Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 215–239 | Cite as

Selection without replicators: the origin of genes, and the replicator/interactor distinction in etiobiology

Article

Abstract

Genes are thought to have evolved from long-lived and multiply-interactive molecules in the early stages of the origins of life. However, at that stage there were no replicators, and the distinction between interactors and replicators did not yet apply. Nevertheless, the process of evolution that proceeded from initial autocatalytic hypercycles to full organisms was a Darwinian process of selection of favourable variants. We distinguish therefore between Neo-Darwinian evolution and the related Weismannian and Central Dogma divisions, on the one hand, and the more generic category of Darwinian evolution on the other. We argue that Hull’s and Dawkins’ replicator/interactor distinction of entities is a sufficient, but not necessary, condition for Darwinian evolution to take place. We conceive the origin of genes as a separation between different types of molecules in a thermodynamic state space, and employ a notion of reproducers.

Keywords

Gene Origins of life Etiobiology Hypercycle Autocatalysis Natural selection Neo-Darwinism Replicator Interactor Reproducer Weismann Dawkins Hull 

References

  1. Abkevich VI, Gutin AM, Shakhnovich EI (1996) How the first biopolymers could have evolved. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 93(2):839–844CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alberti S (1997) The origin of the genetic code and protein synthesis. J Mol Evol 45(4):352–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arrhenius G, Sales B, Mojzsis S, Lee T (1997) Entropy and charge in molecular evolution-the case of phosphate. J Theor Biol 187(4):503–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blomberg C (1997) On the appearance of function and organisation in the origin of life. J Theor Biol 187(4):541–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brandon RN (1988) The levels of selection: a hierarchy of interactors. In: Plotkin H (ed) The role of behavior in evolution. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 51–71Google Scholar
  6. Brandon RN (1990) Adaptation and environment. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  7. Chaitin GJ (1999) The unknowable, Springer series in discrete mathematics and theoretical computer science. Springer, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  8. Cziko G (1995) Without miracles: universal selection theory and the second Darwinian Revolution. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Dawkins R (1976) The selfish gene. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Dawkins R (1983) The extended phenotype: the long reach of the gene. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Dawkins R (1986) The blind watchmaker. Longman Scientific and Technical, HarlowGoogle Scholar
  12. Dawkins R (1989) The selfish gene, New edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  13. de Graaf RM, Visscher J, Schwartz AW (1995) A plausibly prebiotic synthesis of phosphonic acids. Nature 378(6556):474–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deamer D, Weber AL (2010) Bioenergetics and life’s origins. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 2(2)Google Scholar
  15. Dennett DC (1995) Darwin’s dangerous idea: evolution and the meanings of life. Simon and Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Di Giulio M (1997a) On the RNA world: evidence in favor of an early ribonucleopeptide world. J Mol Evol 45:571–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Di Giulio M (1997b) The origin of the genetic code. Trends Biochem Sci 22(2):49–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dobzhansky T (1935) A critique of the species concept in biology. Philos Sci 2:344–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Doolittle WF (1993) Sol’s world, the RNA world, our world. FASEB J 1:1–2Google Scholar
  20. Eigen M (1993) The origin of genetic information: viruses as models. Gene 135(1–2):37–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eigen M, Schuster P (1979) The hypercycle, a principle of natural self-organization. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  22. Eigen M, Winkler R (1981) Laws of the game: how the principles of nature govern chance, 1st American edn. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Eigen M, Winkler-Oswatitsch R (1992) Steps towards life: a perspective on evolution. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Eigen M, Biebricher CK, Gebinoga M, Gardiner WC (1991) The hypercycle. Coupling of RNA and protein biosynthesis in the infection cycle of an RNA bacteriophage. Biochemistry 30(46):11005–11018Google Scholar
  25. Eldredge N (1989) Macroevolutionary dynamics: species, niches, and adaptive peaks. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Eldredge N (1995) Reinventing Darwin: the great evolutionary debate. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. Elzanowski, A (Anjay), Ostell J (2006) The genetic codes. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 26 September 1996 [cited 11 January 2006]. Available from http://bioinformatics.org/JaMBW/2/3/TranslationTables.html
  28. Ertem G, Ferris JP (1996) Synthesis of RNA oligomers on heterogeneous templates. Nature 379(6562):238–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fisher, RA (1930) The genetical theory of natural selection. Clarendon Press, Oxford (rev. ed. Dover, New York, 1958)Google Scholar
  30. Ganti T (1997) Biogenesis itself. J Theor Biol 187(4):583–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ghiselin MT (1974) The economy of nature and the evolution of sex. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  32. Godfrey-Smith P (2009) Darwinian populations and natural selection. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. Griesemer JR (1999) Materials for the study of evolutionary transition. Biol Philos 14(1):127–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Griesemer JR (2000) The units of evolutionary transition. Selection 1(1–3):67–80Google Scholar
  35. Griesemer JR (2005) The informational gene and the substantial body: on the generalization of evolutionary theory by abstraction. In: Jones MR, Cartwright N (eds) Idealization XII: correcting the model. Idealization and abstraction in the sciences. Rodopi Publishers, Amsterdam, 59–115Google Scholar
  36. Griffiths PE, Gray RD (1994) Replicators and vehicles–or developmental systems. Behav Brain Sci 17(4):623–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Griffiths PE, Gray RD (1997) Replicator II—judgement day. Biol Philos 12(4):471–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Griffiths PE, Neumann-Held E (1999) The many faces of the gene. Bioscience 49(8):656–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Huber C, Wächtershäuser G (1997) Activated acetic acid by carbon fixation on (Fe, Ni)S under primordial conditions. Science 276(5310):245–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hull DL (1974) Philosophy of biological science. Prentice-Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  41. Hull DL (1981) Units of evolution: a metaphysical essay. In: Jensen UL, Harré R (eds) The philosophy of evolution. Harvester Press, Brighton, pp 23–44Google Scholar
  42. Hull DL (1988a) Interactors versus vehicles. In: Plotkin HC (ed) The role of behavior in evolution. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  43. Hull DL (1988b) Science as a process: an evolutionary account of the social and conceptual development of science. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  44. Hull DL (1989) The metaphysics of evolution. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  45. Hull DL (1992) Individual. In: Keller E, Lloyd E (eds) Keywords in evolutionary biology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp 180–187Google Scholar
  46. Hull DL, Wilkins JS (2005) Replication. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/replication/
  47. Jablonka E, Lamb MJ (1995) Epigenetic inheritance and evolution: the Lamarckian dimension. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  48. Jablonka E, Lamb MJ (2005) Evolution in four dimensions: genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbolic variation in the history of life, Life and mind. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  49. Kauffman SA (1993) The origins of order: self-organization and selection in evolution. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  50. Kauffman SA (1995) At home in the universe: the search for laws of self-organization and complexity. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  51. Kauffman SA (2001) Prolegomenon to a general biology. Ann N Y Acad Sci 935:18–36; discussion 37-18Google Scholar
  52. Kim J (1993) Supervenience and mind: selected philosophical essays, Cambridge studies in philosophy. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kitcher P (1993) The advancement of science: science without legend, objectivity without illusions. Oxford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Lee DH, Severin K, Yokobayashi Y, Ghadiri MR (1997) Emergence of symbiosis in peptide self-replication through a hypercyclic network. Nature 390(6660):591–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Levy M, Miller SL (1998) The stability of the RNA bases: implications for the origin of life. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 95(14):7933–7938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lewontin RC (1974) The genetic basis of evolutionary change, Columbia biological series no. 25. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  57. Lifson S (1997) On the crucial stages in the origin of animate matter. J Mol Evol 44(1):1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Maclaurin J (1998) Reinventing molecular Weismannism: information in evolution. Biol Philos 13(1):37–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Mayr E (1942) Systematics and the origin of species from the viewpoint of a zoologist. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  60. Muller AW (1995) Were the first organisms heat engines? A new model for biogenesis and the early evolution of biological energy conversion. Progr Biophys Mol Biol 63(2):193–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Muller AW (1996) Hypothesis: the thermosynthesis model for the origin of life and the emergence of regulation by Ca2+. Essays Biochem 31:103–119Google Scholar
  62. Nelson KE, Levy M, Miller SL (2000) Peptide nucleic acids rather than RNA may have been the first genetic molecule. PNAS 97(8):3868–3871CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Nielsen PE (1993) Peptide nucleic acid (PNA): a model structure for the primordial genetic material? Orig Life Evol Biosph V23(5):323–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Nowak MA, Ohtsuki H (2008) Prevolutionary dynamics and the origin of evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105(39):14924–14927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Oyama S (1985) The ontogeny of information: developmental systems and evolution. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  66. Plotkin HC (Henry C.) (1994) Darwin machines and the nature of knowledge. In: Plotkin H. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  67. Poole AM, Jeffares DC, Penny D (1998) The path from the RNA world. J Mol Evol 46:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Rosenberg A (1994) Instrumental biology, or, the disunity of science. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  69. Schneider ED, Kay JJ (1994) Life as a manifestation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Math Comput Model 19(6–8):25–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Schneider ED, Sagan D (2005) Into the cool: energy flow, thermodynamics, and life. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  71. Schoning KU, Scholz P, Guntha S, Wu X, Krishnamurthy R, Eschenmoser A (2000) Chemical etiology of nucleic acid structure: the alpha-Threofuranosyl-(3′ → 2′) Oligonucleotide system. Science 290(5495):1347–1351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Schrum JP, Zhu TF, Szostak JW (2010) The origins of cellular life. Cold Spring Harbor Perspect BiolGoogle Scholar
  73. Schultz DW, Yarus M (1996) On malleability in the genetic code. J Mol Evol 42:597–601CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Smith JM (1975) The theory of evolution, 3rd edn. Penguin, HarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
  75. Smith JM (2000) The concept of information in biology. Philos Sci 67(2):177–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Smith JM, Szathmáry E (1995) The major transitions in evolution. WH Freeman/Spektrum, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  77. Stegmann UE (2004) The Arbitrariness of the genetic code. Biol Philos 19(2):205–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Szathmáry E (1988) A hypercyclic illusion. J Theor Biol 134(4):561–563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Szathmáry E (1997) Origins of life. The first two billion years. Nature 387(6634):662–663Google Scholar
  80. Szathmáry E, Demeter L (1987) Group selection of early replicators and the origin of life. J Theor Biol 128(4):463–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Szathmáry E, Smith JM (1997) From replicators to reproducers: the first major transitions leading to life. J Theor Biol 187(4):555–571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. van Gelder T (1998) The dynamical hypothesis in cognitive science. Behav Brain Sci 21(5):616–665Google Scholar
  83. Varetto L (1998) Studying artificial life with a molecular automaton. J Theor Biol 193(2):257–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wächtershäuser G (1997) The origin of life and its methodological challenge. J Theor Biol 187(4):483–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Waters K (2000) Molecules made biological. Revue Internationale de Philosophie 54(4):539–564Google Scholar
  86. Weber M (2005) Philosophy of experimental biology, Cambridge studies in philosophy and biology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  87. Wicken JS (1985) Thermodynamics and the conceptual structure of evolutionary theory. J Theor Biol 117(3):363–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wicken JS (1987) Evolution, thermodynamics, and evolution: extending the Darwinian Program. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  89. Wilkins JS (2001) The appearance of Lamarckism in the evolution of culture. In: Laurent J, Nightingale J (eds) Darwinism and evolutionary economics. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp 160–183Google Scholar
  90. Wilkins JS (2007) The concept and causes of microbial species. Stud Hist Philos Life Sci 28(3):389–408Google Scholar
  91. Williams GC (1966) Adaptation and natural selection: a critique of some current evolutionary thought. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  92. Williams MB (1970) Deducing the consequences of evolution: a mathematical model. J Theor Biol 29:343–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Williams GC (1992) Natural selection: domains, levels, and challenges. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  94. Woese C (1998) The universal ancestor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 95(12):6854–6859CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Yockey HP (1992) Information theory and molecular biology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  96. Yockey HP (1995) Comments on “let there be life; thermodynamic reflections on biogenesis and evolution” by Avshalom C. Elitzur. J Theor Biol 176(3):349–355Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Institut des science biologiqueCentre national de la recherche scientifiqueLyonFrance
  3. 3.Discipline of PharmacologyUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations