The non-teleological perspective has long viewed living things as passive participants of the interplay between stochastic events and environmental pressures, where mutations that just happened to exist are favored in an environment that just happened to exist. For the non-teleologist, the environment is indeed the driving force and organisms are indeed passive and are being shaped by forces that they do not control.
Yet the hypothesis of front-loading allows us to predict that some aspect of evolution is under intrinsic control. Evidence that living things play an active role in their adaptation and evolution would be one way to enhance the plausibility of such control, thus becoming evidence of front-loading.
Recently, I just ran across a fascinating review article.
Here is the abstract:
A microorganism has to adapt to changing environmental conditions in order to survive. Cells could follow one of two basic strategies to address such environmental fluctuations. On the one hand, cells could anticipate a fluctuating environment by spontaneously generating a phenotypically diverse population of cells, with each subpopulation exhibiting different capacities to flourish in the different conditions. Alternatively, cells could sense changes in the surrounding conditions – such as temperature, nutritional availability or the presence of other individuals – and modify their behavior to provide an appropriate response to that information. As we describe, examples of both strategies abound among different microorganisms. Moreover, successful application of either strategy requires a level of memory and information processing that has not been normally associated with single cells, suggesting that such organisms do in fact have the capacity to ‘think’.
From: S. Ramanathan and J. R. Broach. 2007. Do cells think? Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 64: 1801 – 1804.
I’m going to talk a little bit about a really neat example that is outlined in the article.