Was the Watchmaker Blind? Or Was She One-Eyed?
“Life isn’t like that. Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution. In real life, the criterion for selection is always short-term, either simple survival or, more generally, reproductive success.”
1.2. Purpose and Organization of This Article
3. Goals within Organisms
3.1. Regulated (Directed) Hypermutation Processes
3.2. Is the System Purposive?
“Somatic hypermutation (SHM) introduces mutations in the variable region of immunoglobulin genes at a rate of ~10−3 mutations per base pair per cell division, which is 106-fold higher than the spontaneous mutation rate in somatic cells. To ensure genomic integrity, SHM needs to be targeted specifically to immunoglobulin genes.”
3.3. Natural Genetic Engineering
“In the future attention undoubtedly will be centered on the genome, and with greater appreciation of its significance as a highly sensitive organ of the cell, monitoring genomic activities and correcting common errors, sensing the unusual and unexpected events, and responding to them, often by restructuring the genome. We know about the components of genomes that could be made available for such restructuring. We know nothing, however, about how the cell senses danger and instigates responses to it that often are truly remarkable” (our italics).
4. Goals within Populations
4.1. Contingency Loci in Bacteria
“This phenotypic variation, which is stochastic with respect to the timing of switching but has a programmed genomic location, allows a large repertoire of phenotypic solutions to be explored, while minimizing deleterious effects on fitness.”.
“The strategy of generating multiple mutant chromosomes within a single cell may represent a widespread and conserved mechanism for the rapid evolution of genome change in response to unfavorable environments (i.e., chemo-therapy drugs and antibiotics)”.
“Signaling pathways that sense environmental nutrients control genome change at the ribosomal DNA. This demonstrates that not all genome changes occur at random and that cells possess specific mechanisms to optimize their genome in response to the environment.” (our italics).
4.2. Genetic Buffering by Regulatory Networks
4.3. Switch of Function in Regulatory Networks
“Step one mutations increase intracellular levels of phosphorylated NtrC, a distant homolog of FleQ, which begins to commandeer control of the FleQ regulon at the cost of disrupting nitrogen uptake and assimilation. Step two is a switch-of-function mutation that redirects NtrC away from nitrogen uptake and toward its novel function as a flagellar regulator. Our results demonstrate that natural selection can rapidly rewire regulatory networks in very few, repeatable mutational steps”.
4.4. Roles of Stochasticity and Natural Selection
4.5. Communication to the Genome
5. Speculation 1: Goals Achieved through Epigenetic Inheritance
5.1. Different Forms of Epigenetics
5.2. Experimental Examples
5.3. Role in Speciation
“From the second generation onwards the lineage bred endogamously, and despite intense inbreeding, was ecologically successful and showed transgressive segregation of bill morphology. This example shows that reproductive isolation, which typically develops over hundreds of generations, can be established in only three.”.
6. Speculation 2: The Evolution of Goal-Directed Behaviour
6.1. The Continuity of Animal and Human Evolution
“the picture of the external hand of natural selection doing all the work is so compelling that it is easy to regard organisms as if they were entirely passive in the evolutionary process.”.(p. 105)
6.2. The Adaptability Driver
“Charles Darwin (1871) argued that choice of a mate could drive evolution. He called the evolutionary process ‘sexual selection’. Alfred Russel Wallace, although the co-author with Darwin of the first clear statement about the role of Natural Selection, did not like the new idea. Indeed, for many years most biologists did not take sexual selection seriously. When I was an undergraduate I was told confidently that, even if it were possible in theory, the process probably played little part in biological evolution. In recent years, however, many experiments have supported Darwin’s thinking.”.
6.3. The Role of Contextual Logic in the Behavior of Organisms
7.1. The Harnessing of Stochasticity
7.2. Organisms as Agents
‘Lamarck’s claim that … there is a radical difference between living beings and inanimate objects might lead people to think that he was a vitalist. But he is not. On the contrary, his biology is a mechanistic reply to the physiological vitalism of Bichat, which was then the dominant theory’.. (Our translation of Pichot’s French)
Being scared of Lamarckism leads to the neglect of the evolutionary effects of evolved systems that allow the inheritance of targeted and acquired variations. When the fact that variation is highly constrained and is shaped (or, rather, drafted) by the rules of the generating system is ignored, evolution cannot be properly understood.
7.3. Organisms and Their Populations Are the One-Eyed Watchmakers
Conflicts of Interest
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|• Worldwide differences in regional disease frequencies|
|• Low frequency of genetic component of disease as determined with genome wide association studies (GWAS)|
|• Dramatic increases in disease frequencies over past decades|
|• Identical twins with variable and discordant disease frequency|
|• Environmental exposures associated with disease|
|• Regional differences and rapid induction events in evolution|
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Noble, R.; Noble, D. Was the Watchmaker Blind? Or Was She One-Eyed? Biology 2017, 6, 47. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology6040047
Noble R, Noble D. Was the Watchmaker Blind? Or Was She One-Eyed? Biology. 2017; 6(4):47. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology6040047Chicago/Turabian Style
Noble, Raymond, and Denis Noble. 2017. "Was the Watchmaker Blind? Or Was She One-Eyed?" Biology 6, no. 4: 47. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology6040047