Evolution and Self-Organization

ray scupin (scupin@LC.LINDENWOOD.EDU)
Thu, 26 May 1994 07:54:48 -0500

biological and cultural and ancillary topics relating to freedom and
determinism. One issue that has been puzzling me for some time is the
move towards a neo-Lamarckianism within microbiology----and its possible
implications for macro-evolutionary trends--both biologically and

In Robert Wesson's book *Beyond Natural Selection* MIT paper,
1993, he summarizes some of the research that has moved beyond the
neo-Darwinian synthesis. He discusses complexity theory, chaos models of
evolution, and new developments within macro and micro evolution.

In a chapter entitled 'Positive Adaptations' he discusses some of
the microbiological research on bacteria, reported since 1988---that
bacteria such as e coli "purposefully" alter their genes to develop
adaptations to new environments, and these mutations are then transmitted
to succeeding generations, allowing bacterial colonies to grow and
reproduce successfully....in other words "acquired characteristics" can be
passed on genetically. Various experiments have shown that cells have
mechanisms for "choosing" which mutations will occur. One of the
references he cites is Cairns, Overbaugh, and Miller "The Origin of
Mutants" Nature, Vol 335 8 Sept 1988. Wesson suggests that other animals
such as pests, from rats to insects, acquire resistance to pesticides
and poisons in a similar manner. ..... Standard evolutionary theory based
on natural selection models appear to be challenged by these findings. A
type of purposeful self-organization appears to be an aspect of
evolutionary processes-----(is this a shadow of Teilhard de Chardin

Wesson goes on to assert that most animals adapt
behaviorally---that is through learning and modifying behavior and
altering their behavior through 'choice'..... He contends that most
animal behavior is not based on inheritable random variation a la Darwin,
but rather animals experiment and choose learning strategies that will
enhance their adaptability----in time these behaviors could become
instinctive and organically based.

Thus, Wesson distinguishes animals, including humans, from
bacteria....and emphasizes that the relation of genes, instinct, learning,
and patterns in the brain are exceedingly complex...and we know so little
of memory, etc. that we are groping in the dark in these matters. But I
would like to know if these new studies in microbiology and other ideas
regarding complexity based on Prigogine et al., and self-organization have
any bearing on our models of biological and cultural evolution???

Any clarification on these issues would be duly appreciated.


Ray Scupin
Sociology/Anthropology Dept.
Lindenwood College
209 S. Kingshighway
St. Charles, MO 63301
314-949-4730 (Office)
314-949-9244 (Home)
314-949-4910 (Fax)

Not chaos-like, together crushed and bruised,
But, as the world harmoniously confused:
Where order in variety we see,
And where, though all things differ, all agree

Alexander Pope