Adaptation

Conventional thinking would have us believe that evolution is all about organisms adapting to the environments over time.  Sure, but it probably goes deeper than this. There is no good reason to think that such adaptation is a purely a passive process, as if the environment itself molds organisms like an artist might shape clay.  On the contrary, there is good reason to think organisms play an active role in this process, as if the clay was participating its own shape changes.

This is because we know all organisms adapt to their surroundings on a moment-by-moment basis through homeostasis.  Adaptation not only occurs across generations, but occurs everyday in the life of an organism.  In a sense, nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of homeostasis.  And once we begin to explore this insight more fully, we will see that organisms don’t merely adapt to their environments.  Organisms have the ability to adapt the environment to themselves.  Instead of being passively molded by the environment, organisms can, and do, actively shape their environment.  So if organisms shape their environment, and the environment is supposedly doing all the designing, just what is really doing that designing?

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7 responses to “Adaptation

  1. “just what is really doing that designing?”

    Pixie dust

  2. So RAGs jumped from bacteria to jawed vertebrates because the jawed vertebrates were trying to maintain homeostasis?

    Or once RAGs were in the jawed vertebrate genome, they moved to the TLR genes because the organism was trying to maintain homeostasis?

    And did the organism say to itself, “I should find a better use for these RAGs”?

  3. Along these lines, I’ve been thinking about something that I’m sure others have thought of before.

    Let’s say a fish ends up with some amazing mutation. X-men-like, a laser on its head that it can use at any time to locate nearby prey, zap it, and devour it. 100% effective, never breaks down, never harms the fish itself. In fact, let’s say every fish in a given area with abundant food will have this mutation suddenly for whatever reason.

    Will this mutation be selected for?

    On the surface, it seems so. But how much of that is because we mentally fill in all the other variables? Particularly, “Well, the fish will use this mutation! It would be stupid not to!” But what guarantees an organism will use a beneficial mutation? Unless what it confers is entirely passive in effect, the mutation itself won’t do the trick.

    That makes me wonder if biologists ever discuss mutations that could have or would have been advantageous and selection-worthy to a particular population if it had been used in the right way. But it wasn’t, so it wasn’t.

  4. But fish do have a laser on top of their heads that they never use. If only they would try deep meditation, it would open that third ey….er, open that laser beam, and they could zap all the prey they wanted. This is a secret that has been known by all the zen fish for thousands of generations.

  5. Hi Bilbo,

    So RAGs jumped from bacteria to jawed vertebrates because the jawed vertebrates were trying to maintain homeostasis?

    I would speculate that once jaws evolved, this opened a whole new way of life for vertebrates that entailed new stresses. The emergence of the specified immunity system was a response to these stresses that helped put return vertebrates to a more “balanced” state. I think I’ll blog more specifically about this. But in the meantime, think about this – is it mere coincidence that the evolution of jaws and immunity occurred so closely together and so rapidly?

    Or once RAGs were in the jawed vertebrate genome, they moved to the TLR genes because the organism was trying to maintain homeostasis?

    Because transposons move about genomes in a random fashion, it was only a matter of time before they jumped into an antibody gene of some jawed vertebrate genome. Stress levels may have facilitated this in two ways: increase the rate of genomic remodeling and epigenetic factors may have “lured” RAG to the antibody genes.

    And did the organism say to itself, “I should find a better use for these RAGs”?

    No, but in a stressed state, the organisms may have been “searching” for some solution.

  6. Hi Mike,

    I was thinking the same thing about the appearance of jaws and the need for an adaptive immune system. It seems jaws would increase the variety of food and the variety of ingested microbes. Still, it seems to be a very good stroke of fortune that the RAG transposon just happened to show up.

    When transposons jump around a genome, do they leave a trace of where they have been?

  7. Hi Mike,

    Have you read “Not By Chance” by Dr Leee Spetner?

    If you have not you really should…

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