Bare Bones Biology 204 – Gary’s Question #3, Evolution and Emergent Properties

Our goal is to build a human system (society) that is sustainable and reasonably comfortable within a healthy Biosystem. (Bare Bones Biology 195, http://FactFictionFancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/). That is reason enough to learn everything we can about the Law of Life (that is, the Law of Evolution and the many interacting processes involved with Evolution) Bare Bones Biology 197, http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/26/6601

140513-canyon-ASC_9026RLSs copyThis series of podcasts, beginning with Bare Bones Biology 194 http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/05/6548/ is meant to provide the most basic overview of the Law of Life, one of the laws of nature, along with the laws of thermodynamics, gravity, etc., that operate to maintain Life on Earth. That means Life itself. It does not mean human Life. Humans could not survive without the other parts of the system of Life on Earth. The earth will still be alive 50 years from now, but it is not clear that humans will continue to be a part of the Biosphere. It is the Law of Evolution that supports the positive biological systems and disposes of those that have negative impact upon the viability of the Biosystem (Bare Bones Biology 194, http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/21/)

Both the Biosystem and the human corposystem are systems. Systems are self-perpetuating, so long as they maintain their positive interactions with their environments, and each system grows around a set of core properties that together have a unique survival value within the Biosystem.

Six of the most basic requirements for Evolution to function positively are described in Bare Bones Biology 198 (http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/30/) and Bare Bones Biology 199 (http://Fact/FictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/04/08). They are:
1-Reproduction; 2-Death; 3-Inheritance of traits; 4-variability of traits; 5-transmission of traits to the following generation; 6-Interconnectedness of processes and “things,” or
objects. (Objects are organisms, cells, tissues — all the objects that are generated at all the levels of organization of Life and are maintained by the processes of the Life system). (Bare Bones Biology 199, http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/)(Bare Bones Biology 200, https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/04/17

140513-canyon-ASC_9028RLSs copyThere could be no Life without interconnectedness because there would be no way for the living objects to change in response to their environment. There could be no systems without interconnectedness because the function of a system is to maintain itself in the face of its changing environment. If the system cannot maintain itself as the environment changes, then it fails (dies), as our corposystem is now failing. It is the Law of Evolution that imposes the necessary balance between the need of a system to respond to its environment and the system’s necessary tendency to avoid change. (Bare Bones Biology 196m http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/03/21/ )

Response to environment in lower systems (individual cells or individual organisms) happens using physiology. This is the first function of the information encoded in the genes, or DNA (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/04/22 ,Bare Bones Biology 201). Many or most genes that are doing this first function, regulate processes that generate a living thing thing or object, such as yourself, or a tree, or a cell, or a kidney, by responding to the environment
embryologically or physiologically.

Response to environment in the higher life forms (species; ecosystems; the Biosystem) happens using Evolution. The nature of Life (the living objects at all the levels of organization (https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/) results from balancing the needs of all the interacting systems as they respond to their internal and external environments (Bare Bones Biology 200, http://Fact/FictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/04/08). The function of Evolution is to maintain this balance.

Depending upon all the above factors, and more, the evolution of life forms responds to the environment in multiple ways, from very slow, step by step evolution to remarkably rapid jumps known as biological saltation or punctuated equilibrium (ref Wikipedia). This part of evolution is possible because of inheritance of traits that can be passed on to the next generation, and it is the second function of DNA — to make exact copies of itself (all the genes) to be passed on to the next generation in the sex cells and by fertillization (ref Wikipedia). The genes then use their first function in the new gamete by activating the processes that create new living “things” (cells, organisms, tissues, etc.). Evolution does not act directly upon the genes; Evolution acts upon the variable characteristics (phenotypes) of the things (organisms, tissues, cells, etc) that are created by the genes.

A small amount of genetic and phenotypic variation results from individual gene changes, or mutations. More results from many, many genetically controlled processes that work together. For example to make a jaw bone, or a tooth, tissues that interact with each other, requires many genes interacting with each other and with the embryonic environment in which the jaw is made. Variability of inheritable traits is necessary for Evolution, and the genes encode the traits. Therefore genetic variability is an important pre-requisite for phenotypic variability, and there are many processes that generate genetic variability, from meiosis of the sex cells in individuals to the maintenance of subtle genetic errors in the gene pools of species. We discussed these in (Bare Bones Biology 201 – https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/)(Bare Bones Biology 202 https://factfictionfancy.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/)(Bare Bones Biology 203 – http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com/2014/05/09).

In all the millions and millions and billions of recombination and mutation events of genes, very rarely, some call it a singularity event, a unique COMBINATION OF genes—that encodes a unique combination of processes—comes together to generate, suddenly (on a geological time scale), an emergent property – a new functional sustem that sustains a new emergent property that provides a new and different way to survive: eating, flying, swimming, growing, a new way that can populate a whole new niche in the environment. This is a big jump in evolution; certainly it happens, probably it is what we refer to as punctuated equilibrium or saltation — and then it is followed by adaptive radiation.

However, unless you intend to live to be a million years old or so I would not wait around for a singularity event to save us from our own hubris (Bare Bones Biology 195, http://FactFictionFancy.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/). So I would suggest – instead of playing human mind games — that you join in the reality-based effort to sustain a Biosystem humans can live in — by using your talents to dig as deeply as you can into understanding and teaching the real Facts of Life and helping to discover how we can learn to submit to them by living sustainably. Rather than try to negate the Facts of Life based on your personal opinions. If you were to succeed – then what? No life.

On the other hand, if we could learn to conform ourselves to reality, we could conceivably build a new human social system with a different set of core properties – combined to form a new emergent understanding of Life — that are sustainable and provide reasonably comfortable life style for humans on a viable, living earth.

Win or lose, that is the most important effort that any human person could make.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS FM radio, 89.1, Bryan, Texas.

The podcast of this episode is available at:

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