The Genetic – Environment Distinction

Related expressions of generalized adaptive processes.

  • The generalized adaptive strategy of the DNA expressed organism must be to successfully relate to environmental fluctuation however it occurs.

Evolution of DNA itself is clearly the most foundational aspect of this process since the selection which drives it occurs as the result of the relationship between DNA and a fluctuating environment.

In contrast, the ability to move is an example of a strategy for changing the nature of the relationship between the organism and environmental fluctuation in real time – one which plants cannot make.

This movement is an example of real time adaptation to environment but one which does not occur in conjunction with commensurate genetic change.

Examples of adaptation to rapidly cycling, mutually exclusive selective pressures such as the cycling of heat and cold (for example due to the rising and setting of the sun) demonstrate that the provision by DNA of such forms of flexible non DNA altering response must be entirely inevitable.

To produce this flexibility, DNA “takes control” of some of the surrounding aspects of reality directing them to interact according to deterministic patterns of cause and effect, forming an “organism”. This both protects this DNA and is capable of flexible relatedness with the fluctuations of the remaining aspects of reality.

The DNA employs “strategy” in other words.

Strategy is the outcome of prior forms of selection, but its successful execution represents the avoidance of such negative selections “going forward”. All strategy then is some form of the generalized adaptive strategy, whereby the aim is to maintain DNA preserved and unchanged as a relatively permanent aspect of reality.

In other words, execution of successful strategy is that form of relatedness initiated by DNA between itself and it’s environment, where change to DNA does not occur (Intelligent selection notwithstanding).

Adaptation to the DNA code in contrast is a response to unsuccessful strategy.

Strategies are simply the fluctuating responses of the body, interposed between reality and DNA, which mirror and relate to these surrounding environmental fluctuations, thereby attempting to exclude that form of self – environmental relatedness called in evolutionary terms “natural selection” (i.e death).

All successful strategy essentially represents a form of DNA directed creation of harmony between it’s movements and the fluctuations of reality.

In this sense, strategy is ultimately an attempt to make “natural” selection a redundant aspect within evolutionary processes.

If genetic change can be thought of as the pattern of adaptive relatedness between the DNA / organism aspect of reality and the rest of reality occurring over a relatively long time period, movement must be somewhere near the other end of a continuum.

Since the various rates of environmental fluctuation undoubtedly do lie all along a continuum between such extremes, then a corresponding continuum of related strategy capable of producing response at these timescales should also exist, since adaptation can only respond to pressure which is applied by fluctuation as it occurs.

If so this would also suggest as a logical possibility the occurrence of some form of transition between that form of adaptation to environmental fluctuation represented by actual genetic change, and that form of adaptation requiring no DNA plasticity at all (such as movement).

Some kind of flexible, non permanent alteration to the way DNA is expressed, (a form of “plastic genetic tuning”) determined by specific environmental conditions in other words.

The “environmental” component of the “genetic” vs “environmental” categories fits these requirements, since it appears to represent flexibility in the way DNA is expressed without full blown permanent genetic change, and occurs as a response to intermediate rates of environmental fluctuation.

The environmental vs genetic categories could validly, if it were not so unhelpful, be renamed environmental vs environmental, since not only do the “environmentally” determined characteristics of an organism result from interactions with “environment”, but so too do the “genetically” determined ones.

Something similar could be said of the “nature vs nurture” categories, since nurture (i.e social interaction) is a strategic adaptive response determined in the formative period to environmental fluctuation produced by other related organisms.

The genetic or nature categorizations represent a generalized response to a range of potential environmental fluctuations, while the environmental or nurture categorizations represent it’s response to the specific environmental fluctuations as occurring over the “formative” years.

This is one solution to the generalized adaptive strategy – the inevitable problem of mediating the relationship between DNA, which by virtue of the nature of it’s relationship to reality seeks not to change, and a surrounding reality which simply changes as it does over a hugely diverse range of timescales and modes.

Something similar is also true in the realm of “intelligent design” as undertaken by the human mind. (Not to be confused with the “intelligent design” as defined within creationist thought.):

An electric heater for example, just like the DNA expressed organism, is a relatively permanent fixed entity, and as such is clearly useless or even maladaptive unless it can adapt it’s temperature output in response to fluctuating environmental temperature conditions as they occur.

This form of flexible response is also comparable to the functioning of the immune system which maintains a library of response to potential infectious threat, but will only produce specific antibodies in response to a particular invading organism (i.e a specific form of environmental fluctuation).

This DNA flexibility typically known as “environmentally determined expression” therefor also belongs in the category of strategy rather than any selection driven permanent evolutionary change to the DNA occurring “now”.

2013 Peter Sillifant

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