Both evolution and self-organisation lead to complex ‘structures’ and consequently are sometimes thought to be similar or analogous processes. In this perspective-paper the authors try to make this point but they failed to convince me. First of all, they seem to confuse natural selection and evolution. Second, they think “that one factor interfering with cross-disciplinary scientific communication and open-mindedness is a culture of defensive argumentation” but I would rather think it is unintelligible gobbledygook.
I could take their point that physical self-organising structure like tornadoes or convection cells, to take their examples, are effective ways of transferring energy down a gradient. However, I can’t immediately see that evolution will do the same – transferring energy down a gradient most effectively. This seems to require selection at quite a high level, the ecosystem(?), and is hence very unlikely. Furthermore and much more importantly, I can’t see any benefit of regarding evolution as self-organisation. They give one example concerning metabolic scaling theory. However, the only way I could see self-organisation being involved was at a ‘low’ physiological level. No one would dispute that ultimately living organisms have to obey physical laws but that doesn’t mean that natural selection or evolution are physical laws (or similar to them).
Hoelzer G.A., Smith E. and Pepper J.W. (2006) On the logical relationship between natural selection and self-organization. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 19: 1785-1794