, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 465-475

Is Evolution Algorithmic?

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Abstract

In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett claims that evolution is algorithmic. On Dennett’s analysis, evolutionary processes are trivially algorithmic because he assumes that all natural processes are algorithmic. I will argue that there are more robust ways to understand algorithmic processes that make the claim that evolution is algorithmic empirical and not conceptual. While laws of nature can be seen as compression algorithms of information about the world, it does not follow logically that they are implemented as algorithms by physical processes. For that to be true, the processes have to be part of computational systems. The basic difference between mere simulation and real computing is having proper causal structure. I will show what kind of requirements this poses for natural evolutionary processes if they are to be computational.