Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Complexity and Co-operation

Lynn Marguilis was the bod who championed the idea that mitochondria were originally a cell that took up residence inside other cells. Being a woman she had to work extra hard to make her argument stick. The story is that as the early earth environment became more oxygen rich from all those plant like cells absorbing CO2 and emitting O2, cells mutated to take advantage of the considerable energy potential in using oxygen. Not sure, I think primarily because of its electron sharing and transport potential. As one bod quipped: Life is just an electron looking for a home. My iconoclastic propensity led me to be very suspicious of the Theory of Evolution but not the fact of evolution. This naturally left me in a difficult position. I couldn't tolerate this "given enough time x will mutate to y" jazz because was a huge assumption that was not justified on the current data. In the last decade however that assumption is increasingly finding support from primary data.

The research piece does have its problems and while it may illuminate the actual processes of how complex life evolved it also raises other issues. Always the same in science, one problem solved creates another x number of questions. If ever there was an argument against comprehensive all embracing formal axiomatic systems then the Universe is it!

The increasing recognition of symbiosis as being fundamental to evolution and complex life stands in stark contrast to how the process of evolution is generally perceived. Red in tooth and claw, always in competition? Simplistic nonsense used to justify racism and economic theory. Even bacteria demonstrate co-operation at levels we can only dream about - rapid DNA sharing, rapid communication between cells, the ability to form bacterial "swarms".

Did Bacteria Develop Into More Complex Cells Much Earlier in Evolution Than Thought?

The team, from the School of Biomedical Sciences, has described the process by which bacteria developed into more complex cells and found this crucial step happened much earlier in the evolutionary timeline than previously thought.

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