2.a.4 – What is the true purpose of biological evolution?

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January 10, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

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What is the true purpose of biological evolution?

By examining the mechanism of natural selection, it can be seen how the environment favors those genes that can be more easily transmitted. For genes, to be transmitted means to duplicate and spread throughout the population.
Genes do not independently reproduce by each other, but all together during duplication of the DNA molecule. To promote their dissemination, they must therefore facilitate the multiplication of DNA where they are inserted; this is a sort of teamwork in which players must win the game of reproduction competition with other teams. Each team consists of players specialized in its role and almost all teams have the same players for different roles, which occurs precisely because the genes that are more suited to play a particular role are those longer able to duplicate and spread, i.e. the most popular players on the market of natural selection, those who win the championship and will be promoted to future generations. These are very numerous teams, composed of thousands of genes, in which there are subgroups with specific roles. To build a complex organ as an eye, it is necessary the association of many different elements, i.e. the collaboration of many genes.
Winning the game means to produce offspring, win competitors means instead be present in as many teams possible to cover its role. In any case, to overcome natural selection are individual genes or groups of them, not all the team, which is slightly modified to every game, thanks to sex intercross. All the players common to all teams are the genetic heritage of species, the remaining part is the species internal genetic diversity, which adds to the common heritage increasing the adaptability and then the survival of other players in future generations. The selection naturally tends to form the best team to play on a specific field, which is the ecological niche.
Underlying all this, there is then the survival of individual genes and not of the offspring; this is confirmed by the observation of populations of animals such as the bees. The worker bees are in fact the specialized populations within their communities, that is called beehive; they are all sterile, not ever reproduce and yet not cease to exist: their genetic heritage does not disappears. The new generations of bees, as we all know, are generated by the queen bee who carries out the function of reproduction organ for the whole hive, which in turn is a kind of body where the workers bees play the role of cells. The genetic heritage of bees, as well as that of our cell, is  handed down even without the direct descent and that means that then it is only one of the possible ways to achieve the survival of genes.
If the genes of an individual are handed down to their direct descendants, survival is equivalent to the survival of offspring; the case is far more common, but not the only one: all species of ants and bees use an alternative system.
It is worthwhile to emphasize that the survival of offspring is therefore subordinated to that of genes.
Similarly, we can say that the survival of the individual is at its turn subject to the survival of offspring; any mutation that helps the ability of individuals to live without increasing its reproductive success, will not have Indeed way of spreading. The individual must live enough to generate an adequate number of descendants and to make them independent, it is exactly what happens in the animal world, natural selection does not require anything more.
According to the logic of natural selection, we living beings are therefore just more complex machines for the conservation, transportation and duplication of genes. This logic also justifies the generation of new species or varieties, since the greater is the evolutionary success of the original species, the greater will be the number of species that derive from it and the lower the probability that the common genetic heritage disappears. The chimpanzees share about 98% of genes with human beings; if they should happen to extinguish, 98% of their genes would survive thanks to the human  beings (and vice versa …).
The real purpose of biological evolution is the survival of selected genes, while the survival of the individual, of the descendants and even of the species are secondary phenomena and not always necessary.
This vision of human nature, subordinated to the survival of genes, is certainly contrary to our vanity, that leads us to consider ourselves as the highest expression of creation to which all other forms of life must submit; however, nothing obliges human expectations to coincide with those of natural selection: even the legitimate aspiration of man to protect his individual survival is based on natural instincts and we must be aware that nature not always works for our own good: we all know that old age, diseases and predators always existed and that we all always do our upmost to defend ourselves from these natural evils, considering this as something also natural.
Understanding what is the purpose of biological evolution should not therefore depress man in the new awareness of its role in nature but rather must be an important lesson in humility that incentives him to work with all his forces to focus first and then pursue all those objectives that are necessary to live and to live better as an individual, as descendant and as a species, celebrating what the biological nature considers secondary. Human beings should draw inspiration from behavior of genes and decide to play with the same team, with more synergy and, accordingly, with greater speed in achieving those objectives.

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6 Comments to “2.a.4 – What is the true purpose of biological evolution?”

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