Daily Archives: May 28, 2009

Front-loading and Preadaptation

Cooption, the process by which traits switch function, is something we predict to be important from the hypothesis of front-loading evolution. The Design Matrix lays out a step-by-step case for the logic of front-loading that leads to the realization that cooption is entailed by front-loading. Functional shifts are the very strategy that would work in an attempt to design the future through the present. This is a subtle, but important, point to grasp. Cooption is not some add-on to the front-loading perspective. Cooption is a prediction given that front-loading would not work without it.

Yet there is a simpler way to help people understand that cooption is, at the very least, a process that fits very comfortably within a teleological framework. It is the simple fact that cooption is tightly linked to preadaptation. Stephen Jay Gould sought to replace the word ‘preadaptation’ with the word ‘exaptation,’ where an exaptation is a character that retains its ancestral form while taking on a new function. And the process by which the trait switches function is called cooption.

The concept of preadaptation has been recognized by many to possess distinct teleological connotations, which is why non-teleologists have sought to replace it. This point is easily established:

Continue reading