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View Diary: Who can own the future? (262 comments)

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  •  Yes, living things are complex (1+ / 0-)
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    bartcopfan

    But the toaster analogy isn't as as illuminating as it may seem. This kind of argument was mounted against even the earliest modern discussions of evolution, most notably by William Paley in 1802. It's "argument by design," in which the complexity of the living things supposedly precludes their "random" generation.

    The thing is, assembly of living systems isn't random. There are many apparently complex systems that arise from simple inputs, not out of randomness, but because physical and chemical properties mandate the recurrence of certain designs and patterns. Once even the very simplest replicating systems appear, they are then subject to forces of selection that drive up complexity through a number of mechanisms.

    In any replicating system, complexity demands neither design or a designer, neither does it occur from random mash ups of molecules or "luck." Complexity is in fact mandated by the pressures placed on the system and constraints built into matter.

    The "too complex for spontaneous generation" argument has been addressed any number of times (including by Darwin), but in recent years Richard Dawkins has done a fine job of demonstrating the difference between randomness and (undirected, but far from random) evolution.

    I'd recommend a quick look at the weasel program as an example.

    Paley, by the way, was not an adamant anti-evolutionist, but merely expressing what seemed to him the best argument in a world where natural selection was not yet understood.

    •  Indeed (1+ / 0-)
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      Mark Sumner

      The simple statement, z -> z² + c, applied until |z| is out of a bounding box and with the steps needed to diverge counted, yields this, and other seemingly countless depths of complexity.

      Simple rules, applied once, always lead to simple results.  However, simple rules applied iteratively can lead to all kinds of mind-bogglingly amazing complexity.

      My favorite, BTW, is the Mandelbox (examples with different parameters and render settings: 1, 2, 3, 4).  The concept that what's basically just a piecewise, 3d version of the Mandelbrot equation could produce such incredible complexity... blows the mind, doesn't?  I'd even argue that it's internal subjective beauty rivals anything that nature could produce.

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