V. Systems Evolution: A 21st Century Genesis Synthesis
Into the 2000s and the 2010s, an enriched understanding of an evolutionary continuum of an ecosmos origin, Earthly bioworld, emergent life, mind and persons in community is underway by a worldwise collaboration. This animate milieu seamlessly reaches from a conducive physical ground to vital autocatalysis, nested recurrent scales, neural connectomes, ramifying intelligence, self-similar ecosystems and complementary civilizations. An Extended Evolutionary Synthesis is in process which we report, but efforts to factor in epigenetics, niche construction, and more mostly remain in a (neo)Darwinian mode. From our global vantage and vista the native presence of universal self-organized dynamics as they independently spawn exemplary complex network, minded creatures provide the crucial missing source code. For example, (Alan) Turing’s morphogenetic programs are seen in effect for animal anatomies and coat patternings. In a time of genetic ancestry, it would seem to make sense that life’s whole development from universe to us should necessarily its own natural genomic endowment.
As an evolution was ‘in the air’ in the 1850’s, so there is today truly “in the airwaves” a novel understanding of life’s long course as an embryonic, quickening, deeply homologous, convergent gestation (a view that Darwin also held). Rather than a branching tree or bush, a main axis of bodily complexity, larger brains, represented information, communal cooperation, and knowing awareness is evident. This episodic tandem of complexity and cognition is no longer a contingent meander. As guided by informed, organizational energies, an oriented direction and sequence toward phenomenal peoples is traced. A static ladder of Being is replaced by a temporal progression of Becoming. For a name, we offer a Genesis Evolutionary Synthesis. This large section and the next three contain some 500 references and quotations in support, along many more citations throughout. We next add a growing list of 21st century contributions, trends and advances as they flow together toward a robust organic revolution.
A computational statistical physics connects biological entities with an encompassing cosmos with a vital generative force to encode life's development.
Evolutionary processes can also be rooted in a fertile biochemical materiality by way of an active spontaneities.
The sciences of networked complexity describe an innate dynamics prior to selection which engender self-organized scales of modular individuals and groupings.
A current major evolutionary transitions model describes a nested scale from genes and cells to a human phase, whence each stage has a code or template from replicators to language.
Into the 2010s, strong evidence grows for a persistent convergence of form and function across life’s creaturely development.
Another version has become known as deep homology whence anatomic and physiologic similarities can be traced back to vertebrate and invertebrate origins.
Bodies and brains are composed of modular wholes within wholes of semi-independent, labor-dividing, mosaic units for genetic, metabolic and neural realms.
A fractal-like self-similarity is exhibited by self-organized speciation, behaviors, communications, animal groupings and intricate ecosystems.
Scale-Free Multiplex Networks: After 20th century science identified parts and pieces, a connectivity phase fills in genomes, protein webs, brains, societies, everywhere.
A rational morphology or structural biology, a century after D’Arcy Thompson, serves to quantify an archetypal Bauplan by way of innate mathematical equations.
The occasion of novel species, aka arrival of the fittest., is not due to random genetic mutation but arise from independent, dynamical self-organizing systems.
A robust reunion of evolution and embryology evolutionary developmental biology or EvoDevo joins individual ontogeny with species phylogeny.
Expansive studies of what broadly constitutes genetic phenomena have now include epigenetic influences far beyond point nucleotides only.
Beneficial symbiotic unions across fauna and flora have become a major formative factor for the evolutionary emergence of cellular, organismic, and social assemblies.
Altruistic cooperation beyond competition alone is now seen as the prevalent mode by which animal and human societies come together and are maintained.
Animal behavior: Proactive rather than passive organisms can change their genomes and natural selection. A version is known as niche construction.
An evolutionary arrow occurs whence creatures achieve increasing degrees of aware autonomy, individuality and a semiotic freedom of choice.
A central trend of brain size, neuron number, network density, concerted and mosaic socialized capacities define an encephalization of increasing acuity.
A continuum of animal intelligence with cognitive abilities and predictive awareness akin to human sapience and behavior is found from earliest rudiments.
Another cerebral discovery is a steady scale of bicameral hemispheres with the same part/field attributes across life’s entire sentient ascent.
A biosemiotic quality of many information processing and communicative codes other than genetic provide vital sign significations and knowledge gain.
Affinities between ontogeny and phylogeny are now seen not only for corporeal form but for cognitive ability, motor skills, behaviors and language learning.
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A. Systems Network Biology and Genetics
This section will report the significant turn in genetics and biology since the 2001 Human Genome Project to reassemble the many prior biomolecule pieces and components into an integral whole. With their initial identity in place, the presence equally real interrelations in between, and the information they carry and convey, can be admitted. By this inclusive paradigm, the dynamic web of life can shed a mechanistic, machinery cast for a phenomenal emergent vitality. Circa 2015 going forward, the pervasive network revolution joins and deepens the systems approach by which further to reunite animate phenomena. Regnant life’s nested wholes within wholes thus become braced and graced by the same multiplex topologies and dynamics as found everywhere else from quantome to neurome and epitome.
Circa 2015 going forward, the network revolution has now fully reached this systems approach to reunite biological phenomena. The interactive holistic relations necessary to quantify a full articulation of life’s wholes within wholes are now bolstered by the same multiplex topologies and dynamics as being found everywhere else from neurome to quantome. See for example Network Science of Biological Systems at Different Scales by Marko, Gosak, et al (2017) and contributions throughout topical sections which document this turn and expansion of the Systems Biology movement.
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B. Evoinformatics: A Biosemiotic Quality
Akin to movements such as an algorithmic nature and information paradigm, since circa 2000 a central presence and role for similar communicative aspects of living systems has gained prominence. The title term arose from the broader field of semiotics, the study of signs and significations as they distinguish, inform, and engender from evolution to ecologies. A pioneer initiator was Thomas Sebeok (1920-2001) at Indiana University, where a loquacious group has since arose. Into the 21st century a leading sponsor has been the University of Ferrara embryologist Marcello Barbieri, via a stream of articles and a book The Organic Codes (2003).
As the endeavor grew, inspired by articulations of life’s dialogic essence, an International Society for Biosemiotic Studies formed that holds annual conferences often at universities across Europe. A prolific journal Biosemiotics, hosted by Springer, offers scientific and philosophical contributions in support. A stream of volumes such as Biosemiotics: An Examination into the Signs of Life and the Life of Signs (2009) by Jesper Hoffmeyer, and Towards a Semiotic Biology (2011) edited by Claus Emmeche and Kaveli Kull further attest. The London Metropolitan University scholar Wendy Wheeler has set up a Living Books about Life web page with writings by Terrence Deacon, Mary Catherine Bateson, and many others. All of the above resources and more are accessible from the Society home page.
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C. An Evolutionary Intelligence
The image is a cover for a March 26, 2016 issue of the New Scientist wherein features editor Kate Douglas reports on a novel approach to evolutionary theory, which we have been posting for some time, about how life seems to develop and emerge akin to a learning, informed brain. Its origins may be traced to Richard Watson’s computer and living systems group at the University of Southampton, UK. Lately, as these citations convey, the insightful parallel has been endorsed by authorities such as Eors Szathmary and Gunter Wagner. These qualities are then seen as similar to algorithmic operations, as the previous section describes. While some randomness is alluded, an oriented emergence occurs by virtue of referring to, and building upon, prior, remembered experience. This section will also report how (artificial) neural networks are being found to apply to quantum, chemical, biological, and linguistic phases.
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