. The idea was that, as being was greater than non-being, then the divine intelligence would tend to produce whatever thing could possibly exist, as the non-being of that thing was an imperfection. So the 'pleroma' manifested as the idea of the 'principle of plenitude', and came to be associated with the Goddess Fortuna, who used to carry the Horn of Plenty, from which the abundance used to spring forth:

    fortuna.jpg

    So such ideas have an ancient provenance. Alas, they're not of much appeal to scientific biology, but they're very interesting from the viewpoint of cultural studies. (Might be worth perusing the Wikipedia entry on 'orthogenesis' too.)
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    And she is blind too, for Fortune shines on the wicked and on the good.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    That's the idea, I think. Luck be my lady, tonight.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    A preliminary point: despite the popularity of the phrase, natural selection does not select for 'the fittest', but for the 'fit enough'. That is, evolutionary pressure is always somewhat 'baggy' - within the constraints it imposes, it leaves a great deal of space for variation. Hence the somewhat misleading nature of the phrase 'survival of the fittest'. It's more like 'the survival of the good enough', or 'the survival of the adequate'. This should already stand as a clue that one should not see natural selection as a mechanism that is somehow 'opposed' to variation. That is, it is not - and never has been - a matter of pitching a 'natural selection' model against a 'creative evolution model'. Rather natural selection has always worked in tandem - symbiotically, as it were - with mechanisms of variation in order to produce and shore-up diversity.

    In fact, what is here called the 'creative evolution model' has been the subject of biological investigation for quite some time now, insofar as it's becoming widely acknowledged that variation is not wholly explained by natural selection alone, but a host of other, interlocking evolutionary mechanisms. The key difference is that in the biological models, 'creativity' is not some kind of primordial ontological force (as with vitalism), but a product or outcome of evolution. The key term used here is evolvability: this being the capacity of a biological system to engender novel heritable traits, a capacity that can be selected for in evolution.

    How this works can be pretty complex, but the abridged version is that a hell of a lot happens in the 'space' left by the looseness ('baggyness') of natural selection which, when taken together, all help to produce variation. The mechanisms that underlie these happenings don't get as much popular press as natural selection - genotype networks, phenotypic plasticity, biological robustness, sexual selection, to name a few - but the cool thing is that if you study them, you realize that they harness the looseness of natural selection so that they work 'with' and not against it to drive evolution. The long and short of it is that natural selection needs to be understood as one component among an entire assemblage of evolutionary mechanisms which, only when taken together in complementary fashion, constitute the full picture of how evolution works.

    (Some references: Andreas Wager - The Arrival of the Fittest, Mary Jane West-Eberhard - Developmental Plasticity and Evolution, Richard Prum - The Evolution of Beauty).
  • MikeL
    644
    It sounds pretty bang on with creative evolution. Those ancients may not have had the instrumentation of today, but they could deduce better than anyone.

    I would be interested in comparative allele comparisons using the two ideas, so long as we could agree on a baseline. I think someone should be able to test the theory.
  • BlueBanana
    900
    When a species is well adapted to its environment though the Survival of the Fittest model would suggest that DNA should be trying to minimize the amount of variant alleles in the population to help ensure its continued survival.MikeL

    This is not true. Survival of the fittest is not only a model, it's a factor that does try to eliminate variance, but there are other factors.
  • MikeL
    644
    Thanks StreetlightX.

    It's a little sneaky to say that creativity was selected for, although it made me smile. Survival of the Fittest swallows Creation. That would have made a better title for the OP.

    There is a distinction though between the two which is in the opening OP. In a situation where an animal can diverge evolutionaryly, without interference, does the current model of evolution predict increased conservation of successful alleles or increased prevelance of alleles in the population?
  • MikeL
    644
    There are other factors outside of Survival of the Fittest theory that seek to enhance variability, is that the position? Can you elaborate a little more for me?
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    There is a distinction though between the two which is in the opening OP. In a situation where an animal can diverge evolutionarily, without interference, does the current model of evolution predict increased conservation of successful alleles or increased prevelance of alleles in the population?MikeL

    The trick is to think in terms of genotype and phenotype instead of simply alleles, because what matters is not just any variation, but heritable variation. Moreover, it's important to think at a population-level, rather than at the level of genetic sequence because the looseness of natural selection allows for a crap ton of unexpressed genetic variation which is 'hidden' from selection pressure, across a 'fit-enough' population. This ability for variation to 'hide' from selection pressure is in fact what allows so much variation to take place in the first place. Check out this paper by Andreas Wanger that addresses what I think your concerns are. From the abstract:

    "Mutational robustness and evolvability, a system's ability to produce heritable variation, harbour a paradoxical tension. On one hand, high robustness implies low production of heritable phenotypic variation. On the other hand, both experimental and computational analyses of neutral networks indicate that robustness enhances evolvability. ... To resolve the tension, one must distinguish between robustness of a genotype and a phenotype. I confirm that genotype (sequence) robustness and evolvability share an antagonistic relationship. In stark contrast, phenotype (structure) robustness promotes structure evolvability. A consequence is that finite populations of sequences with a robust phenotype can access large amounts of phenotypic variation while spreading through a neutral network. Population-level processes and phenotypes rather than individual sequences are key to understand the relationship between robustness and evolvability." (my bolding).
  • MikeL
    644
    Thanks StreetlightX. I'll check it out.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    The go to person with all problems relating to current biological theory and an alternative to it would be Rupert Sheldrake. Numerous videos on Youtube. Here is one:

    https://youtu.be/MtgLklXZo3U

  • Rich
    3.2k
    Of course, one must ask why would a piece of matter with no consciousness seek to survive? Being this, where is any evidence of such a thing? That something survives?? But it also doesn't! Why hasn't all life evolved into rocks following the course of entropy?

    Anyway, here is Sheldrake's take on the belief system of science: Naturally the scientists sitting on TED's Board and representing the funding interests had it banned promoting 1.3 million views.

    https://youtu.be/JKHUaNAxsTg
  • Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    It suggests that the primary driver for evolution to occur is not a Survival of the Fittest Model but rather a Creative Evolution Model. That life actively strives to throw out new variants and in doing maximises its survival. This is different to Survival of the Fittest where variants are not encouraged by evolution but become useful nonetheless in times of great change.MikeL
    But what would make some variant useful under the CEM, if not great environmental change?

    It seems that you are arguing that mutations crop up as the result of some intelligence, instead of the random miscopying of genes.

    Most mutations are a hinderence to survival, and are rejected in the current environmental conditions and most other conditions that exist on Earth, past, present, and future. So where is the intelligence in that? Is there an intelligece behind the changing of environments throughout Earth's geological history? You'd have account for that change and the cause of it. Is it the same intelligence evolving organisms, or are there two intelligences - one that controls the evolution of organisms, and one that controls the changing environment and both are in a never-ending battle against each other?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    But what would make some variant useful under the CEM, if not great environmental change?Harry Hindu

    Usefulness is not the guage of creativity. Creativity is interesting onto itself. Most of my life is spent creating. This is why I study the arts. It is precisely the same creativity that a child feels when playing with blocks.

    "Mutations" are just experiments. "Let's see what will happen if I do this?"

    Life is no more complicated than observing what is actually on occurring. Of course, out of a desire to be creative, one can create all kinds of explanations. However, one creates all kinds of issues in ones life if one chooses to deny and suppress the creative/intelligent aspect that permeates the whole of life.
  • BlueBanana
    900
    Apart from the survival of the fittest the only factor I can think of is randomness (including mutations), even when accounting for humans meddling with the situation on purpose, so I'll consider those the only relevant factors.

    From just logical reasoning we know the survival of the fittest to be true. The reason for your situation is that it doesn't quarantee that only the fittest survive, and not only because the fittest one can't exist as fitness is a spectrum. The less fit an individual is, the less likely it is to survive, and the more variance there is, the more there are unoptimal individuals. Thus, as the species in stable conditions approaches their optimal form, the weaker the survival of the fittest as a force driving them towards that stage of existence gets.

    Meanwhile, randomness is independent of everything. It always remains equally random. Therefore the species approaches the stage of equilibrium with such variance that the sum of forces is zero.

    I'm not saying that the creative evolution is wrong, though, but if an explanation is correct, it must be compatible with other explanations proven correct.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    Apart from the survival of the fittest the only factor I can think of is randomness (including mutations), even when accounting for humans meddling with the situation on purpose, so I'll consider those the only relevant factors.BlueBanana

    Again, it's not survival of the fittest but survival of the adequate. And as for other factors, again, to list: sexual selection, niche construction, phenotypic plasticity, developmental robustness, evolvability, genotype networks, genetic 'mutations', gene flow, symbiogenesis, horizontal gene transfer, artificial selection, population isolation - all of these and more can and do 'factor' as relevant mechanisms of evolution.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Again, it's not survival of he fittest but survival of the adequateStreetlightX

    All of these definitions come without any definition. What is fittest? What is adequate?

    The terms are self-defining. It is adequate until it no longer is.

    All of life is an experiment and we learn from it. Stephen Hawkings had survived those doctors who pronounced his early death. Life is going forward without knowing what will be unfold. There is no fittest or adequate, just experimentation.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    What is fittest? What is adequate?Rich

    The term is relational of course - what is adequate depends on the environment in which a species finds itself. The idea is that evolution has contingency built into it - all life is indeed an experiment, 'going forward without knowing what will happen'. This is just the lesson of evolution.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    The term is relational of course - what is adequate depends on the environment in which a species finds itself.StreetlightX

    All to admire the innumerable variations of all life that inhabits all environments both internal and external. The creative mind, as in football plays, comes up with an enormous variety of ways to play the game, and like a good football player, is always adjusting as the play and game unfolds.
  • BlueBanana
    900
    Again, it's not survival of the fittest but survival of the adequate.StreetlightX

    In a sense, as even the adequate have a possibility of surviving, but in the long term the fittest have a greater possibility of that, which is what the term surivival of the fittest means. Not that everything except the best dies within a generation.

    And as for other factors, again, to list: sexual selection, niche construction, phenotypic plasticity, developmental robustness, evolvability, genotype networks, genetic 'mutations', gene flow, symbiogenesis, horizontal gene transfer, artificial selection, population isolation - all of these and more can and do 'factor' as relevant mechanisms of evolution.StreetlightX

    Most of these fall under the roofs of either randomness or fitness, as an example the artificial selection which I considered mentioning. I should also mention that I meant factors to specifically the variety of specimen within a species, but there are indeed some I hadn't considered.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.7k
    natural selection does not select for 'the fittest', but for the 'fit enough'. That is, evolutionary pressure is always somewhat 'baggy' - within the constraints it imposes, it leaves a great deal of space for variation.StreetlightX

    Good points.

    Are people confusing Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan, 1651) and Charles Darwin (Origin of the Species, 1859)? I wonder if people are thinking, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" when the hear the phrase, "survival of the fittest".

    "Survival of the fit enough" is carried out in very, very slow motion over long periods of time. It isn't carried out with the speed and violence of a no-man zone. "Nature is red in tooth and claw" was written by Tennyson in a verse memorial to a close poet-friend (In Memoriam, 1851). He was addressing the conflict between science and religion. Ideas about "evolution" had been percolating for a couple of decades, and he references the conflict in the poem.

    "Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all"

    is another famous phrase from the poem.

    Nature is red in tooth and claw because some animals are meat eaters, and it tends to be what we think of as peace-loving benign vegetarians who are preyed upon.
  • javra
    609
    Just as what to me is a humorous side note: Has anybody here seen the evolutionary model/predictions made in the movie “Idiocrasy”? Survival of the fittest, indeed. They even elected a president that had acted in porn movies! Can you believe it???

    On a more genuine discussion side, I so far agree with StreetlightX: it’s not about being fittest. Evolutionary models, when addressed on their own right, hold that all life is equally evolved. Quite a different take/paradigm than our cultural mindsets of “more and less evolved that some other”, never mind the mindset of most evolved, or most fit.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    Evolutionary models, when addressed on their own right, hold that all life is equally evolved.javra

    It is as much ideology to proclaim evolutionary equality or multiplicity as it is to assert winners and losers. There is so far only one species that could anthropomorphise an entire planet. We and our domestic animals, our selectively bred crops, dominate the biomass of the Earth. We are more evolved in having broken through to a higher grade of sociocultural evolution.

    It might not make us fitter in the long run if we can't find the sustainable balance within that. But biology can see grades of evolution and doesn't have to answer to what are essentially political projections coming from left and right.
  • apokrisis
    4.4k
    That life actively strives to throw out new variants and in doing maximises its survival. This is different to Survival of the Fittest where variants are not encouraged by evolution but become useful nonetheless in times of great change.MikeL

    Remember also that Bergson was speculating long before the machinery of DNA was discovered. So after DNA, you have a problem that the ability to replicate or clone a code was just too good.

    Selection pressure required that the coding machinery evolve that kind of self-protecting stability just to ward of DNA parasites - snip out the rogue genetic sequences that would insert themselves and get replicated as junk.

    So there were a host of adaptations just to make DNA a robust, non mutating, cloning device.

    Therefore, of course, there had to be the counter evolutionary pressure to expose DNA to selection pressure. Controlled evolvability also had to evolve. In complex multicellular life, this was achieved for example by a separation of the germ-line. You had sexual reproduction and specialist cells - sperm and eggs - to generate the requisite degree of mutational variety.

    Tricks like doubling the chromosomes and having a gene shuffling recombination meant that every individual gene could be tested by the environment individually - not possible to do in bacteria with a simple genome ring that just has to copy the whole gene kitset as one go, risking the loss of as many good genes as bad ones.

    Sexual reproduction with doubled chromosomes also means offspring can inherit 0, 1 or 2 doses of any particular gene - copies from both mother and father. So again a way of concentrating the variety in a way that blind natural selection really has some information to dig its teeth into.

    So Bergson was right in a handwaving speculative way. Something had to counter natural selection's ability to remove inheritable variety. There had to be a creative element to match the destructive element. It takes two to tango, yin and yang to produce the third thing of an equilibrium balance.

    If one is willing to stretch the definition of "consciousness" as being a process of intelligent self making, then organisms do contribute to their evolution by making a choice about how much they need to expose themselves to the vagaries of environmental chance. They play a game of risk and reward which has some optimal balance.

    So at the species level, you could say organisms are "conscious" of their world in that they make adaptive shifts over "mental durations" that span many millenia. It is not completely metaphoric because what brains do is also the same kind of "in the moment" adaptive response, fed by creative ideational variety, with the aim of being optimally tuned to learn from the vagaries of life.

    But I fear saying that as people then want to go back to strict either/or. Either biology is dead physics or it is alive spirit - as in Bergson's elan vital. My own position is that life and mind are something else - semiotic/dissipative process organised hierarchically over many timescales or durations. (Again, Bergson was essentially right with his cone of memory, but cast that in spiritualist rather than semiotic terms).

    Anyway, for a holist or systems metaphysics, it is just expected that any process is formed by its complementary nature. So natural selection would have to be countered by a matching capacity for creative (that is, intelligently tuned) variety production. And since we found out all about DNA, how that smart balancing act is achieved by biological life has become richly understood.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    "Mutations" are just experiments. "Let's see what will happen if I do this?"Rich
    Then we are all just experiments? Humans are simply the current fancy of some intelligent designer and when it grows bored it will eradicate us in favor of something more interesting.

    Does knowing that you are merely an experiment make you feel better about yourself than knowing that you are the result of exponential random mutations over eons?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Then we are all just experiments? Humans are simply the current fancy of some intelligent designer and when it grows bored it will eradicate us in favor of something more interesting.Harry Hindu

    The mind experiments and comes up with enumerable variations, and variations within variations. Everyone is experimenting continuously, all of the time, and everyone is continuously adapting. We all have minds and they are always active. The physical manifestations are just one aspect of the experiment. Everything comes and everything goes. There is nothing more fitter or less first than others.

    Does knowing that you are merely an experiment make you feel better about yourself than knowing that you are the result of exponential random mutations over eons?Harry Hindu

    The preposterous story of magical mutations that just happen out of thin air and which magically work. Even biologists are running away from. But they can't run to far because then they would have to admit that once again they are all wrong, which would upset the devotees if these magical myths of "it just happens .... over very, very, long periods of time". Behold the wonders of "it just happens".

    Evolution is exactly as it seems. Minds, all minds, experimenting, learning, and constantly adapting. Let's just call natural selection a nice tale created by minds for the exactly the same reasons Genesis was created - to fulfill a need.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    Even biologists are running away from.Rich

    Jerry Fodor made a very similar claim about biologists en masse giving up the idea of adaptation. The LRB, which published a precis of his book about Darwin, received more than a few letters from evolutionary biologists saying this was hogwash, that there is no such flight from adaptation. The debate is worth reading and skimming.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    They are running way in a very novel, creative way, by throwing in a myriad of ancillary new co-theories which neatly hides the old ones. It is such a spaghetti of ideas that any one theory can easily be ignored because there are dozens more being fabricated all the time. That is what $billions of research dollars buys you - new epiphanies one after another. It's crazy observing the conveyor belt of theories rolling out of each research institute. One thing is for sure, natural selection is really old hat. No research dollars for that.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    This kind of stuff gives me a headache, but for those so inclined here is one perspective of the current state of the evolution of evolutionary theory:

    https://www.nature.com/news/does-evolutionary-theory-need-a-rethink-1.16080

    and another:

    @EvolutionOfTheory1.png
  • Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    The preposterous story of magical mutations that just happen out of thin air and which magically work. Even biologists are running away from. But they can't run to far because then they would have to admit that once again they are all wrong, which would upset the devotees if these magical myths of "it just happens .... over very, very, long periods of time". Behold the wonders of "it just happens".

    Evolution is exactly as it seems. Minds, all minds, experimenting, learning, and constantly adapting. Let's just call natural selection a nice tale created by minds for the exactly the same reasons Genesis was created - to fulfill a need.
    Rich
    "Magic" isn't a scientific term. However it is a term used by the religious. Magic is the basis of all religion, actually - not science.

    Mutations happen randomly, not magically. "Random" simply means that we don't yet understand the mechanism that causes genes to not make perfect copies of themselves sometimes. There could be numerous causes: radiation, disease, etc., but magic is not one of them.

    Natural selection is everywhere. It is the reason planets have the shape they have, as well as organisms. It also has an influence on your mind - as you adapt (learn) to new conditions - acquiring new knowledge and rejecting old knowledge in favor of the new. Natural selection is simply an environmental feedback mechanism that shapes the individual constituents of the environment - one of which is your mind.
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