II.1.a) The biological evolution

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

Two typical cases, especially in complex systems theories, are those due to, on one hand, the analysis on a different spatial scale from ours –either microscopic or macroscopic in relation to our size– and, on the other hand, when a long-term analysis is carried out.

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

In addition, the human being is managing to interact on a micro scale in genetics, which implies that we are interacting in an almost unknown and not very intuitive world.

Speaking in social terms, with the exception of a few specialists, the human brain does not have the capacity to 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 genome 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? In addition, what really means a letter of the DNA?

Nonetheless, there is a trick not to get completely lost which is to think about the theory of fractals. It tells us that certain models maintain their structures when changing the scale. In the case of biological evolution, life would behave very similarly to a micro scale than a macro scale because it is the same concept of life at micro scale as that which is appreciable at macro scale.

This 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 individuals behavior in contrast to the behavior of the crowds.

A key element of theory of biological evolution is its characterization as internal dynamics or as external perception.

Firstly, it is worth clarifying that the pure combination of a set of elements will always give us its own subset; that is, a new element will never appear in the combination; 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 if we think about it going backwards, that is, in order 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 completely unknown or we cannot explain them in any way with a certain philosophy of life, a common solution is to declare them implicitly or explicitly random.

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

La GiocondaLouvre Museum
Leonardo da Vinci
La Gioconda, Leonardo da Vinci

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

  • The evolution of cars allows us to see clearly two types of approaches to evolution. On the one hand, it could be argued that the consumers, by making their choice, have created the market’s demand, and this demand makes it so that those cars that were better 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, the cost of research and development...

    Remaining just with demand as a cause of the evolution of cars 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; in the development of new engines...

    On the other hand, demand as well as supply of cars is the result of the general objectives of the car industry. Among which we can cite improving performance or velocity, increasing security, maintaining certain structure (at least for each country, such as the steering wheel on the left, the accelerator on the right, the brake 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 cars!; 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.

    It is also necessary to 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 biological evolution.

  • If we consider the evolution of personal computers, we find ourselves with the supply and demand and all of the aforementioned 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.

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

    Another aspect that is different in relation to the previous example is the set of similarities that can be made 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 great quantity of information.

  • 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. Normally, the linguistic system will try to maintain the coherence of the meaning in order 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, to a greater extent, the evolution of language.

  • One could try an analogy with a modern nation or 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 special objectives but the general objectives are found again with relative ease. In a state or nation, the political system is extremely important for its development, although it is worth noting that, in a broad sense, its political system tends to be largely related to the cultural development of its citizens. On the other hand, the big states belong to a scale different from the human scale, and any type of short-term analysis is complicated due to countless factors. In a long-term analysis, we could say that their evolution depends on the evolution of the citizens.

  • A much simpler example is the development of a person because we are more closely 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 on the competition, but the most important factor is our personal capacity and our job; that is, our personal evolution depends basically on us. Of course, our internal dynamics is affected by our surroundings, but it is still what is responsible for our personal evolution materializing.

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

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