Origins of Order in Dynamical Models

Weber, Bruce H. “Origins of order in dynamical models.” Biology and Philosophy 13, no. 1 (1998): 133-144.

Understanding the emergence and evolution of biological order has been a fundamental goal of evolutionary theory ever since (even before) Darwin. Darwin sought to explain adaptation by the action of natural selection, out of which process order would emerge (Darwin 1859). David Depew and I have argued that Darwin was able to accomplish this, in part, through appeal to a metaphorical extension of models based upon Newtonian dynamics, and that later, through the work of Haldane, Fisher, Wright and Chetverikov, Darwinism was able to reformulate the concept of natural selection by appeals to dynamical models that were extensions of statistical mechanics and thermodynamics (Depew and Weber 1989; Depew and Weber 1995; Weber and Depew 1996). Currently there is debate as to whether natural selection as construed by the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis is sufficiently robust to account for large-scale biological order in addition to local adaptation. Defenders of the Synthesis argue that natural selection is still adequate and indeed the only alternative to regressive ideas of creationism or crypto-creationism (Ayala 1985; Williams 1992). Alternatively, modern-day proponents of an alternative research tradition to Darwinism, developmentalism, which reaches back to Geoffroy St. Hillaire, have argued that a principle other than selection is needed to complement or replace selection as the source of large-scale biological order (Saunders and Ho 1984; Goodwin 1989, 1994; Salthe 1993). Such modern-day developmentalists are making use of the current rapid development of methods of complex systems dynamics to argue that self-organization, rather than selection, is the dominant factor producing the order of biological systems (Brooks and Wiley 1988; Goodwin 1994; Salthe 1993).

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