Evolution is bigger than biology???!

Pete Levinthal petelev at convex.com
Fri Nov 1 14:26:02 EST 1991

I posted:

      Also, if we're thinking big (though this may be too much for
      bionet.molbio), let's think about describing human driven evolution
      such as that of economic and political systems.

I apologize if anyone interpreted this as a putdown.  I didn't intend it
that way at all.  What I meant was that the general topic of evolution as a
system might be *beyond the scope* of bionet.molbio (being a biology 

Thanks for the reference to extra-biological evolution. 

> L. Moran:

> Pete, if you wish to include such ideas in your DEFINITION of evolution
> then let's see a clear statement from you to that effect. Then we can
> discuss whether it is reasonable. Are you saying that the evolution
> of societal behaviour is an example of biological evolution? Are you
> claiming that climatic changes are examples of biological evolution?

My position is that evolution is a metaphor for describing changes over large
periods of time which has one manifestation in the realm of biology.

Therefore, evolution of societal behaviour may contain similar patterns as
biological evolution.  They have different low level mechanisms, but both 
contain modes of transfer, differentiation, and survival.

Global climate is a system which changes over time, moving energy and matter
between physical locations and forms.  In the sense of evolution, it has
changed over time, adapting itself to the available resources.

Neither of the above are examples of biological evolution, but rather of
general evolution.  Nevertheless, since they all are taking place 
simultaneously they interrelate and affect each other.

An example of this interrelation is the evolution of the effects of the 
Carbon Dioxide <-> Oxygen relationship on living organisms (biology) and
the earth's climate (meteorology).  Another example is the evolutionary state
of our industrial society which is having a strong effect on biological and
climatic evolution.

So.....There are multiple tracks for evolution.  There is the local
(biological, societal, climatic, geologic, ...) path, as well as higher levels
where these trails cross and merge.  The highest level is what we see
day-to-day, or what we could see if we merged our data for genetic, fossil, 
geologic, archeological, etc...

Most of these ideas come from the work of Allen Wilson, and from conversations
with evolutionary biologists and semioticians at Purdue (with my own
interpretations and probable misconceptions :)

My greatest interest lies in linguistic evolution.  Since so much good work 
has been done with genetic/biological evolution, I try to learn as much as I 
can about it, and borrow ideas.  I feel that by building a higher level 
framework for describing evolution all disciplines can benefit.



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