Form and Order in Evolutionary Biology: Stuart Kauffman's Transformation of Theoretical Biology

The formal framework of Kauffman (1991) depicts the constraints of self-organization on the evolution of complex systems and the relation of self-organization to selection. We discuss his treatment of 'generic constraints' as sources of order (section 2) and the relation between adaptation and organization (section 3). We then raise a number of issues, including the role of adaptation in explaining order (section 4) and the limitations of formal approaches in explaining the distinctively biological (section 5). The principal question we pose is the relation of generic constraints on evolution to more specific local constraints, imposed, for example, by the characteristic materials out of which organisms are constructed, the accidental features characteristic of the Bauplan of a lineage, and the local vicissitudes of adaptation. We offer no answer to this large question.
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Stuart A. Kauffman (1990). The Sciences of Complexity and "Origins of Order". PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990:299 - 322.

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