The problem of the emergence of functional diversity in prebiotic evolution

Biology and Philosophy 24 (5):585-605 (2009)
Abstract
Since Darwin it is widely accepted that natural selection (NS) is the most important mechanism to explain how biological organisms—in their amazing variety—evolve and, therefore, also how the complexity of certain natural systems can increase over time, creating ever new functions or functional structures/relationships. Nevertheless, the way in which NS is conceived within Darwinian Theory already requires an open, wide enough, functional domain where selective forces may act. And, as the present paper will try to show, this becomes even more evident if one looks into the problem of origins. If there was a time when NS was not operating (as it is quite reasonable to assume), where did that initial functional diversity, necessary to trigger off the process, come from? Self-organization processes may be part of the answer, as many authors have claimed in recent years, but surely not the complete one. We will argue here that a special type of self-maintaining organization, arising from the interplay among a set of different endogenously produced constraints (pre-enzymatic catalysts and primitive compartments included), is required for the appearance of functional diversity in the first place. Starting from that point, NS can progressively lead to new (and, at times, also more complex) organizations that, in turn, provide wider functional variety to be selected for, enlarging in this way the range of action and consequences of the mechanism of NS, in a kind of mutually enhancing effect.
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References found in this work BETA
Mark A. Bedau (1996). The Nature of Life. In Margaret A. Boden (ed.), The Philosophy of Artificial Life. Oxford University Press. 332--357.

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