'Directed' evolution?

Howard J. Van Till (110661.1365@compuserve.com)
Sat, 19 Sep 1998 20:56:23 -0400

To biologists especially,

I have begun reading Michael Denton's new book,_Nature's Destiny: How the
Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe_.

In brief Denton argues that the universe possesses a remarkable set of
properties and cababilities not only for the *being* (day-to-day
functioning) of carbon-based life but also for its *becoming*
(actualization in the course of time) via the processes of evolutionary
development. In this respect he accepts the fundamental assumptions of
contemporary natural science, the assumptions that I have elsewhere called
the "robust functional economy principle" and the "robust formational
economy principle."

But he goes on to argue for the additional and far more provocative
conclusion that the processes of evolutionary development are not radically
contingent, but 'directed.' The 'direction' of which he speaks does *not,*
however, give any comfort to the proponents of any form of episodic
creationism. It is not the 'directing' action of an external or
transcendent agent who occasionally intervenes to bring about an outcome
different from what otherwise would have occurred. It is a directing action
*built into* the very properties and capabilities of atoms, molecules and

Given this concept of a formational economy with a built-in directional
system, the outcome of the evolutionary process would not have the radical
unpredictability that Gould argued for in *Wonderful Life,* but is
essentially assured to lead to something like Homo sapiens--not necessarily
identical, but in the same general genomic territory. Play Gould's
radically contingent "tape of life" and nothing like us would likely
appear. Play Denton's directed "tape of life" and something very much like
us is sure to arrive.

I am interested in hearing from persons whose training and profession
provide them with a basis for evaluating the relative merits of Denton's
thesis regarding the 'directedness' of evolutionary processes and Gould's
argument for its radical contingency. Both Gould and Denton accept an
unbroken continuity in the processes of biotic evolution, but have very
different concepts of the character of those processes and the
predictability of the outcome.

Howard Van Till