Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 11: Summer 1980

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Hierarchies Of Evolution

All organisms from man to mouse to amoeba are merely DNA's way of manufacturing still more DNA -- so goes the modern ramification of molecular biology and the Genetic Code. In other words, DNA and genes are selfish, and ultimate parasites, directing the evolution of life only to maximize the production of DNA.

This theme is not the subject of this paper by Doolittle and Sapienza. Rather, they wonder about those nonsense DNA sequences that do not code for protein. The presence of these "useless" bits of genetic material is often explained in terms of gene "expression." Emphasis is always on maximizing the "fitness" of the organism (phenotype). Perhaps this seemingly excess genetic material actually maximizes the fitness (survivability) of the DNA itself. Evolution thus occurs at DNA and gene (genome) levels, despite what transpires at the organism (phenotype) level.

(Doolittle, W. Ford, and Sapienza, Carmen; "Selfish Genes, the Phenotype Paradigm and Genome Evolution," Nature, 284:601, 1980.)

Comment. We know that mitochondria and chloroplasts have their own genetic material; evolution may be occurring at this level, too, independent of pressures for change on the organisms. Waxing speculative, may there not be other hierarchies where systems are trying to maximize their own survivability, even at molecular, atomic, and subatomic levels? Don't laugh! Is not all life implicitly encoded in the properties of the most fundamental particles? If not, reductionism is a lie.

From Science Frontiers #11, Summer 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987