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Adam_Ierymenko comments on An Alien God - Less Wrong

80 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 November 2007 06:57AM

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Comment author: Adam_Ierymenko 09 November 2007 03:07:30PM 2 points [-]

Allow me to clarify douglas a bit if I can. Correct me if I'm wrong.

What douglas is (I think) invoking here is a phenomenon called the evolution of evolvability. Essentially the idea is that evolution is not quite as blind or random as pure classical Darwinism would have it, but that it evolves. Evolution evolves, recursively. Lineages that do a better job exploring fitness landscape space do a better job surviving, and so therefore their genes tend to do a better job surviving as well. Evolution therefore favors the emergence of genetic systems that aid evolution.

Competent cells are an example of this. Competence (the ability to take up naked DNA) is likely an evolvability adaptation. Having it turned on in all cells would be disasterous since the entire population would be virus fodder. But having genes in there that cause this phenomenon to happen and having them activate *occasionally* is good for all genes involved since under stress it greatly increases the likelihood of major discontinuities that might propel the lineage out of a valley in fitness landscape space.

If you want a *really* far out and extreme take on this, read this:


Stewart crosses over into evolutionary romanticism on occasion, so I don't buy everything he says. But he does have a grasp of just how big an idea the evolution of evolvability is. I admire visionaries with the courage to write like this, even if some of what they write strays a little into la-la-land. That the price you pay for getting excited about the new. We have far too few of such people these days.

Evolutionary theory with the evolution of evolvability is to classical Darwinism what Einsteinian and Quantum mechanics are to classical Newtonian physics. All the responders are right in that this stuff is a part of modern evolutionary theory, but it's not really a part of "Darwinism." Darwin didn't predict this. Calling modern evolutionary theory "Darwinism" is like calling physics "Newtonism." Darwin was Newton, but evolutionary theory did not end with him.

Now for an annoying Google suggestion: go to scholar.google.com or arXiv and search for "evolution of evolvability" as a phrase.


Comment author: yters 09 October 2009 08:57:32PM 0 points [-]

The problem with evolving evolution is that the search space becomes exponentially larger every time you go up a level of evolution.

Comment author: TobyBartels 20 January 2011 04:40:12AM *  0 points [-]

Calling modern evolutionary theory "Darwinism" is like calling physics "Newtonism."

Well, I'd rather name it after Galileo, but otherwise I'm happy with that. Galileo invented the field of endeavour that we know today as ‘physics’ (a term which Aristoteles used for something rather different), and Newton brought his ideas to fruition, even though they have subsequently been improved upon. ‘Newtonian physics’ is one thing, but ‘Newtonism’ is another; all modern physicists are Galileo's and Newton's disciples.