What is the Origin of Man?
by Dr. Maurice Bucaille
Chapter 1: Evolution in the Animal Kingdom established facts and gaps in our Knowledge
The Origins of Life and the Diversity of Living Beings
If we are to believe certain researchers and their statements concerning the phenomenon of life, there are no more secrets left to discover today "The origins of life no longer form the subject of laboratory investigation", stated an eminent specialist in molecular biology in 1972. Always assuming these words still carry a meaning, we may conclude that life does not contain any facts we do not know. In reality, however, the situation is quite different, and there are plenty of mysteries that still surround the origins of life.
Ingenious experiments have for many years been repeatedly performed by biochemists and biophysicians in an attempt to prove the possibility of spontaneously obtaining infinite quantities of certain chemical compounds found in cells that are structurally highly complex. The scientists in question are of the opinion that due to favourable physical influences, the compounds were able spontaneously to combine together in an organized fashion, and by uniting, were able to produce the fantastic complex we call the cell, or even more rudimentary living organisms. A statement such as this is tantamount to saying that the possibility of spontaneously forming steel particles from iron ore and coal at high temperature could have led to the construction of the Eiffel Tower through a series of happy coincidences that assembled the materials in proper order. Even then, this comparison is very weak, for the actual structural complexity of an elementary living organism is much more complex than the structure of the Eiffel Tower, considered in 1889 to be a triumph of metal construction.
Those who ardently defend the role of chance base their opinions on experiments of this kind, which claim to reproduce the possible origins of life. They repeat the views of Miller, who in 1955 induced the formation of complex chemical compounds; such as the amino acids present in cellular proteins, using electric sparks in an atmosphere of gas composed of steam, methane, ammonia and hydrogen. Needless to say, such experiments do not provide any explanation for the organization of the components; nor do we have any idea whether this favourably composed gas really existed in the earth's atmosphere two or three billion years ago. A theory cannot be built on unknown facts such as these. Even if a gas of this kind did exist in the earth's atmosphere; even if certain physical conditions did trigger high-powered electrical phenomena; even if complex organic chemical compounds had formed as a result of this fortunate combination of circumstances, there is nothing to prove that they could have induced the creation of living matter. The determining factor for this phenomenon remains unknown. Some researchers admit that there is an enigma in this. Others point to chance a convenient loophole that excuses them from acknowledging their ignorance. We shall come back later to the reasons why it is impossible to explain the phenomenon of life in terms such as these.
We must indeed turn to disciplines other than biochemistry to find the first clues to the problem, and in particular we must look toward palaeontology. Certain prehistoric animals and vegetals were not totally destroyed after their death. Their remains lay buried in sedimentary terranes, protected thereby from disintegration, and thus providing us with vestiges of these prehistoric life forms. The state in which the vestiges are found sometimes allows us ''to draw certain conclusions concerning the morphology and age of these once living beings [The material studied by Paleontology is limited to the bones and teeth]. It is in fact possible to gain an immediate idea of their age by establishing the date of the terranes. This can be done by various methods, in particular by radioactive measurements (radio chronology). For terranes that are geologically less ancient, carbon 14 tests are used, while strontium and rubidium tests are employed for older terranes. Having carried out these tests, experts can then determine the age of the specimens under investigation.
Tests such as these lead us to think that living beings existed in a unicellular state roughly one billion years ago [The earth is 4.5 billion years old]. Although it cannot be stated for sure, other forms may have existed before them. P: P. Grasse', in his book entitled `Evolution du Vivant' [The Evolution of Living Organisms] [Published by Albin Michel, Paris, 1973], mentions the discovery of vestiges of much older organisms: for example, the existence of organized life forms roughly 3.2 billion years ago in the rock formations of the Transvaal. These forms could possibly represent tiny bacteria, smaller than 1 / 10,000 millimetres, as well as particles of amino acids. These organisms may have employed amino acids, or possibly proteins contained in the sea...Other microorganisms may also have been present in the sediments, such as cyanophilous algae containing chlorophyll. The latter is a basic agent in photosynthesis, a process by which complex organic compounds are formed from simple components through the effect of light. Fossilized vegetation resembling algae and filamentous bacteria have been found in more recent rock formations (2.3 billion years old) near the shores of Lake Superior in Canada. The bacteria and certain algae displayed an extremely simple structure, without the well known differentiated elements of the cells. Similar samples dating back roughly one billion years have been discovered in rock formations in Central Australia. This stage probably gave way to a period in which algae of a different kind displayed a genuine cell structure, with a nucleus and chromosomes containing molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid, D.N.A for short. Many facts about these algae remain unknown, however.
The pluricellular stage was to follow, but "in the animal kingdom, between uni and pluricellular forms, there was still a hiatus". Two basic notions must be mentioned immediately
This growing complexity is ever present throughout evolution: We find similar fossilized vegetation at a much more `recent' period, 500 million years ago. We cannot be certain, of course, that today's bacteria are identical to those said to have appeared on earth as the first living organisms. They may have evolved since then, although bacteria such as Escherichia Coli have indeed remained the same for 250 million years.
Whatever the answer, the origins of life definitely appear to be aquatic. According to today's thinking, it is impossible to conceive of life without water. Any search for traces of life on other. planets begins with the question: Has water been present there? On the earth's surface, the combination of certain conditions including the presence of water was required for life to exist at all.
The complexity of living matter in those very first organisms is not likely to have been as great as it is in today's cells. Nevertheless, as P: P. Grasse' points out: "In order for life to exist, there must be a production and exchange of energy. This is only physically possible within a system that is heterogeneous and complex. The established facts at the command of the biologist provide a reason for him to concede that the first living form was of necessity an organized entity". This leads Grasse' to stress the important fact that today's bacteria, which appear to be the simplest living organisms, obviously attain a high degree of complexity. They are indeed composed of thousands of different molecules containing systems of catalysis that are themselves highly numerous, and which enable the bacteria to synthesize their own substance, to grow and to reproduce. The catalysis relies on enzymes, which act in infinitely small quantities, each enzyme performing its own specific function.
Like the amoeba, unicellular life forms are composed of differentiated elements. Their structure is amazingly complex, even though the cells are measured in units of 1 / 1,000 of a millimetre. Within the fundamental substance of unicellular forms, called cytoplasm, whose chemical structure is highly complex, there are numerous differentiated elements, the most important of which is the nucleus. This is composed of many parts, in particular the chromosomes containing the genes. These control every single aspect of the cell's functioning. They give orders through a system of information transfer, using transmitters and a system to receive the orders as they come in. The chemical vehicle supporting the genes has been clearly identified: It is deoxyribonucleic acid (D.N.A.), a molecule of complex structure. The `messenger' is a related molecule known as ribonucleic acid, R.N.A for short. Within the cell, it is this system that ensures the formation of new proteins from simpler chemical elements (synthesis of proteins).
It is difficult not to feel tremendous admiration for the molecular biologists that first discovered these extremely complex mechanisms systems so perfectly regulated to maintain life that the slightest malfunction leads to deformities or monstrous growths (cancer is a case in point) and ends in death. As far as I am concerned, however, the brilliant analysis of the way this system works (for each and every cell is a kind of computer comprised of innumerable interrelations) is just as amazing as the general conclusions cited above concerning the supposed resolution of unexplained facts on the origins of life. One very important question immediately springs to mind, based on the results of these investigations: How could 'a system as complex as this have been formed? Was it the work of chance, following a host of trials and errors? That seems most unlikely. What other logical theories are there? It is common knowledge that a computer will only function if it has been programmed, a fact that implies the existence of a programming intellect, that provides the information required to operate the system. That is the problem facing all thinking people who seek an explanation to such questions; people who refuse to accept mere words of groundless theories; people who will only acknowledge conclusions based on facts. Given the present state of knowledge, however, science has not provided any answer to this precise point.
The Diversity of Living Beings
There is tremendous diversity among living beings. From the most ancient times, human observers have noted this diversity and have taken great pains to analyse it in minute detail. Naturalists record the striking precision of certain primitive peoples in their ability to distinguish between the species of animals surrounding them. Having received no instruction from outside, these peoples have compiled inventories that are not far off the work of an expert.
The first distinction to be made between living beings is the separation of the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Although they share a common basic element the cell as well as numerous constituent substances, they are different in several ways. The vegetable kingdom is directly dependent on the earth for its nourishment. It also requires a much greater capacity for producing complex chemical compounds from simple bodies and light. The animal kingdom, on the other hand; depends on the vegetable kingdom for its nourishment (at least with regard to animals that have attained a certain degree of complexity), and carnivores depend on other species of animal.
Henceforth, we shall concentrate uniquely on the animal kingdom, which is extraordinarily varied and large. There may be as many as 1.5 million species living on our planet. The list has continued to grow, especially in recent decades, with the discoveries made in the marine world. Ever since the natural sciences gained stature and importance in the seventeenth century, format classifications have constantly appeared, each updated in turn as new data are discovered.
Aristotle drew a distinction between animals with red blood and those without, but no other studies of a serious nature were undertaken until the seventeenth century, when more interesting characteristics began to attract attention. For example: Some observers were struck by the question of respiration through the lungs or the branchiae (fish gills), the existence or absence of a vertebral skeleton (backbone), the anatomy of the heart (number of ventricles), or the existence of hair as opposed to feathers. ' In the classifications that were to follow, characteristics such as these remained distinctive of certain animal groups.
The distribution of distinguishing attributes opened the way for classification by group, with series of subdivisions. Thus the phyla [Plural of Phylum] characterise the broad basic divisions of the living beings presenting similar features, allowing us to put them in the same group. Each phylum can be divided into clearly defined classes; these are also determined by a certain number of specific characteristics. Similarly, each class contains several clearly differentiated orders, which nevertheless maintain the general features of their class and phylum. An order consists of various families, the families are composed of genera [Plural of genus], and the genera contain different species displaying both collective and specific characteristics. Classification is further complicated, however, by the existence of intermediary forms.
The first phylum of this classification is composed of unicellular forms, known as protozoans. It includes the most primitive beings, which very probably divided at some point in time, thus giving birth to pluricellular forms: This is the first example of evolution in the course of time.
The structure of these pluricellular forms (spongiae, cnidariae and ctenophores) became more complex as some acquired more specialized functions, without however constituting organs with clearly defined attributes. For example, some provided the covering of animals, others developed the ability to contract, or became sensitive to outside stimuli, and others acquired reproductory functions. The system grew more involved when a cavity appeared that served as a digestive tract (cnidariae and ctenophores) and the sensory organs made their appearance. This group did not as yet possess a head, however.
Embryological data have been of great value in establishing the various classifications in the animal kingdom. Thus an important stage in the growth of a structural complexity was reached with the early appearance during embryonic development of an extra germ layer. The number of layers thus grew from two to three, each layer ensuring the formation of clearly defined organs. Animals with three germ layers were in turn divided into 2 groups: those containing a single cavity (the digestive tract) and those with cavities that developed next to the digestive tract and which were responsible for the formation of tissues and various other organs. The broad divisions of the animal kingdom, here reduced to their most basic terms, already seem to suggest a methodical organization.
The latter guided, the birth of the various phyla, of which 20 emerged (very unevenly) into the following four groups(a) The unicellular forms, constituting a unique phylum; The pluricellular beings containing two germ layers in the embryo [The external layer (ectodern) and the internal layer (endodern)], these gave birth to three phyla;
(b) The pluricellular beings with three germ layers [The first two layers plus a third (mesodern) interposed between the two others] but containing only one cavity, these accounted for six phyla.(c) The group of animals with three germ layers and several cavities, constituting the other twelve phyla, two of which are particularly important: They are the arthropods which comprise the largest number of species in the animal kingdom, among which we find the insects and the vertebrates, the latter including fishes, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Nevertheless, the gaps in our knowledge of the transitions from one of these groups to another are very wide indeed. In the case of the insects, one of the most important groups, we know nothing whatsoever of their origins (P. P. Grasse) Likewise, there are no fossils left to indicate the beginnings of the various phyla. "Every explanation of the mechanism that governs the creative evolution of the basic organizational plans is weighed down with hypotheses. This statement should figure at the beginning of any book dealing with evolution. Since we have no firm documentary evidence; statements on the origins of the phyla can only be suppositions, opinions whose degree of feasibility we have no way of measuring." P. P. Grasse's observation on the phyla should caution any statement on the origins of the major basic divisions. From this point of view, the determining causes of the phenomena in question are just as mysterious as the birth of the most rudimentary life forms.
The Concept of Evolution in the Animal Kingdom: The Difficulty of Solving the Problem
It is difficult to say at what period prior to the nineteenth century the question of evolution in the animal kingdom was first raised. In the centuries before Christ, several Greek philosophers had already perceived that the living world was subject to transformations. Observers coming after them sometimes displayed startling flashes of intuitive insight. Inevitably, however, their conclusions arose from philosophical ideas or pure speculations. The fact that they later proved to be correct, although the product of sheer guesswork; does not lend any particular value to these early philosophical concepts. Indeed, we should always bear in mind that during the same period, the same philosophers maintained totally inaccurate theories with complete equanimity: the theories concerning the existence of the universe in an identical state throughout eternity, for example.
In 1801, however, Lamarck became the very first naturalist to put forward the idea of evolution.. It appeared in his `Discours d'ouverture' (Inaugural Speech), eight years ahead .of his `Philosophie zoologique' (Zoological Philosophy). For the rest of his life, Lamarck collected arguments to support his theory. Cuvier, the other famous French naturalist of the nineteenth century, published his `Histoire des ossements fossiles' (History of Fossilized Bones) in 1812. He compares present day animals with fossilized remains, demonstrating the existence of extinct species. Cuvier's study does not, however, support the idea of evolution. J. P. Lehmann suggests the following reason for this: Cuvier thought that the fossils in question could not be older than the maximum figure of several millennia allotted by the Bible to the earth and the animal kingdom. Because, for example, the Egyptian mummy of an ibis did not indicate that a change had taken place in today's animal, evolution did not exist. In 1859, Darwin introduced the idea of the natural selection of species, and it was not long before others attributed to Darwin's theory the general concept of evolution. J. Roger has indeed pointed out "the actual word `evolution' is not part of Darwin's original terminology. It did not appear until the sixth edition of On the Origin of Species, and even then it was used more as a general denial of the fixity of the created species than an affirmation of Darwinian transformism proper." Hence, if we are to follow the theories of P: P. Grasse in `L'homme en accusation' [Man Stands Accused] and of J. Roger, we shall see that the true father of evolution is Lamarck (even though his name is always associated with transformism), while Darwin is little more than a transformist (even though he has always been considered the first naturalist firmly to introduce the idea of evolution.) Later on, we shall take a closer look at the ideas of both Lamarck and Darwin.
However that may be, the data provided by zoology and palaeontology combined clearly furnished firm arguments from which to approach the question at issue. Zoology strove to classify the different groups of orders, families, genera and species, basing its distinctions mainly on anatomy, physiology, and embryology. Palaeontology, on the other hand, ascertained (or tried to ascertain) at what periods in time life forms appeared similar to those of today, and at what periods beings now extinct first appeared then disappeared. This is an important concept to remember, otherwise we run the risk of misinterpreting the information provided by palaeontology: For example, the discovery of certain fossil specimens in terranes dating from a precise geological age does not necessarily mean that these life forms were inexistent before or after the age in question. Errors of this kind are less likely to occur when fossilized forms are highly numerous within a certain period, especially when there are no specimens to be found in fossils pre- or postdating the specific period: In the case of man, however, whenever there are very few genuine or supposedly genuine remains, and whenever such vestiges are limited to bone fragments, the way is open for a host of errors, as we shall see later on.
In spite of these reservations, we can derive many ideas from observing how a clearly defined anatomical form present at a certain point in time has succeeded a similar form with a less developed morphology existing in older terranes. This change over a period of time may possibly reflect a better adaptation to what may well have been new conditions of life. Observations such as these must, however, be repeated with many different examples before one can seriously talk of evolution. Only palaeontology can provide us with proof of this kind. Having started promisingly in the early nineteenth century Palaeontology really came, into its own after Darwin. The English naturalist did not employ any decisive arguments from palaeontology: In most cases, his opinions rested on the study of present day animals, suggesting an apparent natural selection that did not, however, explain everything. Thus, Darwin's arguments are by no means conclusive.
What can we say today about the definite or extremely probable data of palaeontology when combined with facts drawn from our knowledge of zoology?
As we have, already seen, pluricellular life forms most, probably developed. from unicellular forms. The most primitive pluricellular beings are likely to have been the spongiae (sponges), which although not possessing clearly differentiated organs already display a reproductive organization that is sexual. From these primitive forms probably derive the cnidarian and ctenophores mentioned earlier. The latter possess the rudiment's of organs and cells that have acquired nervous and muscular functions: _ They are likely to have been formed less than one billion years ago., The first invertebrates probably appeared 500 or. 600 million years ago, along with molluscs, annulated worms, and the first insects. The vertebrates came later, roughly 450 million years ago, and likewise certain fishes, which continued to develop, thereafter. The first. Terrestrial vertebrates (amphibians and reptiles) appeared some 350 million years ago, and following them came the mammals (180 million years ago) and the birds (I35 million years ago). Life forms not only appeared however, they also disappeared, sometimes in. very, large; quantities. The reptiles provide an example of this phenomenon:: Having predominated for 200~million years, they went into decline, so that today we have few vestiges to account for reptile life over the past 60 or 70 million years. The mammals have taken their `place' if one may call it that.
This deliberately brief and generalized survey shows, the magnitude; of the evolution toward ever more developed and. complex forms. Also evident is the extent to which forms could disappear (and not just the reptiles), thus bringing considerable changes to the general, aspect of: the living world. , Finally we must mention forms that have remained unchanged for hundreds of millions of years cockroaches, to take an example from the insect world. There are, however, many other groups, to which we shall later return, Each and every one of these data raises considerable problems, thus indicating, the complexity of evolution. We are forced to account not only for progressions, and regressions, but also, for extinctions.
In view of this, the problem of the general evolution of life forms is fantastically, vast and complex. It requires us to search into extremely diverse fields: the natural sciences (botany and zoology), comparative anatomy, palaeontology, embryology, and chemistry to mention only those that seem to have provided the most evidence. There are, however, many evolutionary studies published by researchers who, though undoubtedly extremely well informed in their fields, have an unfortunate tendency to draw generalized conclusions without any detailed knowledge of what experts from other fields have to say oh the same subject.
The matter at hand is indeed so vast that very few specialists are able to master each and every aspect of it: To do so would require tremendous experience, as well as knowledge spanning a whole range of different disciplines. It is for this reason that the observer who by definition is willing to accept any proposition providing it is supported by solid arguments remains very sceptical of conclusions too heavily based on data from a single field of study. Thus it is difficult to accept certain theories, based on molecular biology or mathematical research in genetics concerning the evolution of living forms, when the authors of these theories quite obviously attach very little importance to the work of their colleagues in other branches of knowledge. For example, what about the work of researchers in the field of palaeontology excavating ancient fossilized forms? What about the wealth of relevant facts supplied by comparative anatomy and embryology? Sadly, we must note that specialists in the basic sciences, preoccupied as they are with the origins of life, the beginnings of man and the evolution of living forms, have lost their appetite for arguments based on solid facts from the past.
This criticism is, in no way intended to undermine the tremendous value of evolutionary data gleaned from the cell. It is simply aimed at the overly exclusive use of these data, devoid of any interpretation. Unfortunately, this shortcoming is very common nowadays. So many problems containing countless facets are examined by specialists from a wide range of disciplines, only to be viewed in the light that is most congenial to the eyes of the specialists in question. A further difficulty is the frequent and unfortunate intervention of ulterior motives of a religious or metaphysical kind, that quite obviously underlie the opinions of many researchers. For example, a theorist f may rely heavily on a material argument, glad to have discovered it if he thinks the argument will support his cherished materialistic theory. But those who are not informed may think it is dangerous to acknowledge the idea of evolution, even in the animal kingdom, for fear that by extending this view to man, they may go against the religious teachings they wish to uphold. In so doing, they are unaware of the fact that certain aspects of modern discoveries that are usually employed to support materialistic views may indeed offer a solid argument to those of diametrically opposed opinions. All of which is to say, that questions of this kind ought to be approached without any preconceived ideas at all.
Lamarck & Transformation
Nowadays, there is a colossal quantity of data at the disposal of the specialists who seek an answer to the questions raised here. In the past, however, the material available for constructing a theory was very limited indeed. The opinions expressed were strongly influenced by philosophical ideas and religious beliefs. In spite of this however, certain ideas did escape these influences, and in view of the concepts prevalent at the time, they were absolutely revolutionary.
In the sixth century B.C., Anaximander of Miletus put forward the notion of evolution in the animal kingdom. His theory appeared at the time the so called Sacerdotal version of Genesis was being written on the other side of the Mediterranean, in which there is mention of the creation of living beings `each according to its kind'. In the century after, Empedocles appears to have sided with the general concept of evolution. He does not, however, seem able to have produced anything but a bizarre account of the origins of man that is entirely the work of his vivid imagination. Lucretius, on the other, hand, expresses ideas in his work `De Natura Rerum' [On Nature] that favour the notion of a process of 'natural selection that preserves the strongest species and eliminates the weakest.
The Bible was responsible for the widespread notion that the species were fixed and unchanging, a concept that held sway until the nineteenth century. Even so, Saint Augustine and several other Fathers of the Church mention certain possibilities of transformation as a result of the potential attributes that God bestowed on the world when He created it.
Buffon was the first thinker to uphold the idea of evolution, but he did so with a certain amount of timidity. Initially, he had considered the species to be fixed and unchanging, but as he grew older and his knowledge of nature increased, he came to view them as in a state of evolution. To be precise, however, he considered the families of animals to have come from a single species, having acquired various characteristics in the course of time while remaining within a certain biological framework. The fact is, he was not prepared to admit that one species could transform itself into another; he only accepted the existence of limited variations. For Buffon, conditions of life climate, food, and domestication were the prime factors in the changes that took place in animals. His doubts and hesitations are mentioned in P. P. Grass6's book `Biologie Animale' [Animal Biology] [Co-author M. Aron and P. P. Grasse, published by Masson, Paris 1935]: "Buffon's work gives the impression that the naturalist did not want to follow his thoughts through to the very end. Anxious to preserve his peace and quiet, he was afraid of coming into violent conflict with the preconceived ideas of his day. When the Sorbonne sharply called him back into line, he agreed to everything they asked."
Lamarck, on the other hand, enjoyed a far greater freedom to say what he liked.
Lamarck, the Father of Evolution
Although Lamarck had been the official Botanist to the French king, when the Revolution broke out, he was lucky enough to secure himself a position where he could study and teach without hindrance. Thus, in 1794, he occupied a teaching post at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle [French National Museum of Natural History]. Seven years later, in 1801, he outlined the theory of evolution in his `Discours d'ouverture du 21 Floreal An 8' [Inaugural Speech of the 21st: Day of Floreal, Year 8] [According to the Revolutionary calender] several years before his masterwork `La Philosophie zoologique' [Zoological Philosophy], which appeared in 1809. Until his dying day, Lamarck worked tirelessly, amassing copious evidence to support his theories. Although they are open to criticism on certain points his opinions are unacceptable today they nevertheless represent a step forward so enormous, that there is every reason to call Lamarck the `Father of Evolution'. But for all this, he died in dreadful intellectual isolation; criticized and mocked by his contemporaries, misjudged and underestimated, in spite of the importance of his work as a naturalist.
Lamarck had shown the "relative unchangeability" of species, which are "only temporarily invariable." If their conditions of life changed, Lamarck considered that the species would change in "size, form, proportion between their various parts, colour, firmness, agility and industriousness... Changes in their environment modify their needs or create new ones; new habits lead to greater use of certain organs and the neglect of others. When an organ is left unused, it shrinks and may finally disappear altogether". (I owe to P. P. Grasse this synopsis of Lamarck's ideas on the influence of environment.)
Indeed, it has been observed that the teeth of animals that do not chew their food (the anteater or the whale, for example) tend to atrophy or not to emerge at all. Another example is the mole; whose eyes are so tiny they often see absolutely nothing. Going in the opposite direction, intense use of an organ leads to its development
The feet of birds that live in water become webbed as a result of swimming, the tongue of the anteater grows longer as a result of the way it extends its tongue to catch and coat its victims with a sticky substance. The study of these variations led Lamarck to conclude that when a change occurred, it was toward a more complex organ (in the case of organs that develop as a result of intensive use), and that variations of this kind were transmitted by heredity.
Critical Assessment of Lamarck's Theories
In criticizing Lamarck's theories, one must bear in mind the nature of the data on which, in his day, Lamarck was able to base his ideas. While there are undoubtedly points that he treats somewhat superficially, his ideas nevertheless contain an element of truth. In Lamarck's eyes, the evidence was so striking that in an age where others denied such evidence, the truth had to be proclaimed. All the same, Lamarck overestimated the influence of environment, and his idea that characteristics are automatically transferred by heredity is no longer acceptable.
Zoologists have indeed pointed to the existence of changes that were induced by environment the influence of food on the digestive tract, for example. It is a well-known fact, however, that overworked muscles become hypertrophied. Similarly, when a duplicate organ is removed, the remaining organ is quite likely to grow bigger, although it does not change at all from a structural point of view. An issue is the usefulness to the individual of the change thus created, a point that has not been proven in the least. Nor is the change definitive within the history of the species, for the hereditary nature of acquired characteristics is a purely intellectual notion. Tests carried out after a change of environment have shown that new characteristics are not passed on to descendants. This is the sharpest criticism to be made of Lamarck's theory. Nevertheless, Lamarck did indeed show the existence of a kind of evolution in the animal kingdom: Where he went wrong was in his assessment of the amplitude of evolution, as gauged through his observations. The explanation he provided was unconvincing, and thus Lamarck was unable to gain acceptance for his ideas. Cuvier, who favoured the concept of the fixity of species, vigorously challenged him and it was Cuvier and those of his opinion who won the day.
Lamarck's ideas did not come into favour until several decades after his death, when palaeontologists produced evidence lacking while Lamarck was alive of morphological changes due to variations in environment. Moreover, the phrase `influence of the environment' needs to be better understood, for we seem here to be faced with a question of terminology requiring explanation. If by `environment' we mean all the influences that are likely to produce an effect on living organisms, then quite obviously changes may occur under such conditions. Not all of Lamarck's theories are to be dissuaded.
Darwin and Natural Selection, or a Hypothesis survives through Ideology
In order to establish his doctrine, some fifty years after Lamarck; Darwin advanced many more seemingly significant facts than his predecessor. Unfortunately, however; Darwin thought everything could be explained through the postulate of the all-pervading power of natural selection. There is no doubt, moreover, that Darwin was strongly motivated by sociological considerations, factors which should have no place in a scientific doctrine, and yet his work is still very well known today. The following reasons may account for his continuing fame: Darwin's arguments are extremely cleverly presented, and often subtlety is more effective than the rigorousness of the arguments themselves. Nor should we overlook the satisfaction of certain scientists who were quick to use Darwin's theory to discredit Biblical teachings on the subject of the origins of man and the fixity of species. Indeed, with regard to the evolution of species, Darwin's theory was used to prove that man was descended from the great apes. In fact, however, the animalistic origin of man is an idea that was first put forward by Haeckel in 1868.
It is quite common today for people to confuse Darwinism with evolution a misconception that is extremely annoying because it is totally wrong. Darwin himself presented his theory in quite a different way, as the following extract from On the Origin of Species [The full title reads On the Origin of Species by Means Of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Races In the Struggle for Life, London 1859. The texts quoted here are taken from the Pelican Classics Edition, published by Penguin Books, 1982.] shows:
"Hence, as more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life... Can it, then, be thought improbable, Being that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection."
In actual fact, Darwin indicated that he intended to put forward a theory on the origin of species by means of natural selection or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. This became the banner of the evolutionists, which they brandished in the fight between materialistic philosophy and religious faith. The same banner is still being waved today in the same spirit. Darwin has remained one of the idols of the atheistic arsenal, always ready to support whatever ideas bring grist to their mill. As the reader of the present book will see in chapter after chapter, the existence of evolution, even when applied to the human species, no longer constitutes an argument that undermines religious faith. Indeed, the latest studies of biological processes within the cell reveal facts that are significant in a different way from the flimsily based questions, which once formed the subject of discussion. They raised points concerning the organization of life and in fact lead us in a direction totally opposite to the main subject of past controversies.
All in all, Darwin's doctrine is very straight forward. He notes the obvious fact that there is a wide variety in the number of characteristics present in individuals belonging to a particular species, and he provides reasons for this that are fairly similar to those of Lamarck. Darwin states that the reproductive cells are modified as well, and that newly acquired attributes are hereditary. He goes further than Lamarck, however, when tie talks of the advantages derived from certain modifications that nature, by means of selection, perpetuates through the elimination of the weakest in favour of those most able to survive this pitiless process. According to Darwin, there is also a process of sexual selection in which the females choose the strongest males...
The concept of natural selection exercised a tremendous fascination, and even today, the followers of Darwin consider the advocate of natural selection to be the greatest genius who ever worked in the field of natural sciences. He still remains one of the most venerated zoologists. The highest honours were accorded to him at his death. Although his work had provided arguments to support atheism in the confrontation between religion and science that raged in the second half of the nineteenth century, his mortal remains were interred by the British nation in Westminster Abbey, London.
In actual fact, Darwin's work contains two aspects: The first is scientific, but in spite of the impressive quantity of data observed by Darwin, when all is said and done, the scientific aspect is far from solid; while his observations are extremely interesting from the point of view of the various species, they do not tell us very much about evolution itself and that is quite a different matter. The second aspect, which is philosophical, is very strongly stressed by Darwin and very clearly expressed.
The Ideas of Malthus as Applied to the Animal Kingdom
Darwin does not hide the influence of Malthus' ideas on his own concept of natural selection. The following quotation from Darwin is taken from P. P. Grasses work `L'homme en accusation' [Man Stands Accused]: "In the next chapter the. Struggle for Existence amongst all organic beings throughout the world, which inevitably follows from their high geometrical powers of increase, will be treated of. This is the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms." This statement appears 'in the introduction to the second edition of On the Origin of Species, 1860.
Before applying a socio economic theory to data observed in the animal kingdom a field that by definition has nothing to do with socio economic theory, Darwin had indeed pursued very logically his thoughts concerning the natural phenomena he had so carefully observed. From 1831 to 1836, he accompanied the mission of the ship the Beagle in the South Atlantic and the Pacific, serving as a naturalist. The voyage provided Darwin with ample opportunity to observe on land. Thus he was struck by the modifications displayed in the species studied, corresponding to the places in which they lived. From this he derived the notion of an absence of fixity, and he compared this to the selective breeding of domestic animals by humans in an effort to improve the various species. The question that sprang to his mind was: How could selection be applied to organisms living in their natural state? By this I think what he probably meant was: Do the factors that man uses when making his selections for the purpose of cross breeding animals possess an equivalent in nature? There does indeed seem to be spontaneous selection between animals in their natural state. Thus a question was raised and a hypothesis suggested, but in the answer that followed there was no certainty whatsoever.
It is very difficult to understand how Darwin could have found justification for this theory in the ideas put forward by Malthus. The later was an Anglican clergyman whose initial interest was in demographic factors and their economic consequences. In 1798, he anonymously published an Essay on the Principle of Population in which he proposed various solutions. Some of them are totally inhuman, such as the famous Poor Law, which abolished assistance to those who produced nothing and lived off the rich. As far as Malthus was concerned, selection operated among human beings: Only those most able to produce deserved to survive, those less favoured by nature were destined to disappear. In view of the dreadful misery present among the working classes at this early stage in the industrial revolution, such total lack of basic human charity is staggering. Darwin saw interesting ideas in the propositions of Malthus, and he applied to human beings the hypothesis of a selective process that ensured the survival of the fittest and most able at the expense of the weak a selection that nature itself would operate.
Those are the facts, and if Darwin's statement were not there, written in black and white, who would ever think of associating his early ideas with the pitilessly rigid prescriptions of Malthus? In `L'homme en accusation' (Man Stands Accused) P. P. Grasse is extremely critical of Darwin for having drawn his inspiration from Malthus and for the unfortunate influence he created:
"Due to its basic precepts and final conclusions, Darwinism is the most antireligious and most materialistic doctrine in existence." P. P. Grasse is amazed that Christian men of science do not seem to be aware of this. He goes on to note that "Karl Marx was much more perceptive. When he read On the Origin of Species, he recognized the materialistic, atheistic inspiration of the work. That is why he admired it so much and why he used it in the way he did. In its pages, Marx found the material needed to dissolve all religious belief, an opinion shared by the founders of the Soviet Union, especially Lenin... They created a Museum of Darwinism in Moscow in order to combat `Christian obscurantism' with the help of scientific data!"
Criticism of Darwin's Theory
It is patently clear that if left to them, animals or plants that contain a defect or infirmity will be the first to disappear. There is little need to cite examples supporting this statement of the obvious. But to go from this to saying that selection in nature ensures only the survival of the strongest and fittest is quite a different matter. Our response must be much more subtle.
When we observe animal populations living within a certain territory, we are well aware that a system of balances is in operation; even though the balances may not be the same everywhere in one section of the territory a species predominates, in, another it is supplanted by a different species. In cases such as this, there is no doubt that selection is operating within a single population; but it does not influence biological evolution as a whole.
Observations are further distorted by the arrival of cataclysms or extreme changes in climate over the ages. Such events may affect vast areas, striking blindly, and without any of the selective influences one might expect to find in the disappearance of a population: Flooding from rivers or the sea, or fires for example, can cause great devastation, but that does not mean that their victims were specially selected. Likewise during the various geological eras, glaciations struck indiscriminately.
An objection to Darwin's theory that P. P. Grasse raises is the fact that death does not always make a distinction. It does not always kill the weakest and preserve the strongest, as Darwin would like us to think. P. P. Grasse gives precise examples of cases where it is not possible to know, at 'a certain stage in the metamorphosis of living beings, why it is that one batch evolves normally and another does not. When animals fight, it is not always the strongest and best equipped who win the battle: The percentage of animals who are victorious depends on factors such as chance and circumstance. The idea of sexual selection is also open to considerable criticism: It is very unrealistic to imagine that the female always chooses the strongest male, .for the element of chance in such encounters outweighs individual preferences.
What evidence is there of the power of selection to provoke the emergence of new forms? Darwin likened natural selection to the artificial selection practised by .man. In actual fact, however, artificial selection does not create new species; all it does is influence certain characteristics. The individuals themselves do not `take leave' of their species, as it were. Artificial selection does not trigger the formation of new organs, it does not lead to the creation of a new genus, nor does it engender a new type of organization. These facts are very clearly stated by P. P. Grasse who cites the example of colon bacillus and drosophila, organisms, which can undergo mutations while preserving the characteristics of their species that have been passed down for millions of years. Thus the minor individual variations mentioned by Darwin are by no means hereditary a point on which Darwin's theory is just as open to criticism as Lamarck's.
Data on Evolution in the Animal Kingdom that Contradict Darwinian Concepts
In this section, we shall quote the objections raised by P: P. Grasse, the first of which is Darwin's own admission that his doctrine was incomplete: "Judging from letters (and I have just seen one from Thwaites to Hooker), and from remarks, the most serious omission in my book was not explaining how it is, as I believe, that all forms do not necessarily advance, how there can be simple organisms still existing..." (Letter to Asa Gray, May 22, 1860, from The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, by Francis Darwin, 3 vols, published by John Murray, 1887.)
Darwin speaks of the `progress' that natural selection ought to ensure in living beings, by which he confuses `progress' with growing organizational complexity, an essential aspect of evolution to which we shall return. Elsewhere, he expresses his amazement at the existence of living forms which have not changed at all over the course of time but have remained at the stage of very simple organisms: This is a phenomenon that is easily explained today in terms of modern ideas on mutagenesis. Every living being is affected by mutagenesis, minor variations which do not, however, cause the organisms concerned to leave the framework of their species.
For example, zoologists are very familiar with the so-called `pan chronic' species, which have remained the same throughout the course of time. Blue algae are a case in point: There is every reason to think that these organisms have been in existence for at least one billion years, and yet they are still the same today. Other examples are the ferro-bacteria, sponges, molluscs, and animals such as the opossum or the famous coelacanth which, though hundreds of millions of years old, have not changed at all. The coelacanth caused great excitement when it was discovered off the coast of South Africa in 1938. It is a fish, over 4 1/2 feet long, that is thought to have appeared roughly 300 millions years ago. Several other examples of this fish have been caught in more recent times almost to order, for the local fishermen are familiar with the coelacanth. Examination of these fish provided important information on the anatomy and physiology of a species, which, like so many others, refused to conform to the natural selection put forward by Darwin. At the same time however, none of these organisms has ceased to undergo mutations a process that is inevitable. As far as the fish are concerned, however, their evolution has come to an end. If we seek the reason why, we find that Darwin's theory is unable to provide an answer that both agrees with his doctrine and explains the preservation of these hereditary characteristics.
According to the law of natural selection, such imperfections as the excessive development of a single characteristic should not be allowed to develop and perpetuate themselves, to the extent that they harm the animal or vegetal concerned. Nevertheless, it is a well-known fact that certain conifer plants produce chemical compounds that irresistibly attract coleoptera which then devour them. The production of these chemical, compounds is therefore responsible for the death of the plant. This process has been going on for millions of, years: Natural selection does not intervene to save pine and fir trees from destruction by insects.
Similarly, the antelope is able to escape its enemies by its extreme speed, and yet there are species of this animal whose hooves contain glands that secrete a particular odour, which, as the antelope runs, is left on the ground. All the attacking carnivore has to do is follow the scent in order to track down its prey. Thus the graceful antelope is left unprotected by the theories of Darwin! Another example; of a harmful individual attribute is the excessive growth of horns, which can constitute a handicap. Finally, we are all familiar with the case of the deer, whose antlers impede its movement through the forest.
Studies of the coelacanth have shown the extent to which this fish contains characteristics that are paradoxical to the zoologist. If natural selection were genuinely present, these characteristics ought by rights to have disappeared, thus providing the coelacanth with a more functional morphology. The fact is; however, nothing has changed for several hundred million years.
If we examine the argument put forward by zoological specialists who are opposed to Darwinism, we shall undoubtedly see that it is sometimes quite difficult to distinguish between a harmful and a beneficial morphological change in an animal. For example, snakes have lost all their limbs, but that does not mean they have been placed in an inferior state. Given a case such as this, what right have we to speak of an animal that has `regressed'? The example of the snake is indeed extremely revealing, for the loss of its limbs was accompanied by other major modifications of its skeleton and numerous viscera, affecting its general anatomy. Zoologists are at a loss to explain in Darwinian terms such sweeping changes; they are modifications, which were perfectly coordinated over the course of time, and the succession of phenomena here appears infinitely complex, from an anatomical point of view. Thus we must seek an explanation different from the intellectual view that casts everything in terms of finality in spite of what the Darwinians may say.
In his book `L'Evolution du monde vivant' [The Evolution of the Living World] [Published by Plon, Paris, 1950. The fac-simile of Darwin's letter is contained in this book. M. Vernet notes that the letter is preserved at the British Museum (Ref A DD MS. 37725f.6)], M. Vernet cites a letter that Darwin wrote to Thomas Thorton Esq. in 1861. Darwin states quite clearly that he is aware of having failed' to explain evolution:
"But 1 believe in natural selection, not because, I can prove, in any single case; that it has changed one species into another, but because it groups and explains well (as it seems to me) a host of facts in classification, embryology, morphology, rudimentary organs, geological succession and distribution..."
Darwin was perfectly well aware; therefore, that the theories he advanced concerned the possible influence of natural selection on a species that did not, however, transform itself into another species. Furthermore, when Darwin put forward the idea of natural selection as a tentative explanation of his objective observations, he was simply proposing a theory. By definition, a theory is no more than a hypothesis that for a while serves to link facts of various kinds by way of an explanation. While it may prove useful at a certain stage in human knowledge; however, it is the future that determines whether a certain hypothesis is valid or not. The validity of Darwin's theory has not yet been proven.
Unfortunately for Darwinism; the theory was used for ideological purposes. We are now much more familiar with the process of evolution, owing to more consistent data such as the information provided by paleontology and the natural sciences, as well as new knowledge, acquired since Darwin, concerning heredity (genetics) and biology (especially molecular biology.) In spite of this, we are still, saddled with the theory formulated by Darwin over a century ago; there are those who do not wish to see its ideological success diminished. That is why we today have the `neo Darwinians' who hope to use modern discoveries to combine the basic idea of selection with new data. We shall see later on that a combination of this kind is also open to severe criticism.
I should like to conclude this discussion of Darwinism proper by turning once again to the opinions of P: P. Grasse. The reason I have quoted this eminent specialist in evolution so often is that I consider his opinions to be extremely well argued and logical. This is what P. P. Grasse has to say about the influence of Darwin's work as a whole:
"It is significant but often forgotten that Darwin named the book that brought him fame, On the Origin of Species. He sought the mechanism through which one species transformed itself into another; he did not envisage the origin of the basic types of organization. He not only refused to give attention to the general problems concerning the unity of the organizational plan, but he actively distrusted them. He expresses this as follows: "It is so easy to hide our ignorance under such expressions as the `plan of creation', `unity of design', & c., and to think that we give an explanation when we only restate a fact." The expression `plan of creation' does indeed suggest a tendentious interpretation, which we reject. That does not mean, however, that Darwin's reasoning was correct when he refused to consider the predominant problems of evolution. In his eyes, natural selection explained everything; he therefore considered an animal in terms of a species. His whole system of explanation was conceived in such a way that he referred only to variations that did not go beyond the species. It is a strange fact; however, that Darwin never took the trouble to define what he meant by `species', not even in the glossary that appears at the end of On the Origin of Species." [P. P. Grasse, "Biologie moleculaire, mutagenese et evolution' (Molecular Biology.Mutagenesis and Evolution), Masson, Paris, 1978 ]
In order to realize the extent to which Darwin is still revered today, one has to have come into contact with the academic world in America, especially in the fields of biology, genetics or evolution. Darwin is venerated, however, in spite of the fact that his theory is outdated and his concepts extremely fragile. The criticism that may legitimately be levelled at Darwinism, as a result of the proven data on evolution collected by palaeontologists, zoologists and botanists, exercises a certain influence on the opinions of specialists in Europe. It has virtually no impact on researchers in the United States, who uphold theories that are for the most part conceived in the laboratory. One is tempted to ask whether it is possible to be anything but a Darwinian in America. In some people's opinion, the idea of criticizing Darwin is the same as saying that the theories of Einstein are totally worthless. The difference between them lies in the fact that Einstein's theories were solidly based and their validity was subsequently demonstrated. There are indeed people in Europe who persist in their infatuation with the role of natural selection in evolution, but perhaps fewer than in the United States.
The predominant idea at the moment seems to be the integration into the system of newly acquired genetic discoveries: Natural selection no longer intervenes to favour the survival of the fittest, but rather in terms of probabilities. It operates through a statistical process that raises the likelihood that the fittest will be the individuals who transmit their characteristics. Thus the process of natural selection acts as the agent ensuring the preferential transmission of attributes registered in the genes. The idea of sexual selection lives again in the minds of the neo-Darwinians...
Genetics deals with the subject of heredity, and as we shall see very clearly later on, today's discoveries in this field allow us to arrive at certain very important theories and practical conclusions for genetics deals with present day phenomena. With regard to evolution, genetics is currently, attempting to study mutations that modify certain minor characteristics, concentrating its research on living beings that reproduce very rapidly. As it happens, however, evolution that takes place in the animal kingdom over the course of time has a much greater effect than the minimal variations observed in present day organisms. That is why zoologists specialising in evolution question the extrapolations of the geneticists; the latter choose the wrong method of applied study when investigating present day organisms, and this leads them to mistaken interpretations of past events. In short, they are not studying the real questions of evolution.
If evolution had indeed occurred in the manner suggested by the Darwinians and neo-Darwinians in other words as a result of minimal variations (which as far as we know leave living beings within the framework of their species) how much time would have been required for the formation of the organized types that exist today? Tens of billions of years! Hundreds of billions! In actual fact, the amount of time needed for the transition from unicellular life forms to the most recent higher mammals was just over one billion years. Furthermore, examination of the transitions undergone by man from the Australopithecus to present day Homo Sapiens indicate that modifications took place at amazing speed within a very small population (we know this from the rarity of fossils.) This is to be compared with the fact that for hundreds of millions of years bacteria and insects such as cockroaches have remained more or less identical in spite of the tremendous variety of individuals and genetic mutations. Neo Darwinism takes no account of these fundamental points; thus invalidating the very basis of its theory.
We need an explanation of the variable speed of evolution that is different from the spontaneous, unpredictable mutations presented by the neo Darwinians as the motivating force behind an evolution that is controlled by a so called process of natural selection. This leads us to think that modern followers of Darwinian theory have no coherent explanation of evolution to offer us. Their explanatory suggestions however brilliant do not seem applicable to a real situation that requires real answers.
With E.O. Wilson [E.O. Wilson, Sociobiology. The New Synthesis. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass) and London, 1975] and American socio biology, which gave allegiance to neo Darwinism, the explanatory theories of all human action, based on the strict correlation between human and animal motivations, have reached the height of their art. Indeed, E.O. Wilson has given a more detailed view of his opinions in a work published quite recently [E.O. Wilson, On Human Nature, Harvard University Press. Cambridge (Mass). 1978]. Wilson and his followers have studied the behaviour of animal communities, some of which such as the termites are remarkably well organized, and the conduct of man, whose actions Wilson considers to be entirely the result of impulses emanating from the genes. This leads to an `animalisation' of man that is scientifically unacceptable. If the damage caused by Wilson's ideas only affected the strict framework of theoretical interpretation, it would not be that serious. What is highly disturbing is that in the suggestions put forward for the practical application of this theory, man is relegated to the level of an insect, faithfully executing orders within an extremely well organized animalistic society.
Wilson and the advocates of socio-biology further suggest that the scientist ought to exercise the right to modify man at will by genetic procedures. As we shall see later on, this would transform human society supposedly for the better, in the eyes of those who uphold these theories according so called scientific bases. What this in fact amounts to is nothing other than the social ideal that was once constructed on principles of race. We all know that it led to the most widespread slaughter in the history of modern times and to the final collapse of the `master race'. E.O. Wilson and socio-biology open prospects that are utterly degrading for mankind. I shall return to them in my discussion of what I call `genetic manipulation' and others euphemistically call `genetic engineering.
Essential features of Evolution that should not be Overlooked
The preceding chapter drew attention to the gap separating two groups: On one hand the zoologists, whose study of evolution takes serious account of the discoveries of palaeontology, thus enabling zoologists to establish the chronological succession of developments (with a few gaps, needless to say.) On the other hand, there are those who think they can reconstruct the course of evolution by using data observed in today's living beings, as well as laboratory researchers working on organisms. that reproduce themselves rapidly, and studying the descendants of these organisms. Thus this group arrives at suggestions as to what may have taken place long ago.
No serious study of evolution can be undertaken without recourse to both groups. The first establishes the facts, and the second (especially the laboratory researchers) provides extremely helpful data to explain how events take place or may have taken place, and on a more general level, suggesting answers if there are any to be found.
What does each of these groups have to offer? The first lays before us concrete data on events that happened long ago, sometimes with a slight tendency. to underplay the gaps in our knowledge of the order in which these events took place. By and large, however, the information provided deals with concrete facts. The second group seems either to have forgotten or not to have taken account of these events. Instead, it supplies us with explanatory theories, which can hardly be said to apply to real facts or events. If we lose sight of reality, however; the most sophisticated reasoning can only lead to inaccurate statements: That is exactly what is currently happening in the case of certain theories, such as neo Darwinism and others, as we shall see later on.
Let us therefore turn to the data supplied by those accustomed to objectively setting forth the facts of a history for it is indeed a history without deciding in advance the factors that may have influenced the course of evolution.
From the most elementary books on the natural sciences onward, we have been taught that the animal and vegetal species in existence today could be grouped according to certain characteristics. We also learned that there were many sorts of groups in the broadest sense of the word composed of families that all share a certain number of features. The number of groups has continued to increase with the passage of time, owing to knowledge newly acquired by zoology and also as a result of the discovery of fossilized animals that no longer exist today, having left us nothing but vestiges. All these data seem to increase the diversity of living beings.
The groupings established by naturalists and palaeontologists have enabled us to distinguish compartments into which we can divide living beings who share a number of common characteristics. From this arise extremely important concepts; For example, the existence of an order in which the various categories appeared throughout the different eras, and the fact that each category tended tar transform itself in a very specific way as time passed.
From the most ancient times onward, organisms began to appear (as stated earlier) that acquired a more and more complex structure without, however, creating any kind of disorder or anarchy. After a period of one pr two billion years, distinguished by the existence of living beings containing simple structures (although already extremely complex from a biological point of view), organizational types developed that included today's members of the animal kingdom; as well as extinct species. The phyla in question did not, however, continue developing indefinitely to the detriment of more simple forms. A halt was reached roughly 350 million years ago, the period in which the first vertebrates appeared. Since then, particular classes of living beings have formed within a phylum which preserve the main features of the phylum while acquiring new characteristics. For example, in the case of the vertebrates, the birth of cyclostomes (fish without jaws, such as lampreys) was accompanied by the appearance of fish that, in certain instances, led to the formation of the amphibians (batrachians, such as the frog); among the latter, some amphibians gave birth to the reptiles, from which one group detached itself to form the mammals, while another later became the birds. Of all the living beings thus formed, the birds came last, appearing some 135 million years ago. Since the birds, no new class has appeared in the animal kingdom.
A remarkable phenomenon is the fact that the characteristics of a class gradually increase over successive generations, while now and again, secondary branches appear which acquire, new specific features that constitute the origin of new forms. Some of the branches proliferate and survive while others disappear more or less quickly, but these secondary branches never represent the beginnings of new phyla. There was a period in which the general organizational plans appeared, and once that period was over and the plans fulfilled, there were no subsequent plans. Henceforth, all that could appear would be subdivisions.
The events of evolution took place at highly variable speeds right up until the time the final form was attained that marked a halt in the process. As a result, there are species among today's living organisms that quickly acquired their definitive form and have retained it until the present day: for example certain molluscs, insects, and fishes that have remained the same, while closely related forms have undergone a long and far reaching process of evolution. Thus the coelacanth has not evolved for 200 or 300 million years. Vestiges of primitive phyla are very common in nature, indicating forms that have remained at an initial stage without evolving at all for example bacteria, unicellular organisms, sponges, jellyfishes, various coral, and particularly prolific insects, of which there exist roughly 100,000 species for a single order (the collembolae, for instance.) As opposed to this, there are examples of revivals after, a long halt: Zoologists point to families that experienced an intense period of evolution, only to peter out later on. While there is quite clearly a lack of continuity in evolution as a whole, this does not exclude the ever-present order in the general march of events.
Within the complexity of organization, there nevertheless appears a progressive tendency toward a type that is finally to be constituted, containing of course variations both small and great. The horse is always cited as an example of a type whose evolution took place on several continents, gradually arriving at its definitive form in spite of the diversity of environments.
The irreversible evolution that occurs within an order creates new forms by increasing the complexity of structures with the passage of time: When all is said and done, there is a direct link between the passing of time and the complexity of organization.
One of the best and most readily understood examples of this growing complexity is the evolution of the nervous system in the animal kingdom. Originally non existent, a `rough outline' appeared in the form of cells that contained the ability to feel; this was followed by the beginnings of a system of sensory and motor relations leading to the tremendous complexity now present in the higher vertebrates. With the development of the brain; an extraordinary ability to retain information was acquired, allowing innate features to manifest themselves, and, in the case of man, permitting the psyche to develop at the same time as acquired behaviour, while man's innate behaviour correspondingly decreased. We shall return to these fundamental concepts in Part Two of the present work, which deals with man.
This notion of the production of new and ever more complex structures completely rules out the effects of chance. Unpredictable, fortuitous variations even when corrected by natural selection could never have ensured such progression in perfect order. The progression implies that the variations were simultaneous and coordinated so as to obtain a growing organizational complexity. Science is able to analyse the phenomenon; it knows that the existence of genes implies that a particular phylum cannot produce a certain class derived from another phylum, and that a particular family from a specific class cannot one day appear in another class. Evolution is quite obviously oriented, even though the term may shock those who will only acknowledge phenomena whose existence can be explained as if man could explain everything. Since science is unable to solve the enigma, however, some people cast it aside and refuse to incorporate it into their way of thinking. Thus the essential features of evolution in the animal kingdom are not taken into consideration by those who are unwilling to finish a study by admitting that they are at a loss to account for the reasons behind the phenomenon. A theory such as `chance and necessity' will provide a clear illustration of this attitude, as we shall see.
The role of Chance and Necessity
Since the structure of living beings seems to have progressed in a perfectly coordinated way over the course of time, how is it that in this context people have paradoxically come to speak of chance? Is there really any need to stop and examine the theory that chance plays an active part? Certainly not: If we take account of the known facts of evolution. We must indeed examine the role of chance, however, in view of the fact that it has been fiercely defended by some and has attracted so much attention that the inaccuracy of the theory needs to be pointed out.
As for necessity, whim should here be understood to mean `the impossibility of the contrary, it is difficult to find any foundation for such an idea. In the explanation of the phenomena discussed here, the place occupied by necessity is, to say the least, extremely dubious.
We have already discussed the role of chance in the origins and evolution of life. The philosophers of Antiquity, ignorant as they were of the realities of the universe, may be excused for conceiving (like Democritus) that eternal matter acted to produce all the cosmic systems and everything, in the universe, animate and inanimate forms alike. While Democritus could not have had the faintest idea of cell structure, however, the same cannot be said of today's scientists, especially when they are experts in molecular biology. What is one to think, therefore, when the role of chance is upheld by people who are aware of the immense complexity of living matter as a result of their own brilliant discoveries and analyses of it? Basic common sense tells us that the very last factor capable of explaining the existence of a highly complex organization is chance.
Even if we move our attention from the cell itself to its tiniest molecular elements, we shall see that physicists and chemists have long ago abandoned the theory that the cell was formed by chance:
Indeed, in order for the smallest macromolecules of a cell to form as a result of repeated attempts, such enormous quantities of matter would have to have been processed that they would have filled literally colossal masses on a scale comparable to the volume of the earth itself. This is totally inconceivable.
Oparine, a modern Russian biologist who is a well known materialist, rejects outright the theory of chance in the formation of life: "The entire network of metabolic reactions is not only strictly coordinated, but also oriented toward the perpetual preservation and reproduction of the totality of conditions set by the external environment. This highly organized orientation characteristic of life cannot be the result of chance." (From an article entitled `Etat actuel du probleme de l origine de la vie et ses perspectives' [The Current State of the Problem of the Origin of Life and Its Future Perspectives], which appeared in the French journal `Biogenese' (Biogenesis), Paris, 1967, p. 19.)
In his work, The Origin of Life, Oparine draws particularly relevant comparisons to help the layman see the logicality of theories pointing toward chance. As he wrote in 1954:
"It is as if one jumbled together the printing blocks representing the twenty eight letters of the alphabet, in the hope that by chance they will fall into the pattern of a poem that we know. Only through knowledge and careful arrangement of the letter s and. words in a poem, however, can we produce the poem from the letters."
There are of course certain theories that can be put forward, but some of them are quite obviously absurd. Oparine cites the following example in his book: "Physicists state that it is theoretically possible for the table at which I am writing to rise by chance, due to the orientation in the same direction of the thermic movement of all its molecules. Nobody is likely, however, to take account of this in his experimental work or in his practical activity as a. whole."
I owe these important quotations from Oparine to the highly documented book by Claude Tresmontant entitled 'Comment se pose aujourd'hui le probleme de l'existence de Dieu' [How Does the Problem of the Existence of God Appear Today?] [Published by Seuil, Paris 1971] they appear in Claude Tresmontant's commentary on the theories of J. Monod published in 'Le Hasard et la Necessite' [Chance and Necessity] [Published by Seuil, Paris 1970].
As early as 1967, J. Monod had stated in his inaugural speech at the College de France that `any and every fortuitous accident...' in the reproduction of the genetic programme throughout evolution explained the creation of new structures: "Evolution, the emergence of complex structures from simple forms, is therefore the result of the very imperfections in the system preserving the structures represented by the cell... It may be said that the same fortuitous events which, in an inanimate system, would accumulate to the point where all structures disappeared, lead, in the biosphere; to the creation of new and increasingly complex structures." Claude Tresmontant quotes another passage from J. Monod which appeared in a French journal entitled `Raison presente' [Present Reason], no 5, 1968: "The only possible source of evolution has been in the fortuitous accidents that have occurred in the structure of D.N.A. They are what are known as `mutations'."
It is difficult to understand why J. Monod therefore decided that chance alone was the intervening factor in this case. After all, he himself stressed his ignorance an ignorance we all share concerning the origins of genetic information: "The major problem is the origin of the genetic code and the mechanism by which it is expressed. Indeed, one cannot talk so much of a `problem' as of a genuine enigma." In fact, however, the enigma is twofold: It not only affects the origin of the genetic code, but also the increase in the data contained in the genes leading to the birth of more and more complex structures; an increase which, as we shall see later on, is expressed through chemical compounds.
The theory of chance as the force creating highly organized structures is at odds with the facts. We have already seen that evolution, in all its shapes and forms, takes place in an ordered fashion, complete with genuine lineages observing an orientation that is perfectly clear: We cannot logically argue therefore, that `fortuitous accidents' to use J. Monod's phrase could have produced anything but chaos. We know in fact that within the same overall plan; concordant variations must combine over periods of time, which are often very long, in order for entirely new forms to appear. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that eminent zoologists such as P. P. Grasse, who are thoroughly familiar with the question, are incensed by explanations, which take no account of the real situation. Among P. P. Grasses many critical comments, I shall quote the following observation concerning an aspect of the evolution of the mammals from the reptiles, an event that lasted some 50 million years: "In the mammal, all the sensory organs evolved at more or less the same time. When we try to imagine just what their formation required in terms of simultaneous, or almost simultaneous mutations, all of them taking place at the right moment and capable of fulfilling the needs expected of them, we remain speechless at the sight of so much harmony, so many fortunate coincidences, all of them due to the unique and triumphant role of chance." (`L'Evolution du vivant' (The Evolution of Living Organisms].)
In view of the fact that J. Monod received the Nobel Prize for Medicine, it behoves us to ask the following question: How is it possible for such an eminent scientist to put forward a theory such as this? The answer is quickly found: It lies in a doctrinal system that rests .on a postulate that its author calls "the postulate of the objectivity of nature... the systematic refusal to admit that any interpretation of phenomena cast in terms of a `final cause' meaning plan can lead to a `true' knowledge... While the organism observes the physical laws, it also surpasses them, thus devoting itself entirely to the pursuit and realization of its own plan..." This means that henceforth only those factors that add new possibilities to the organism will be acceptable... We must also show our admiration for the "miraculous efficiency in the performances of living beings, ranging from bacteria to man..." The ideological ulterior motive is patently obvious: It consists in the refusal to accept the existence of any organisation in nature, and it leaves room only for individual `performances.'
In referring to the accidental alterations in the genes of living organisms and their influence on the evolution of .living beings, J. Monod employs terms that do not even allow us to think that his personal view might one day be subject to revision: "We say that these alterations are accidental, that they take place by chance. Since they constitute the only source of possible modifications in the genetic code, which is itself the only repository of the organism's hereditary structures, it must necessarily follow that chance, and only chance is the source of any new development or creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, and only chance freedom, blind but absolute the very root of the edifice we call evolution: This central concept of modern biology is no longer a mere hypothesis among other possible or conceivable hypotheses. It is the only conceivable hypothesis, the only one compatible with facts acquired through observation and experimentation. There is no reason to suppose (or to hope) that our concepts on this point should or even can be revised."
In fact, however, the concept of `pure chance', `chance and only chance', `freedom, blind but absolute the very root of... evolution' has received some hard knocks from P. P. Grasse.1n `L'Evolution du vivant' [The Evolution of Living Organisms], the eminent naturalist indicates that the problem of the transfer of information within the cell could be much more complex that J. Monod had foreseen when he stated that it was inconceivable henceforth to approach the problem from any angle other his (i.e. Monod's) own point of view.
Let us first stress the fact that in the genes, as we shall see further on, D.N.A. (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the basic chemical material or vehicle for biological information. The information is transferred to the cellular cytoplasm by a different substance, R.N.A. (ribonucleic acid). In Monod's theory, the transfer of information is always referred to in terms of a flow from the D.N.A. toward the R.N.A., and never in the reverse direction. In actual fact, however, the unexpected and the unforeseen can indeed occur.
The following is the objection presented in `L'Evolution du vivant' (The Evolution of Living Organisms):
"The dogma of the immutability of D.N.A., which is always presented as the unique keeper and distributor of biological information destined to flow in one direction only, has been put forward by eminent biochemists (Watson, Crick, etc.) and geneticists (Jacob, Monod, etc.) Three years ago, in 1970, J. Monod made the following statement on the subject in 'Le Hasard et la Necessite' [Chance and Necessity], pp. 124 125: "It has never been observed, nor is it even conceivable, that information is ever transferred in the reverse direction..."
P: P. Grasses objection continues in the following terms:
"The ink of these lines was hardly dry when the denial came, sharp and incontrovertible. The logic of living things, which, by the way, was the logic of the said biologist and not of nature, was totally overturned and the fine edifice deeply flawed.
"The discovery of enzymes able to use viral R.N.A. as a matrix for the synthesis of D.N.A. is regarded as a revolution in molecular biology.
"It is also considered", writes P: P. Grasse in a footnote, "to be the most important discovery concerning the role of viruses in the formation of cancers. Several R.N.A. viruses create D.N.A. replicas that are carcinogenic."
Further on, P: P. Grasse outlines the new contributions made by studies conducted before (1964), during (1970) and after (1971 and 1972) the publication of J. Monod's work. P. P. Grasse then draws the following conclusion:
"The studies outlined above show that a mechanism exists which, in certain circumstances, supplies information that comes from outside the organism and integrates it into the D.N.A. of the genetic code. For an evolutionist, this fact is of immense importance."
The dogma of necessity put forward by J. Monod is a long way from explaining why the organisms the zoologists call .`stock forms', which are the great ancestors of today's types, have survived down to the present day and even live side by side with the modern forms descended from them. The same may be said of the unicellular organisms that still survive today, or even of older members of the living world; such as bacteria: How can their survival be explained?
In order to support his theory of the `miraculous efficiency in the performances of living beings', J. Monod records in his book the following story (which is not based on any palaeontologic data whatsoever)
"The reason the tetrapod vertebrates appeared and were able to develop into the extraordinary range of animals that we know as the amphibians, the reptiles, the birds and the mammals, is that a primitive fish originally `chose' to explore the dry land. There, however, it was only able to move about by leaping awkwardly. ('Le Hasard et la Necessite' [Chance and Necessity], pp. 142 143."
P. P. Grasse concludes with the following remarks on the above statement
"What makes us particularly unwilling to accept the story of the little fish the `Magellan of evolution' is the fact that the boleophthalmidae and periophthalmidae (mud skippers) perform this very `experiment'. They scuttle across the mud, climb the roots of mangrove trees, and raise themselves on their pectoral fins, just as if the fins were short limbs. They have lived in this way for millions of years, and although they never stop leaping about awkwardly or not their fins insist ow remaining as they are, rather than transforming themselves into limbs. These animals really are not very understanding."
The Complexity of Cellular Organization and the Genes
Now that we have reviewed the explanatory theories of Antiquity and have shown that more recent theories such as Darwinism, or the concept of chance and. necessity are unacceptable, it is time to try and find our way through highly complex scientific discoveries toward a clearer view of the problem. In several instances, we have indeed already touched on some of these discoveries in order to ensure a better understanding of the subject at hand, but if we are to arrive at a more accurate idea of the causes that engendered the sequence of events whose broad outlines we know already, we must enter into detail. This means knowing more about the organization of the cell, and in particular the role of the genes contained in the chromosomes. It was indeed the events that took place within the cell that determined the progression of changes that as a whole constituted evolution.
The following account of facts concerning the cell may perhaps seem a little complex to some, while to others, who already know something of the subject, it may seem over simplified and in need of more detailed information. I would ask the former to try and grasp the data described, for they will be of help in understanding what is to follow, and I entreat the latter to refer to the publications I shall cite, in which they will find facts that complement my own.
Specialists in molecular biology, genetics and the study of chromosomes have provided information on cellular functions and heredity that is extremely useful in interpreting phenomena connected with evolution. The present work is. not intended to provide an exhaustive study of the question; those wishing to consult a bibliography on these subjects are advised to turn to the three excellent articles in the Encyclopaedia Universalis contributed respectively by P. Kourilsky, P. L'Heritier, and, for the study of chromosomes, M. Picard and J. de Grouchy. I shall moreover be using many of their data and ideas in the following section.
Essential Data Concerning the Biochemical Organization of the Cell
Chemical changes are constantly taking place within each and every cell. The living matter contained in the cell is constantly renewed, and the cells renew themselves by division within the organs, some of which such as the blood possess a very marked capacity for self-renewal. In this context, the reproductive cells should also be mentioned, which ensure the perpetuation of the species.
In order for all these functions to continue, constant exchanges of matter and energy with the surrounding environment must take place, resulting in the production of macromolecules in the cell from simpler chemical elements. For this to happen, the two components that are to combine must be present, there must also be what are called catalysts, agents that have the property of acting in infinitely small quantities to trigger the chemical reaction but which remain unchanged once the reaction has taken place. Each catalyst is specific to the reaction required. The production of protein in living matter, which results from the' synthesis of simpler components, calls for the intervention of catalysts which in this case are enzymes, each enzyme containing the unique property of provoking the synthesis of a particular protein.
In their turn, the enzymes must be produced, and every cell possesses a system for this purpose. The basic element of this system is a proteinic macromolecule of tremendous complexity, called desoxyribonucleic acid (D.N.A.) The other chemical components `hook onto' this basic substance, and with varying degrees of complexity ensure the production of the enzymes that are to provoke the proteinic syntheses required for life to exist..
In the simplest living organisms, D.N.A. is in direct contact with the substance of the cell, the cytoplasm: An example of this is the bacteria, which do not contain a nucleus. In other, more organized animal and vegetal cells, however, the D.N.A. is located inside the nucleus of the cell within the chromosomes. This means that it only intervenes indirectly in the process of synthesizing living matter: It simply acts as the keeper of all the data (which taken together constitute a parcel of information) required by the reactions, using the intermediary of `messengers' that take copies from it (the D.N.A.) and carry them to other parts of the cytoplasm, such as the ribosomes. The `messages' are transmitted via ribonucleic acid, or R.N.A.
The message transferred from the nucleus to the cellular cytoplasm via R.N.A. does not arrive directly however. The messenger R.N.A. in fact operates with the help of a second R.N.A., a transfer R.N.A., which is effective in transmitting the message, after which the messenger R.N.A. is destroyed. This detail indicates the complexity of the communications system, which is in fact far more complicated than it appears in this simplified outline, for the message is actually transmitted in code...
Thus we begin to gain an idea of the countless interrelations that exist within the cell, complete with its central command `headquarters', its messengers, arid its intermediary organs, which play a part in the renewal of living matter. Another important point is that the central command addresses its orders to specific messengers in order to trigger the vast number of chemical syntheses that condition an infinite variety of tasks to be performed. We are therefore in the presence of an organized system that is of considerable functional size, even though its volume is very tiny indeed. It is a system that conditions all the activities of the cell; including its reproduction, which is how it comes to play its part in heredity and thereby in evolution.
Every cell contains D.N.A. chains: In the case of bacteria, whose dimensions are measured in l/ 1,000 of a millimetre, D.N.A. forms a tape whose length is measured in millimetres. The tape is therefore quite short in this instance, although in the case of Escherichia Coli, it has been calculated to be roughly 5,000 times longer than the maximum dimension of the bacteria in question. A length of one millimetre is quite considerable in molecular terms, and on one millimetre of D.N.A. tape are placed an infinite number of complex chemical components, each of which conditions every single function of the bacteria: In the case of man, for one single cell, the D.N.A. tape is long enough to be counted in metres. As for the total length of D.N.A. tape contained in a human being, it is greater than the distance separating the earth from the sun (P: Kourilsky.)
The D.N.A. tapes, which measure over one metre in length for each cell, are the keepers of the hereditary characteristics transmitted to us by our parents. They convey alt the information that each and every cell in our body can use. As the life of the embryo progresses, the cells become differentiated, acquiring special functions and constituting all our organs in accordance with commands issued by the genes. This entire system is miniaturized to an extreme degree; a D.N.A. tape that is over one metre long is infinitely thin, its thickness being measured in angstroms (one ten millionth of a millimetre.)
D.N.A. has a spiral structure in the shape of a double helix, one tape being twisted around the other. Specialists in molecular biology have compared it to a photograph accompanied by its negative. When a replica of the tape is produced during cellular division, the two chains separate and each chain serves as a mould for the production of a complementary, chain; exactly as the negative of a photograph provides us with a positive print and vice versa. Thus we arrive at two copies that are identical to the original, providing nothing has gone wrong during processing.
The system's capacity for production and the diversity of the end result are quite considerable. Bacteria such as Escherichia Coli can synthesize as many as 3,000 different, kinds of proteins. Over half of these have been identified. Human cells contain a thousand times more D.N.A. than Escherichia Coli. Thus we see the immense capacity of cells in higher organisms to produce extremely diversified living substances: The list of proteins that can be synthesized in this way is far from complete.
It is important to note the fantastic manner in which the D.N.A. tape grows longer and longer as it passes from the cells of primitive organisms to the higher organisms: At the bottom of the scale it is one millimetre long, but when it reaches man, it is over one metre long (P. Kourilsky.) Later on, we shall see that we may speak of an increase in the genes that corresponds, to the growing complexity in the functions and structure of all living beings. The list of the genes is no more complete, however, than that of the cellular proteins. The implication inherent in these observations is that evolution must have been intimately linked with the acquisition of new genes, which was henceforth to be its sine qua non. The quantity of information recorded continued gradually to increase over the course of time. .
The above information concerning the length of the tape on which the genes have been placed seems to be more meaningful than the weight of the D.N.A. contained in each cell. In P. P. Grasses book, `L'Evolution du vivant' [The Evolution of Living Organisms], figures are provided relative to the weight of D.N.A. in the cells of living beings located at a more or less high level in the scale of structures. The weight of D.N.A. varies considerably from one species to another, but without any apparent connection with the degree of evolution. This does not seem to contradict what has been said above, however, for there is not just one D.N.A. but several D.N.A.'s whose molecular weight fluctuates according to the source from which it was extracted (thymus, wheat germ, bacteria, etc.), the proportion ranging from one to several hundred (M. Privat de Garilhe.) The chemical complexity depends on the number of elements held by the tape. For example, the D.N.A. of Bacillus subtilis has a molecular mass of at least 230 million, while the D.N.A. of herpetic virus has a mass on the order of 100 million, and the mass of the single stranded D.N.A.. of bacteriophage is some 1,600,000 (M. Privat de Garilhe.) For a simple body, such as water, which is composed of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, the molecular weight is 18, the figures representing the degree of chemical complexity: A fact that needs to be kept in mind.
The above comments concerning, D.N.A. contain reservations, for it is obviously not possible to use a regular balance to weigh D.N.A. (the scale of measurement is in this case counted in billionths of a milligram.) These estimations are based on our knowledge of the simplest D.N.A. (simplest from a chemical point of view), corrected by extrapolations derived from measuring the length of molecules with the aid of an electron microscope. The figures are subject to revision, and so are the conclusions we may draw from them. These observations are presented simply to give an idea of the complexity of the organization in question. They illustrate the notion that in order to grasp what evolution means, one must take account of ultra microscopic studies of the cell and of data provided by molecular biology, both of which have considerably increased our knowledge. Sometimes, however, we encounter contradictions on points that some people consider .to be of little importance, while others regard them as highly significant. There are certain currently accepted ideas that will be subject to revision in the future. The fact remains however, that science has accumulated a sufficient number of established facts for certain general concepts to emerge both clearly and logically from the data acquired by cellular biology.
In describing the extraordinary biochemical complex we call the cell, we have so far only briefly mentioned the role D.N.A. plays in retaining hereditary characteristics, among its many other functions. As we have seen, in the case of the most primitive unicellular beings, such as the bacteria, only one D.N.A. tape is present: There is no nucleus. In the case of cellular organisms containing a more elaborate structure however, the nucleus appears, in which the chromosomes are concentrated: It is in the chromosomes that we find the genes. Before proceeding, however, to an analysis of the role played by the genes (especially in evolution), we must refresh our memory of certain ideas concerning the chromosomes.
Their very name is a direct reference to one of their characteristics: The reason Waldeyer gave them this name in 1888 was that he had noticed how these differentiated elements within the nucleus could be stained with colourings the moment the cell began to divide. In organisms that possess a sexual reproductive system, the chromosomes are arranged in identical pairs: This distribution is extremely important because it maintains the number of chromosomes always the same in the same species during the reproductive process. When it arrives at maturity, each cell whether spermatozoon or ovule possesses only half of the chromosomes of the species. As soon as the two reproductive cells unite, the even number of chromosomes is re established (46 in the case of man.)
One of the chromosomes has a role to play in determining sex; it belongs to the male. The following is an outline of how the process works: The female possesses a pair of chromosomes that are arbitrarily designated as XX; the male possesses another pair designated XY. Since the number of chromosomes is reduced (meiosis) during the formation of reproductive cells, the spermatozoa are divided into two groups. One group contains X and the other Y. If the X ovule is fertilized by a spermatozoon carrying an X a female (XX) will be formed. If it is fertilized by a Y spermatozoon, the result will be a male (XY.)
The distribution of X and Y factors in the spermatozoa is almost exactly equal, which is why the number of girls and boys born is practically the same. Nevertheless, if the spermatozoa of the future father were successfully separated into two groups and the woman artificially inseminated with one of the groups, a couple would be able to decide whether they wanted a boy or a girl. This is not at all a utopian vision, for the `manipulation' of human spermatozoa is now sufficiently advanced for a project such as this to become a reality: with the consequences that such a practice would entail, as may well be imagined. Fortunately however, human reproduction has so far continued without factors such as the above intervening in the distribution of sex the balance has been maintained by nature.
Chromosomes are composed of D.N.A., R.N.A. and various proteins. The D.N.A. carries the genes; these are not subject to renewal, contrary to the other components of the cell. D.N.A. can only be renewed when the cells divide. The quantity of R.N.A. varies from one cell to another and from one moment to another. In performing its role as messenger carrying the information contained in the genes, R.N.A. is constantly being renewed in the chromosomes; it constitutes a, witness to the activities of the genes and ceases to be produced when the genes have no message to transmit.
Irregularities in the chromosomes can produce extremely serious consequences; spontaneous abortion (30% of such cases are due to failures in the regular division of the chromosomes), and various illnesses that occur with differing degrees of frequency, the most well known of which is Mongolism (trisomy 21, an illness that affects roughly one child in 700.) Modifications such as these either result in the death of the embryo or the birth of severely deformed individuals. Over and above this however, living organisms are able to change during the course of reproduction, even within the framework of a reproductive pattern that tends to conform to the model provided by the individual's forebears. The classic experiments carried out on vegetals by the Czech monk Gregor Mendel in the mid nineteenth century (which did not become famous until after his death) provide theoretical support to the research undertaken at the beginning of the twentieth century: They led to the discovery of the genes and their localization in the chromosomes.
Today, it is an established fact that the genes are segments of D.N.A. molecules. Through the action of the D.N.A., the process of which has already been outlined above, they command the renewal of the proteinic molecules that constitute the living matter of the cell. This biochemical activity modifies the properties of the molecules in the cell, thus influencing the way the cell functions as well as the production of specific structures which allow the cells to play clearly defined roles. From this point of view, one might say that the gene is the smallest part of the D.N.A. molecule capable of inducing a permanent characteristic.
While the basic idea is admitted that the more complex the structure of an animal, the more likely it is to possess a larger quantity of genes, specialists in genetics are not in agreement on the number of genes involved. When they lead to mutations; the genes are the objects of close study. In the case of the drosophila, a fly which, from this point of view, particularly lends itself to laboratory study, the number of genes counted is quite large: anything from 5,000 to 15,000! How many genes does man contain? No one really knows [Estimates range from 100,000 to 1,000,000; lower figures have also been suggested (30,000?)] . Besides, the relationship between the number of features and the quantity of genes is not at all clear. Some observers claim that a specific enzyme corresponds to each gene, but a single enzyme may in fact give birth to several features.
The genes are responsible for may different functions. From this we may deduce that the primordial functions that characterize a phylum depend on certain genes, which have been operating, as it were, since the very beginnings of the phylum in question. As evolution progressed, however, and one after another the class, order, family, genus and species appeared, the genes intervened successively and specifically for each major characteristic. The interventions occurred at more and more recent periods in time, and they were perfectly coordinated chronologically; it is to them that living beings owe their form.
Zoologists have many questions to ask on this subject. In `L'Evolution du vivant' [The Evolution of Living Organisms], P: P. Grasse raises some extremely important points, as follows:
All of the observations quoted above lead us to suppose that environment has an influence ou the genes, which in their turn modify structures. P: P. Grasse gives examples taken from the vegetable kingdom and concludes that: "The rule stating that a gene will always determine the same characteristic unless it is the subject of a mutation is too rigid." In all likelihood, "the gene emits the same information, but the substances replying to its messages react in different ways according to circumstances." All these comments indicate the fantastic complexity of the system and the suggested importance of multiple interactions. We have come a long way from the `freedom, blind but absolute' put forward in the theory that attempts to explain everything in terms of `chance'.
The Genes: Their role in Evolution and other Processes
The Role of the Genes in Evolution. Mutations
In the light of the data described above, how can we approach the role of the genes in evolution? Simply expressed, there are two radically different ways of tackling the problem: the geneticists employ the first. It is based on the observation of present day facts; for example, calculations of genetic variations in populations that exist today, from which are drawn explanatory theories. Zoologists and palaeontologists use the second method. It involves the examination of material from the past, data to which the first group do not attach the same importance. In the survey that is to follow, we shall see that the opposition of the two methods has repercussions on the concepts of evolution entertained by the two groups.
In view of what we have already said about the infinite complexity of the chemical structure of the genes, and in view of the manner in which copies are produced during cellular division, it is perfectly possible to suppose that the slightest modification in the structure of the D.N.A. molecule may affect the cell concerned and all those engendered by it. This is indeed the case when the modification affects the male and female cells responsible for reproduction (germinal cells): It causes an alteration in the genetic code. In such conditions, a new characteristic appears in the individual, which is passed on to its descendants: This constitutes a mutation, and the phenomenon is known as mutagenesis. It affects animals and vegetals alike, the most primitive life forms as well as those with a more complex organization (i.e. those containing a nucleus.) In the case of primitive forms, the mutation affects the D.N.A. present in the cytoplasm (bacteria are an example of this), in the case of more complex forms, it influences the chromosomes held by the D.N.A. in the nucleus. The reason the mutation is considered to be fortuitous is that it is totally unpredictable, both in terms of the moment it will strike and also the place in which it will affect the D.N.A. molecule.
The impact the mutation has on the individual may be so great that the form concerned cannot survive the mutagenesis (in which case the mutation is said to affect lethal genes); on the other hand, the phenomenon may induce minor modifications which may prove to be recessive over the following generations:
In this way, on the D.'N.A. tape of human cells, which is over one metre long, tiny genetic alterations are present which provide the individual with the characteristics that make him different from other people. It is these alterations that cause him more or less to resemble his parents or grandparents, and which even pass down the generations distinctive family features, such as the nose typical of the Bourbon kings of France. Sometimes, very serious phenomena can occur, such as illnesses connected with sex which affect the female X chromosome: A case in point is haemophilia, which mainly affects males, even though it is transmitted by females who remain immune to the disease. The male descendants of Queen Victoria of England suffered from this illness. Apart from these basically pathological mutations, most minor mutations tend to be recessive.
In view of the above, the question of evolution might at first glance seem fairly simple: The phenomenon of mutagenesis could tie seen to account for all the hereditary variations which have accumulated over successive generations, thereby causing the evolution of living beings. There are a number of geneticists who subscribe to this theory. What is difficult to accept, however, is that in order for this theory to be valid, the mutations would have had to occur in a chronologically perfect order at exactly the right moment in time to arrive at the addition or subtraction of organs, or to effect a change of some kind in certain functions. It is perfectly clear, however, that these mutations essentially occur in a disorderly fashion. At this point, the geneticists who put forward hypotheses founded on calculations concerning present day populations and who claim to have found an answer in this, part company from those who study the events of the past. The latter have perfect confidence in the findings of the former, as regards the properties of the genes, but they claim to see many shortcomings in theories that account for the inscription on the D.N.A. tape of new data that will become hereditary in the course of time. The second group does indeed seem to be infinitely more exacting than. the first about the demonstrative value of certain perfectly proven facts concerning the genes.
First of all, however, the geneticists would have to arrive at a figure for the possible number of spontaneous mutations: So far, this figure has not been found. For one gene over an interval separating two generations, the estimated number is 1 % 10,000 (P. L'Heritier.) There are also a number of mutations that are neutral from the point of view of evolution. They form the source of individual characteristics, but they do not go beyond the framework of the species, and the individual thus retains all the attributes of that species. "We are a long way from the billions of billions of `usable' variations mentioned by certain geneticists. The so called usable variations are far fewer in number, a fact which renders even more problematic the idea of a `good' mutation occurring at the right moment" (P. P. Grasse.) We should not confuse the process of fortuitous mutation, which is responsible for the personal characteristics of the individual, with the active part played by mutations as the prime force behind the process of evolution.
The idea of evolution signifies progressive transformations on a very large scale. For example, the evolution of insects affected their entire organism in very strict order. The transformation of organs took place slowly but steadily over successive stages for example, it took the mammals 80 million years to lose their reptilian features and in an order that is incompatible with the arrival of random mutations.
In addition to the facts noted above, which result from pale-ontological investigation, genetic research provides us with data based on the most primitive organisms living today. These. are the bacteria, an easy subject of study because they reproduce within the space of twenty minutes. It is thus possible to follow the progress of thousands of generations, among which mutations are, found in the D.N.A. molecule. But what is the practical result of these mutations? Small scale variations: The species remains the same, as it has done for hundreds of millions of years! As for the transition from the bacteria or the blue algae to organisms containing a cellular structure with a nucleus, an event that may well have occurred one billion years ago, it is reasonable to suppose that environmental conditions were very different from those of today. Because of this, it is difficult to imagine that the mutations observed in today's bacteria are exactly the same as those produced in past ages.
The same mystery surrounds plants and animals that have not evolved at all in millions of years, even though they may have undergone fortuitous mutations. In this context, zoologists, cite the case of the common cockroach, which; as far as they can tell, has hardly evolved at all since the primary era. The same applies to the `pan chronic' species, thus named because they have survived through the ages without any change, such as the opossum, certain limuli (marine insects with gills, commonly called king crabs) and various vegetals, none of which have been affected by mutations.
Objections have been raised on the above point, for certain observers maintain that panchronic species survive unchanged because they live in confined environments where conditions are not subject to much variation (for example, animals living in caves or in the depths of the sea.). While this may hold true for certain species living in such environments, it is not easily accepted by anyone who has travelled and has seen cockroaches present in many different parts of .the world.
Other Points Which Need to Be Explained
It is very difficult to say whether the location of the genes on the helix shaped D.N.A. tapes at the level of the chromosomes has any effect on the properties of the genes. Experiments have enabled scientists to separate and reunite fragments, even from one chromosome to another, but they have given positive and negative results that do not lead 'to any conclusions. As far as our own origins are concerned, the normal position of certain genes on human chromosomes is no more conclusive than the above.
It is possible for the number of chromosomes within a single species to vary: We find this in certain small nocturnal rodents (jerboas), which, in Senegal, have varying numbers of chromosomes
One group counts thirty seven for the males and thirty six for the females; another group possesses twenty Three for the males and twenty two . for the females. Nevertheless, the two groups are identical, displaying the same genes, but without reproducing between each other.
We have good reason to suppose that among the genes of today's living beings; the genes that once played an active role in the evolution of their species are still present. The existence, for example, of rudimentary organs that constitute relics of what were once fully developed organs indicates that the corresponding gene has survived down to the present day. This does not mean; however, that it is able to induce the formation of the entire organ (such is the case of the equidae, and of the four winged drosophilae whose special feature, represents something of a monstrosity.) We may well ask whether there is a repressive genetic system, which phases out the ancestral genes that generate certain characteristics in special cases, for paleontological studies have not indicated a possible re-emergence of vanished organs.
Even before our knowledge of the genes enabled us to envisage the creation of hybrid forms by crossing two different species or to attempt other kinds of chromosomic manipulations, observations indicated that in the case of vertain vegetals, it was possible to arrive at. a new species through interbreeding. In 1928, Karpechenko created the cabbage radish, a form that possesses the chromosomes of both vegetals. Most of these newly formed vegetals are infertile, but there have been a few examples whose seeds contained a double number of chromosomes and which were indeed fertile, although only within the limits of this new species. While it is possible to induce the doubling of the chromosomes in certain vegetals, the same does not apply in the animal kingdom. There can be no hybridisation between two lineages; zoology and palaeontology do not provide a single example of this.
Genes and Regeneration
Examples of regeneration indicate beyond a shadow of a doubt the extraordinary capacity the genes possess for triggering the growth of new tissue after major amputations and even following the division of a body into several segments, such. as we find in certain species.
In our discussion of regeneration, however, we shall not enter into detail on the subject of the tremendous capacity that certain organs in the mammals (man included) contain for development after an amputation: The liver is just one example among many of an organ which is perfectly able to regenerate, and the intestine is another. In the case of the latter, the mucosa is produced without difficulty to ensure the healing of a wound after the two segments have been surgically stitched together.
What concerns us here is regeneration that goes beyond the scope of the organs. In the case of certain animals, it affects localized segments of the body, which, when amputated, provoke the renewed development of the section removed. The triton is an example of this: Like other batrachians, when its muzzle; crest, tail, limbs or even its eyes are removed, the part that has disappeared is entirely reconstituted. The earthworm is another well known example of regeneration: The anterior part of the worm containing the head will be replaced providing it is not cut at a point too far behind a clearly defined section of the body, and similarly the posterior part will reform providing the worm is not sliced at a point too far forward.
Examples of total regeneration are present among the invertebrates. In certain cases, the animal is entirely reformed from a single segment of the body any segment. In animals that figure lower down on the scale of organization, there are many common examples, such as the water hydra : The process of regeneration reconstitutes a number of new hydra that is equal to the number of segments into which the hydra has been cut. This animal also renews its tissues spontaneously in the course of its life. The most spectacular reconstitutions, however, take place in the bodies of the planarians and the nemertians. These are flat worms, which possess a digestive tract. The planarian, which is anywhere between one and two centimetres long, can be carved into three parts by two transversal cuts, for example: Ten days later, three new worms will have formed. A regenerative 'bud' grows in the section left exposed by cutting, and in that bud, muscles, digestive and glandular tissues nerves, etc. begin to appear which will gradually replace all the missing organs in each of the three sections, brains and eyes included.
Even more extraordinary is the case of the nemertians; these are another variety of worm measuring some 20 centimetres to one metre in length. Like the planarians, the nemertians also regenerate, but they possess the added ability to cut themselves into segments (autotomy), an ability which is. more highly developed than in other species. Autotomy is a defence mechanism used by an animal that is under attack. In such cases, the animal separates itself from the part of its body that has been caught by its attacker (the lizard leaves behind its tail, the crab jettisons its pincer) and that part subsequently reforms. The nemertian goes further than this, however. As P. P. Grasse writes in his `Precis de. biologie animale' (Handbook of Animal Biology), when the nemertian undergoes a "brutal shock, whether chemical or mechanical, it spontaneously cuts itself transversally into sections which subsequently constitute new, individuals. Furthermore, when completely deprived of food, it is able to survive through an extraordinary process of involution. Its cells devour each other, and the organism gradually shrinks. Dawydoff has been able to obtain examples of Lineus Lacteus measuring 100 µ [i.e. one tenth of a millimetre] and composed of one dozen cells! P. P. Grasse does not state whether the tiny number of cells that still remain are able to reconstitute an entire worm, but the performance. of these animals remains all the same quite staggering.
However that may be, while the anatomy of the worm indicates regeneration processes triggered by the remains of the differentiated cells contained in the anterior part of a carved segment, it is not possible to talk of regeneration from these same vestiges when they are located in the posterior extremity (i.e. the tail end.) We are obliged to admit that throughout the body of the animal, from one end to the other, various cells are distributed that have .a specialized regenerative function. Such cells are called `neoblastic cells', and they constitute a kind of `reserve pool' of embryonic cells, which by a process of differentiation reconstitute all the tissues and organs.
What a remarkable wonder of organization this is! It is difficult to imagine the wealth of information that must be recorded on the D.N.A. molecules in the genes in order to arrive at such results at exactly the right moment, in other words at the moment circumstances bring all the appropriate mechanisms into play (such as the cutting of the worm into several distinct parts.) All these events take place in perfect order, and, to and behold, ten days later the planarians have reconstituted themselves into normal individuals again! The autotomy of the nemertians is another marvel of organization, for these animals can divide themselves into sections under the effect of a specific stimulus. The genes, which govern all these perfectly coordinated actions (this cannot be repeated often enough) within the cell and which set in motion the process of reconstruction, are genes that under normal conditions lie dormant. Phenomena such as these raise extremely complex genetic problems; they open the door to the question of the normal existence of `inoperative' genes, or `adaptative' genes, in other words genes that make adaptation possible.
Genes and Animal Behaviour
The behaviour of familiar animals and the often quite spectacular exhibition of certain abilities shown by others has led many people to attribute to these animals powers of reasoning that far exceed their real capabilities. Many animals do indeed give the impression that they are able to think through a certain situation and come to a decision, which causes them to act with apparent logic. In fact however, a large number of animal activities are hereditary; the extent of automatic behaviour varies according to the degree of structural complexity of the species.
A particular outside situation can cause' a stimulus in the more highly developed species, which the animal in question integrates into its' memory bank', and which subsequently conditions its response. Some people think that this capacity is very closely akin to human faculties, but we shall see later on the very considerable difference between human behaviour and that of even the most highly developed animals. The difficulty arises from the fact that we are inclined to judge animals in terms of our own mental faculties, whereas we ought to judge them in terms of the faculties of the animals themselves.
The beings that are lowest on the scale of the invertebrates are capable only of automatism. A certain amount of information needed to induce and condition animal reactions is kept in the D.N.A. molecules, part of the genetic code. Chemical reactions continually occur as the environment changes: It is to these that the animal owes its behaviour.
A further degree of complexity appears when 'the activity concerned is cyclical or regular; interspersed with periods of rest. The building of nests by insects is an example of this: We see the same complexity present in the automatic act of stinging: The female mosquito invariably obeys an inner impulse when the stimuli are present that provoke heat and humidity on the human skin, especially when the mosquito smells the odour of butyric acid present in infinitely small quantities on the skin's surface. Here again, it is a case of innate behaviour; the appropriate information is registered in the genetic code of the species the animal is simply obeying orders like a robot.
Nevertheless, some invertebrates are capable of conditioned reflexes. We should bear in mind that as opposed to the unconditioned reflex where the involuntary action results from a single stimulus, we are dealing here with a conditioned reflex, which requires some `preparation', as it were, before it can take place. At an initial stage, the real stimulus is associated with an accompanying neutral stimulus. In .the second phase, the animal responds in the same way to the neutral stimulus alone. Reflexes such as this are present in 'bees and butterflies for example, where the animal is guided by the shape and colour of the flowers from which it gathers nectar; in the case of the bees, scent also plays a part. This is as far as the `learning process' of these insects actually goes, however, for it is not possible to tame or train insects.
The vertebrates are the only animals capable of acquiring reflexes such as these and of recording and making use of information from the outside. Mammals can be trained; dogs are a particularly characteristic example, on account of their ability to integrate into human society. Here again, however, innate behaviour still persists, such as courting patterns, the preparation of various habitations which often requires very complex techniques, the raising of young, the marking out of territory for defence purposes, the search for food, sexual relations, etc.
As the level of organization rises, innate behaviour persists, even though the animal is able to alter its response according to the given situation. Even in the case of the higher mammals, such as the primates, the automatic, invariable response dictated by the genetic code merely diminishes; it does not disappear completely. P. P. Grasse' provides two very important examples of this: Chimpanzees that have not lived in a forest since the day they were born, when set free, know exactly how to build a night shelter in the trees. They put together a kind of habitation that is identical to the dwellings constructed by chimpanzees that have lived all their lives in the natural environment of their species. Similarly, gorillas are always terrified by the sight of snakes in their native forests: The same reaction occurs in young gorillas faced by the sight of a dead snake, even though they are seeing a snake for the very first time. These are undoubtedly examples of innate behaviour: The animal is obliged to react in a certain way because it possesses in its D.N.A. molecules the gene or genes that induce the coded responses to the specific stimulus.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular examples of an animal capable of `memorizing' or `stockpiling' the information contained in the genetic code is the case of a bird native to Australia. The extraordinary migratory pattern of this particular bird is described in a work by J. Hamburger entitled `La Puissance et la Fragilite' (Power and Fragility)
"On May 27, 1955, a Japanese fisherman caught a bird which was marked with a ring on March 14 of that same year on the Australian island of Babel. In that part of the world, the bird is known as the `mutton bird' or `short tailed shearwater.' The catch was the first of a series of discoveries leading to the reconstitution of the immense tour that this migratory bird undertakes every year. Its point of departure is the coast of Australia; from there, it flies east into the Pacific, turns north along the coast of Japan until it reaches the Bering Sea, where it rests for a while. After this halt, it sets off again, this time toward the south, hugging the west coast of America until it reaches California. From there it flies back across the Pacific to its starting point. This annual voyage of some 15,000 miles in the shape of the figure 8 never varies, either in terms of the route covered or the dates involved: The journey lasts six months and always comes to an end during the 3rd. week in September on the same island and in the same nest that the bird left six months previously. What follows is even more curious: On their return, the birds clean their nests, mate, and lay their single egg during the ten last days in October. Two months later, the young chicks hatch out, grow rapidly, and at the age of three months watch as their parents fly away on their enormous journey. Two weeks later, around mid April, the young birds take wing in their turn. Without any guidance on the way, they follow the exact same route described above. The implications of this are clear: Within the material transmitting their hereditary characteristics contained in the egg, these birds must possess all the directions required for such a journey. While some people may argue that these birds are guided by the sun and the stars, or by the winds prevailing along the route covered by their round trip, such factors clearly do not account' for the geographical and chronological precision of the voyage. There can be no doubt that whether directly or indirectly, the instructions for this 15,000 toile journey are recorded in the command giving chemical molecules located within the nuclei of the cells of these birds.
How is it possible to imagine the colossal mass of coded information that must of necessity be adapted to a host of different conditions, all of which take account of the various environments through which the birds must pass alone and unguided - from Australia to the Bering Sea and back again - while at the same time respecting a staggeringly precise timetable? How can we even begin to conceive of the fantastic number of orders that must be issued in the space of six months, orders that inevitably change according to circumstances, especially as the climate alters? Every possible contingency must be anticipated within the total fund of information held by the D.N.A. One wonders how the programme originally came to be written, and whether there is a being who knows the answer.
In today's computer age, such questions of programming cannot fail to make us think of some of man's own material achievements in recent years. We are filled with admiration for the magnificent technological results obtained by the American space shuttle which having completed its test flight, returned to earth at the moment calculated in advance. As scientific observers have repeatedly stressed, the launching of the shuttle, its orbiting around the earth, its descent back to earth, and many other manoeuvres, were aided by powerful computers working in coordination. The computers issued orders to the shuttle's engines, and in certain instances rectified the original orders in accordance with positions, which were themselves plotted by computer. In order for the venture to succeed, split second timing was required for the recording of data, the processing of information, and the issuing of commands; an ensemble of operations that was far beyond any human capacity. Although piloted by two spacemen, .the shuttle relied on pre-recorded information to complete each and every manoeuvre. Our Australian `mutton bird' would have had as much difficulty completing its lone voyage for the first time across unknown continents and seas as the astronauts would have had in completing their mission, had it not been for the back up supplied by information recorded in advance. In its genetic inheritance, the `mutton bird' simply has to possess all the instructions required for its six-month journey. Surely there is no one naive enough to imagine that the space shuttle and all its computers could have been built and fed with highly complex programmes by the effect of mere chance? Anyone who thinks that has obviously lost touch with reality., In actual fact, the shuttle is programmed by highly trained experts who supply all the information required for its missions. Why should we not therefore accept the idea that the `mutton bird' just as much as the space shuttle must of necessity be put in possession of the information it requires in order to return to its point of departure? This is the logical conclusion we must draw from our comparison with the programmer.
Although this is a subject that affects man's future rather than his past, and although genetic mutations are `experimental' and offer nothing in terms of the origins of man, they must be mentioned here on account of the legitimate anxiety they provoke.
The genes are responsible for each and every function of the cells. Some scientists have had the idea of supplying the cells with new properties by modifying the genes. In actual fact, they began by experimenting on organisms with a structure that is even simpler than the cell, namely the bacteria. By `grafting' various genes onto Colon Bacilli, they triggered the production of certain therapeutic and nutritional substances; owing to the rapid reproduction of bacteria, they were able to obtain very large quantities of these substances. The experiment was particularly successful in the case of several hormones.
From this, it was suggested that experiments might be performed on more highly developed animals with the unspoken idea of creating new characteristics by `grafting' new genes or modifying existing genes. Some scientists have even thought that, should these experiments prove successful, they might be applied to human genetics, in order to `improve' man...
The above would imply a perfect familiarity with the genetic map of the D.N.A. tape, which is not the case at all. We may therefore assume that experimental successes of arty importance within the animal kingdom are not likely to occur just yet. The extremely complex problems that remain to be solved would probably protect humanity from experiments such as these, but we must fear the worst as far as innovations deriving from human ingenuity are concerned: Man is capable of the worst as well as the best.
In an instance of this kind, man's dominance overman could reach to absolutely abominable extremes. The consequences of such practices, if they eves became feasible, are chilling indeed, for it is not difficult to imagine the abuses that would follow.
Nevertheless, these are precisely the practices currently being put forward by certain scientists. E. O. Wilson and the socio-biologists, whose theories have already been mentioned in connection with neo Darwinism, have used their position as scientists to assume the right to organize human society in terms of their own theories, relying on genetic manipulations which they euphemistically label `genetic engineering.' In their published works, they outline the process by which, in their view new human beings could be produced. For example, in order to increase man's sense of family, what simpler solution would there be than to contribute the corresponding gene found in certain gibbons? Among these apes, there are certain individuals who are endowed with a distinctive anatomical characteristic, which, more than in other apes of the same species, displays this highly developed sense. All that would have to be done would be to `graft' the characteristic onto man by means of the appropriate genetic supply. Suppose we wanted to increase people's enthusiasm for work: The simple transfer to us of the gene that conditions this function in worker bees would automatically turn us into total `workaholics.'
The above examples of genetic manipulations, which were put forward by Wilson and his followers, were reported at a round table conference on May 26, 1981 at the, Palais de la Decouverte in Paris. On the same occasion, brilliant papers were delivered on the subject by eminent scholars, among them P. Thuillier and P: P. Grasse', while several of their colleagues commented on the extreme seriousness of the proposed projects. It would indeed be most unwise to treat lightly the proposals suggested above, for they are put forward by genuine experts who declare that by virtue of their superior position as scientists, they have the right to change their fellow men as and how they please, using procedures over which they alone have jurisdiction. This new 'master race' of scientists is also able to take advantage of the tremendous media coverage open to their theories in the United States. During the round table conference at the Palais de la Decouverte, P. Thuillier noted that socio-biology was gradually becoming institutionalised in France. It is indeed difficult at present to see how the socio-biologists can arrive at a technique for `grafting' genes that are not yet isolated. But if they were one day able to isolate these genes and thereby realize projects, which put man in the same category as laboratory animals, the abominable extremes at present feared would become a reality.
Let us not forget the extent of the scientific aberrations and contempt for men that in the long run were caused by Darwinism.
The term `creative evolution' is not intended to carry any philosophical connotation in the sense in which it is used here. It is not often employed by modern scientists, as a way of describing evolution, perhaps because the reference to `creation' might come as a shock to the true researcher for whom the term suggests the idea of transcendence. In view of the facts described in the preceding pages however, it seems to me that we are simply stating a primordial truth when we use the term to qualify evolution in the animal kingdom: Indeed, we must accept the facts as they are, for when taken as a whole, evolution in the animal kingdom does not provide any possibility for a return to more ancient forms; complex structures do not revert to a simpler state. Quite the opposite happens in fact. Thus we are forced to take account of new forms that develop in the course of time, forms which are non transitional, and which contain new organs that condition new functions. We may therefore talk of the creation of organisms that did not previously exist, either in terms of forms or functions.
In the latter case, the example of the Australian `mutton bird' is extremely revealing: Its migratory performances alone tell us that at a certain moment, the information required for the bird to undertake its fantastic journey must have been introduced into it's genetic code. The informational data specific to the bird's organs must necessarily have been recorded in a genetic code that contained the specifications for all birds, at a time therefore when the birds were already in existence, i.e. after their emergence from a certain category of reptiles, some 135 million years ago.
Evolution as we know it is quite obviously dependent on a process of successive additions of information over the course of time. Scientists can argue ad infinitum about the causes determining the fact, but they cannot get away from the fact itself because it is patently obvious. Theories such as `random genetic mutations' and the `necessity of natural selection' may represent a satisfactory explanation of the past for some, but for others they are nothing more than unacceptable or half-baked hypotheses. It is blindingly clear, however, that the phenomena of evolution each had their beginnings marked by particular events.
When certain of today's theorists (who claim to have an explanation for everything) are asked just where the point of departure or origin of genetic information lies, they are at a loss for words. How could they fail to be? J. Monod has already acknowledged this inability to explain in the passage quoted earlier from his book 'Le Hasard et la Necessite' (Chance and Necessity): "The major problem is the origin of the genetic code and the mechanism by which it is expressed. Indeed, one cannot talk so much of a `problem' as of a genuine enigma." We have started with an `enigma', passed on to `fortuitous mutations' which modify structures, and ended up with the `necessity of natural selection', and not one of these theories has told us anything. They have not explained how highly organized matter came to be formed, complete with informational data to control its functioning and reproduction; nor have they enlightened us as to the complexity of the system which controls each and every aspect of the behaviour of entire organisms, as in the cases mentioned above.
Once we begin with complete objectivity to sort through the various ideas expressed on animal evolution by specialists from disciplines as disparate as the natural sciences, palaeontology, molecular biology and genetics, the discrepancies become very striking. If we continue to remain impartial, we shall be forced to admit two facts: while there are palaeontologists who take account of the data provided by the natural sciences, there are few specialists in molecular biology or genetics who turn to zoology, botany or palaeontology to support their theories. In contrast to this, there are highly experienced specialists in the natural sciences, such as P. P. Grass6, who constantly refer to the data supplied by chemistry and ultra-microscopic studies of the cell in their interpretation of the salient features of evolution. I turn once again to the data used by P. P. Grasse to uphold and spread his concept of evolution, in which he tries to separate established fact from unproven speculation.
We have already examined the reasons why the theories of Lamarck and Darwin do not provide an explanation for the genesis of the basic phyla, each of which arrived at an organizational plan for an entire lineage. Fortuitous mutations do not adequately account for the emergence of major variations: They cannot create new forms with modifications that affect several organs in a coherent manner. All of these events took place in very long stages; at the beginning, there appeared the first signs of particular features, followed by a period of accentuation of these phenomena, which was rounded off by a phase during which events slowed down and the creation of new type's finally ground to a halt. At the present time (`present' meaning at this point on a scale of millions of years), we would appear to be in this final stage. As we shall see later on however, in the case of man, evolution came to a halt much more recently.
All the major organizational types were laid down at a very early stage. From the moment a type engendered certain forms that oriented themselves in a particular direction, no new organizational types emerged from specialized forms. "Creative evolution has its roots in prototype forms; without them, no new types of organization can ever appear" (P. P: Grasse').
The last great wave of evolution in fact took place during the early stages of the tertiary era with the emergence of the birds 135 million years ago. From that time onward, the amplitude of the variations diminished, until there were virtually none at all at the time man appeared. As for the causes of the variations in the speed of the process and the halt in the creation of new types, no one knows the answer.
At the cellular level, evolution raises questions, which can now be answered by molecular biology and genetics. No new phenomenon can occur in the cell without the intermediary of the D.N.A. molecule, which, by means of the R.N.A. molecule, is responsible for the formation of a protein that constitutes the origin of a chemical synthesis. For every important morphological variation, the D.N.A. molecule must acquire a new gene, thus adding to its fund of chemically held information, or modifications must occur in. a gene that already exists. P. P. Grasse was the first to put forward the idea that evolution could be explained by the creation of new genes. In his book, 'L'Evolution du vivant' [The Evolution of Living Organisms], he quotes the statements of the American geneticist Ohno, who in 1970 said much the same thing. It has not of course been possible to demonstrate the formation of new genes over the course of time. Nevertheless, we shall see in a moment why it is unthinkable that this formation did not take place.
The acquisition of new information by living organisms, is broadly outlined by P. P. Grasse in the following passage:
"The responses to the stimuli conditioning evolution are recorded in the individual's genetic inheritance; this is what makes adaptation possible. Certain conditions must be present for these responses to be recorded. Now we know for certain and this is a fact to bear in mind that evolution diminished, as the living world grew older. It is vain to ask, however, why these responses became more and more infrequent, for the present state of knowledge can provide no answer. Perhaps one day, when molecular biology is more refined and precise, we may find a reply to these questions.
"We do however possess certain facts which, while they may not solve the problem of evolution, at least enable us to gain a better understanding of the phenomena it entails, and thus help us direct our research into hitherto unexplored regions.
"An animal would not be in a position to survive if it had no information about its environment, taking the word in its widest sense. The sensory organs receive messages and transmit them in modified form to the nervous centres where they are interpreted and thereby trigger responses appropriate to outside stimuli. Acting as the `computers' of the organism and capable of receiving various programmes, the nervous centres function in accordance with the specific and innate information that permanently controls their actions.
"The specific information lies within each cell, recorded on its D.N.A. tapes and contained in the genetic code. It is the intelligence of the entire species; which finds its material expression in an extremely miniaturized form. It is also the intelligence of the lineage at a particular time `T' in evolution. The information settles on the D.N.A. tape into which it is integrated and recorded during the stages through which the successive species pass. It is the result of a slow process of development, during which a balance was struck between the living organism and its environment.
"Specific information is transmitted in the form of chemical signals emitted by the segments or genes in the D.N.A.
"Nevertheless", as P: P. Grasse stresses, "the formation of new genes has not been observed by a single biologist; and yet without that formation, evolution becomes an inexplicable phenomenon."
P. P. Grasse completes his theory in the following manner:
"In our opinion, new information, which materializes and integrates itself permanently into the genetic code in the form of sequences of nucleotids, can only arise from preliminary intracel-sequences of reactions. It has nothing whatsoever to do with mistakes in the copying process or anomalies in the D.N.A.: It is in fact the result of an orderly development that takes place over successive generations. The evolutionary process operates when very precise conditions are present; for the moment, those conditions do not appear to arise very often. The moving forces behind this remarkable process are most probably stimuli received from outside, internal impulses, and the general responses of the organism which affect it right down to the level of the molecule."
The main theories we have passed in review may be narrowed down to two hypotheses: The theory of mutations resulting from `errors in the copying process' of the genetic code, the product of chance, with the possible control of corrective procedures such as natural selection or other factors; and the theory of creative evolution, which cannot unfortunately be based on a demonstration of the existence of new genes. Even though the material recording of new information in the genes remains to be shown, there can be no doubt that the concept of new data as the determining factor of evolution provides a perfect explanation for the phenomena observed.
So which of the two theories do we choose?(a) The theory, which relies on the basic role of chance, is untenable for the reasons we have already discussed.
(b) The theory based on creative evolution via new information is perfectly logical. Its validity is clearly illustrated by P: P. Grasse in his book `Precis de biologie generate' (Handbook of General Biology):
"If we deny the formation of new genes, what we are in fact saying is that the Amoeba or the Monera [Author's Note: A primitive unicellular organism, which, according to Haeckel, did not possess a nucleus.], as Haeckel would have expressed it, possessed all the genes which, in the course of evolution, were distributed among the various species in the animal kingdom.
"This mystical conception of the living world, in which everything is considered to be preformed, comes as a shock to any biologist who sets great store by reason and scientific precision. How can one seriously acknowledge that the most primitive living being could genuinely and substantially have contained within itself all the genes of the animal kingdom, or even the vegetable kingdom, without thereby lapsing into tacit animism?
"The acquisition of genes is the absolute prerequisite for evolution. We cannot avoid this possibility, for our whole comprehension of evolution and its inmost mechanisms depends on it, and it alone."
Jean Rostand does not appear to have been perturbed by the term `creative evolution'. This celebrated biologist has never made any secret of his materialistic ideas: Let us therefore conclude the first part of the present book with a quotation from him on the opposed theories of creative evolution, and chance and necessity.
"I have only to watch a cricket leap or a dragonfly dart through the air, in order to feel more akin to Pierre P. Grasse than to Jacques Monod."