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Infinite Complexity

By EranFowler
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26 Comments
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Download for full size at 1920x1200.
This is a creative commons image. Do with it as you will, so long as you credit the source.
(I wish there was a "technical" or "educational" category...)

A wallpaper based upon the David Hillis, Derrick Zwickl, and Robin Gutell version of the circular phylogenetic "tree of life." I admit that I am rather aesthetically biased, but circular versions are widely considered to be the most accurate, thanks to the lack of any suggested hierarchy.
The caption, "The Blind Watchmaker," is of course a reference to the Intelligent Design debate, and was used as the title of Richard Dawkins' famous book. Intelligent Design supporters claim that life contains irreducible complexity, which can only be explained by an intelligent designer. This is not the case: what we see instead is a clear progression of transitional forms extending into the past, each level of complexity being easily reduced and explained by the natural processes of evolution. From simplicity may arise infinite complexity, which is why evolution itself may be considered "the blind watchmaker."

Because I fully expect someone to begin foaming at the mouth in the comments section, I would like to direct anyone curious about evolution to this explanatory series of videos: [link]

Any questions about evolution, or suggestions regarding typography etc. are welcome.

I was delighted to find the resource stock for this massive image here, [link] which is available to anyone so long as the application is non-profit and gives credit to the source. I warn you, it prints to a full size of almost five feet across.
Background paper texture was used courtesy of this deviant: [link]
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© 2009 - 2020 EranFowler
Comments26
anonymous's avatar
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ariya-sacca's avatar
It is beautiful! I like how you visualized it as a gear.
EonOrteaShadowmaster's avatar
That, my friends, is true beauty!
aileen's avatar
Mmmm... systematics.
thesunshotme's avatar
I love this, great job.
chid0's avatar
nice work on a thrilling subject.
Chrillen's avatar
Incredible. The level of detail alone, it baffles me. And the overall design, the way you have put it all together.
Gah, I would need a thousand words to describe the way I feel about it, eh?
Dmitrirosanegra's avatar
Great, as a biologist I must say I love it
tymej's avatar
I love your wallpaper, but on 1280x800 letters are too small. Is it possible to create version for smaller screens? I mean, with bigger letters. If i set "fit to screen", they are to small, if i set "center", title and part of graph are outside screen.
EranFowler's avatar
I'm afraid the scale of the ring of text is so huge, that to fit any of it on the screen at all, the text had to be very small. Even at very high resolutions it's almost unreadable. When I scale up the text and not the ring, the words overlap; when I scale up the whole ring, I lose the curve of the circle and end up with a flat wall of text.
fallingskyz's avatar
awesome! I love how informative you are too, as well as the way you present it.
EdmondDantes's avatar
Brilliant! :D

I used the same phylogenic tree in a logo I was designing. [link]

I've always liked the look and complexity of it, as well as the shape of it tying back nicely to my notions of "life on earth".
Cacodaemonia's avatar
I really appreciate this piece, both for its aesthetic appeal and for its intent. This is the first time I've seen "the tree of life" represented in this way, but it's a lovely design. I can only imagine how complex and confusing a "web of life" would be, now that we're discovering that there's been so much horizontal gene transfer among so many species!

This is now my desktop. :)
AlecBell's avatar
I'm pleased that you referenced Dawkins, who is a scientist rather than a politician.

Science and politics have always mixed badly, as in Stalin's Russia, with Lysenkoism, whivh was an attempt to deny Mendel's genetics.

Since there is need to defend the truth, your efforts are valuable.
EranFowler's avatar
A politician? What use would I have for THEIR opinions? (Or anyone's "opinion.") =D
It is appalling to me that objective, scientific knowledge has come under attack for the sake of religious and political agendas. I wouldn't have thought it possible, in this century, in this country.
I glad you agree.
AlecBell's avatar
The possibilities of human folly appear to be infinite?
IncompleteMe's avatar
This is really pleasing to me; the overall design and set up is great. Cool idea, and informative too, as I had never heard of this setup as a sort of evolutionary map.
yakkingyetis's avatar
its hard to understand... :confused:
EranFowler's avatar
It can get pretty complicated, yes. =) The chart shows the beginnings of life in the center, and as time passes the branches radiate outward and split into different species. The outer "layer" shows a few of today's species organized according to how they're related, and each one can be traced back to the center until a common ancestor is reached.
yakkingyetis's avatar
haha.. but is it true?
EranFowler's avatar
Is what true? Evolution, or this particular visualization of it? The answers are "Yes," and "as close as you can get using this kind of chart."
yakkingyetis's avatar
Oh i've been watching some documentaries that shows evolution is not that possible... Anyway i love your stuff : )
EranFowler's avatar
I'm glad you like my work. =) And I'm only debating this point in an academic capacity, I'm not attacking you in any way.
Would you happen to have the links to the documentaries you mentioned? I'm curious about the source, because evolution is a theory with a similarly overwhelming body of evidence as the theory of gravity, or cell theory. Less than 00.02% of all scientists have any trouble with it, and those that do have only small criticisms about HOW it works, not the fact that it DOES work. I'm afraid the only people propagating the impression that evolution is in any kind of reasonable doubt are those from the religious community.
Would that be your source?
yakkingyetis's avatar
i can only remember the last one i watched is called... [link]
i just afraid you took offence :)
anonymous's avatar
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