Making new evolutionary innovations (Introduction)

by dhw, Sunday, November 24, 2019, 13:30 (369 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: Thank you for this very important article, which both reinforces and explains my own insistence that we cannot draw a firm borderline between adaptation and innovation. (The dolphin example exactly mirrors our own example of the whale.) More importantly, it explains how common descent proceeds – there is some mechanism within the genes (which we may define as “the fundamental units of inheritance and function in a cell”) which enables them to change so radically that they can produce what appears to be every “evolutionary novelty” (Shapiro) leading to speciation. The scientists have simply induced a process which may be perfectly natural. But yes, common descent fits your theory of 3.8 billion years' worth of computer programming as it does Shapiro’s (and my) concept of intelligent cells/cell communities designing their own innovations. The latter theory does not, however, cover the possible origin of the mechanism, which may or may not be your God.

DAVID: A very fair summary of where we are. There is a firm boundary, if we follow current guidelines in naming new species. Of course it is human judgement as to whether enough adaptations have created a new species, so it can be argued there is some blurring.

The article shows clearly that what was once believed to be a complete novelty in fact turns out to be an adjustment of existing structures. What current guidelines are able to tell us whether an apparently new feature is an out-of-the-blue innovation or an adaptation of an existing structure?

DAVID: If speciation can occur naturally by actions of the organisms genome, we've agreed that genome must have a central command post to orchestrate the design changes. I accept a God-given change mechanism, but only with God-given guidelines.

I’m actually hesitant about a “central command post” for the whole genome, though I accepted it earlier. I’d feel safer sticking with the concept of cooperation between intelligent cell communities. The only guidelines you can ever come up with are personal dabbling or a 3.8-billion-year-old computer programme for every change – the very opposite of AUTONOMOUS cells/cell communities which cooperate to produce the changes that allow the organism to adapt or innovate in response to changing conditions.

DAVID: Until we find a command post, if it exists, we can only theorize. The only command post may well turn out to be God at work. While we cannot be sure, at this point, my bet is still on God.

Of course it’s a theory. If it was a fact, there would be no discussion. Once again, I am delighted that at long last you are opening the door to the theory instead of clinging rigidly to your fixed belief in the 3.8-billion-year-old set of programmes for all undabbled innovations etc. which constitutes the God theory you are betting on.

Under “Bacterial chemical communication”:

QUOTE: "'It is quite fascinating for us to see how the bacteria communicate and change behaviour in order for the entire bacterial population to survive. You can almost say that they act as one united organism', says Nina Molin Høyland-Kroghsbo."

DAVID: None of this is surprising. Most antibiotics have been found in nature and then used medically. Bacteriophages are viruses in nature that attack bacteria. It all fits with my comments that bacteria are free-living cells that must have these defenses naturally on board as they appeared at the start of life.

Bacteria communicating, cooperating and changing their behaviour in accordance with whatever new dangers arise from changing conditions fits in with my comments that bacteria are indeed free-living, autonomous cells who use their intelligence to communicate, cooperate and change their behaviour - as opposed to having all the answers prepared for them at the start of life, leaving them only to unconsciously switch on the right one at the right time. And I would suggest that their behaviour is mirrored by that of all the cell communities that make up all bodies: “they act as one united organism”. I’m sure Shapiro would agree.

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