The genes that make a fruit fly’s eyes red also produce red wing patterns in the Heliconius butterfly found in South and Central America, finds a new study by a UC Irvine entomologist….”We found that evolution is achieved primarily through recycling old genes into new functions, as opposed to evolving entirely new genes from scratch,” Reed said.
Yes indeed, evolution is achieved primarily through recycling old genes into new functions, as opposed to evolving entirely new genes from scratch. That’s one reason front-loading is plausible. How so?
Well, imagine if the opposite state of affairs held. Imagine that Reed’s research added to other research, allowing him to say, “We found that evolution is achieved primarily through evolving entirely new genes from scratch, as opposed to recycling old genes into new functions.” In that case, the implausibility of front-loading would be enhanced since it would mean evolution was not significantly indebted to the originally designed state in the deep past.
In striking contrast, the non-teleological perspective is much more plastic such that it easily accommodates both possibilities. If evolution was achieved primarily through recycling old genes into new functions or by evolving entirely new genes from scratch, both findings would be said to support the non-teleological perspective. We know this to be the case because, if we consider the history of evolutionary biology, both possibilities have already been comfortably incorporated into the non-teleological mindset. As Sean Carroll (author of Endless Forms Most Beautiful) said:
So what this means is in some ways, some sense, evolution is a simpler process than we first thought. When you think about all of the diversity of forms out there, we first believed this would involve all sorts of novel creations, starting from scratch, again and again and again. We now understand that, no, that evolution works with packets of information and uses them in a new and different ways, and new and different combinations, without necessarily having to invent anything fundamentally new, but new combinations.