Since the summer is over, it is a good time to pause and evaluate the merits of front-loading. Front-loading is the hypothesis whereby the original cells were designed in such a way that their subsequent evolution was under some form of control. Yet this control is not deterministic. Instead, it nudges and encourages evolution to explore certain trajectories, by predisposing entry into those trajectories with particular preadaptations.
In essence, front-loading is a hypothesis which posits that evolution is guided. All of our data and experience with artificial selection teaches us evolution can be guided. But in such case, the guidance is extrinsic, as the designers choose the environments and selection pressures. In the case of front-loading, we envision a very clever designer that is able to replace extrinsic guidance with a specific cellular architecture and composition that will subsequently guide evolution intrinsically.
Artificial selection is a crude model of front-loading in that not only is the guidance extrinsic, but also exists over very short spans of time. Front-loading would employ a softer touch, where the mechanisms of intrinsic guidance are solid enough to exert effect, but also robust enough to exploit and tolerate, rather than be drowned out, by contingency over spans of millions/billions of years.
What is most encouraging is that in the years I have been proposing and attempting to flesh out this hypothesis, and even since The Design Matrix was published, the case for the plausibility of front-loading has gotten stronger. Not weaker. Not the same. Stronger.
It has become even more clear that deep homology, symbiogenesis, and preadaptation have played key roles in significant evolutionary transitions. It has also become even more clear that convergent evolution is not some fluke, but instead speaks to a core aspect of evolution. It has even become more clear that organisms are not being passively shaped by their environment, but actually play a role in their own evolution. Not only does this all support the plausibility of front-loading, but the hypothesis of front-loading coheres these together into a larger perspective. In contrast, the non-teleological perspective typically views these phenomena as separate processes.
What’s more, there really is no argument against the plausibility of front-loading. In all the years I have proposed this hypothesis, I have yet to encounter such an argument. I have encountered complaints, misrepresentation, and sometimes ridicule. But none of that provides any reason to think the hypothesis of front-loading is not true.
So as the case for front-loading gets stronger, and as arguments against the hypothesis fail to materialize, I have no choice but to proceed. And it only get’s better.