4.b.2. Efficacy and optimization
4.b.2.a) Phenotype and efficacy of genotype
Teleological or finalist evolution
The majority of genetic variability cannot be random in genomes or complex systems due to the interrelation that changes will necessarily have. Also, it would be tough to be random in the case of an evolutionary leap –generating a missing link. If the existence of non-random variability is accepted, it should be easy to admit modifications in the genotype due to environmental conditions as Lamarck suggested.
If the cell needed to improve its genotype to create a harder membrane than its genetic load expected, it must have made modifications in its internal mechanics or phenotype. If possible, the cell will incorporate its phenotype changes to the genetic information of its descendants.
There are always aspects that can be improved in the phenotypeand not only for environmental purposes; probably, these aspects are counted by millions in superior animals.
The most efficient improvements will be more successful in life and the mechanism of natural selection, but the source of evolution is the first improvement through the non-random genetic variability.
For example, in cellular biology, we can imagine the existence of two proteins with similar structure, independent functions and create by two different genes belonging to the genotype. Also, with a small modification, one of them can perform both tasks. This little modification will mean an improvement in efficiency given that it will allow the suppression of the necessary genetic code to create the protein.
Sexual differentiation allows us to choose between two lines of evolution to achieve the objective of improvement of the living beings and, in short, of life. In some way, there should be a mechanism allowing us to choose the optimal genotype or source in each particular case. If a gene is operative or significant, it should be for some reason or cause, and there was a moment in which its significance showed.
The genetic information or genotype not only is made up of instructions to develop the new being but somehow it will also incorporate conditions of development of such guidelines, it is epigenetics in a broad sense. A classic example could be the existence of markers of a gene to behave like a dominant gene; although it is very doubtful because we will have a problem when the two genes have that marker of expression in the phenotype.
Possibly, it incorporates related information, such as the first generation ➹ to include the new code int the genotype, or if a specific part of the genotype has a structural nature, which would be similar to marking it as dominant, but conceptually different.
Somewhat, it will incorporate information of interdependence between different parts of the genetic code; that is, the development of a role in phenotype implies the progress of associated fragments by any other method or mechanism.
The backup copies
Typically, a high proportion of the genetic code contained in the genotype develops the new being. Suffice to recall news about the human genome where which attracted the most attention on the Y chromosome was how small it is and the number of non-operative genetic codes it has. It seems nature does not eliminate the modified portion of the genome but instead keeps a copy just in case. It is not well known why it is wanted, but an experienced programmer would effortlessly understand the utility of a non-operative code in the configuration of any computer program can have. In any case, the non-operative genetic code must have marks of identification.
Just like any programmer, if living beings had this related information and methods allowing them to reduce the risk of the introduction of new genetic information in their genotype, they could carry out many much more modifications.
Evolutionary leaps and the missing link
Another argument to improve the efficiency of the genetic information provides us with the commonly called evolutionary leap,regardless of whatever has been its reason and if it causes a missing link or not. In these cases, the rejection of what the evolutionary jump may have produced by random mutationsis much higher since it would substantially impede the existence of a missing linkor significant gaps in the fossil registry.
Once the evolutionary leap happens, in the first moments there will be an infinity of redundant genetic code and functions that are carried out in different ways, even if they provide the same result; the next step of the evolutionary genetics will be a simplification and systemization of the genetic code. Once this rationalization is carried out, nature will be ready to continue adding small modifications in the genotypethat may improve and expand the existing beings’ capabilities.
Any vital impulse system will go through these steps. An example would be that of a computer program, which is the easiest to understand. As the programmers work, they add code to performs additional functions or improve the efficiency of features already present in the program. But there comes a time when the programmer realizes that many additions have common or very similar parts and that each time it modifies one of them, to maintain the coherence of the program and allow it to continue adding functions, it should adjust all of them. Then, it makes restructuring necessary –a qualitative leap or evolutionary leap that, even if it means considerable work, will be more than profitable. Furthermore, these new versions will be pretty different, causing the appearance of a supposed missing link.
It is imaginable it has happened to nature on many occasions throughout history. However, it is unimaginable that it could occur by the simple mechanism of random mutations followed by natural selection.
Another clarifying example is the work of a programmer when he/she is requested to join into one program two similar programs to achieve particular advantages.
Evidently, the reader can think of real examples in his/her regular or professional life in which he/she has followed a similar process. Indeed, he/she will also find historical events with similar dynamics. Let us think, for example, about the enactment of the Spanish Constitution with effects on the laws derived from Spanish judicial system.
4.b.2.b) Optimization of evolution from the origin of life
The scarcity of resources and natural selection
Nature is in a world where resources are scarce, which are needed to subsist and the survival of descendants.
In general, vital impulse systems need to evolve as quickly as possible. It is not always enough to do it well but, at times, they have to be the best because the mechanism of natural selection can act as the termination of the system, eliminating the slowest in obtaining the highest control over the real world, adapting themselves to their surroundings and adapting the surroundings to them.
In other words, one of the essential functions of the natural selection is acting as an accelerator in evolution.
One characteristic derived from the evolutionary velocity and the scarcity of resources since the origin of life is the optimization of resources, given that it will increase the mentioned velocity.
These two characteristics have a special force due to the very design of life that imposes a constant competition and struggle among the beings. These characteristics are real objectives of the evolution of vital impulse systems.
Regarding these objectives, there is a metaphysical question, why does the design of life involve many living beings feed on others, and many of them end in a cruel way?
Sexual differentiation and germline evolution
The sexual differentiation adopts –apart from the other multiple considerations– methods of speeding up changes in genotype allowing to incorporate functions coming from the genotype and phenotype of other living beings.
In germline evolution, only the experience of an individual transmits, and a new generation is necessary to integrate another individual information to the genotype, the growth of just one line is slow.
If different experiences manage to join together, evolution will be much quicker and more fruitful; it would imply genetic combination other individuals’ genotypes, which will include some variations on their phenotype and will allow the verification method of genetic information (VGI).
The graphic shows the difference between the incorporation of new genetic modifications with germline evolution and sexual differentiation along generations. Assuming individuals had the same genetic code or genotype at the beginning, after six steps, accumulated changes with germline evolution would be the third than with sexual differentiation; after nine, the ninth, and so on.
The external origin of evolution will be higher the more mature the individual is, especially in those improvements affecting functions working only in the adult stage. It could be a biological and not cultural justification of the female preferences, in many species, for adult males. In contrast, they prefer young females because they have a stronger body to carry out the complicated and challenging task of the initial development of the new being.
An intermediate method between the germline evolution and the sexual differentiation is the primary or endogenic sexual differentiation. For example, bees have males but they always fertilize the queen of the beehive. In this case, it is more probable that a sex passes a whole backup copy and the other provides some type of improvement in the genotype. By having this endogenic nature, the verification method of genetic information VGI would not be able to be applied, at least as we have described it; it could be applied, in any case, with a generational delay in a way that the verification is carried out between modifications of different generations.
On the other hand, the fact of the VGI not being applied assumes that one should look for the certainty of the goodness of the modifications by other means; it could be that of exhaustive testing, since this takes a lot of time and work, the sex responsible for producing modification should unload heavy jobs that occupy the organism. It can also be that their flight is freer than the bees that are always working, and by being freer, they practice and improve the techniques of flight. Finally, the topic of the famous “drones” will have some explanation because I am aware that this paragraph is pure speculation.
The relevance of genotype optimization
Going back to the topic of the genetic importance of optimization of resources, any repetition of an evolutionary step or genotype is a step back for being a waste of time, energy, and resources.
Some species sacrifice the male after the union, so the repetition of an evolutionary step becomes impossible. Visibly, nature takes time very seriously.
Likewise, we have already talked about the possibility of associating conditions of development to other related traits. Modifications might develop in a generation after the following and even to impose this condition to guarantee that changes would be considered operative after testing their usefulness in more than one evolutionary step.
Optimization of speed evolution justifies this mechanism. If genetic changes due to environmental conditions were directly operative in the following generation; we would run the risk of having to undo them, and all of the changes and adjustments derived from them; in short, a waste of time.
Genetic variability and phenotype
As we have discussed in the section of Guarantee and Certainty, with the verification method of genetic information –VGI– and others, many more modifications can change the genotype without affecting the viability of the new being or phenotype.
The number of genotype alterations carried out in each generation is so high that if the VGI method cannot be applied efficiently, the new individual would not have good future perspectives. In nature, we have cases in which occurs what we are discussing; for example, the children that could have two parents that in turn are siblings. The VGI method is applied but, there are numerous recent and common modifications, and therefore, its filter function will not be carried out efficiently enough, causing visible and significant damage to the descendants.
The fact above has a heightened significance in genetics. It infers evidence of the number of modifications are carried out in each generation and indirectly of its non-randomness. With numerous random mutationsin each generation, the genotype would be chaotic, not for us but nature, when developing the phenotype.
Keeping in mind the complexity and sensitivity of the system, random mutations effect on the phenotypewould be more dangerous with vital functions. Those tasks practically cannot accept arbitrary changes, given that a small error would be enough to bring about the death or non-survival of the new individual, and natural selectiondoes not allow this type of mistakes.
We can find examples of real random mutationswith devastating effects in historical events, such as the dropping of the atomic bombs at the end of the Second World Warin Japan. More examples, although not really, in the movies of the 1950s.
In complex systems, the comparison with an independent source is the only way to get close to the certainty of a specific aspect. Moreover, if changes were always due to random mutations, the VGI method would not make sense, given that, due to the magnitude of the genetic code, they would rarely happen in the same position.
The statistical EDI study –Evolution and Design of Intelligence– shows the existence of the verification method of the genetic information.