Complexity and evolution: What everybody knows

Biology and Philosophy 6 (3):303-324 (1991)
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The consensus among evolutionists seems to be that the morphological complexity of organisms increases in evolution, although almost no empirical evidence for such a trend exists. Most studies of complexity have been theoretical, and the few empirical studies have not, with the exception of certain recent ones, been especially rigorous; reviews are presented of both the theoretical and empirical literature. The paucity of evidence raises the question of what sustains the consensus, and a number of suggestions are offered, including the possibility that certain cultural and/or perceptual biases are at work. In addition, a shift in emphasis from theoretical to empirical inquiry is recommended for the study of complexity, and guidelines for future empirical studies are proposed.



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Dan McShea
Duke University

Citations of this work

The Limitations of Hierarchical Organization.Angela Potochnik & Brian McGill - 2012 - Philosophy of Science 79 (1):120-140.
Biological Individuals.Robert A. Wilson & Matthew J. Barker - 2024 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Interweaving categories: Styles, paradigms, and models.Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (4):628-639.
Environmental complexity and the evolution of cognition.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2001 - In Robert J. Sternberg & James C. Kaufman (eds.), The Evolution of Intelligence. Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 233--249.

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