SFI Colloquium: Computability, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem and an Inherent Limit on the Predictability of Evolution

SFI Colloquium

Troy Day, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Mathematical Biology, Queens University will present “Computability, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, and an Inherent Limit on the Predictability of Evolution” at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct 9 in the Noyce Conference Room at the Santa Fe Institute.

Abstract: I will briefly review a main way in which mathematical modeling has been used to understand and predict evolutionary change.

I will then highlight an important shortcoming of such approaches and consider an alternative that attempts to overcome the problem.

This alternative encompasses what I refer to as “open-ended” evolution. I will then present a proof, using this approach, that certain evolutionary questions are inherently unanswerable unless the process of evolution has specific properties.

The cause of this limitation on evolutionary theory is shown to be fundamentally the same as that underlying the Halting Problem from computability theory and Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem.

Note: We are unable to accommodate members of the public for SFI’s limited lunch service; you’re welcome to bring your own.

SFI Host: Jeremy Van Cleve


The Santa Fe Institute‘s mission is to foster a transdisciplinary research community that endeavors to expand the boundaries of scientific understanding.

Its aim is to discover and comprehend the common fundamental principles in physical, computational, biological, and social systems that underlie many of the most profound problems facing science and society today.