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Are genes followers rather than leaders in evolution?

This is the central question raised in an article in the New Scientist (12th October 2013). The article quotes Richard Dawkins: “which elements have the property that variations in them are replicated with the type of fidelity that potentially carries them through an indefinitely large number of evolutionary generations?” Dawkins answers his own question: “Genes certainly meet the criterion. If anything else does, let’s hear it.”

Nature is replying to that challenge loud and clear.

First, there are increasing numbers of experiments showing robust transgenerational inheritance independent of DNA. See Transgenerational inheritance.

Second, intricate cellular structure, static and dynamic, replicates itself faithfully and indefinitely through the process of self-templating. See Immortal Genes.

Experiments on cross-species cloning show the specific nature of this inheritance and how it determines the way in which the genome is interpreted.

Third, the famed ‘immortality’ of DNA is actually a property of cells. Cells have the machinery to correct frequent faults in DNA replication. It is also an elementary philosophical mistake to regard DNA as an active cause. On its own, DNA does nothing. See What does DNA do?

Finally, since DNA is not an active cause, it must be a follower in evolution. It is organisms that live or die and can therefore be subject to selection.

Those who are trapped inside the misleading 20th century discourse of genes being responsible for everything should read chapter 1 of The Music of Life, where it is shown that there could be no biological experiment to demonstrate attributes of selfishness or cooperation in DNA. The same point is made in depth in an article published in 2011. The central problem with The Selfish Gene is that it is unfalsifiable. See What is wrong with The Selfish Gene?



  The MUSIC of Life: Biology Beyond the Genome                                                                                                                                 ©Denis Noble