Evol Ecol Res 11: 589-610 (2009)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Life: optimality, evolutionary, and intelligent design?

David Scheel1 and Thomas L. Vincent2

1Environmental Science Department, Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska and 2Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Correspondence: D. Scheel, Marine Biology, Environmental Science Department, Alaska Pacific University, 4101 University Drive, Anchorage, AL 99508, USA.
e-mail: dscheel@alaskapacific.edu


Questions: What constitutes design in a natural system? In what ways are the three design concepts involving optimality, evolutionary, and intelligent design similar, and under what conditions do they diverge?

Mathematical method: Adaptive landscapes are generated by using fitness-generating functions from evolutionary game theory.

Key assumptions: Natural selection, which may be frequency dependent, occurs on adaptive landscapes. Gradient-following algorithms find optima on fitness landscapes. Darwinian dynamics find evolutionary equilibrium points on adaptive landscapes and irreducible complexity from intelligent design manifests itself as a discontinuous adaptive landscape.

Conclusions: In the absence of frequency-dependent evolution, optimality design (OD) and evolutionary design (ED) may produce the same landscapes and yield equivalent solutions resulting in maximum population size for the species. However, in the presence of frequency-dependent selection, the landscapes for OD and ED differ and solutions need not agree. Solutions generated by ED can produce species, which, as a group, can always invade species produced by OD. The model also highlights three claims of intelligent design (ID) irreducible complexity and finds them false: that Darwinian dynamics used by ED must entirely account for evolutionary change; that such dynamics cannot navigate a discontinuous evolutionary landscape; and that the extent of zero-slope regions on landscapes are too vast to be traversed by biological processes in finite time.

Keywords: evolutionary design, intelligent design, irreducible complexity, landscapes, optimality design.

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