Metaphors for Evolution
jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Mon Apr 5 21:46:49 CDT 2004
At 12:45 2004-04-05, Richard Pyle wrote:
>In the case of the forked river, there are "discrete" molecules of H20,
>which maintain physical consistency throughout their journey from the fork
>to the disparate destinations. There is a clean and simple way to map the
>"lineages" of the water pathway -- a water molecule went by either one path,
What about water molecules that evaporate from one watershed and
precipitate on another? Or that enter the water table and flow as springs
into another? These are common occurrences.
>But the paths of evolution are not traveled by matter. Any
>particular physical substance only participates in teeny, tiny sections of
>the path. So when we speak of evolving life, what we're really talking
>about is the (imperfect) transference of information.
>The only thing that
>connects us to our grandparents, or to the most recent common ancestor that
>we share with chimps and orangutans, or to the 90%+ of non-human cells that
>inhabit our bodies -- is intangible information.
I think "intangible" is here a value judgement. Sure, we can't physically
touch it, but there are a lot of things we can't physically touch.
>The best metaphor I know of for evolution is a variant of that old
>grade-school game where one student whispers a short story to the next
The copying of manuscripts in Medieval European and west Asian monasteries
followed a similar pattern, and the people who study those manuscripts use
techniques that are similar to the ones used by evolutionists.
Curtis Clark http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
Web Coordinator, Cal Poly Pomona +1 909 979 6371
Professor, Biological Sciences +1 909 869 4062
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