Meta-Evolution

December 15, 2009 | 1 Comment

Category: Biology

When in 1858 Charles Darwin received a letter from Alfred Wallace describing Wallace’s version of the theory of natural selection, Darwin was exploring three different theories of evolution.  Conducting experiments in three different areas, he was also looking for evidence of how the three different dynamics were related.  Wallace’s letter aborted Darwin’s attempts to find a synthesis.  He then struggled to reduce his work on natural selection to a volume small enough to be accessible.  On the Origin of Species was published in 1859.

Darwin’s 1868 The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication explored Lamarckian principles of evolution.  In this two-volume work, environmental influences and the use and disuse of organs were addressed in the context of his theory of pangenesis, which described hypothetical, influential gemmules passing through the bloodstream.  As it happened, both his 1868 Variations and his 1874 The Descent of Man, which discussed sexual selection, were almost totally ignored, while Darwin’s theory of natural selection received massive attention.

Natural selection, sexual selection and Lamarckian selection were all embraced by Darwin’s work.  Then, shortly after Darwin’s death, there emerged the work of the Neo-Lamarckians, Mivart, Cope and Hyatt, who were exploring principles of maturational acceleration and delay.

This work in many ways is picking up where Darwin left off in 1858.  Darwin was impacted by society’s complete attention to his theory of natural selection starting in 1859.  Darwin hypothesized several selective processes contributing to evolution.  Additional processes emerged after his passing with the discovery that maturation rates and timing influence evolution.  This work seeks to integrate these various selective processes and show how they interrelate and how they have evolved.

I hypothesize that there is an evolution of evolutionary processes, a meta-evolution with a lineage that can be traced.  Clearly, all life is influenced by natural selection.  Yet, there emerged avenues for progeny to exhibit non random variation, which offered advantages in a competitive environment.  There is evidence that suggests that sexual selection emerged with the appearance of estrogen.  We can estimate how that influence began.  The influence of maturational dynamics on evolution likely proliferated with specific mate-pairing conventions.

In other words, evolution evolves.  It is possible that Darwin was headed toward this understanding when Wallace sent him that confounding letter.  This blog explores possible paths that this evolution of evolution has taken, also discussing the emergence of technological evolution, the newest selective process to consider.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 at 8:28 am and is filed under Biology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
1 Comment so far

  1. Paulo Cardoso on January 15, 2010 11:59 am

    When you discusse the possibility of the emergence of technological evolution did you realize that you are in the domain out the biological evolution and Darwin did´t consider it

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