Richard Lewontin on Gene, Organism and Environment

Jeremy Trombley at Struggle Forever has posted a fascinating lecture by biologist Richard Lewontin here. He argues that the naive conception of genes as instruction tables for organisms fails to account for epigenetic factors like gene-environment interaction, developmental noise and organism’s construction of its environment. He proposes that we see genes not as programs but regulatory components within processes of development and heredity. Finally, since environments are a) organism-relative and b) co-evolving with organisms, there is no such as an environment which can be preserved in aspic for all time. Environmental politics should cannot retard environmental change but can only re-direct it in more beneficial ways.

Here’s the blurb:

The standard metaphors used to describe DNA and development are examined, including the claim that DNA “makes” protein, that DNA is “self-replicating” and the organisms “adapt” to their environments. In this lecture by distinguished evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, he explains that DNA is manufactured by the cell machinery, that proteins are folded by rules that are not related to DNA sequence and that organisms, rather than adapting to their environment, are actively engaging in constructing their own environments, so that organisms and environments co-evolve.

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