able to exhibit the same level of complexity that one observes for example in many systems in physics.

In biology the presence of long programs with many separate parts can lead to a certain rather straightforward complexity analogous to having many physical objects of different kinds collected together. But the most dramatic examples of complexity in biology tend to occur in individual parts of systems—and often involve patterns or structures that look remarkably like those in physics.

Yet if biology samples underlying genetic programs essentially at random, why should these programs behave anything like programs that are derived from specific laws of physics?

The answer, as we have seen many times in this book, is that across a very wide range of programs there is great universality in the behavior that occurs. The details depend on the exact rules for each program, but the overall characteristics remain very much the same.

And one of the important consequences of this is that it suggests that it might be possible to develop a rather general predictive theory of biology that would tell one, for example, what basic forms are and are not likely to occur in biological systems.

One might have thought that the traditional idea that organisms are selected to be optimal for their environment would already long ago have led to some kind of predictive theory. And indeed it has for example allowed some simple numerical ratios associated with populations of organisms to be successfully derived. But about a question such as what forms of organisms are likely to occur it has much less to say.

There are a number of situations where fairly complicated structures appear to have arisen independently in several very different types of organisms. And it is sometimes claimed that this kind of convergent evolution occurs because these structures are in some ultimate sense optimal, making it inevitable that they will eventually be produced.

But I would be very surprised if this explanation were correct. And instead what I strongly suspect is that the reason certain structures appear repeatedly is just that they are somehow common among programs of certain kinds—just as, for example, we have seen that the

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From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]