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Computer Model of Evolution

Steve McGrew stevem at comtch.iea.com
Sun Nov 10 11:53:12 EST 1996


In article <563gk3$cjf at server.umt.edu>, robert at selway.umt.edu (Robert K Knight) wrote:
>In article <32851a13.0 at news.iea.net>,
>Steve McGrew <stevem at comtch.iea.com> wrote:

>>So, I'd like to hear opinions on the *essential* features a software model 
>>will need to have, in order to give experts in the field some confidence that 
>>its behavior will be usefully similar to natural evolution.
>
>There are about a million ways that I can think of approaching this
>project.  Here are a couple of thoughts:
>
>Start with a generic organism with a list of specific heritable traits...
>Such as temperature tolerance, ability to metabolize simple or complex
>molecules, genetic fidelity, ability to photosynthesize, etc. [snip]

Okay, that would be pretty easy to do, and it would be a useful teaching 
tool--- but would it be useful to evolutionary biologists, and would it be 
able to give answers to questions that do not currently have clear answers?  

Maybe it would be better perhaps to start below the phenotype level and show 
that temperature tolerance (for example) can emerge when there is not a 
specific gene for it.

I keep seeing arguments to the effect that nobody has shown how new genes can 
arise via recombination and mutation.  I suspect that  those arguments 
mostly come from a failure to distinguish between genes and phenotypic 
features.  For example, there is not an "ear" gene or an "eye" gene. Genes 
only  control synthesis of proteins, and it takes a lot of different proteins 
to build a body part.  It is immediately obvious how a new protein can arise 
from mutation and recombination acting on DNA, but not so obvious to most 
people how mutations & recombinations at the gene level can result in the 
evolution of a wing or eyeball.  

Once this software is finished, I don't want anyone to accuse it of being a 
sleight-of-hand trick!


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