Orgel's rule

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Orgel's rules are a set of axioms attributed to[by whom?] the evolutionary biologist Leslie Orgel.

Orgel's First Rule[edit]

"Whenever a spontaneous process is too slow or too inefficient a protein will evolve to speed it up or make it more efficient."

This "rule" comments on the fact that there is a great number of proteins in all organisms which fulfil a number of different functions through modifying chemical or physical processes. An example would be an enzyme that catalyses a chemical reaction that would take place too slowly to benefit an organism without being sped up by this enzyme.

Orgel's Second Rule[edit]

"Evolution is cleverer than you are."[citation needed]

Orgel's Second Rule is intended as a rejoinder to the argument by lack of imagination. In general, this rule expresses the sometimes experienced fact that "trial and error" strategies are better than centralized intelligent human planning.

Orgel's rule can also be used to counter creationist arguments in which often the hidden and non-provable presumption is suggested, that human intelligent planning is in general superior to trial and error strategies used by evolution.[citation needed]

The same principle has been given as an analogy to software developed in an evolutionary sense by group collaboration, as opposed to software built to a pre-ordained design that was created without reference to previous implementation. Although, the development is not claimed to be of the same random nature as is by evolutionary genetics.

However, Orgel would never have reduced evolutionary theory to "trial and error". The complexity and evolving nature of evolutionary theory can be appreciated from Stephen J. Gould's late works.,[1][2] These works show that Orgel's second rule applies to evolutionary biologists as well as the general public, as he no doubt intended.


  1. ^ The evolutionary definition of selective agency, validation of the theory of hierarchicical selection, and fallacy of the selfish gene. In Rama Shankar Singh, ed., Thinking about Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 208-234
  2. ^ 2002. The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press