One of the expectations from the hypothesis of front-loading evolution is that cells would play a significant role in their own evolution, as this would constitute an intrinsic factor to evolution that would be more strongly connected to the original design event. To this end, consider just how smart cells can be:
Scientists studying how bacteria under stress collectively weigh and initiate different survival strategies say they have gained new insights into how humans make strategic decisions that affect their health, wealth and the fate of others in society.
“We have developed for the first time a system level model of a large gene network to decipher the underlying principles of the bacteria game theory and how an internal network of genes and proteins is used to calculate risks in this complicated situation,” he said.
This has applications to human society because many people encounter similar dilemmas during their own lives. For example, should people ignore side effects and vaccinate against a new potentially lethal virus or should they not vaccinate and take the risk of being infected with the possible consequences? If the majority of the population is going to get vaccinated, then it is better for each individual not to get vaccinated. However, if most people will not be vaccinated then it is better to be vaccinated.
“What each bacterium is doing is the equivalent if each individual on earth was able receive the exact information about the rate of spread of this new virus, the exact information about the intensions, to be vaccinated or not, by each person on the planet, and in addition the exact information about the health risks of side effects or being infected,” said Ben Jacob. “A decision is then made in the context of this vast amount of information.”
“We have shown how the bacteria do this complex calculation according to well-defined principles,” added Onuchic. “We learned a simple rule: Anyone who needs to make a decision under pressure in life, especially if it is a possible death decision, will take its time. She or he will review the trends of change, will render all possible chances and risks, and only then react.”
And speaking of humans, consider this research:
Think of your brain like a radio: You’re turning the knob to find your favourite station, but the knob jams, and you’re stuck listening to something that’s in between stations. It’s a frustrating combination that makes it quite hard to get an update on swine flu while a Michael Jackson song wavers in and out. Staying on the right frequency is the only way to really hear what you’re after. In much the same way, the brain’s nerve cells are able to “tune in” to the right station to get exactly the information they need, says researcher Laura Colgin, who was the paper’s first author. “Just like radio stations play songs and news on different frequencies, the brain uses different frequencies of waves to send different kinds of information,” she says.
“You know how when you feel like you really connect with someone, you say you are on the same wavelength? When brain cells want to connect with each other, they synchronize their activity,” Colgin explains. “The cells literally tune into each other’s wavelength. We investigated how gamma waves in particular were involved in communication across cell groups in the hippocampus. What we found could be described as a radio-like system inside the brain. The lower frequencies are used to transmit memories of past experiences, and the higher frequencies are used to convey what is happening where you are right now.”
Step back and consider the big picture that is emerging. If bacterial cells, the simplest of cells, can carry out “complex calculations” when “choosing” between different responses to stress (competence vs. sporulation) and neurons can synchronize with each other for long distance communication as part of a cellular universe known as the ‘brain’, does the non-teleological view of cells as dumb entities, being passively sculpted by their environment, make much sense? I think not. The more it becomes clear that cells are smart the more it becomes likely they are playing some active role in their own evolution. And this would mean that evolution is more akin to a biological function than as a side effect of imperfect replication in an environment with limited resources.
I should also add that the more a designer understood the ways in which cells “think,” respond, and “plan,” the easier it would be to front-load evolution. After all, it is our knowledge of human thoughts, responses, and planning which makes front-loading human behavior (in the form of nudging) possible.