What are the chemical properties required for heredity?
Many evolutionary biologists insist that the central fact that must be explained in biology is adaptation, and that the best explanation for adaptation is evolution by natural selection. I agree that evolution explains change in organic life, but it can’t explain its existence in the first place, or what its doing to remain alive. Why? Because adaptation is not really a scientific concept.
In today’s standard explanation of biology, organisms are understood as chemical systems that are capable of imperfect self-replication, and natural selection inevitably shapes these systems over generations. Organisms are different from, say crystals, because they possess chemical properties that make them suitable for passing on information through heredity. Crystals don’t evolve because they lack the chemical properties required for heredity. But what are these chemical properties?
What is the alternative to adaptation in organisms? Is there a possible living organism that we could prove was not adapted? How else can we define adaptation in organisms except as the tendency to promote ones own existence in the future through replication? If we define it this way, there can never be an empirical test for it. Any life form that exists meets the criteria by definition, because an organism is defined as a thing that has come into existence through replication. You could never, even in principle, find an example where this has not happened, so it doesn’t explain how life came to have this property. Adaptation is not a scientific concept at all, because it cannot be refuted. That makes it a philosophical or religious idea.
Nothing could ever evolve if it did not possess the tendency to promote its own future existence through replication or some other form of heredity. You can’t base an explanation on the thing you’re explaining.
In other words, life has to be driven by something other than replication and evolution, because replication and evolution require life before they can begin. We have described this as the “chemical properties required for heredity” but that doesn’t explain it either, because we haven’t said what those properties are. We can’t answer this by just describing the chemistry of a life form, because we can’t identify what it is about that chemistry that gives it this property unless we can recreate it with non-biological materials and make artificial life forms that evolve, too.
Epistolution is a guess that the “chemical properties required for heredity” are that heredity requires a set of oscillators that rhythmically anticipate the conditions in their environment by changing based on use and disuse. If I am right, then this is also the property that is required for metabolism, cognition, and intelligence, because it is a prerequisite for all life. It is the thing that life forms are doing that makes them capable of evolution.
I want to test that hypothesis.
The first organism had the chemical properties that were required for heredity in a particular context. My question is this: when did organisms stop requiring the chemical properties required for heredity in a particular context? The answer must be never. They all possess these properties; you and I possess them, and so does the pine tree outside my window, and the staphylococcus in my nose. Only the contexts have changed. This means that we can look for what those chemical properties are in every form of life existing now, not just the first cell that existed four billion years ago in an environment that is long gone. Why have we confined this search to this arcane and inaccessible territory? We can look around us everywhere.
The properties of organisms have been well explored, though not understood. We do not understand the processes that drive an organism; if we did we could recreate them from scratch. My focus is on one feature that has been largely ignored. All organisms are comprised of many chemical pathways that repeat, or oscillate, and these oscillators affect one another in a way that is sensitive to the environmental conditions, anticipate those conditions, and thereby tend to cause the oscillations to continue.
Epistolution proposes a potential logic for the way these oscillations are affected by the environment. If used: reinforce; else mutate. The point is that if this formula works to anticipate environmental conditions, it establishes that this could be the underlying reason why evolution could have begun in the first place. If it were, it would also explain why complex animal life requires sleep and dreaming, why it results in general intelligence, and how metabolism and homeostasis work.