Misunderstandings About Front-Loading 2

Another installment in my series of essays that correct common misunderstandings about the hypothesis of front-loaded evolution as laid out in The Design Matrix.

Today, we’ll deal with the following erroneous belief:

Claim #2: Front-loading assumes that life began with a super-cell that contained all the genes needed to build complex multicellular life, including humans beings.

Since I have already explained that the original front-loaded state need only have sufficient information that would bias evolutionary trajectories needed to evolve complex, multi-cellular organisms, there is no need to invoke such a super-cell or super-genome. In fact, there are independent reasons and evidence (to be explained at a later date) to begin with a heterogeneous consortium of cells.

In other words, the designer seeds the planet with a population of different genomes that would take root in various environments. Yet the genomes cannot be completely different, as this front-loading strategy would depend on the ability of these cells, and their evolved descendents, to cross-talk with each other (one explanation for the universal nature of the genetic code and much of life’s biochemistry).

Furthermore, one might expect a good amount of redundancy among the genomes to decrease the likelihood that genes needed for the future would be lost.

What is thus encouraging is that scientists have shown that one form of genetic cross-talk, known as horizontal gene transfer, is not only very important in bacterial evolution, but also in eukaryotic evolution (Keeling and Palmer. 2008. Horizontal gene transfer in eukaryotic evolution. Nature Reviews Genetics 9: 605-618). In fact, I will eventually be talking a good bit about horizontal gene transfer from a design perspective.

Instead of Claim #2, the proper formulation is

Front-loading assumes that life began with a consortium of different genomes that, as a group, contained sufficient information needed to bias evolutionary trajectories needed to evolve complex, multi-cellular organisms.

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