Evolution is Driven by Attrition not Optimization: 1

One of biggest piece of bullshit popularized by popular psychology, evolutionary psychology and delusional academics is that evolution is driven by optimization. But is it true? If you look at evolution as it has occurred, in both the biological and technological milieu, one nasty truth becomes evident.

Evolution is driven by attrition, which is often random. It is not about survival of the fittest, but the luckiest.

Optimizations at best provide more cannon fodder for attrition. Let me give you a few examples..

Trilobites: This group of creatures survived for a very long time (about 300 million years), and were fairly diverse.

Trilobites (pronounced traɪləˌbaɪt, meaning “three lobes”) are a well-known fossil group of extinct marine arthropods that form the class Trilobita. Trilobites first appear in the fossil record during the Early Cambrian period, 540 million years ago, and flourished throughout the lower Paleozoic era before beginning a drawn-out decline to extinction when, during the Devonian, all trilobite orders, with the sole exception of Proetida, died out. Trilobites finally disappeared in the mass extinction at the end of the Permian about 250 million years ago.

Trilobites had many life styles; some moved over the sea-bed as predators, scavengers or filter feeders and some swam, feeding on plankton. Most life styles expected of modern marine arthropods are seen in trilobites, except for parasitism. Some trilobites (particularly the family Olenida) are even thought to have evolved a symbiotic relationship with sulfur-eating bacteria from which they derived food.

But they died out in great Permian–Triassic extinction event. Curiously another group occupying a similar environment survived.

Nautilus: Note that they are far less robust, less diverse and more fragile than trilobites. Heck, they even evolved less..

Nautilus (from Greek ναυτίλος, ‘sailor’) is the common name of marine creatures of cephalopod family Nautilidae, the sole extant family of suborder Nautilina. It comprises six species in two genera, the type of which is genus Nautilus. Though it more specifically refers to species Nautilus pompilius, the name chambered nautilus is also used for any species of the Nautilidae. Having survived relatively unchanged for millions of years, nautiluses represent the only living members of the subclass Nautiloidea, and are often considered “living fossils.”

Fossil records indicate that nautiluses have not evolved much during the last 500 million years. Many were initially straight-shelled, as in the extinct genus Lituites. They developed in the Cambrian period and became a significant sea predator in the Ordovician period. Certain species reached over 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) in size. The other cephalopod subclass, Coleoidea, diverged from the Nautilidae long ago and the nautilus has remained relatively unchanged since. Extinct relatives of the nautilus include ammonites, such as the baculites and goniatites. Nautiloids were much more extensive and varied 200 million years ago.

So what is it? Evolutionary adaptation/ optimization? In that scenario, the trilobites win hands down. They evolved and once literally covered the ocean floor of shallow seas and oceans, and swam in them. Some argue that they were dying out, but that is speculation. The objective fact is that the ‘P-T event’ wiped them out, ALL of them. So why are they dead and the Nautilus alive. Luck?

  1. Russel
    February 24, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Luck is no small thing. Better to be lucky than almost anything else.

    Evolution looks like it selects for consciousness, specifically quantum consciousness (which would show up as luck). Too cheesy and new-agey for the science types, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

  2. the dude
    February 25, 2010 at 3:15 am

    wiped out here and there, but still the entailing selection process is Darwinian

    Depends on the species..

  1. August 11, 2011 at 1:00 am
  2. October 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm
  3. October 11, 2011 at 5:41 pm
  4. May 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm
  5. August 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm

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