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Evolution explains the origin of life

It is a common misunderstanding that evolution includes an explanation of life’s origins. Conversely, some of the theory’s critics believe that it cannot explain the origin of life. The theory does not try to explain the origin of life. The theory of evolution explains how populations change over time and how life diversifies the origin of species. It does not shed light on the beginnings of life including the origins of the first cells, which is how life is defined. The mechanisms of the origin of life on Earth are a particularly difficult problem because it occurred a very long time ago, and presumably it just occurred once. Importantly, biologists believe that the presence of life on Earth precludes the possibility that the events that led to life on Earth can be repeated because the intermediate stages would immediately become food for existing living things.

However, once a mechanism of inheritance was in place in the form of a molecule like DNA either within a cell or pre-cell, these entities would be subject to the principle of natural selection. More effective reproducers would increase in frequency at the expense of inefficient reproducers. So while evolution does not explain the origin of life, it may have something to say about some of the processes operating once pre-living entities acquired certain properties.

Organisms evolve on purpose

Statements such as “organisms evolve in response to a change in an environment” are quite common, but such statements can lead to two types of misunderstandings. First, the statement must not be understood to mean that individual organisms evolve. The statement is shorthand for “a population evolves in response to a changing environment.” However, a second misunderstanding may arise by interpreting the statement to mean that the evolution is somehow intentional. A changed environment results in some individuals in the population, those with particular phenotypes, benefiting and therefore producing proportionately more offspring than other phenotypes. This results in change in the population if the characteristics are genetically determined.

It is also important to understand that the variation that natural selection works on is already in a population and does not arise in response to an environmental change. For example, applying antibiotics to a population of bacteria will, over time, select a population of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. The resistance, which is caused by a gene, did not arise by mutation because of the application of the antibiotic. The gene for resistance was already present in the gene pool of the bacteria, likely at a low frequency. The antibiotic, which kills the bacterial cells without the resistance gene, strongly selects individuals that are resistant, since these would be the only ones that survived and divided. Experiments have demonstrated that mutations for antibiotic resistance do not arise as a result of antibiotic.

In a larger sense, evolution is not goal directed. Species do not become “better” over time; they simply track their changing environment with adaptations that maximize their reproduction in a particular environment at a particular time. Evolution has no goal of making faster, bigger, more complex, or even smarter species, despite the commonness of this kind of language in popular discourse. What characteristics evolve in a species are a function of the variation present and the environment, both of which are constantly changing in a non-directional way. What trait is fit in one environment at one time may well be fatal at some point in the future. This holds equally well for a species of insect as it does the human species.

Section summary

Evolution is the process of adaptation through mutation which allows more desirable characteristics to be passed to the next generation. Over time, organisms evolve more characteristics that are beneficial to their survival. For living organisms to adapt and change to environmental pressures, genetic variation must be present. With genetic variation, individuals have differences in form and function that allow some to survive certain conditions better than others. These organisms pass their favorable traits to their offspring. Eventually, environments change, and what was once a desirable, advantageous trait may become an undesirable trait and organisms may further evolve. Evolution may be convergent with similar traits evolving in multiple species or divergent with diverse traits evolving in multiple species that came from a common ancestor. Evidence of evolution can be observed by means of DNA code and the fossil record, and also by the existence of homologous and vestigial structures.

Questions & Answers

The phenomenon by which Protoplasm of a cell shrinks from the wall is 
test Reply
which vein connective from harm to Brian
Burton Reply
which nevel succulate blood system from harm to hear
Burton
if an organism is cartilaginous is fully capable of a protecting the internal organs
Verah Reply
what is different between cell and tissue
Rose Reply
cell is the functional and structural unit of life while tissue is a group of cells aggregate to perform a similar or particular function
Tajudeen
cell is the basic unit of life while tissue is group of related cells that perform the same function Eg. the nerve tissue is made up of nerve cells
AAGifty
please what is meant by mutation
Kyere Reply
mutation is the change in DNA which results in the evolution
Shshank
what is binominal nomenclature?
Furaha Reply
the system of naming organisms depending on their xtics of origin
Vincent
The system of naming organisms using two-words Latin names
Agyeiwaa
what is the fate of reduced NAD in cell metabolism
namirembe Reply
what is plant cell
OLUWAKEMI Reply
what is the importance of meoisis
Kamasa Reply
it also aids in formation of pollen grain in anther and formation of ovules in ovary of flowering plant
Orawo
it also aids in formation of sperm or ova in animals
Orawo
explain the function of the skeleton
Jonathan Reply
skeleton is mainly the infrastructure of the organisms
Shshank
what 's different between immunity and vaccination
Symon Reply
vaccination simply refers to as drugs usually injected,most times in a liquid form given to a person or an animal,while immunity refers to a source of prevention usually in a liquid form that help in disease prevention
Grace
In children
Grace
Golgi apparatus helps in the formation of lysosomes
Diana
what is the difference between placenta and umbilical cord?
Grace Reply
No difference
Onwane
what's golgi apparatus.
Grace
What is biology
Rita Reply
is the study of living things
Kisa
biology is the study of living and non living things
Tinta
Biology is the study of living things
Addai
the study of living organisms
Furaha
Biology is the study of living organism or things
Rose
Biology is the study of both living and non living things
Funteh
distinguish between sex linked characters and sex limited characters
Kisa Reply
what is active transport
Jessy Reply
why is diffusion important
Jessy
dissolved substance move with in the cytoplasm by diffusion
Kisa
what role does mutation play in the process of evolution
Kisa
active transport refers to the movement of certain molecules or substances from lower to higher concentration with the help of energy or ATP
Shshank
mutation occurs due to change in DNA and DNA forms our body & if DNA changes then our body also acquire some changes & these changes gradually leads to the evolution of new species
Shshank

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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