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evolution of 'atomic' instincts

Paul Barton-Davis pauld at cs.washington.edu
Thu Sep 19 11:43:45 EST 1991

In article <9109191436.AA05835 at arsun.anthro.utah.edu> rogers at ANTHRO.UTAH.EDU (Alan R. Rogers) writes:
>> How is the evolution of 'atomic' instincts explained?
>> By 'atomic' instinct, I mean a complex instinctual
>> behaviour such as constructing a beehive.  The initial
>> advantageous mutation must be how close to the fixed
>> evolution-selected instinct?  
>> ...
>This argument goes back at least as far as a 19th century book, Natural
>Theology, by William Paley.  It is made most often with respect to the
>vertebrate eye, which is claimed to be useless until fully developed.  That
>argument is not convincing any more, because comparative morphologists have
>discovered a whole series of functional eyes ranging from simple spots of
>light sensitive pigment through eyes like yours and mine.  Another favorite
>is the elephant's trunk.  

And for an even more recent example, not involving organic life, you
might note Thomas Ray's work with "artificial life". If you want more
info, take a look on comp.theory.cell-automata. Ray has seen the
evolution of the compiler optimization of "unrolling the loop", which
also has all the problems of these "atomic" attributes: the unrolled
loop is useless until completely formed (or so it would appear). I
don't think that Ray has watched the progressive evolution of this
"genotype", but I am certain that his work will prove to be the
fountain of a lot of wisdom on this kind of thing, even if only by
suggesting biological analogy.

-- paul

Paul Barton-Davis	 | I am bored prefixing everything I say with "I think" 
UW CS Lab		 | or "in my opinion". Everything I say is my opinion; 
pauld at cs.washington.edu	 | the only thing of which I am certain is that there 
+1 206 543 0377		 | is very little of which one can be certain.

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