Listen: Gauger on the Limits of Evolutionary Optimization

@Agauger I listened to this podcast. It didn’t sound like you. Was the voice altered? Or was this another person reading from a prepared script? If I am mistaken and this was you speaking, you have a really pleasant speaking voice.

She does have a pleasant speaking voice :slight_smile:

Yep. That’s me. How mellow I sound depends on context. :slight_smile:

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It wouldn’t let me send you a personal greeting, Patrick!


Wow. Sexy and salacious. :rofl:

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Nonsequitur and nonsense


Anything of consequence to say? I’m writing another piece on this issue of the transcendentals. And their relationship to design. Surely you have something to say on the subject.

Not really, It was a pretty boring podcast. Didn’t listen to more than five minutes.

Nothing of interest to anyone. As an engineer, I enjoy looking at things and trying to figure out how they were designed.

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Touché. But I guess philosophy is not your area of interest.

Philosophy is not that interesting to me. All the sciences are very interesting and so is mathematics which I love to explore.

@Patrick this is like dangling bait in front of a hungry lion. You like looking at things “and trying to figure out how they were designed.”

Me too. I am being very restrained here.

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Don’t feel restrained here. Say what you’d like. (Are you worried that you would get in trouble with DI if you spoke freely?)

Here is what fascinated me with design.

Yeah, termite mounds are fascinating things. That they should use the same principles of cooling that high-rise apartments use is a wonderful thing and yet the way they accomplish it is I am truly marvelous. I’ve listened to Scott Turner talk on the subject. In fact the correspondence between natural design and human design can be quite striking. On the other hand sometimes nature has come up with solutions that are much much better than anything we have and we learn from it. The way that flies can stick to ceilings or the velcro on geckos feet are some examples. The bissell threads that mussels use to tie themselves to rocks in tidal pools is another example. It’s an active area of research that we are very interested in.

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Design is everywhere whether it is human’s doing it or nature doing it, design is an iterative process.
The human design process is much more compassionate than the natural design process. Today we design things with safety in mind, nature designs through natural selection is brutal, non caring, and just tosses it’s non-optimal designs away to die (and be prone to sinus inflections like @NLENTS explained in his book on human design errors). I’ll take a 21st century designer over a nature designed outcome.

@patrick it’s the Darwinian way. I wrote a poem a few weeks ago you may appreciate. It’s about a young hedgehog with a mutation that caused his spines to develop as plates.

 You’ve set me all a tumbling
 These plates are just a kludge
I’d be happy just a-bumbling
Through brush and bush and hedge
But look! I'm just a-fumbling
To pry loose and not wedge

These scales are like logs,
I’d be happier with spines
Spines attract lady hogs
They’re small and refined
But these scaly thing-a-bobs
Are a royal por-cu-pine.

I’d really like to clank less
I’m always bringing up the rear
My plates impede my progress
The ladies run in fear
I waddle like a walrus.
There'll be no piglets here!!

This life’s regular rum show 
Why’d I have to draw this deal?
Don’t tell me--just the way it goes
If it was you then, how’d you feel?
It may be a one in a trillion throw
But losing throws are real!

I don’t know why the formatting is funky. But the blue at the end is fortuitous.


You seem to blame Darwin for the way the world is? He didn’t cause any suffering that we have in the world. Darwin didn’t design cancer in children. Thousands of scientists around the world are working hard to understand cancer in children to treat it or perhaps eliminate it. Sure life seems to proceed in a brutal, non-caring, meaningless and purposeless process I call evolution and you call a Darwinian process. Why blame what is on Darwin? It seems to me as senseless as blaming cancer in children on God or some other invisible undetectable entity.

Here is a song on evolution entitled “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” by the rock group Nightwish. Richard Dawkins opens the song. The words are very clever like “Come watch Tiktaalik take her first step”

It may not be your genre of music but it does treat nature with awe.


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I listened to the whole thing. It was interesting enough, but not at all surprising.

Yes, there are limits to evolutionary optimization. I realized that long ago. That’s why I am not a Darwinist. But I don’t see this as a problem for evolution. Suboptimal is good enough. In some ways, suboptimal is better than optimal.

@Agauger seems to see this as a problem for evolution. However, it seems more of a problem for ID. Her experimental method forces a direction and shows limits in following that direction. But assuming a direction is part of ID thinking. Evolution works well because there is no required direction.

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Of course Darwin has no personal responsibility for death, disease etc. The poem was meant mainly as a joke and the use of the name Darwin was to personify an impersonal process. The use of a person’s name to stand for the system of thought he began is quite common, such as Lysenkoism, Maoism, Trotskyites, Stalinist, Freudian, Orwellian.
However, Darwin does get credit for the idea of natural selection operating on naturally occurring variation in the population. That’s what the poem is about. No need for drift, incomplete lineage sorting, mutational bias etc. So it would be less accurate for the hedgehog to exclaim “Evolution!”

You are right, it is not my style music, but once we got past the intro and she started singing it was fine. The lyrics were good and descriptive of some of the tremendous things we see in life’s history. And it does treat nature with awe. But the wheels seemed out of place.

I found this last night. A little more isolating, but you may like it.


What are some of the hypotheses you are exploring? Please be as specific as you can. Could you cite some of the papers you and your group have published on the subject?

Oh, you know, I just realized you were talking about an old podcast, very old, recycled for reuse.

I thought you all were talking about the new podcast

That’s not true. Cells have specific problems to solve: low nutrient availability, challenges from new diseases, toxins, new resources to exploit, change in habitat requiring adaptation to new diet etc.and limited routes to follow. That’s all I am going to say. There will be more later.