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Does evolution evolve?

It must have done so.

The neo-darwinist process is a late comer since it is unlikely to have been the main mechanism before the development of multicellular organisms with separate specialised germline cells. It is a zoology-orientated view of evolution. Zoological organisms have existed for only about 20% of the duration of life on earth.

Similarly, inheritance via DNA cannot have occurred before the evolution of DNA. Sexual selection and mixing mechanisms cannot have evolved before the mechanisms for fusing, dividing and recombining genomes.

The evolution of the cell probably occurred before that of DNA, and certainly before DNA organised into genomes.

In fact, the list of stages is almost endless. The organisation of genomes, particularly genomes with chromatin and enclosed in a nucleus, must have occurred in many stages.

Not only does evolution evolve, so does the context in which it happens since it also changes the environment. New niches are created by evolution which can then be the context for new forms to evolve. It is an endless wondrously intricate web of contexts, structures and mechanisms. It can’t be reduced to a simple formula with one paradigmatic mechanism.

Laland, KN, Odling-Smee, J, Feldman, MW, Kendal, J.   (2009) Conceptual Barriers to Progress Within Evolutionary Biology. Found Sci 14, 195-216  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3093243c

Odling-Smee, F. J., Erwin, D., Palkovacs, E. P., Feldman, M. W., and Laland, K. N. (2013) Niche Construction Theory: a practical guide for ecologists, The Quarterly Review of Biology 88, 4-28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23653966

In the 2009 debate between Margulis and Dawkins, Dawkins challenges Margulis with the simplicity of a single neo-darwinist mechanism:

“It's highly plausible, it's economical, it's parsimonious, why on earth would you want to drag in symbiogenesis when it's such an unparsimonious, uneconomical [theory]?”

Margulis replied:

“Because it's there.”

That’s it in a nutshell. What is there, what exists, which is the starting point of all science.

See

http://www.voicesfromoxford.org/video/Homage-to-Darwin-part-1/74

http://www.voicesfromoxford.org/video/Homage-to-Darwin-part-2/63

http://www.voicesfromoxford.org/video/Homage-to-Darwin-part-3/75

for the debate

http://musicoflife.website/pdfs/HOMAGE_COMMENTARY_Music%20of%20Life.pdf for a commentary

 

An image from the series of three videos recording the 2009 debate on the Voices from Oxford website. Click on the image to access the videos.

 See also Two Wrongs for more information on Lynn Margulis and the way in which her major contributions to the theory of evolution have been denigrated. Yet the transition to cells with mitochondria or chloroplasts was surely an absolutely fundamental step in evolution. 

 

 

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