[ExI] Tim May and DNA

Ben Zaiboc ben at zaiboc.net
Sun Feb 10 11:44:08 UTC 2019

William Flynn Wallace <foozler83 at gmail.com> wrote:

"'DNA doesn't '"want" anything' - somebody said.

All random, eh?  Well, just why doesn't DNA produce things like one ear 
smaller or some other thing that will not help or hurt survival?  No, it 
has a plan.  It tries to produce better parts than what it has got, and 
sometimes new parts to fit older systems, like its experiment with the 

I think DNA is smart.  I would not say aware or planning - that's 
teleological.  But I just can't see it doing things randomly."

I shouldn't think anyone here really thinks evolution can 'want' 
anything, but it's a bit of a misleading term, anyway.
Maybe better to talk about what it achieves, which is nothing other than 
getting genes, or sets of genes, into the next generation.

One thing that evolution does not do, is inevitably result in more 
complexity, or any other kind of advancement, in either the phenotype or 
the genotype. Neither is what it does, random. It makes use of 
randomness (and can vary the degree of randomness used), of course, but 
the process itself is far from random.

Just because a process doesn't 'want' something, doesn't mean it must be 

I think it's important to realise that evolution doesn't have some kind 
of trajectory, or some inevitable end-point. It's just a mechanism, that 
does what it does, blindly and without any higher purpose. Whether or 
not you can call that 'smart' is debatable, but I don't think it makes 
sense to say that DNA has a plan, other than the basic recipe for 
evolution: Variation, Replication, Selection, repeated endlessly (OK, 
repeated until entropy takes over).

Ben Zaiboc

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