“A Simple Model of the Evolution of Simple Models of Evolution”
| Lasse Lien |
If you don’t think this title is cool there is something very wrong with you. Here is the associated abstract:
Abstract: In the spirit of the many recent simple models of evolution inspired by statistical physics, we put forward a simple model of the evolution of such models. Like its objects of study, it is (one supposes) in principle testable and capable of making predictions, and gives qualitative insights into a hitherto mysterious process.
And this is the essence of the simple model(2):
- A physicist runs across or concocts from whole cloth a mathematical model which is simple, neat, and contains a great many variables of the same sort.
- The physicists has heard of Darwin (1859), and may even have read Dawkins (1985) or some essays by Gould, but wouldn’t know Fisher (1958), Haldane (1932), and Wright (1986) from the Three Magi, and doesn’t dream that such a subject as mathematical evolutionary biology exists.
- The physicist is aware that lots of other physicists are interested in annexing biology as a province of statistical physics.
- The physicist interprets his multitude of variables as species or (if slightly more sophisticated) as genotypes, and proclaims that he has found “Darwin’s Equations” (cf. Bak et al. (1994)), or, more modestly, has made an important step towards eventually finding those equations.
- His paper is submitted for review to other physicists, who are just as ignorant of biology as he, but see that it’s about equivalent to the other papers on evolution by physicists. They publish it.
- The paper is read by other physicists, because at least it’s not another derivation of specific heats on some convoluted lattice under a Hamiltonian named for some Central European worthy now otherwise totally forgotten. Said physicists think this is cutting-edge evolutionary theory.
- Some of those physicists will know or discover simple, neat models with lots of variables of the same type.
What could substitute for physics and evolution here if we wanted to make a social science analogy? I think game theory could play the role of physics in many cases. What else?