How evolution operates or unfolds has something to do with whether a person believes life has been engineered or designed. An engineer seeks ways to make things work that will involve the least number of parts, the lowest cost and the greatest efficiency. Efficiency is often defined as low maintenance and long life.
When an artist creates, the process is often characterized by a seeking to establish novel patterns using alternative or unique processes. Efficiency is less important than what has not been done before. There is a desire to break barriers and to apply principles established in one area to a new area unfamiliar with those principles. The creative process is often characterized by suggesting connections where connections are not obvious. There is often a deep desire to perceive and express universality.
The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins subscribes to Occam’s razor, proclaiming that the simplest solutions are those that will naturally emerge. Systems will reduce themselves to the easiest ways to accomplish goals within the confines of their environment, and those are the ones that will most likely survive. Wikipedia notes that Occam’s razor reflects a “hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities.” Less is more.
The physicist Murray Gell-Mann has described seeking solutions to puzzles in physics by looking for answers that are beautiful or elegant. Einstein was known to suggest that a particular explanation was too beautiful to be wrong. In physics, beauty and elegance are often seen as the same thing. Though Occam’s razor seems in play, a solution seems to need to manifest a certain universal symmetry or connection to a larger environment, as if designed by a single sensibility.
It’s not just about less is more; it’s also about everything being connected.
Whereas Gell-Mann’s or Einstein’s physics suggests a search for elegance born of interlocking symmetries inside a universal frame, Dawkins and the Neo-Darwinians, the evolutionary psychologists, prefer to find answers revolving around the simplest explanations. No interconnections necessary.
Because Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star delights and entertains with a single melodic thread does not mean Beethoven’s Ninth is unnecessarily redundant.
A physicist intuits that the universe was created and operates through interlinking laws that operate at the smallest and largest scales, across all phenomena. Evolutionary biologists like Dawkins and philosophers like Daniel Dennett proclaim the achievement of universality in their explanations without intuition for how interlocking symmetries engage. Darwin’s theory of natural selection promoted as the sole evolutionary process is a little like saying all that exists has mass, and leaving it at that. Of course. But natural selection is but the beginning of theorizing how life evolves. Natural selection alone is not beautiful; it is only simple. Neo-Darwinians confuse the universality of death either before or after procreation with elegance and subtlety. It is an engineer’s interpretation of how things work.
Darwin was not an engineer. He devised three separate theories of evolution. Only the first immediately caught on. He died unable to find a way to integrate the three. Darwin knew it was not simple.
Evolutionary developmental biologists are integrating epigenetic solutions into an evolutionary biological equation that is revealing symmetries and universalities at least as elegant and interconnecting as the theories of Gell-Man and Einstein. Formerly rejected nineteenth century explanations that explored the rates and timing of maturation and development, work by Mivart, Cope, Hyatt, Haeckel and others, are being addressed in new ways as the environment is noted as integral to ontogeny as genetic triggers assimilate surrounding context.
Universality is intuited by physicists as integral to any understanding. This is what makes the outcomes “beautiful.” Evolutionary biologists are struggling to emerge from a paradigm that equates universality with simplicity. The discipline is only beginning to understand that life has been designed with the same intuition for interconnection as has physics. There are patterns within patterns to be explored.