Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby qetzal » Sat May 11, 2013 12:51 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Oh my, I never thought of this. That makes things a lot more interesting. Would the claim "adaptation of the species" have to be removed from the description of evolution, if it really means something else in the instance of bacteria/etc?


Evolution isn't really about adaptation of species per se. It's about adaptation of populations. A species is one type of population, but not the only type. We could abandon the term and concept of species, which is somewhat arbitrary anyway, and not really change anything at all about the theory of evolution.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat May 11, 2013 1:25 pm UTC

Yeah, for those of us who understand that there's not a gap between "microevolution" and "macroevolution", the divisions between different species (and genera and on up the tree) are mere naming conventions which are useful primarily as a matter of communicative convenience. In a collection of organisms, if there are two subsets which each have a much more recent common ancestor than exists between the subsets, it's often convenient to describe them as distinct populations. If they reproduce sexually but cannot or do not interbreed when in close proximity, we usually refer to them as different species or subspecies, whereas if the populations merge together when they're in proximity, we'd talk about them as a single species, but there is nothing inherent in the objective reality of the situation that requires the distinction to be made.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat May 11, 2013 5:46 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Thanks, I asked if you see things as ever reaching an equilibrium, did I say which answer I was expecting? Again, you guessed what my implications must be, instead of asking. I only asked if evolution, environments and their interactions can reach equilibrium. Did you assume I was suggesting they cannot? If there is any change in the environment, and if the life has any changes, then I don't see how it could ever reach a complete stand still. It would be necessary for life to be able to adapt to small changes through some mechanism (here it is evolution).

Will you assume I'm disagreeing when ever I ask a question?
...? I asked you to clarify why you asked about equilibrium, and provided you with information about what I thought you may be asking about. The above was your reply.
Technical Ben wrote:Thanks, that was generally the idea of the thought experiment I proposed. Only as something we could consider as a "test" on how our ideas match observation or how we can define complexity. Start with a broad brush, then work our way to a better result. :)
Argh! What is the thought experiment you proposed? How do you propose your ideas match, or don't match, the observations? We have been having a discussion about the definition of complexity; you have presented zero contributions or contentions to it, so... what are you doing?
Technical Ben wrote:Would the claim "adaptation of the species" have to be removed from the description of evolution, if it really means something else in the instance of bacteria/etc?
No; there are clear and sufficient definitions of species, I (and maybe some people here too) simply don't know it. See how we stated as much?
Asexually reproducing species still adapt to a given niche; they are subject to selection pressures. They simply lack sexual reproduction as a method for increasing variation.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Technical Ben » Sun May 12, 2013 8:13 am UTC

Izawwlgood, it was not necessarily you who was guessing at my thoughts. But I see others do. As to the question, it was asking if life can ever reach an equilibrium, I think the answer is not just "no", but possibly "never"? Life that does not posses a mechanism to fit it's environment cannot survive, can it?

The thought experiment was asking if we include a generation as part of the environment, can we ever state the "animal + environment" system gets simpler in the next step? The trend of the system seems to be to complexity just as the trend of some particles in a box is to entropy. Each generation of animal adds a new phenotype to the environment and a new selective pressure for the animal. As the number of selective pressures is increasing, the selection is also more complex, right? A simple creature requires a few (or overlapping) set of selection pressures. I don't see how any complexity can arise with, say, just one or two selective pressures, as we would get just 1 or 2 phenotypes (thus less complex than an environment with 2+ selective pressures etc).

No; there are clear and sufficient definitions of species, I (and maybe some people here too) simply don't know it.

Sorry, is that a typo? I'm not following you here. We are having a discussion about species and evolution without checking first? I'll go read up on the differences between definitions in sexual and asexual evolution then. As said, it was my mistake not to think about how these things are different with single celled organisms. That's my fault there. So I'll need to correct my understanding on it.

Hence my questions. We may argue if Pluto fits the definition of "planet", and realize "planet" is poorly defined and move on to something more productive. Or go back and get a better definition. :)

If the likes of bacteria just moves from one state to another, should I not be able to see such vast changes? How far can I push such changes in the lab, through mutation only (random or directed, so as to speed up the process)?
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby tomandlu » Sun May 12, 2013 8:52 am UTC

doogly wrote:
qetzal wrote:You seemed to tacitly agree with that, since you agreed that an octopus is more complex than an E. coli.

I agree that this is not nonsense, and that this sense of relative complexity can inspire you to search for an actual functional definition.


I would tentatively define complexity as the number of systems employed by the organism.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby douglasm » Sun May 12, 2013 1:57 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Each generation of animal adds a new phenotype to the environment and a new selective pressure for the animal.

And each new generation comes as time passes, and another old generation dies off from age and/or attrition, removing a selection pressure.

New generations may change the set of active selection pressures, but they don't necessarily result in a net increase.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby tomandlu » Sun May 12, 2013 2:01 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:
doogly wrote:
qetzal wrote:You seemed to tacitly agree with that, since you agreed that an octopus is more complex than an E. coli.

I agree that this is not nonsense, and that this sense of relative complexity can inspire you to search for an actual functional definition.


I would tentatively define complexity as the number of systems employed by the organism.


Thinking about it, it would probably be better to define it at the level of the genome as the number of active sequences.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun May 12, 2013 2:35 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:As to the question, it was asking if life can ever reach an equilibrium, I think the answer is not just "no", but possibly "never"? Life that does not posses a mechanism to fit it's environment cannot survive, can it?
That's why I was asking what you meant by equilibrium, and included an example of how one type of equilibrium can be reached. Did you click on the link I provided, or read the summary of it? Can you answer the question now and tell me what you meant by equilibrium? Here it is again in case you're confused.
Technical Ben wrote:The thought experiment was asking if we include a generation as part of the environment, can we ever state the "animal + environment" system gets simpler in the next step?
Are you asking if evolution happens on the level of the present individual? Are you asking if it's possible for evolution to drive towards 'simpler'? I daresay if you are asking the latter, you haven't been paying attention to the entire discussion being had on complexity. You seem to be still circling around the fact that you don't understand what 'complexity' means, nor at what level evolution occurs.
Technical Ben wrote:Sorry, is that a typo? I'm not following you here. We are having a discussion about species and evolution without checking first? I'll go read up on the differences between definitions in sexual and asexual evolution then. As said, it was my mistake not to think about how these things are different with single celled organisms. That's my fault there. So I'll need to correct my understanding on it.
It was not a typo, but it was taken sans context; Let me repost the sentence, context included, and let me know if you still have an issue with it.
Izawwlgood wrote:No; there are clear and sufficient definitions of species for asexual organisms, I (and maybe some people here too) simply don't know it.
Context matters Ben, and yes, you should familiarize yourself with the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction insofar as evolution is concerned if you want to continue this debate.
Technical Ben wrote:If the likes of bacteria just moves from one state to another, should I not be able to see such vast changes? How far can I push such changes in the lab, through mutation only (random or directed, so as to speed up the process)?
Pretty far evidently, to link this study for the like, 10th time. There is of course a limit. I don't really understand your question though; we do see vast changes. Bacteria aren't all the same, in fact, using the powers of observation, we can even tell them apart. Are you familiar with MRSA? Or the seasonal flu? Do you understand why I'm pointing them out?

tomandlu wrote:Thinking about it, it would probably be better to define it at the level of the genome as the number of active sequences.
We went over this already; the number of protein coding genes in an organism are a pretty poor indicator of how complex it is, unless you think tomatoes are more 'complex' than we are.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby doogly » Sun May 12, 2013 4:58 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:
doogly wrote:
qetzal wrote:You seemed to tacitly agree with that, since you agreed that an octopus is more complex than an E. coli.

I agree that this is not nonsense, and that this sense of relative complexity can inspire you to search for an actual functional definition.


I would tentatively define complexity as the number of systems employed by the organism.


We have a precise technical definition of system to use for this?
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun May 12, 2013 5:10 pm UTC

Organs! Number of stations available on local cable! Ability to navigate bureaucracies!
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby tomandlu » Sun May 12, 2013 6:22 pm UTC

doogly wrote:
tomandlu wrote:
doogly wrote:
qetzal wrote:You seemed to tacitly agree with that, since you agreed that an octopus is more complex than an E. coli.

I agree that this is not nonsense, and that this sense of relative complexity can inspire you to search for an actual functional definition.


I would tentatively define complexity as the number of systems employed by the organism.


We have a precise technical definition of system to use for this?


Maybe number of distinct areas of non-contiguous function? I dunno - it's always going to be vague. The natural world doesn't draw any distinction - it's a concept we can choose to impose or not. But, as others have said (maybe you?), we can recognise that a human is more complex than a microbe - "Though no man can draw a stroke between the confines of day and night, yet light and darkness are upon the whole tolerably distinguishable" - the boundary is always going to be fuzzy, but that doesn't invalidate the distinction.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby tomandlu » Sun May 12, 2013 6:24 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
tomandlu wrote:Thinking about it, it would probably be better to define it at the level of the genome as the number of active sequences.
We went over this already; the number of protein coding genes in an organism are a pretty poor indicator of how complex it is, unless you think tomatoes are more 'complex' than we are.


Well, our genome is doing something more complex than a tomato's - whatever that is, does it really avoid definition?
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun May 12, 2013 7:40 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:
Izawwlgood wrote:
tomandlu wrote:Thinking about it, it would probably be better to define it at the level of the genome as the number of active sequences.
We went over this already; the number of protein coding genes in an organism are a pretty poor indicator of how complex it is, unless you think tomatoes are more 'complex' than we are.


Well, our genome is doing something more complex than a tomato's - whatever that is, does it really avoid definition?
I mean, our genome is doing *many* things that are more complex, but truthfully, I have no idea if plants do a number of really complex things; I do know that polyploidy is pretty common in a lot of plants, and I cannot really wrap my head around how that doesn't just make life explode. The point is, saying 'more genes that code for protein' isn't really that compelling, neither is 'more genes that code for something', neither is 'more information per bit of genome'. Some viruses have insanely compacted genomes, and manage to do some shockingly complex things with it, like coding overlap and protein synthesis regulation via promoter binding site 'wobble'.

I'm not trying to be argumentative here, I'm just trying to draw attention to the fact that the answer is pretty complicated, and in terms of defining 'complexity', your suggestion isn't as concise as a first glance would suggest.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby doogly » Sun May 12, 2013 8:41 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote: But, as others have said (maybe you?), we can recognise that a human is more complex than a microbe - "Though no man can draw a stroke between the confines of day and night, yet light and darkness are upon the whole tolerably distinguishable" - the boundary is always going to be fuzzy, but that doesn't invalidate the distinction.

You can measure luminosity though, it is strictly quantifiable. If you wanted to make measurements on light you would determine that maybe luminosity is going to work a lot better than this vague night/day notion you started with. Does something real and quantifiable emerge after investigating the vague notion of "complexity?"

I did not say a human is more complex than a microbe, I said it was not prima facie ridiculous to think so. That is my strongest endorsement.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Technical Ben » Sun May 12, 2013 8:59 pm UTC

Izawwlgood, the link you provided on equilibrium is decades above my head. I don't speak that language, but that does not mean I could not understand the concepts if explained. Thanks. :)
Does the link suggest each generation is the "same", or that there is variation within a specific bounds (but "stable")? I guess I could look at the maths involved, but if it starts at that level, I'd be a bit stuck on my own with it.

I daresay if you are asking the latter, you haven't been paying attention to the entire discussion being had on complexity. You seem to be still circling around the fact that you don't understand what 'complexity' means, nor at what level evolution occurs.

Either an individual and/or the group changes the environment around them. Either there are other individuals/groups in the environment or there are not. Assuming the environment is change and there are other groups, I can only see a trend to complexity for any definition of complexity you/others choose. A system of "a only" is less complex than a system of "a and b" as far as I can tell, irrespective of the nuance of the definition of complexity. Is an animal/group going to have selection pressure that requires more complexity or less complexity to fit the environment "a and b" compared to "a only"? We can simplify the environment, with a sudden catastrophic event, but the trend is upwards without these.

Or is there an argument for a trend to simplicity? I can imagine that life takes the simplest solution. But that does not seem to be a constant trend, as it has a specific lower bound to it's limit. Besides, we don't see life getting simpler, do we?

Context matters Ben, and yes, you should familiarize yourself with the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction insofar as evolution is concerned if you want to continue this debate.

Thanks I will do, as said, it's a new concept to me. How have evolutionist looked at it in the past, as it was "the origin of species"? I'll go see what I can find out. I really hope though that others also realise context is important, as I've seen no end throw it out the window here for there own arguments. :(

There is of course a limit.

Thanks. This is all I'm asking. As a theory without limits is rather hard to apply, prove, disprove or accept. Seeing bacteria become sponges, or sponges become starfish is the thing I've not yet seen. This is not a "macro versus micro" this is a "one person winning the lottery versus everyone winning". Each step is a low probability, but considered reasonable as "one person winning". However those asking me to understand evolution are asking for "the ancestor winning each time", what are the chances of subsequent lottery winners ancestors also winnowing a draw in their lifetime?

The reason I ask, is because if those arguing for evolution cannot describe complexity and how it's required/trending upwards, then how can they ask me to accept larger claims? Especially when I'm handing them a possible proof on a plate from my own understating...

Can we define complexity as the amount of uncompressable data? Like you would in software? If it can be compressed into a 64kb zip file, it's not a "complex" program? :P
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Tchebu » Sun May 12, 2013 9:23 pm UTC

Complexity in the environment doesn't require complexity in the adaptations to it. The best way to live is pretty much "eat a lot and reproduce quickly" as evidenced by the vast dominance of primitive single-celled organisms. Doesn't matter how complex the environment is, if you can make babies faster than the environment kills them, you're good. What complexity of the environment does is allow for complexity of the organisms by allowing deviations from this primitive strategy through clever use of the new elements of the environment, but it by no means requires it.

Besides, we don't see life getting simpler, do we?

The dog tumor example brought up earlier is exactly that. Also vestigial organs are a less extreme example of that.

This is not a "macro versus micro" this is a "one person winning the lottery versus everyone winning". Each step is a low probability, but considered reasonable as "one person winning". However those asking me to understand evolution are asking for "the ancestor winning each time", what are the chances of subsequent lottery winners ancestors also winnowing a draw in their lifetime?


If everyone keeps playing, eventually everyone will win. But more relevantly, you're completely neglecting the 99% of "losers" of evolution which are the extinct species that have ever lived. Having 1% of your "players" win over the course of 3.5 billion years doesn't seem unreasonable...
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Technical Ben » Sun May 12, 2013 10:00 pm UTC

I'd probably consider anything not forbidden as required here. :P
Such that, if the environment does not forbid complexity, then it's a requirement for life to be complex so as to fit the environment the "best". As selection will select for the best fit, life will always get more complex. Right? That is, assuming our environment is complex (it's not all the same).

The dog tumor example brought up earlier is exactly that. Also vestigial organs are a less extreme example of that.

Can the dog tumor exist without dogs? No, so it's "Dog+tumor", it's a more complex system. As to vestigial organs, that's an interesting point. I would depend if the function is completely lost, or it's just deactivated. Is a whale less complex or more complex than a manatee or a hippo? It's lost some things, but is it absent of gains?

There are examples of cave fish, but as mentioned above, I'm not certain if they loose the functions completely on the gene level, or if given selective pressure, can regain them. An animal that can adapt in such a way, but regain the functions when needed later (say a population migrates out of the caves and selection reactivates the eye genes), would be more complex or less complex?

If everyone keeps playing, eventually everyone will win. But more relevantly, you're completely neglecting the 99% of "losers" of evolution which are the extinct species that have ever lived. Having 1% of your "players" win over the course of 3.5 billion years doesn't seem unreasonable...

I've continued this line of discussion in the other thread. But as said, it's reasonable to expect a win, it's not reasonable to expect the lottery winners children to then win, is it? There is no affinity to lottery wins are there?

For an example of complexity, we could consider a petry dish with some bacteria in. In the first it's just got food, and we isolate every bacterium so it's alone, is there any selective pressure? In the second we allow the bacteria to multiply and interact with each other. Is there now selective pressure? We have a state where we get no selective pressure, and one we where we do. Would the bacteria in the first example trend to simplicity or complexity, and what about those in the second?
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby qetzal » Sun May 12, 2013 10:26 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:if those arguing for evolution cannot describe complexity and how it's required/trending upwards, then how can they ask me to accept larger claims?


Once more, with four part harmony and feeling: EVOLUTION DOES NOT REQUIRE INCREASING COMPLEXITY!

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Tchebu » Sun May 12, 2013 10:36 pm UTC

But "more complex" isn't actually "best". As I said, the best way to dominate the biosphere is to be a fungus or something... But if you're not a fungus you can still do okay enough to make viable offspring, you'll just never make as many as a fungus would, neither in numbers nor even by mass.

Can the dog tumor exist without dogs? No, so it's "Dog+tumor", it's a more complex system.


Only in the same sense as "fish+water" is a more complex system. The organism itself is actually less complex, but yes it requires the specific environment in which it can thrive to actually thrive. The fact that that environment happens to be another organism doesn't matter. Otherwise by this token viruses are the most complicated things there are...

But as said, it's reasonable to expect a win, it's not reasonable to expect the lottery winners children to then win, is it? There is no affinity to lottery wins are there?


With life "winning" happens to mean "pass on the things that let you win to your child", so in that case yes it's perfectly reasonable to expect the child to win.

But even if we have random survival criteria without adaptation... suppose every generation 10% of the population wins the lottery and you shoot the rest and make the remaining ones make 10 babies, just so we don't go extinct. Do this for 100 generations and you have a population of people who have had 100 generations of ancestors win the lottery. You look at the chances of 100 consecutive wins and go "zomg how unprobable..." but given your selection mechanism it's inevitable that you're only left with only 100 time lottery winner lineages, even though no adaptation or change in complexity happened to accommodate that selection mechanism.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby speising » Sun May 12, 2013 10:45 pm UTC

not sure, in larry niven's known space universe, they used a similar mechanism to produce really lucky people.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun May 12, 2013 11:38 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:the link you provided on equilibrium is decades above my head. I don't speak that language, but that does not mean I could not understand the concepts if explained. Thanks. :)
In the previous thread on evolution, I suggested you look into programs that simulate variability. Many of them do that by playing with the parameters of Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. They do this by grossly simplifying what we're looking at, and calculate the probability of allelic frequency in a population if you assign the starting frequencies (ratio of AA, Aa, aa), and the fitness of each genotype (e.g., AA - 1, Aa - .8 aa - .75). The reason I provided the link that explains Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, is because YOU made a comment about equilibrium of life, and I asked you what you were asking about. Which you still haven't answered.
Technical Ben wrote:Does the link suggest each generation is the "same", or that there is variation within a specific bounds (but "stable")? I guess I could look at the maths involved, but if it starts at that level, I'd be a bit stuck on my own with it.
No, see above; also, do you know 'where' evolution is taking place? Because I thought we've been over this; it's not taking place at the individual, or at a given generation. It takes place at reproduction, particularly, at the survival of the subsequent generation. Individuals do not evolve. Current generations do not evolve. And you don't need to understand the math, truthfully; it's just a way of looking at the allelic frequency in a population. If you don't know what 'allele' means, please look it up before responding.
Technical Ben wrote:Either an individual and/or the group changes the environment around them. Either there are other individuals/groups in the environment or there are not.
These two sentences don't have anything to do with one another, and I'm not sure what you're getting at with 'change the environment'. I'm changing the environment right now sitting on my couch breathing and perspiring; what's your point?
Technical Ben wrote:Or is there an argument for a trend to simplicity? I can imagine that life takes the simplest solution. But that does not seem to be a constant trend, as it has a specific lower bound to it's limit. Besides, we don't see life getting simpler, do we?
Why are you asking this? We've been talking now for about 4 pages about how 'simple' and 'complex' are very poor terms to use to describe life. Have you ignored the entire discussion?
Technical Ben wrote:Thanks. This is all I'm asking. As a theory without limits is rather hard to apply, prove, disprove or accept. Seeing bacteria become sponges, or sponges become starfish is the thing I've not yet seen. This is not a "macro versus micro" this is a "one person winning the lottery versus everyone winning". Each step is a low probability, but considered reasonable as "one person winning". However those asking me to understand evolution are asking for "the ancestor winning each time", what are the chances of subsequent lottery winners ancestors also winnowing a draw in their lifetime?
We went over this; it is feasible that a cat will eventually evolve into a hagfishes 'jawless eel body plan', but calling it, at that point, a hagfish, would be a misnomer. And you are forgetting the fact that the vast majority of mutations, individuals, and indeed, species, fail. We're not asking you to accept that all ancestors throughout all of time succeeded, we're pointing out that for everything alive today, it had an ancestor that succeeded.
Technical Ben wrote:The reason I ask, is because if those arguing for evolution cannot describe complexity and how it's required/trending upwards, then how can they ask me to accept larger claims? Especially when I'm handing them a possible proof on a plate from my own understating...
Again, no one is saying you CANNOT describe complexity, we are simply saying you should try and do so before you throw it around as a term. And please, again, stop assuming that you've handed anyone a possible proof of anything.
Technical Ben wrote:Can we define complexity as the amount of uncompressable data? Like you would in software? If it can be compressed into a 64kb zip file, it's not a "complex" program? :P
I brought up viruses earlier because they do some pretty cool stuff with 'compressing' their genome, insofar as having overlap of gene functions. Recombination is a thing too; a gene may be subunits A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, and protein 1, 2, and 3 is A, B, D/E, E/F, while protein 4 and 5 is A, D/F, and protein 6 is A, C/D, F. That's pretty complicated. So yeah, you could say some general things about genomic complexity, but it's still a kind of iffy metric.

I guess the ultimate point that we need to agree on is that 'complexity' is a multivariable term.

Technical Ben wrote:There are examples of cave fish, but as mentioned above, I'm not certain if they loose the functions completely on the gene level, or if given selective pressure, can regain them. An animal that can adapt in such a way, but regain the functions when needed later (say a population migrates out of the caves and selection reactivates the eye genes), would be more complex or less complex?
Cave fish are an interesting point; what happens is that because you remove the disadvantage of dysfunction in vision, over time, mutations that affect vision pop up, and simultaneously, reduce the energy development requirement of the animal so actually become selected FOR, instead of against. You can imagine that blindness outside a cave is quickly selected against. In a cave, what is occurring is that mutations that disrupt vision development occur, and because the animal spends less resources developing eyes, they persist.

AFAIK, they haven't LOST the genetic material for developing vision, those materials have simply accumulated a bunch of errors. If you could fix those errors, the fish would possibly/probably develop vision normally.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby dudiobugtron » Mon May 13, 2013 8:19 am UTC

speising wrote:not sure, in larry niven's known space universe, they used a similar mechanism to produce really lucky people.

There is a separate subforum for Science Fiction :P
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Spoiler:
They didn't really succeed.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Angua » Mon May 13, 2013 11:02 am UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:
speising wrote:not sure, in larry niven's known space universe, they used a similar mechanism to produce really lucky people.

There is a separate subforum for Science Fiction :P
Also:
Spoiler:
They didn't really succeed.

Spoiler:
They did. Just that the luck didn't rub off on to people who aren't them.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby ImagingGeek » Mon May 13, 2013 1:20 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:Well, our genome is doing something more complex than a tomato's - whatever that is, does it really avoid definition?

But is it? Humans have 18,000-23,000 genes; any particular cell type expresses between 5,000 and 6,000 of those genes. Tomatoes have over 30,000 genes (despite a smaller genome) and fewer cell types - meaning the average tomato cells is coordinating the transcription of a larger number of genes, and that the average tomato cell is incorporating a larger number of proteins into functional biochemical pathways. I'd say characterizing human genomes as more 'complex' is hubris at best - if we're going to equate things like genes numbers, size of biochemical pathways, and other semi-quantitative measures, as measures of complexity, the tomato wins out...

Bryan:

PS: tomato genome paper, if anyone wants it.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby tomandlu » Mon May 13, 2013 1:55 pm UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:
tomandlu wrote:Well, our genome is doing something more complex than a tomato's - whatever that is, does it really avoid definition?

if we're going to equate things like genes numbers, size of biochemical pathways, and other semi-quantitative measures, as measures of complexity, the tomato wins out...


So, would you say that there is no reasonable criteria for stating that a mammal is more complex than a tomato?
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby doogly » Mon May 13, 2013 2:11 pm UTC

It's possible you could come up with one, but so far nobody has demonstrated a consistently useful criterion for it.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon May 13, 2013 2:23 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:
ImagingGeek wrote:
tomandlu wrote:Well, our genome is doing something more complex than a tomato's - whatever that is, does it really avoid definition?
if we're going to equate things like genes numbers, size of biochemical pathways, and other semi-quantitative measures, as measures of complexity, the tomato wins out...
So, would you say that there is no reasonable criteria for stating that a mammal is more complex than a tomato?
There are plenty, it's just that they don't all agree with each other or with others of the relative complexity rankings we'd intuitively give of different organisms.

Note that I disagree with ImagingGeek's unspecified "other semi-quantitative measures", because of course there are many quantitative measures where mammals win out over tomatoes. In that same post, he mentions that the tomato genome is smaller than the human one, so even the flawed and oversimplistic "genome size" measure puts us as more complex.

I still think "non-redundant functional base pairs" is a reasonable definition of genetic complexity, though as I said before there's not necessarily any good reason to assume it will match up with our intuitions.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon May 13, 2013 2:44 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:I still think "non-redundant functional base pairs" is a reasonable definition of genetic complexity, though as I said before there's not necessarily any good reason to assume it will match up with our intuitions.
I would agree with this, but want to point out that determining what is functional might not be as simple as first pass would suggest.

Mammalian genetics is chock full of regulatory sequences that regulate regulatory sequences all the way on down. Which is to say, yes.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby ImagingGeek » Mon May 13, 2013 3:52 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:So, would you say that there is no reasonable criteria for stating that a mammal is more complex than a tomato?

To the contrary, I'd say that any measures of complexity are bound to be biased towards whatever people consider important, rather than being a truly objective measure.

gmalivuk wrote:Note that I disagree with ImagingGeek's unspecified "other semi-quantitative measures", because of course there are many quantitative measures where mammals win out over tomatoes. In that same post, he mentions that the tomato genome is smaller than the human one, so even the flawed and oversimplistic "genome size" measure puts us as more complex.

Hey, I wasn't trying to claim tomatoes are more complex, I was simply pointing out that tomatoes by many measures could be considered more complex. And since you don't like my tomato, I'll take your mammal and raise you an onion. Onions having a haploid genome size of between 6 and 15 Gbp depending on strain (our haploid genome is 3Gbp), and 60,000 to 150,000 genes...

Although, one could also argue that a species with a compact (i.e. more 'efficient') genome is more complex. Less waste & whatnot...

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby ahammel » Mon May 13, 2013 3:55 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Note that I disagree with ImagingGeek's unspecified "other semi-quantitative measures", because of course there are many quantitative measures where mammals win out over tomatoes. In that same post, he mentions that the tomato genome is smaller than the human one, so even the flawed and oversimplistic "genome size" measure puts us as more complex.
Tomatoes are weird in that respect, though. Plants in general have huge genomes.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Tchebu » Mon May 13, 2013 5:07 pm UTC

I think it's also important to distinguish between the different scales or levels on which we evaluate complexity if we're going to come up with a proper definition. At least part of the reason we intuitively think mammals are more complex than tomatoes is because mammals have visible moving parts and behavior patterns whereas a tomato plant is more or less stationary and doesn't seem to achieve any goal other than just being there, but the same comparison can be made a steam locomotive and a supercomputer running a weather forecast calculation... And if you showed someone from the early 19th century both of those objects and asked "what's more complex" the locomotive would definitely win.

Also, do we want the outputs of a system to have any bearing on our judgement of its complexity? What do we say about the complexity of things like rube goldberg machines?
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby ImagingGeek » Mon May 13, 2013 6:19 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:I think it's also important to distinguish between the different scales or levels on which we evaluate complexity if we're going to come up with a proper definition. At least part of the reason we intuitively think mammals are more complex than tomatoes is because mammals have visible moving parts

So do plants - it isn't via magic that they keep their leaves orientated towards the sun...

Tchebu wrote: and behavior patterns whereas a tomato plant is more or less stationary and doesn't seem to achieve any goal other than just being there

Living organisms don't have 'goals' aside from reproduction. And, as measured by either biomass of species numbers, plants are kicking animals not-so-proverbial asses.

Like I said before, a non-arbitrary definition of complexity is hard to come by; despite their best attempts neither scientists nor creationists have been able to do so. Even Dembsky, creationisms 'lead' mathematician, had to make up a measure (specified information), which aside from being based on some false assumptions, was also a 'calculation' he was unable to define in a way reproducible by others.

The concept of 'complexity' is inherently a subjective one. You say plants don't think; a plant (if it could somehow think), might point out that this makes it more complex, as its internal workings are sufficiently refined as to not need a guiding conciousness to make everything work properly, it has more internal workings (genes), etc.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby dudiobugtron » Mon May 13, 2013 8:31 pm UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:
Tchebu wrote: and behavior patterns whereas a tomato plant is more or less stationary and doesn't seem to achieve any goal other than just being there

Living organisms don't have 'goals' aside from reproduction.

That's certainly untrue. Reproduction is no more a 'goal' of living organisms than any other outcome they try to achieve. I like to think I have goals other than just reproduction - if not, then the definition of 'goal' needs to be changed so that I do. And there's nothing special about reproduction that makes it a 'goal' when other things aren't. It's just that living things that succeed in reproducing are much more likely to be alive or to have offspring alive in the future, which is why all of the things we see alive today are things that are good at reproducing.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Tchebu » Mon May 13, 2013 8:49 pm UTC

So do plants - it isn't via magic that they keep their leaves orientated towards the sun...


Certainly, but only if you stare at them carefully enough. That's my point, that the perceived complexity of something actually depends on the level of detail at which you study it. I don't think we actually disagree. At first glance plants certainly seem immobile and definitely are less mobile than animals. My claim is that this "first glance" is what our intuitive perception of plants being less complex than animals comes from, which makes it a rather terrible guide for making rigorous definitions.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon May 13, 2013 8:55 pm UTC

dudiobugtron wrote:
ImagingGeek wrote:
Tchebu wrote: and behavior patterns whereas a tomato plant is more or less stationary and doesn't seem to achieve any goal other than just being there

Living organisms don't have 'goals' aside from reproduction.

That's certainly untrue. Reproduction is no more a 'goal' of living organisms than any other outcome they try to achieve. I like to think I have goals other than just reproduction - if not, then the definition of 'goal' needs to be changed so that I do. And there's nothing special about reproduction that makes it a 'goal' when other things aren't. It's just that living things that succeed in reproducing are much more likely to be alive or to have offspring alive in the future, which is why all of the things we see alive today are things that are good at reproducing.
No, it is pretty true. If you want to be depressed about the futility of it all, take an Animal Behavior class, and you'll see how ALL behavior, from human to star fish, can be boiled down to 'females found it sexy', or 'increases the chances of making it to the point where females might find something sexy'. The advantage of knowing is that you are aware of the tendencies.

You sort of answered it yourself; things that are here today are here because they really dug the notion of reproducing. The only thing life really cares about is reproducing successfully, or getting to the point that it can reproduce successfully.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby chenille » Mon May 13, 2013 9:07 pm UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:And, as measured by either biomass of species numbers, plants are kicking animals not-so-proverbial asses.

Biomass sure, species numbers no. There's a lot more described animals than plants, and no indication that this is a great oversight on our part. Plants just don't seem to speciate to the same extent.

Izawwlgood wrote:If you want to be depressed about the futility of it all, take an Animal Behavior class, and you'll see how ALL behavior, from human to star fish, can be boiled down to 'females found it sexy', or 'increases the chances of making it to the point where females might find something sexy'.

Reproduction is not all about guys luring babes. Even if you're going to ignore asexual animals and ones that simply release gametes into the water, behaviors of female humans and starfish are some obvious exceptions you might want to consider.
Last edited by chenille on Mon May 13, 2013 9:29 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby Tchebu » Mon May 13, 2013 9:24 pm UTC

No, it is pretty true. If you want to be depressed about the futility of it all, take an Animal Behavior class, and you'll see how ALL behavior, from human to star fish, can be boiled down to 'females found it sexy', or 'increases the chances of making it to the point where females might find something sexy'. The advantage of knowing is that you are aware of the tendencies.


Reproductive success isn't a goal as much as it is a reason why certain other goals and desires exist in the minds of humans and animals. Not to mention side-effects like an affinity for studying math, which is far from the best way of getting laid nowadays... People don't go "I want to do X because it will get me babies", they go "I want to do X because I feel like it" and the reason they feel like it might be because feeling like it increased the reproductive success of their ancestors, but their brain activity still encodes "I just wanna do X" not "I want to reproduce".

But more to the point of the original discussion, tomatoes don't exhibit anything like having a goal of any kind whatsoever, hence our intuition of their inferior complexity.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby doogly » Mon May 13, 2013 9:27 pm UTC

Yeah, seeing "animal behavior" and reading "male animal behavior" is just... yeesh.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon May 13, 2013 9:48 pm UTC

And in addition to the disgustingness of that implication, there's the fact that, as dudiobugtron said, we ought to use a definition of "goal" that allows for things like "be happy" to be goals. And in fact, actual people talking about their actual goals *do* use it that way, biologists be damned.
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Re: Evolution question - how does complexity arise?

Postby speising » Mon May 13, 2013 10:29 pm UTC

but if you break it down, what does people (stereo)typically make happy? wife/husband, kids, ....


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