Re: new info on old evolutionary threads-origin of phyla and chaos
Tue, 10 Nov 1998 20:26:07 EST

Kirchner and Weil (Nature, 1998, v.395, p.337-338) are the ones who disputed
the fractals in extinction statistics. Per Bak has been pushing the fractal
data as indicating Self Organized Criticality. M. Newman (1996, Proc. Roy.
Soc. London, Ser. B., v. 263, p. 1605-1610) seems to provide (to this
mathematically-challenged geologist, anyway) compelling evidence that the data
is fractal but not a result of SOC.

Both Newman and Bak are at the Santa Fe Instutute as well as Crutchfield,
Kaufman, and Eble. They seem to be way ahead of everyone else in dealing with
this issue. It is well worth browsing through the SFI website
(, not least because a lot of papers are available online.

In the mid-1970s Dave Raup, Steve Gould, Jack Sepkoski and a few others
published a series of papers on the stochastic nature of phylogenetic data.
They argued that random models account for the data so a directed "push" or
"pull" such as from orthogenesis was not needed. I've thought that this could
be viewed as a "mask of God" (to use Luther's term , as George Murphy has
emphasized on this listserv and elsewhere); i.e. God is working through
(concurrent or cooperating with) what we would call natural means, without
putting on an obvious divine-dog-and-pony-show. If the data are fractal and
deterministic, does this argue against the "mask" in this case? Or does it
still apply if the phylogenetic data are multifractal? Is this at all what
you were thinking in your comment on being deterministic but appearing

Karl V. Evans