4.b.2. Efficacy and optimization
4.b.2.a) Phenotype and efficacy of genotype
Teleological or finalist evolution
If the existence of non-random genetic variability in the genotype is accepted and, indeed, that the majority of them cannot be random in genomes or complex systems due to the interrelation that they will necessarily have, and much less in the case of an evolutionary leap that can generate what is known as the missing link, it is easy to accept the modifications in the genotype due to environmental conditions as Lamarck suggested.
If it can, a cell that has had to maintain throughout its entire life a much harder membrane than what was initially anticipated, and that has made modifications in its internal mechanics in order to create some more efficient proteins for its membrane and that obviously has them in its phenotype, will transmit this information to its descendants through the genotype, as any living being would do.
There are always aspects that can be improved in the phenotype and not only for environmental purposes; surely these aspects are counted by the millions in superior animals.
Obviously, the most efficient improvements will be more successful in life and in the mechanism of natural selection, but the origin of evolution is the initial improvement through the non-random genetic variability.
For example, in cellular biology we can imagine the existence of two proteins, similar in their structure, with independent functions and created by two different genes belonging to the genotype, and, with a small modification, one of them can perform both tasks. This small modification will mean an improvement in efficiency given that it will allow the suppression of the necessary genetic code to create the now redundant protein.
On the other hand, the sexual differentiation allows us to choose between two lines of a different evolution to achieve the objective of improvement of the living beings and, in short, of life. In some way, there should be a mechanism that allows 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 will be a moment in which its significance has been determined.
The genetic information or genotype not only is made up of instructions in order to develop the new being but rather it will also incorporate conditions of development of such instructions, it is what is known as epigenetic. A similar classic example could be the existence of markers of when a gene has 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.
What is indeed more feasible is that it incorporates related information, such as from how many ancient generations have a part of the genotype or genetic code or if a certain part of the genotype is considered to be of a structural nature, which would be similar to marking it as dominant but conceptually different.
In addition, in some way, it will incorporate information of interdependence between different parts of the genotype or genetic code; that is, that the development of a part in the phenotype implies the development of all of the marked or identified parts by any other method or mechanism.
The backup copy
Currently, it is accepted that a great part of the genetic code contained in the genotype is used in the development of the new being; suffice to recall one of the presentations in print about the human genome where that which attracted the most attention was how small it was and the number of non-operative genetic codes that the Y chromosome has. It seems that nature does not eliminate the part of the genetic code that has been modified but rather keeps a copy just in case. It is not very well-known why it is wanted, but an experienced programmer would perfectly understand the different uses that can be given to a non-operative code in the configuration of any computer program. In any case, the part of the operative code of the genotype and that which isn’t have to be marked or identified in some way.
Just like any programmer, if we living beings had this related information and methods that allow us to reduce the risk of the introduction of new genetic information in our genotype due to the consequences that it can have for the new being while developing the phenotype, we could carry out many more modifications than the contrary.
Evolutionary leaps and the missing link
Another argument to improve 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 to what the evolutionary leap may have produced by random mutations is much greater since it would greatly impede the existence of a certain missing link or of large gaps in the fossil registry.
Once the evolutionary leap is produced, in the first moments there will be infinity of redundant genetic code and of functions that are carried out in different ways, even if they produce the same result; the next step of the evolutionary genetics in the restructuring occurrence 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 genotype that may improve and expand the capabilities of the living being.
These steps are produced in any vital impulse system, and an example would be that of a computer program which is the easiest to understand. As it is being programmed, it is adding code that performs additional functions or improves the efficiency of the functions 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 modify each one of the existing functions. Then it makes restructuring necessary –a qualitative leap or evolutionary leap that, even if it means considerable work, will be more than profitable. Furthermore, usually the new version will be pretty different from the previous, causing the appearance of a supposed missing link.
It is imaginable that this fact has been presented to nature on many occasions throughout history. However, it is pretty unimaginable that it can be produced by the simple mechanism of random mutations followed by natural selection.
Another example even more clarifying is the work of a programmer when he/she is requested to join two similar existing programs, but with individual advantages, into just one program.
Surely, the reader can think of real examples in his/her normal or professional life in which he/she has followed a similar process. And certainly, he/she will also find historic events with similar dynamics, let’s think, for example, about the enactment of the Spanish Constitution and all of its effects on the laws derived from the Spanish judicial system.
Scarcity of resources and natural selection
Undoubtedly, nature finds itself in a world where resources are scarce and most of the time must be utilized in surviving, and the survival of the descendants is not guaranteed.
The vital impulse systems have the nature of needing to evolve as quickly as possible in the genotype, and 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 have a lot of power and acts as the termination of the system, eliminating the slowest in obtaining the greatest power over the real world, adapting themselves to their surroundings and adapting the surroundings to them.
In other words, one of the most important functions of the natural selection is acting as an accelerator in evolution.
One characteristic derived from the velocity of evolution and of the scarcity of resources from the origin of life is the optimization of the evolutionary resources given that it allows increasing 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. Due to such an enormous importance, these characteristics go on to be considered true objectives of the evolution of the vital impulse systems.
Regardless of the previous, there is a metaphysical question that directly implies the speed in evolving as an important objective. Why does the design of life in this world imply that many living beings feed on other living beings and many of them end in a cruel way?
Sexual differentiation and germline evolution
The sexual differentiation adopts (apart from the other multiple considerations) a means of speeding up the changes in the genotype to make it possible to incorporate in the genetic information certain functions that come from the genotype and phenotype of other living beings.
When the genetic information is unnecessarily transmitted from another being, only the experience of an individual is incorporated and a new generation is necessary in order to incorporate the experience of another individual to the genotype, the evolution of just one line is very slow.
If different experiences or developed genotypes in phenotypes manage to join together, evolution will be much quicker and richer; it would imply the genetic combination with genotypes of other individuals that will have included some variations of their phenotype and the possibility of using the verification method of the genetic information (VGI).
The graphic shows us the difference of the incorporation of new genetic modifications with germline evolution or with sexual differentiation during new generations and the genetic importance that it can have… Assuming that all of the individuals or beings had the same genetic code or genotype in the 0 moment, after 6 generations, the accumulated modifications would be the third part with germline evolution than with sexual differentiation; after nine, the ninth part...Obviously, evolution of external origin will be so much greater the more mature the individual is, especially in those improvements that may affect functions that are only experienced in the adult stage. This effect could be the biological and not the cultural justification of the observation in which, in many species, the females prefer the genotypes of adult males, in contrast to the males who prefer them young because they have a stronger body to carry out the difficult and complicated 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.
Importance of the optimization of the genotype
Going back to the topic of the genetic importance of the optimization of resources, any repetition of an evolutionary step or genotype is a step back in that it is a waste of time, energy and resources.
This could be the cause for which some species sacrifice the male after the union so that the repetition of the mentioned evolutionary step will be impossible. It is viewed that nature takes this objective very seriously.
Likewise, I have already cited the possibility of associating conditions of effective development of nature modified according to the existence or lack of existence of other related traits. So, it is possible that a modification may be developed in a generation subsequent to the following and even impose this condition in order to guarantee that the changes carried out be considered operative after testing their usefulness in more than one generation.
This mechanism can be justified from the angle of the objective of speed and optimization of evolution; let’s think, for example, about the genetic changes of environmental origin, if these changes were directly operative in the following generation we would run the risk of having to undo these genetic changes if the environmental changes are not stable on a long-term basis, and also undo all of the changes and adjustments derived from them; in short, a waste of time.
Genetic variability and phenotype
As I have discussed in the section of Guarantee and Certainty, with the verification method of genetic information VGI and others, many more modifications can be made in the genotype without putting the viability of the new being or phenotype in danger. The number of modifications in the genotype that are carried out in each generation is so high that if the VGI method cannot be effectively applied the new individual would not have great future perspectives. This is a verified fact, given that in nature we count on cases in which occurs exactly what we are discussing, it deals with the case of the children that could have two parents that in turn are siblings. The VGI method is applied but, for there being numerous recent and common modifications, its function, as a filter will not be carried out efficiently enough, which will cause visible and significant damage in the descendants.
The aforementioned fact has a heightened genetic importance by assuming obvious proof of the quantity of modifications that are carried out in each generation and indirectly of its non-randomness since, with numerous random mutations in each generation, the genotype would be a little chaotic, not for us but for nature, when it comes to developing the phenotype.
The effect of random mutations on the phenotype would be more serious when we talk about the vital functions while keeping in mind the complexity and sensitivity of the system; that is, in functions that practically cannot accept random changes, given that a small error would be enough to bring about the death or non-survival of the new individual, and natural selection does not allow this type of errors.
We can find examples of random mutations or really random modifications and with devastating effects in historical events, such as the dropping of the atomic bombs at the end of the Second World War in Japan and in the movies in the 1950s of the past century.
In complex systems, the only way to get close to total certainty of a specific aspect is its comparison with an independent source. Moreover, if the changes were always due to random mutations the verification method of genetic information VGI would not make sense, given that, due to the magnitude of the genetic code, rarely would they be produced in the same position.
The statistical EDI study - Evolution and Design of Intelligence clearly shows the existence of the verification method of the genetic information.