What features convey robustness to systems? How different should we expect the robustness of different systems to be, depending on whether selection is operating primarily on the whole system or on its parts? How does robustness trade off against adaptability? How does natural selection deal with environmental noise and the consequent uncertainty at diverse scales? When does synchrony emerge, and what are its implications for robustness? When and how does cooperative behavior emerge, and can we derive lessons from evolutionary history to foster cooperation in a global commons?Evolution is a decentralized decision-making mechanism. It is based on a massively trial-and-error process. It is a continuous, real-time test of a huge variety of alternatives. It has no prospective powers. It has no government. It has produced robustness, adaptability, cooperation and beauty.
September 13, 2006
Evolution and beauty
Simon A. Levin poses these "fundamental questions in biology" (in PLoS Biology, open access):