Journal of Theoretical Biology
Volume 241, Issue 3, 7 August 2006, Pages 443-450
Self-other organization: Why early life did not evolve through natural selection
Psychology and Computer Science, University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus, SCI 263, 3333 University Way, Kelowna, BC, Canada V1V 1V7
Received 15 November 2005; Accepted 6 December 2005. Available online 25 January 2006.
The improbability of a spontaneously generated self-assembling molecule has suggested that life began with a set of simpler, collectively replicating elements, such as an enclosed autocatalytic set of polymers (or protocell). Since replication occurs without a self-assembly code, acquired characteristics are inherited. Moreover, there is no strict distinction between alive and dead; one can only infer that a protocell was alive if it replicates. These features of early life render natural selection inapplicable to the description of its change-of-state because they defy its underlying assumptions. Moreover, natural selection describes only randomly generated novelty; it cannot describe the emergence of form at the interface between organism and environment. Self-organization is also inadequate because it is restricted to interactions amongst parts; it too cannot account for context-driven change. A modified version of selection theory or self-organization would not work because the description of change-of-state through interaction with an incompletely specified context has a completely different mathematical structure, i.e. entails a non-Kolmogorovian probability model. It is proposed that the evolution of early life is appropriately described as lineage transformation throughcontext-driven actualization of potential (CAP), with self-organized change-of-state being a special case of no contextual influence, and competitive exclusion of less fit individuals through a selection-like process possibly (but not necessarily) playing a secondary role. It is argued that natural selection played an important role in evolution only after genetically mediated replication was established.
Keywords: Autocatalysis; Acquired characteristics; Natural selection; Self-replicating automaton; Origin of life; Protocell
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