Complexity and evolution: What everybody knows

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The consensus among evolutionists seems to be (and has been for at least a century) that the morphological complexity of organisms increases in evolution, although almost no empirical evidence for such a trend exists. Most studies of complexity have been theoretical, and the few empirical studies have not, with the exception of certain recent ones, been especially rigorous; reviews are presented of both the theoretical and empirical literature. The paucity of evidence raises the question of what sustains the consensus, and a number of suggestions are offered, including the possibility that certain cultural and/or perceptual biases are at work. In addition, a shift in emphasis from theoretical to empirical inquiry is recommended for the study of complexity, and guidelines for future empirical studies are proposed. © 1991 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • McShea, DW

Published Date

  • July 1, 1991

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 6 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 303 - 324

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1572-8404

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0169-3867

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/BF00132234

Citation Source

  • Scopus