Journal of Bioeconomics

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 61–75 | Cite as

Natural selection as a paradigm of opportunism in biology

Article

Abstract

The success of extant species is largely due to their ability to adapt in the face of constantly changing environmental conditions. Natural selection is the biological mechanism that takes advantage of opportunities to promote spontaneous variations and facilitate evolutionary development. The character of this biological opportunism is considered here, placing it firmly within the context of various social and economic principles—notably individualism, industrialism, utilitarianism and consequentialism—that have characterised the philosophy of the modern era. However, this purely opportunistic approach, and its myopic emphasis on immediate problem solving, has serious shortcomings within both life and business practice. These are examined here in contrast to some of the alternative approaches found in biology and economics theory. The nature and relationship of function to utility in biology is also given particular consideration, as is the issue of incrementalism in the development of complex adaptive features. The methodological reductionism at the heart of evolutionary biology certainly does offer insightful empirical results reported in the scientific literature. Nonetheless, natural selection is observed to be a purely reflexive mechanism and not one capable of producing the kind of innovation necessary for the more revolutionary changes in an organism’s systems.

Keywords

Natural selection Reductionism Utility Opportunism Incrementalism 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Arnold F. H. (2010) How proteins adapt: Lessons from directed evolution. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology 74: 41–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Avise J. C., Ayala F. J. (2009) In the light of evolution III: Two centuries of Darwin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 106(Suppl 1): 9933–9938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ayala F. J. (2007) Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without designer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 104(Suppl): 8567–8573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bäck T. (1996) Evolutionary algorithms in theory and practice: Evolution strategies, evolutionary programming, genetic algorithms. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Barton N., Partridge L. (2000) Limits to natural selection. Bioessays 22(12): 1075–1084CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Batten D., Salthe S., Boschetti F. (2009) Visions of evolution: Self-organization proposes what natural selection disposes. Biological Theory 3(1): 17–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bernasconi G., Strassman J. (1999) Cooperation among unrelated individuals: The ant foundress case. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 14(12): 477–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blount Z. D., Borland C. Z., Lenski R. E. (2008) Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 105: 7899–7906CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bomblies K. (2010) Evolution: Redundancy as an opportunity for innovation. Current Biology 20(7): R320–R322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bridgman, P. W., & Holton, G. (2000). Empirical method. AccessScience@McGraw-Hill, http://www.accessscience.com. doi: 10.1036/1097-8542.231000.
  11. Bronstein J. L. (2001) The exploitation of mutualisms. Ecology Letters 4: 277–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cassill D., Watkin A. (2010) The evolution of cooperative hierarchies through natural selection processes. Journal of Bioeconomics 12: 29–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chappell T. J. (1993) The virtues of Thrasymachus. Phronesis 38: 1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chaigneau S. E., Barsalou L. W, Sloman S. A. (2004) Assessing the causal structure of function. Journal of Experimental Psychology 133(4): 601–625Google Scholar
  15. Chen J. K., Liu Y. D., Niu D. K. (2001) Margulis’ theory on division of labour in cells revisited. Acta Biotheoretica 49(1): 23–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Carroll S. B., Hittinger C. T. (2007) Gene duplication and the adaptive evolution of a classic genetic switch. Nature 449(7163): 677–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Clutton-Brock T. H. (2009) Cooperation between non-kin in animal societies. Nature 462: 51–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Coff R.W. (2002) Bidding wars over R&D intensive firms: Knowledge, opportunism and the market for corporate control. Academy of Management Journal 46: 74–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Conner K. R., Prahalad C. (1996) A resource-based theory of the firm: Knowledge versus opportunism. Organization Science 7(5): 477–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cordes, C., Richerson, P.J., Melreath, R., Strimling, P. (2010). How does opportunistic behavior influence firm size? An evolutionary approach to organizational behavior. Journal of Institutional Economics, 7(1). doi: 10.1017/s1744137410000123.
  21. Darwall S. (2002) Consequentialism. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  22. Dattée B., Barlow J. (2010) Complexity and whole-system change programmes. Journal of Health Services Research & Policy 15: 19–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Darwin C. (1859) On the origin of species. John Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Darwin C (1875) The autobiography of Charles Darwin. Collins, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Dawkins R. (1986) The blind watchmaker. Norton & Company, Inc, London, p 25Google Scholar
  26. Delcour A. H. (2009) Outer membrane permeability and antibiotic resistance. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1794: 808–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dennett D. (1995) Darwin’s dangerous idea. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Dew N. (2007) Pre-adaptation, exaptation and technology speciation: A comment on Cattani. Industrial and Corporate Change 16(1): 155–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dickens C. (1843) A Christmas carol. Chapman and Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Dobzhansky T. (1973) Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. American Biology Teacher 35: 125–129Google Scholar
  31. Fehr C. (2004) Feminism and science: Mechanism without reductionism. NWSA Journal 16: 136–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fishburn, P. C. (1970). Utility theory for decision making. Publications in Operations Research, No. 18. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Fukuoka S. (2009) Loss of function of a proline-containing protein confers durable disease resistance in rice. Science 325(5943): 998–1001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gabriel S. E., Brigman K. N., Koller B. H., Boucher R. C., Stutts M. J. (1994) Cystic fibrosis heterozygote resistance to cholera toxin in the cystic fibrosis mouse model. Science 266(5182): 107–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gee H. (2002) Progressive evolution: Aspirational thinking. Nature 420: 611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gekakis N., Wilkes J.J., Lloyd D.J. (2009) Loss-of-function mutation in myostatin reduces tumor necrosis factor alpha production and protects liver against obesity-induced insulin resistance. Diabetes 58(5): 1133–1143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gould S. J. (1982) The uses of heresy; an introduction to Richard Goldschmidt’s The Material Basis of Evolution. Yale University Press, New Haven, pp xiii–xliiGoogle Scholar
  38. Gould S.J. (1997) Darwinian fundamentalism. New York Book Reviews 44(10): 34–37Google Scholar
  39. Grant P. R., Grant B. R., Smith J. N., Abbott I. J., Abbott L. K. (1976) Darwin’s finches: Population variation and natural selection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 73(1): 257–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Gu Z., Steinmetz L. M., Gu X., Scharfe C., Davis R. W., Li W. H. (2003) Role of duplicate genes in genetic robustness against null mutations. Nature 421(6918): 63–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hardin G. (1994) The tragedy of the unmanaged commons. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 9: 199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Harshey R. M., Toguchi A. (1996) Spinning tails: Homologies among bacterial flagellar systems. Trends in Microbiology 4(6): 226–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Harvey P. H., Purvis A. (2003) Evolution: Opportunity versus innovation. Nature 425: 676–677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Healey R.A. (1991) Holism and Nonseparability. Journal of Philosophy 88(8): 393–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hendry A. (2005) Evolutionary biology: The power of natural selection. Nature 433: 694–695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hodgson G. (2002) Darwinism in economics: From analogy to ontology. Journal of Evolutionary Economics 12(2): 259–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Holyoake G. J. (1898) The origin and nature of secularism. Watts & Co, LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Jackson S. E. (2008) Strategic opportunism. Journal of Business Strategy 29(1): 46–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Jacob F. (1977) Evolution and tinkering. Science 196: 1161–1166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kerferd G.B. (1964) Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply. Phronesis 9: 12–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Khandani, S. (2005). Engineering design process. IISME/Solectron.Google Scholar
  52. Kirk D. L. (2005) A twelve-step program for evolving multicellularity and a division of labor. BioEssays 27(3): 299–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kwoka J.E. (1993) effects of divestiture, privatization and competition on productivity in U.S. and U.K. telecommunications. Review of Industrial Organization 8: 49–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lehmann L., Keller L., West S., Roze D. (2007) Group selection and kin selection: two concepts but one process. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 104(16): 6736–6739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lester, A. (2010). Uneasy bedfellows: Alfred Russel Wallace and nineteenth-century ‘Socialist Darwinism’. Reinvention, 3(1).Google Scholar
  56. Lieberman B.S., Dudegon S. (1996) An evaluation of stabilizing selection as a mechanism for stasis. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 127(1–4): 229–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Loasby B. J. (2001) Cognition, capabilities and cooperation. International Journal of Management and Decision Making 2(1): 35–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Løvtrup S. (1988) Design, purpose and function in evolution: Mediations on a classical problem. Environmental Biology of Fishes 22(4): 241–247. doi: 10.1007/BF00004890 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lynch M. (2010) Scaling expectations for the time to establishment of complex adaptations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 107: 16577–16582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Lynch M., Force A. (2000) The probability of duplicate gene preservation by subfunctionalization. Genetics 154(1): 459–473Google Scholar
  61. Malthus T. (1798) An essay on the principle of population. J. Johnson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  62. Michod R. E. (2007) Evolution of individuality during the transition from unicellular to multicellular life. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 104(Suppl 1): 8613–8618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Mivart G. J. (1871) On the genesis of species. Macmillan, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Monod J. (1971) Chance and necessity: An essay on the natural philosophy of modern biology. Alfred A. Knopf, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  65. Nanay B. (2004) Can cumulative selection explain adaptation?. Philosophy of Science Association 2: 122–193Google Scholar
  66. Newcomb R. D., Campbell P. M., Ollis D. L., Cheah E., Russell R. J., Oakeshott J. G. (1997) A single amino acid substitution converts a carboxylesterase to an organophosphorus hydrolase and confers insecticide resistance on a blowfly. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 94(14): 7464–7468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Nowak M. A., Tarnita C. E., Wilson E. O. (2010) The evolution of eusociality. Nature 466: 1057–1062CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Okasha S. (2005) Altruism, Group Selection and Correlated Interaction. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56(4): 703–725CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Olson J. M. (2006) Photosynthesis in the Archean era. Photosynthesis Research 88(2): 109–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Poe S., Goheen J. R., Hulebak E. P. (2007) Convergent exaptation and adaptation in solitary island lizards. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B 274: 2231–2237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Paley W., Paxton J. (1802) Natural theology. American Tract Society, New York, pp 9–10Google Scholar
  72. Patterson C., Smith A. B. (1989) Periodicity in Extinction: The role of systematics. Ecology 70(4): 802–811CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Penrose E. T. (1952) Biological analogies in the theory of the firm. American Economic Review 42(4): 804–819Google Scholar
  74. Rao B. (1999) The Internet and the revolution in distribution: A cross-industry examination. Technology in Society 21(3): 287–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Raußen M. (2006) Deadlocks and dihomotopy in mutual exclusion models. Theoretical Computer Science 365(3): 247–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Roth J. R., Bergthorsson U., Andersson D. I. (2007) Ohno’s dilemma: Evolution of new genes under continuous selection. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences 104(43): 17004–17009CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Ruse M. (1989) Do organisms exist?. American Zoologist 29: 1061–1066Google Scholar
  78. Ryan A. (2004) Utilitarianism and other essays. Penguin Classic, LondonGoogle Scholar
  79. Sahney S., Benton M.J., Ferry P. (2010) Links between global taxonomic diversity, ecological diversity and the expansion of vertebrates on land. Biology Letters 6(4): 544–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Salthe, S. (2006). Analysis and critique of the concept of natural selection. http://www.nbi.dk/~natphil/salthe/Critique_of_Natural_Select_.pdf
  81. Sargent T.D., Millar C.D., Lambert D.M. (1998) The ‘classical’ explanation of industrial melanism: Assessing the evidence. Evolutionary Biology 30: 299–322Google Scholar
  82. Schwartz H. (2002) Herbert Simon and behavioral economics. Journal of Socio-Economics 31(3): 181–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Sheldrake R. (1988) The presence of the past. Times Books, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  84. Shell R. (1991) Opportunism and trust in negotiation of commercial contracts: Toward a new cause of action. Vanderbilt Law Review 44(2): 221–282Google Scholar
  85. Smith A. (1776) An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. W. Strahan and T. Cadell, LondonGoogle Scholar
  86. Sterling-Folker J. (2002) Realism and the constructivist challenge: Rejecting, reconstructing, or rereading. International Studies Review 4(1): 73–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Theißen G. (2006) The proper place of hopeful monsters in evolutionary biology. Theory in Biosciences 124(Issues 3–4): 349–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Tursman, C. (1993). Reengineering the corporation: A manifesto for business revolution. Business Credit.Google Scholar
  89. Vafaï K. (2010) Opportunism in organizations. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 26(1): 158–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Von der Gracht H. A., Vennemann C. R., Darkow I. L. (2010) Corporate foresight and innovation management: A portfolio-approach in evaluating organizational development. Futures 42(4): 380–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Wagner A. (2008) Robustness and evolvability: A paradox resolved. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B 275: 91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Wainwright S. (1988) Form and function in organisms. American Zoologist 28(2): 671–680Google Scholar
  93. Williams T. et al (2005) An Immune Basis for Malaria Protection by the Sickle Cell Trait. PLoS medicine 2(5): e128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Williamson O. E. (1979) Transaction-cost economics: The governance of contractual relations. Journal of Law and Economics 22(2): 233–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Wilson D., Van Vugt M., O’Gorman R. (2008) Multilevel selection theory and major evolutionary transitions: Implications for Psychological Science. Current Directions in Psychological Science 17(1): 6–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Woese C. R. (2002) On the evolution of cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 99(13): 8742–8747CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Yaqub M.Z (2009) Antecedents, consequences and control of opportunistic behavior in strategic networks. Journal of Business & Economics Research 7(2): 15–31Google Scholar
  98. Ziha K. (2000) Redundancy and robustness of systems of events. Probabilistic Engineering Mechanics 15: 347–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations