I just finished reading an interesting paper by J. Scott Turner from the Department of Environmental & Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry (Extended Phenotypes and Extended Organisms. Biology and Philosophy 19: 327–352, 2004). Turner raises several arguments that I find to be quite friendly to the Design Matrix. But what stood out the most was this:
The gene’s special nature derives not from its ability to encode function, or to replicate, or to accumulate mutations, but from its longevity as a determinant of future functional environments. Put simply, of all the multifarious influences that could be brought to bear on the specifiers of a living environment, the information encoded in genes simply outlasts any others (Figure 8). Specifiers and epigenetic effects on them come and go. Genes endure and evolve.
When you consider all the debates about genes and function, what has been missing is consideration of this special property of all genes – their longevity as a determinant of future functional environments. Genes, which can be considered a core component of life’s internal architecture, are perfectly suited to carry out the function of evolution. And even if it is the case the geochemistry ultimately spawned genes, this fact would force us to consider that geochemistry did not come up with an alternative for genes. There are no living things that exist without genes.
But it gets better.