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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
Table of Contents
Genesis Vision
Learning Planet
Organic Universe
Earth Life Emerge
Genesis Future
Recent Additions

V. Life's Corporeal Evolution Encodes and Organizes Itself: An EarthWin Genesis Synthesis

D. A 2020s Teleology Turn: Life’s Evomic Development of Personal Purpose

This new April 2022 section will be an open home to gather and report many diverse views and documentations which are lately coming together so to verify this true once and future integral evolutionary orientation. This large Chapter V, and the whole website, now contains a compelling amount of revolutionary EarthWise findings that such an actual orthogenesis can no longer be denied.

But a vested neoDarwinian scheme since the 1950s and before of only random mutations and contingent selection has excluded, and quite prohibits, any directional development at all going forth on its phenomenal, innate own. Into the 21st century however, efforts toward a revised Extended Synthesis have grown for many reasons, as the Chap.V litany cites. As this Natural Genesis (as an alternative to selection) worldWise resource avers, a deeply fertile, ecosmos, (rather than morbid mechanism) provides a deep fertility suffused with self-organizing codes. (Might it be an EarthWinian uniVersion).

This historic, once and future, admission is quite overdue and can be newly based on an increasing, convergent flow of evidential findings, as the Chap. V lead listing gathers. Many novel aspects from physical self-organization to proactive agency come together to allow and support an admission that something lively going on by itself can no longer be avoided.

An historic Teleology Turn can be well indicated by three significant occasions and contributions. In June 2021, the Linnean Society of London, since 1788 the premier naturalist endeavor (see its site and journal) sponsored an Evolution on Purpose: Teleonomy in Living Systems conference. The meeting website contains Abstracts for 20 frontier presentations by leading scholars such as Stuart Kauffman, Eva Jablonka, Denis Noble, Nathalie Gontier, Eugene Koonin, Stuart Newman, Denis Walsh and James Shapiro.

Into 2022, in the USA a similar project was conceived by the Templeton Foundation with a general Biological Research on Purpose title (see Alan Love herein). Its website (biologicalpurpose.org) opens with this note: There is a growing recognition that biological phenomena which suggest agency, directionality, or goal-directedness demand new conceptual frameworks that can translate into rigorous theoretical models and discriminating empirical tests. () Some subject areas are Directionality in Genomica and Macroevolution and Evolutionary Origins and Transitions of Agency.

Thirdly, a 2022 volume, Self-Organization as a New Paradigm in Evolutionary Biology, edited by Anne Dambricourt Malasse (Springer, July), collects and surveys how the presence of procreative vitalities can regain conducive substantial roots. In regard: This book shows how self-organization has become integrated in modern biology. It then presents emergent evolutionary models such as the sciences of complexity, non-linear dynamical systems, fractals, attractors, epigenesis, systemics, and morphogenesis. A prime contributor is the theoretical biologist Stuart Newman.

Further afield see Integrating the Life Sciences to Jumpstart the Next Decade of Discovery by Maude Holford and Ben Newmark in Systems Biology and Earthuman Integrations sections about a National Science Foundation project to identify and foster 2020s convergent syntheses. A special issue of Integrative & Comparative Biology (61/6, 2021) contains some 30 papers which lately describe a nested, sequential, recurrent scale which persists and quickens across life’s long emergent development.

Evolution on “Purpose:” Teleonomy in Living Systems.. Google tltle words. . This the name of an international June 2021 two day online meeting sponsored by the Linnean Society of London, since 1788 the premier naturalist endeavor. The main organizer was the biocomplexity theorist Peter Corning. The full site contains Abstracts for 20 presentations by leading scholars such as Stuartt Kauffman, Eva Jablonka, Denis Noble, Nathalie Gontier, Eugene Koonin, Stuart Newman, and James Shapiro. Various titles are Three Laws of Teleonometrics by Bernard Crespi, The Orgin of Goal-Directed Organization by Francis Heylighen, Teleonomy, Agency and Unity of Purpose by Samir Okasha and Teleophobia by Denis Walsh.

Living systems exhibit an internal teleology, the full implications of which have not been explored. This meeting will address various aspects of this phenomenon, including its scope and meaning, and its many forms and facets. Although it is now widely accepted that living systems exhibit an internal teleology, or teleonomy, the full implications of this distinctive biological property have yet to be explored. This online conference will seek to address various aspects of this important phenomenon, including the origins and history of the teleonomy concept, its scope and meaning, and its many forms and facets. Possible topics may include: an historical review of teleological thinking; teleolpgy in evolutionary theory; the nature of teleonomy and agency, genomes, semiotics, modeling teleonomic processes, in epigenesis, physiology, behavior natural selection and onto human evolution.. (Conference summary)

Teleology — the explanation of phenomena by appeal to the goals that they subserve — is widely thought to have been expunged from biology. The reasons offered for its putative banishment are numerous and varied — historical, conceptual, theoretical, metaphysical — and they are all wrong. There is no defensible reason for the teleophobia that holds contemporary biology in its grip. Furthermore, this fixation has had a deleterious effect on evolutionary theory. It has aided and abetted the shunting of organisms with natural purposes from evident developmental thinking. (Denis Walsh)

Clawson, Wesley and Michael Levin. Endless Forms Most Beautiful 2.0: Teleonomy and the Bioengineering of Chimaeric and Synthetic Organisms. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. August, 2022. We cite this paper by Allen Discovery Center, Tufts University researchers because it looks forward to future beingness in themselves and to gain insights about life’s corporeal, cognitive and collective ascent to date.

A rich variety of biological forms and behaviours arises from evolutionary history on Earth, often via frozen accidents and environmental selection. But this standard view of model species does not factor the swarm intelligence of active cellular collectives. A view of novel living forms can reveal design principles of life as it yet can be. To foster experimental progress in multicellular synthetic morphology, we propose a teleonomic (goal-seeking, problem-solving) behaviour across such diverse possible beings. We suggest that a multi-scale competency architecture primes the evolution of robust problem-solving entities to come. Such imaginations can aid the emergence of diverse intelligences, along with implications for regenerative medicine, robotics and ethics. (Excerpt)

Crespi, Bernard and Nancy Yang. Three Laws of Teleonometrics. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 137/1, 2022. Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada biopsychologists contribute to an overdue 2020s admission which this premier publication (1798 -) has seen fit to report (see issues), that living, evolving organisms do actually possess their own intrinsic self-purposes within groups and environs. The essay goes into intricate genetic, physiological and medical malady aspects so as to factor in these evident appreciations, which can then add another veracity to the major transitions scale. We append five quotes to convey its import.

We define teleonometrics as the theoretical and empirical study of teleonomy (see below) for which we propose three laws. The first describes the hierarchical organization of teleonomic, goal-directed behaviors across biological levels from genes to individuals. The second law describes the operation of teleonomic functions under trade-offs, coadaptations and pleiotropies, which are common in biological systems. The third law contends that the major transitions in evolution are due to novel, emergent purposes and new divisions of labour. We illustrate the application of these laws using data from empirical vignettes, which help to show the usefulness of teleonometric views for understanding the interfaces between function, trade-offs and disease dysfunctions. (Abstract excerpt)

Teleonomy is central to biology because it epitomizes the organized and functional results of evolutionary change. As such, it leads us to ask questions about what a phenotype, or a gene, is for, in the proximate sense of serving some functional goal and in the ultimate sense of maximizing fitness. Literally, teleonomy (from τελεονομία in the original Greek) means τέλος referring to ‘goal, purpose or end’, plus νόμος nomos, referring to ‘law’. Although population genetics and quantitative genetics have ‘laws’ in the forms of mathematical abstractions that describe and predict evolutionary processes, teleonomy, the conceptual evolutionary core of adaptation, does not. (112)

The Third Law: The minor transitions in evolution are driven mainly by quantitative shifts in adaptive teleonomic functional goals. These shifts are largely deterministic and predictable in the short time scales of microevolution. Many major transitions in evolution are driven by qualitative shifts involving the origins of novel and emergent adaptive functions. These shifts typically involve: (1) increased resources, sizes and numbers of constituent units, or time; (2) novel divisions of labour; (3) the breaking, reduction and reorganization of trade-offs; and (4) new forms of ‘cooperation’ within and across levels of biological organization. (115)

The third law of teleonometrics builds on Maynard Smith and Szathmary’s work by emphasizing the roles of trade-offs and how they are overcome, then reshaped in major evolutionary transitions, thus extending the second law to a macroevolutionary scale. The general model of major transitions described here, based on roles for enhanced resources and divisions of labour in overcoming trade-offs, and new forms of cooperation that preclude or reduce conflicts within and between levels of organization, is amenable to study in research systems or clades that abut or straddle the transition points, as in some social insects. (122)

Teleonomy is the apparent purposefulness and goal-direction of living organisms. The concept is contrasted with teleology, which is understood as a purposeful goal-directedness brought about through human or innate intention. Teleonomy derives from an evolutionary adaptation for reproductive success, and/or the operation of a some manner of a (computational) program. (Wikipedia)

Dambricourt Malasse, Anne, ed.. Self-Organization as a New Paradigm in Evolutionary Biology. International: Springer, 2022. The editor is a senior paleo-anthropologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research. We have not yet seen its Table of Contents, but have already reviewed a significant chapter by Stuart Newman herein. As the book summary alludes, the volume is a first edition of a 2020s genesis synthesis within a revolutionary procreative ecosmos uniVerse with a spontaneous fertility all the way to a planetary progeny transition who might be able to realize and discover.

A new evolutionary synthesis is proceeding to integrate the scientific models of self-organization developed during the later 20th century based on the laws of physics, thermodynamics, and mathematics. This book shows how self-organization is now becoming integrated across a 21st century versions from life’s origins to our human phase. The first part pays attention to the modern observations in paleontology and biology, which include major theoreticians of the self-organization (d’Arcy Thompson, Henri Bergson, René Thom, Ilya Prigogine). The second presents different emergent evolutionary models including the sciences of complexity, the non-linear dynamical systems, fractals, attractors, epigenesis, and systems approaches with examples of the sciences of complexity and self-organization such as embryogenesis-morphogenesis phenomena. (Publisher)

Heylighen, Francis. The Meaning and Origin of Goal-Directedness: A Dynamical Systems Perspective. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. July, 2022. This entry was a contribution by the Brussels bioscholar to the Evolution on “Purpose” conference sponsored by this original British naturalist periodical, as noted in this section. As the Abstract says, by virtue of this open venue it is possible again since orthogenesis decades to express the obvious presence of life’s oriented progression. Into the 21st century a robust documentation, as the site notes, now braces this universal genesis revolution.

This paper attempts to clarify the notion of goal-directedness, which is often seen as being inconsistent with standard causal mechanisms. We first note that goal-directedness does not presuppose any mysterious forces, such as intelligent design, vitalism, conscious intention or backward causation. We then review ways to define goal-directedness by more operational characteristics: equifinality, plasticity, persistence, concerted action and negative feedback. We show that such goal-like features can be interpreted as a far-from-equilibrium attractor of a dynamical system. We argue that attractors and basins with degrees of resilience tend to self-organize in complex reaction networks so as to engender self-maintaining “organizations”. (Abstract excerpt)

Johnston, Iain, et al. Symmetry and Simplicity Spontaneously Emerge from the Algorithmic Nature of Evolution. PNAS. 119/11, 2022. Seven theorists mainly posted at Oxford University including Ard Louis and Chico Camargo consider how life’s ascendant occasion might be better understood as involving and due to computational processes. We note in this new section for its sense of some manner of code-script in effect. But the work still cites neoDarwinian “random mutations” which are then selected. See also Evolutionary Dynamics, Evolutionary Forces, and Robustness: A Nonequilibrium Statistical Mechanics Perspective by Riccardo Rao and Stanislas Leibler in PNAS (119/13, 2022.) A reader was Gunter Wagner, see his latest paper Body Plan Identity: A mechanistic Model with James DiFrisco in Evolutionary Biology (March 2022).

Engineers routinely design systems to be modular and symmetric in order to increase robustness and facilitate later alterations. Biological structures also frequently exhibit modularity and symmetry, but their origin is less well understood. However, evolution, unlike engineers, cannot plan ahead, and so these traits must also afford some selective advantage. Here we introduce a nonadaptive hypothesis based on an algorithmic picture of evolution. It suggests that symmetric structures arise because they require less information to encode and are more likely to appear through random mutations. Algorithmic information theory can thus predict that many genotype–phenotype maps are biased toward phenotypes with low descriptional complexity. We test and show that protein complexes, RNA structures, and a gene regulatory network exhibit an exponential bias toward simpler, more symmetric phenotypes. (Abstract excerpt)

Love, Alan and Max Dresow. Organizing Interdisciplinary Research on Purpose. BioScience. 72/4, 2022. University of Minnesota biologists provide an initial outline on this epochal, 20 million dollar, endeavor. Its biological purpose.org home site describes Cluster Projects such as Directionality in Genomics and Macroevolution and Evolutionary Origins and Transitions of Agency. Some typical researchers among many are Anya Plutynski (Agency in Development), Adi Livnat (Genomic Directions), and Richard Watson (Evolutionary and Organismal Goal-Directedness). A Scientific Board of Advisors includes Renee Duckworth, Walter Fontana, and Gunter Wagner.

There is a growing recognition that biological phenomena which suggest agency, directionality, or goal-directedness demand new conceptual frameworks that can translate into rigorous theoretical models and discriminating empirical tests. This project addresses the demand through a novel, interdisciplinary, large-scale program that combines philosophers, theoreticians, and experimentalists. (Project synopsis)

Call for Papers: Teleology for the 21st Century: Teleology used to be one of the central topics in metaphysics until well into the 19th century, but it is rarely discussed today. This lacuna is unfortunate, because the nature of goal-directedness has important implications about biological and human functions, naturalism, social science, the philosophy of mind, and much more. We are looking for innovative papers that shed light on what teleology is, either from a general metaphysical standpoint or in connection with some specific debate.

Newman, Stuart. Self-Organization in Embryonic Development. arXiv:2108.00532. This eprint posting by the veteran New York Medical College living systems theorist will be a chapter in Self-Organization as a New Paradigm in Evolutionary Biology, (Springer, July 2022). Search this site and his PubMed bibliography for many collegial pagers since the later 1990s. His lifetime endeavor has been to theorize, seek out and articulate the generative presence and effects of natural self-organizing forces across evolutionary and organism embryonic gestations. See also Form, Function, Agency: Sources of Natural Purpose in Animal Evolution by SN in EcoEvoRxiv (January 7, 2020) and Interplay of Mesoscale Physics and Agent-like Behavior in the Parallel Evolution of Aggregative Multicellularity by Juan Arias Del Angel, et al (with SN) in EvoDevo (11/21, 2020) for other recent entries.

"Self-organization" has taken hold in developmental biology such as in embryonic stem cells. While Immaneul Kant first introduced the phrase to describe the goal-directed properties of living systems, in modern use it has stood for complex forms and patterns than emerge through dynamical material processes. These effects also provide evolutionary templates for embryonic forms and morphological motifs of metazoan lineages. Embryos and organ primordia of animal species generate forms that thus esemble the outcomes of these physical effects. Using the examples of gastrulation, somitogenesis, and limb skeletal forms, I provide instances of, and a conceptual framework for, the relationships between basic physical and evolved types of developmental self-organization. (Abstract excerpt)

Noble, Raymond and Denis Noble. Physiology Restores Purpose to Evolutionary Biology. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. July, 2022. This entry was a prime contribution by veteran London health and sanity provides to the Evolution on “Purpose” conference, as noted in this section. Once again it is can be exclaimed that Life is Purposefully Creative. For these reasons, the major transitions scale is given added aspects of Increasing Openness and Active Agency on the way to Self-Consciousness. See also (July 2022) Engines of Innovation: Biological Origins of Genome Evolution by James Shapiro for another conference statement.

Life is purposefully creative in a continuous process of maintaining integrity as an ongoing, iterative process.. Physiology is the study of purposeful living function. This was accepted all the way from the 17th century, through many 19th and early 20th century examples. But into the late 20th century any “teleological” views became excluded. This wrong turn must now be reversed. Even on the practical criterion of relevance to health care, gene-centrism has been a disaster, since prediction to the whole system only rarely succeeds. (Excerpt)

Rao, Riccardo and Stanislas Leibler. Evolutionary Dynamics, Evolutionary Forces, and Robustness: A Nonequilibrium Statistical Mechanics Perspective.. PNAS. 119/13, 2022. We cite this entry by Simons Center for Systems Biology, IAS, Princeton University and Laboratory of Living Matter, Rockefeller University, NYC researchers as a 2020s instance of how theories about life’s occasion and oriented, emergent course to our Earthuman retrospect are gaining deeper roots in an increasingly conducive physical substrate. Thus a genesis synthesis grows in depth, veracity and ecosmic expanse,

Any realistic evolutionary theory has to consider 1) the dynamics of organisms that reproduce heritable traits, 2) stochastic variations in these traits, and 3) the selection of those organisms that better survive and reproduce. Here, we introduce a general model of reproduction, variation and selection dynamics. Treating them as a nonequilibrium thermodynamic process better clarifies various forces that characterize evolution. One of Some of the detailed predictions of our model can be tested by quantitative laboratory experiments, similar to those performed in the past on evolving populations of proteins or viruses. (Abstract)

From a physicist’s point of view, evolution is an example of a nonequilibrium stochastic dynamical system. One of the main reasons why it is very different from dynamics studied in physics or chemical physics is that the reproduction of organisms is tightly connected with relatively precise, long-time inheritance. This allows the existence of stable variants that can better survive and reproduce than others, and thus allows organisms to evolve. Since the so-called evolutionary Modern Synthesis was deeply anchored in population genetics, mathematical models of evolutionary dynamics have mostly dealt with genetic variations. (5)