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up!up!and away!

On Sunday, 21 March, John Bois wrote:

And yet over evolutionary time there has been a very definite increase
complexity.  Once upon a time there were only single celled things.  Now
we have colonial and even integrated systems.  I suppose this complexity
opens up new niches and thus is adaptive.  But, in absolute terms, there
is no superiority inherent in this idea--indeed, the simple may inherit
the Earth. 

I recall a televised interview with Steven J. Gould a few years ago in
which he was asked to explain the apparent increase in complexity of
organisms over time.  I thought his explanation made sense and I will
try to provide my recollection of it, probably spiced with my own

Think of evolution as a street and one side of that street is bordered
by a continuous wall.  The simplest forms of life may be pictured as
growing next to that wall, and more complex forms of life growing
further out from the wall.  The more complex the form of life, the
further from the wall it grows.  Since living things can't get any
simpler than the simplest living things already next to the wall, the
development of new organisms will appear to be towards more complexity,
away from the wall, because that is where there is more space.  This
doesn't preclude things becoming simpler but there is more "room"
towards complexity.  

This analogy works for me, anyway.  

Bruce R. Danz