Re: new info on old evolutionary threads-origin of phyla and chaos

David Campbell (
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 11:30:33 -0400

>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.

The talk for which I did not remeber the author was indeed Kirchner and
Weil. The specific claim for self-organized criticality was what the talk
addressed, not the broader question of any fractal component.

>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

Yes, I think it is largely what I was thinking. Given the "random" (in the
colloquial sense of unpredictability) appearance of the data and the common
belief that fractal patterns can just happen "naturally", I think the
"mask" idea still applies. The possibly deterministic aspect would merely
be part of how God uses means.

David C.