Where is the organism? drifts and other histories in biology and in immunology | Nelson Vaz et. al | 2011

This compilation of essays brings together fundamental reflections on the historical drift of living systems and the immune system. As such, this book – like any foray that makes use of a biological look – essentially deals with organisms and histories. Yes, that seems obvious. Inescapable. And it is at the heart of what is obvious that the texts that follow explain and reaffirm. So, at the same time that we notice the triviality of talking about organisms and histories every time it comes to Biology, we are surprised to realize that the most common way of asking questions in contemporary Biology buries these two concepts. It is because, when presenting an organism that lives crushed between two forces: the first coming from random genetic mutations, and the second arising from the selective pressures of a threatening environment, this official way of raising questions about the natural world creates an organism that is determined and hostage to its genes. So, based on this condition, we talk about information replicators, and pre-formation and adult-centered explanations are accepted, apparently without problems, as shown in the first paragraph of an important book, Darwinian Medicine: “If a DNA strand can code the plans for the adult organism, why are we unable to regenerate a lost finger?” (NESSE; WILLIAMS, 1994); or, yet, statements like the one that appears highlighted in a colored text box in the middle of a recent article in the journal Nature: “It is an intriguing idea that you can peel your genome and reveal your future” (PEARSON, 2008). That is to say, in this explanation centered on the genes, it does not matter the history that happens in the living of the organisms, which, incidentally, there are not even seen as a relevant problem, because they are mere carriers of the information genes and passive responders of cruelty of a natural environment very similar to British society. It seems that the question of “how are organisms reproduced (produced again) each generation” has historically been replaced by a question about “where is the information that is transmitted to the offspring”. One asks for nouns instead of verbs, and with that one answers: “molecules (metaphysics) of life” instead of processes of living. And, with this way of asking, biology arises exaggeratedly focused only on two problems: 1) on the genome of organisms, thus making development unnecessary, the dynamics that would make it possible to explain the dynamic construction of living beings; and 2) in adult living, in which the issues of the struggle for sex and survival can be shown more easily in some specific cases of mammals. Together, these two arguments create a very deep gap between fertilization and the adult individual, already produced and looking for sex and food.

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The origin of species by means of natural drift | HUMBERTO MATURANA-ROMESIN & JORGE MPODOZIS | 2000


In this article we propose that the mechanism that gave rise to the diversity of living systems that we find today, as well as to the biosphere as coherent system of interrelated autonomous living systems, is natural drift. And we also propose that that which we biologists connote with the expression natural selection is a consequence of the history of the constitution of the biosphere through natural drift, and not the mechanism that generates that history. Moreover, we do this by proposing: a) that the history of living systems on earth is the history of the arising, conservation, and diversification of lineages through reproduction, and not of populations; b) that biological reproduction is a systemic process of conservation of a particular ontogenic- phenotype/ontogenic- niche relation, and not a genetic process of conservation of some genetic constitution; c) that a lineage arises in the systemic reproductive conservation of an ontogenic-phenotype/ontogenic-niche relation, and not in the conservation of a particular genotype; d) that although nothing can happen in the life history of a living system that is not permitted by its total genotype, whatever happens in it arises in an epigenetic manner, and it is not possible to properly claim that any features that arises in the life history of an organism is genetically determined; e) that it is behavior what guides the course of the history of living systems, not genetics; and f) that that which a taxonomist distinguishes when he or she claims that an organism belongs to a particular species, is a particular ontogenic phenotype/ontogenic niche relation that occupies a nodal position in the historical diversification of lineages.

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