Provided you don’t ask for much:
Today, we often hear that these non-random mechanisms of evolution are consistent with Darwinian evolution (the Modern Synthesis). So, nothing has really changed after all!
Not so fast. Darwinian evolution (Darwinism) had better be consistent with all demonstrated mechanisms of change. Unlike horizontal gene transfer, it has proven difficult to witness, and proponents have relied largely on the assumption that it is “the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life.” What’s changed is that it can no longer be considered equivalent to “evolution.” It must compete with other known mechanisms.
Most of the time, when we think of evolution, we mean mechanisms for the growth of complex new information. After all, entropy (the tendency for disorder to increase over time) can satisfactorily explain loss of information. Yet, in the history of life, some forms survive while — or even by — losing information (devolution). Their history may tell us something useful too.
We all know devolution when we see it — a jar of pennies becomes a doorstop, a computer becomes a boat anchor, the XYZ volume of the Encyclopedia props up a too-short table leg.
But interest in devolution of life forms spiked with the recent discovery of giant viruses, which a 2014 editorial at The Scientist considered a possible fourth domain of life. More.
See also: Talk to the fossils: Let’s see what they say back for the rest of the series to date.
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