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Computer Model of Evolution

Robert K Knight robert at selway.umt.edu
Sat Nov 9 22:02:27 EST 1996


In article <32851a13.0 at news.iea.net>,
Steve McGrew <stevem at comtch.iea.com> wrote:
>I've been looking for help in designing a software model of evolution that 
>might be useful for testing some of the ideas in evolutionary theory, and for 
>teaching the principles of evolution to students in grades 8 through 12.  
>
>I thought a genetic algorithm all by itself was a pretty good model, but got 
>pretty unanimous contrary opinions from folks in the biology field.  I don't 
>think the objection is that software *can't* model evolution, but that so far 
>it hasn't.
>
>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.  [and please don't 
>say it has to accurately model biochemistry!  This needs to be a *simplified* 
>model that retains the important features of the system it is modeling.]
>

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.

Assign a 'cost' to each trait... say in terms of reproductive rate.

Then you could add environmental parameters which will favor certain
traits over time: available resources, mutagens, temperature extremes,
etc.

If you allow a small number of your population to
randomly lose, shift (in the case of temperature tolerance), enhance 
or gain traits, you should have a statistical analysis which can indicate
evolutionary development and that will be intuitive to the average school
child. 

Good luck, sounds like a great project.  And let me know what you come up
with.

R.





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