By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Andreas Wagner
Narrated by: Sean Pratt
Andreas Wagner suggests molecular life is nature’s library. He believes Darwin’s theory of natural selection is recorded and accessible in the cellular history of life; i.e. a coded library buried, and partly indecipherable, in the molecules of life.
In “Arrival of the Fittest”, Wagner explains the vast distance between Darwin’s theory of evolution and the mechanics of evolution. Darwin’s theory does not explain the cellular mechanics of life because science had not reached that level of observation and measurement. The nearest Darwin comes to explanation is based on natural selection which only infers there is some mechanism, without identifying it. In other words, there is no examination of the mechanics of evolutionary change in Darwin’s theory.
Wagner infers solution to “Arrival of the Fittest” puzzle, is in the science of molecular chemistry, biology, and mathematics. The difficulty of discovery is in the secret of evolutionary mechanics, a secret presently as elusive as a unified field theory in physics. Wagner infers whatever survives is the fittest; but, science fails, at least so far, to experimentally prove how the “…Fittest” gets there. Why is that important? Presumably, if one knows how an organism becomes the fittest, species improvement, maybe even immortality, is possible.
Wagner reviews science’s discovery of human evolution, the origin of life, and the fundamental construct of “Arrival of the Fittest”. Two mechanistic requirements for “Arrival of the Fittest” are molecular metabolism and replication. Metabolism is the ability of molecules to process the organic material of life. Wagner argues that metabolism is life’s first order of business. There is experimental proof that metabolic process can be created by thermal and intermolecular force in laboratory condition similar to the early history of the world. As heat and collision between organic materials evolve, molecules of life are formed.
Once metabolism is established, a replication process is required.
Replication is reproducing the fundamental building blocks of life. As long as the raw materials of life are environmentally available, once metabolism is established, the next or concurrent stage of evolution is replication of molecular cells. Over eons of time, mutation of molecular cells leads to the creation of DNA and RNA that become markers for organic cells that create the details of life.
This is the stage at which evolution confronts complexity for “Arrival of the Fittest”. Over eons of time, metabolism and replication create life forms that survive their environment. As the environment changes, the molecules of life adapt and evolve through a building up and breaking down of organic materials in an immortal loop, reflecting evolved DNA and RNA markers. Wagner argues that this metabolic and replicating process results in “Arrival of the Fittest”.
With these mechanics, science can explore genetic inheritance, mutation, genes, and epigenetics as it is recorded in nature’s library. What Wagner illustrates is that modification of the building blocks of life can be made at a molecular level. Wagner’s observations raise both hope and fear. There is the hope of curing genetically inherited diseases, eliminating world hunger, and improving human’ health and species longevity. There is the fear of interrupting a natural life cycle in ways that cause disease, damage food production, and doom civilization.
Andreas Wagner reveals the immense complexity of human evolution by associating organic molecules with enough information to fill all libraries of the world. Access to this immense library is being decoded and organized with biological research and computer technology. Wagner’s book makes one wonder–is this research a harbinger of earth’s infinite or finite organic life?