$30.00
Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
 Hide
9 Posts

Bios: Genesis» Forums » General

Subject: Article on The Atlantic rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Colin Taylor
United States
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Just ran across this article on The Atlantic, covering the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis. It questions the absence of Epigenetics and Plasticity in current evolutionary dogmas:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/11/the-biol...

Colin
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Phil Eklund
Germany
Karlsruhe
Baden Würtenberg
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
My problem is that I have not seen a proposed mechanism for non-genetic heredity. Without that, I can't simulate it in a game. What I can simulate are environmental changes caused by life itself, from pollution to Gaia.

Epigenetics is light on causal mechanisms but heavy on mysticism: the idea that knowledge comes from somewhere other than sense perception or reason.
2 
 Thumb up
5.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Colin Taylor
United States
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Sorry, it wasn't meant as a critique of Bios: Genesis, just some extra reading for those interested in the topic.

Colin
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marius van der Merwe
United States
St. George
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Since the Modern Synthesis there has always been some evolutionary biologist claiming some new paradigm. Early on these attacks took the form of claiming an important role for group selection, playing down the importance of natural selection, and more recently, epigenetics, which has a bit of a Lamarckian bent to it.

Some of these arguments have been thoroughly debunked (e.g. group selection by the brilliant biologist G. C. Williams as far back as 1966) and yet still resurfaces every so often, seemingly because some of the new biologists are not familiar with, do not understand, or are too lazy to revisit the old arguments. Stephen J. Gould, especially, made vicious attacks on biologists who view natural selection as the pre-eminent microevolutionary process. He kept this up throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties. He labeled his opponents "Adaptationists" and did much harm to what he labeled the "Adaptationist Program". Today the Adaptationist Program is more successful than ever, and Gould is more and more recognized for the charlatan that he sometimes was.

The latest set of attacks are from the Epigenetics folks who feel that they are getting slighted and who claims that a new paradigm shift is in order. However, while epigenetics is interesting and sometimes play a role in evolution, it is hardly the paradigm-shifting epiphany claimed by its proponents. My prediction is that it is all another storm in a tea cup and that the Modern Synthesis is here to stay for quite a while longer.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mitchell Thomashow
United States
Dublin
New Hampshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
This is a very interesting and important discussion. I'm not an evolutionary biologist. My field is environmental studies and my book Bringing the Biosphere Home (MIT Press, 2001) is about how we perceive global environmental change. Hence Bios: Genesis is of great interest to me and I look forward to diving in over the December holidays.

The interesting challenge that most provokes the Modern Synthesis paradigm is the question of meaning and purpose. Do organisms make choices that are intentional, or is it all scripted by DNA? Although such questions are of great interest to philosophers and often verge on mysticism, they also are relevant to biologists. The "What is Life" enigma remains mysterious. Stuart Kauffman's rejection of reductionism, and his emphasis on intentional choice is worth reading, most recently in Humanity in a Creative Universe. Also, Andreas Weber's new book, The Biology of Wonder is a beautiful discussion of perception and choice in living organisms.

It is pertinent to emphasize sense perception and reason. Sense perception is getting the attention of biologists in new ways. Natural selection, symbiogenesis, and epigenetics may all contribute to evolution. We still know very little about organismic perception, and very little about biogeochemical feedback systems, especially the role that microbial organisms play in that regard.

Think about it. Evolution as a concept doesn't emerge until the mid-nineteenth century, genetics soon after, and then ecology soon after that. We are only one hundred and fifty years or so in. These are the very early days of evolutionary ecology and global change science and the next decades will be a time of extraordinary discovery.

What is so intriguing to me about Bios: Genesis is how it brings all of these questions to light. Although the game is intended to simulate the origins and dissemination of life, it inevitably raises questions about meaning and purpose, and if it enlivens that conversation, then it has served a very special educational function.

I'm excited to delve into it!

11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marius van der Merwe
United States
St. George
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
mthomashow wrote:

The interesting challenge that most provokes the Modern Synthesis paradigm is the question of meaning and purpose. Do organisms make choices that are intentional, or is it all scripted by DNA?


I would argue that the Modern Synthesis is mute on Meaning and Purpose (in any teleological sense).

Organisms do make choices that are intentional, but only in the sense that behavior is adaptive. In other words, behavior or the capacity for behavior (e.g. learned behavior) is shaped by natural selection, and whether behavioral repertoires are or are not directly scripted by DNA does not change this. Even plants can display adaptive behavior in this sense (e.g. uneven allocation or shifting of resources to root growth in response to a nearby competitor). It is exactly this assumption (that behavior is adaptive) that makes the Adaptationist Program, which is firmly rooted in the Modern Synthesis, so highly productive.


mthomashow wrote:
Stuart Kauffman's rejection of reductionism, and his emphasis on intentional choice is worth reading, most recently in Humanity in a Creative Universe.


It has been a long time since I have read Kauffman, but I have to confess, much of his writing is too mystical for me (and anyone that takes a hard stance against reductionism I find suspicious). His ideas on adaptive landscapes are very good, but I am not sure that I buy into his "self-organization" argument as a major contributing factor to complexity, at least not the level of complexity we associate with life.


mthomashow wrote:
Natural selection, symbiogenesis, and epigenetics may all contribute to evolution. We still know very little about organismic perception, and very little about biogeochemical feedback systems, especially the role that microbial organisms play in that regard.


Of all these, natural selection remains (by far) the most powerful argument for adaptation and complexity.

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Colin Taylor
United States
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Interesting. The company I work for released a series of products for Epigenetics research about a decade ago or so. I wasn't aware that it was such a controversial subject, but I don't think much was known about inherited epigenetic sequences at the time, and I haven't really kept up.

Colin
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Phil Eklund
Germany
Karlsruhe
Baden Würtenberg
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for your analysis Marius. I always had a vague feeling of disquiet when reading Gould, but had never identified what it was that bothered me. You brought it into focus.

Some applictions of epigenetics are valid. Footnote 20 mentions one (programmed cell death), and prions are another. Plasticity is also a valid concept, in as much as anything alive needs to be adaptable to survive. But neither epigenetics nor plasticity should be taken to mean that life has no boundaries, and follows no rules. Science is the art of finding the boundaries and rules that make the universe comprehensible, and pseudo-science is the assertion that boundaries and rules don't exist.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marius van der Merwe
United States
St. George
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Joel Brown, who was my PhD advisor many years ago, just published a review paper that readers of this thread may find interesting. It is titled "Why Darwin would have loved evolutionary game theory" and can be read here:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308564033_Why_Darwi...

There is some math, but even if your math is rusty like mine, the implications of the math are clearly presented and quite fascinating. In the light of game theory the evolution of sex and sex ratios, natural section's role in sympatric speciation (speciation in the face of continuous gene flow), ecosystem engineering, macroevolution, and even cancer, all become much clearer.

Like I said earlier, in spite of the naysayers, like Gould, the Adaptionist Program is alive and well!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.