How does an unguided, unintelligent process, create the genetic information, or rather instruction, to create new kinds of species. The two main mechanisms of Evolution seem completely inadequate to explain this. Natural selection only chooses what is there, and mutations are just errors in the replication process that causes random changes in the genetic sequence.

How does natural selection of random errors create the complex information necessary to build various morphology, and go from a cell to man?

For example, how did nature or the Evolutionary process decide to build a notochord?

How did unguided, unintelligent, non purposeful nature decide to build Pharyngeal slits?

Where did the instructions/information come from to build a body plan that consisted of a cephalon (head); thorax (body) and pygidium (tail), like with Trilobite's. How does an unintelligent, non purposeful process order like that without a mind? How do accidents(mutations) build and hit upon the coherent instructions necessary to build such a thing?

For example, with Trilobites, why did nature decide to give Trilobite's antennae? And why did it decide to give two. Who or what programmed the situation to be two rather than say 4 or 6. or 10 or none.

Where did the information come from to build such a thing?

Who or what told nature, or maybe, how did nature know to build compound eyes with lenses made of calcite for Trilobites? Where was the information/instructions acquired for this, and how is this information genetically deployed so as to have it morphologically expressed in the organism?

Where did the instructions come from, to tell cyanobacteria how to employ Photosynthesis and use water as a reducing agent?

Who or what engineered teeth in fish? How is that done by natural selection and genetic errors(mutation)?

How does unintelligent, unguided processes engineer gills such that they are able to extract dissolved oxygen from water? And why gills rather than some other type of mechanism, engineered in some other type of way?

  • 3
    This is at least partly a question for Biology -- is there any chance you could speak a little bit about why this is interesting philosophically to you?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Aug 19, 2014 at 23:29
  • 2
    The way you ask it it's a poor biology question. You don't seem to actually care deeply about e.g. trilobite eyes, but rather look to have assembled a laundry-list of points that you believe are damning. Laundry-lists make poor SO questions, as do rhetorical questions. Don't confuse people thinking you're impolite and ignorant with them being a cult; you'll get similar treatment on an aeronautical engineering forum if you demand to know how airplanes and thrown balloons slow down if not for good old intuitive Aristotelian mechanics. Ask with interest and humility to get good answers.
    – Rex Kerr
    Aug 20, 2014 at 7:57
  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about biology, not philospophy. Note that most of the answers point to scientific (biology) references rather than philosophical ones.
    – Dave
    Aug 20, 2014 at 13:23
  • 1
    If you care so deeply about trilobite eyes, a question which if it has an answer is surely long and involved, why are you also asking, in the very same question, about notochords, pharyngeal slits, tripartite body plans, antennae, water as a reducing agent, fish teeth, oxygen extraction, etc.? What reason is there for lumping so many questions together except for rhetorical force? I note that they are cleverly chosen to mostly not have very complete answers yet--does this mean you are satisfied with other cases where the answers are more complete? Which ones?
    – Rex Kerr
    Aug 20, 2014 at 17:57
  • 1
    As to reading attitude off of text, it's perfectly reasonable to infer motive from language (c.f. implicature)--indeed, you often need to even understand the writer. For instance, you repeatedly use "decide" when speaking of a process you are postulating is non-conscious (and "who or what"). Repeating ad nauseum certain aspects of the process--"unguided, unintelligent, non purposeful" we got that already, thanks!--makes no sense except as a challenge: answer this, if you can!. And a challenge, to some, demands a response. The posturing is transparent. To learn, just ask.
    – Rex Kerr
    Aug 20, 2014 at 18:06

5 Answers 5


The information question is dealt with at length on the talk.origins site. In brief, information can be stored chemically (e.g. in DNA), and those with better information survive better. This scheme (with a few constraints and additions) appears to be spectacularly effective both in biology and in computation.

All sorts of accidents of history are lost to history, including those in evolution. As such, presenting a bunch of questions and expecting (demanding?) answers only demonstrates that you need to spend more time thinking about how to study history.

If you think each of those events is interesting and want to see what has been gleaned, I recommend the scientific literature (mostly the primary literature for questions with that level of detail). In many cases there are tons of interesting steps known, and in others there aren't, just as with any historical process.

The ability of non-cognitive processes to effectively store information is philosophically interesting--this is something we tend to associate with cognition alone. The rest is biological details; ask about those on a biology-focused forum.


Read some of Stephen Jay Gould's books, two to start with are "The Panda's Thumb" and "Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes". If you're not familiar with his name he had an untimely death about 2001 or 2002 from cancer if I remember correctly. Was a professor at Harvard and prolific writer on evolution. His class was the first to fill at Harvard in the 90s. His books are still available. All your questions above are answered in his books.


You ask how an unguided process creates the information in biological organisms. You haven't asked a more pertinent question: how could a guided process create such information? If the process that created biological information was guided that process would already have information about what sort of biological structures would solve various problems. So an explanation involving such a process would not explain how the information was created and so it would be a failure by that standard. The only explanation that would be any good at all would be an explanation about how an unguided process gave rise to biological complexity. See "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch, especially chapter 4 (you should read chapter 1 before chapter 4 although it is not directly about this issue since it sets up other related issues).

How does biological evolution give rise to such information? The explanation involves an information storage medium: a structure in which information can be stored and retrieved or copied. The medium in question must make copies of itself in a particular environment: a replicator. Any real copying process if going to have an error rate. So the copying process will produce slight variations in the replicator. Those variations may result in the variant being copied more than the original, less than the original or at the same rate. So biological evolution gives rise to variants of a particular replicator and then selects among those variants. Sometimes two instances of a replicator might get stuck together due to a copying error and then these longer variants would have more information storage capacity. But such longer variants may give rise to other problems, e.g. - for a given set of error correction mechanisms the error rate may be higher with longer replicators and at some point would the error would grow so high there would be no faithful copying if the length kept increasing. So longer replicators would have to evolve better error correction. You can ask questions about how such processes give rise to different biological phenomena, such as sex, ageing, and so on.

Some interesting books on various aspects of evolution. "The Selfish Gene", "The Extended Phenotype", "The Blind Watchmaker", "The Ancestor's Tale" and "Climbing Mount Improbable" by Richard Dawkins. "Mendel's Demon" by Mark Ridley. "The Fabric of Reality" by David Deutsch, especially chapter 8.


This general principle applies here:

Something cannot give what it does not have.

Thus, a more complex organism cannot result from a lesser complex organism alone because the latter cannot give what it doesn't have (i.e., complexity in this case) to the former.

The complexity has to come from somewhere because complexity is something positive (not a privation or negation). Whether you call the origin of the complexity a "higher directive principle" or "evolution" or "natural selection" is another question.


Reading Richard Dawkins' book "The Blind Watchmaker" would probably help answer - or begin to answer - a number of these questions for you.

The book goes into detail as to how complex biological structures can arise as a result of the cumulative effect of tiny mutations over the course of thousands/millions of generations and hundreds of millions of years. The book thus provides a general explanation that addresses your various specific questions, in a similar way to how a book explaining the concept of 'arithmetic' answers questions like "How can 1 + 2 = 3? How can 1234 x 5678 = 7006652? How can 100 / 20 = 5?"


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .