2.a.1. The biological evolution

Various aspects hinder the understanding of theories on biological evolution because of the immediate or intuitive perception of certain relationships or concepts is low when moving in fields that do not belong to our everyday world.

Especially in complex systems theories, there are two typical cases, on the one hand, the study on a different spatial scale –either microscopic or macroscopic about our size– and, on the other side, within a long-term analysis.

In particular, in the field of biological evolution and genetics, the name assigned to the growth in the cellular or lower range: DNA, protein, bacteria, or virus is microevolution, and the corresponding scale is the microscale or microscopic level. Our regular scale, where we humans find ourselves is the macro or macroscopic level. If we were talking about astronomy, the concepts would vary accordingly.

Also, the human being is managing to interact on the microscale in genetics, which implies that we are interrelating in an unknown and not very intuitive world.

Except for a few specialists in social terms, the human brain cannot assimilate the change of scale at acceptable, logical levels.

For the majority of us, when in biological evolution terms they speak of 325 billion cells; it makes no difference to us if they say 830 billion cells; and, not to mention, if they talk to us about molecules or the number of letters of DNA.

When they say that the genome of a monkey differs by only 1% from the human, it seems like they are very similar. What would happen if they told us the same, but with the absolute quantity of the known letters of DNA in which they differ? Also, what does one DNA letter mean?

Nonetheless, a trick not to get lost is to reason about the fractal theory. It tells us that specific models maintain their structures when changing the scale. In the case of biological evolution, life would behave similarly in micro and macro range.

It does not mean at all that we cannot adjust some variables or concepts, or that we always need to do so. At times, the change of scale creates a noticeably different model because new forces or relationships come into play. The classic example could be the individual’s behavior against the crowds.

An essential element of the theory of biological evolution is its characterization as internal dynamics or external perception.

Firstly, it is worth clarifying that the simple combination of a set of elements will always give us its subset; that is, a new item will never appear in the mixture; so biological evolution could not exist. Using a simple analogy of a game with a Spanish pack of cards, a card from an English deck will never appear when dealing the cards. Likewise, the same occurs going backward, that is, to see the origin of life.

As a result, even for the biological evolution understood as external perception, it is necessary to accept internal changes. Now then, if those internal changes are entirely unknown or we cannot explain them in any way with a particular philosophy of life, a standard solution is to declare them implicitly or explicitly random.

A considerable imagination is needed to believe that with random changes in the points of each card’s pattern, eventually, one could end up playing with a card from an English deck, and much less with all of its cards simultaneously.

La Gioconda Louvre Museum
Leonardo da Vinci
La Gioconda, Leonardo da Vinci.

Moreover, let us look at the significance of choosing one focus or another of biological evolution for some real, but non-biological, examples of modern society:

  • The development of cars

    This example allows us to see two types of approaches. On the one hand, we could argue that the consumers have created the market’s demand by making their choice, and this demand makes it so that those cars more adapted to their choice are bought and, thereby, allowing companies to continue their production.

    However, due to the economic theory, we know that the market reaches an equilibrium when supply and demand are equal, the former in our case will be created according to the cost of production among which we frequently find the cost of materials, the cost of labor, and the cost of research and development.

    Remaining just with demand as a cause of the evolution of vehicles would be ignoring all of the efforts of men and women in improving materials: tires, engine, etc.; in the improvements of productivity of labor, and the importance of the research in air resistance; and in the development of new devices.

    On the other hand, demand, as well as the supply of cars, is the result of general objectives of the car industry. Among which we can cite improving performance or velocity, increasing security, maintaining a specific structure (at least for each country, such as the steering wheel on the left, the accelerator on the right, the handbrake in the middle, etc.) and the speediness in transmitting the technological advances to the market.

    In short, we should recognize that the demand for cars has always existed, surely the Romans would have also wanted to have modern vehicles! That is, the driving force in the evolution of cars has been the improvement in the supply that has materialized each time a different model comes out.

    We should take into account that although the example is not of pure biological evolution, the market for cars is a direct result of human activity or man’s natural progression.

  • Personal computers

    Here we find ourselves with the supply and demand and all of the elements and reasoning in the previous example, and even with greater clarity.

    In this example, there is an additional fact, in which the creation of software or computer programs is necessarily parallel to the development of hardware or computer equipment. It would be useless having the Windows 2000 program if we have a personal computer with a chip type 386 AT, at 16 KHz, and only 640 Kb of memory; in fact, this program would not have been able to exist if there were not any faster computers.

    Admittedly, in the biological evolution of man, the development of specific elements needs others or that some evolutionary conditions are present.

    Another aspect that is different from the previous example is the set of similarities between the personal computer and the human brain. Deep down we are talking about two different systems but the same purpose: keeping and maintaining a vast quantity of information.

  • Languages

    A different example would be languages that evolve and perfect themselves, but the laws of supply and demand of the market are not part of the system. Nonetheless, the study of the general intrinsic objectives of any language continues to surprise us because it seems quite a bit as biological evolution of man like those previously mentioned.

    We have already mentioned the improvement and perfection, but a language also accepts changes that are more or less rapid but are always within a structure of increasingly strict grammar rules that guarantee its continuation. Usually, the linguistic system will try to maintain the coherence of the meaning to hold desirable communication, and of course, it will increase the number of words and concepts associated with them insofar as it is possible; that is, of the subjects’ linguistic capacity.

    This last point is important since, in short, it is what is going to give us, mostly, the evolution of language.

  • Modern nation

    One could try an analogy with a state since there are not any clear market laws here either, although they are starting to appear with greater clarity at the root of the current globalization of the economy and other aspects of human activity.

    Each system will have unique objectives, but we can quickly detect the general goals. In a state or nation, the political system is essential for its development, although it is worth noting that, in a broad sense, its political system tends to relate to the cultural development of its citizens. On the other hand, the big states belong to a different scale from the human level, and the results of any short-term analysis will be subject to countless factors. In a long-term review, we could say that their strength will depend on the evolution of the citizens.

  • A person’s life

    A more straightforward example is the development of a person because we are intimately familiar with it. It seems clear that the success of many of our companies or our personal goals up until a certain point depends on others or the competition, but the critical factor is our capacity and our job. That is, our evolution depends on us. Of course, our surroundings affect our internal dynamics, but our inner dynamics are still responsible for our particular advancement.

  • The artist

    The example of the artist is also illuminating some characteristics of biological evolution. If we analyze the development of a famous painter’s work throughout his/her life, we can identify different stages in his/her painting. In some pictures, it will be easier to discover the theme; others will have plenty of colors or tones, etc. If we want to understand the evolution of the paintings, we will have to focus on the artist and his/her work, age, economic situation, the individual position in the face of social evolution, etc. Otherwise, we would deny the artist’s influence on the progression of his/her work.

In light of these examples, we can conclude that the concept of biological evolution, in the strict sense, is referring to the global change of things and not only of their appearance. This view of the philosophy of life and biological evolution allows us to understand better the origin of life and the evolution of man.