LONDON RIOTS 2011; NO REASONS FOR TRIUMPHALISM

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The importance of revolutionary consciousness and ethics

The moral crusade has begun. Mass media, middle classes and other sectors of British and Londoner population (including a significant number of the very same poor and working class) have united their voices and brooms against the evil looters and rioters, against the offspring of Satan himself.All over the place we are fed with the same propaganda, the same relentless repetition of manufactured messages. Once and again we hear those depictions of looters with horns, tail and wielding a trident, maximum expression of greed and selfishness whose actions cannot by any means be blamed to the welfare cuts, poverty, gang culture, lack of prospects and other social plagues. That does not exist in London, according to the Tories everyone here gets what he or she deserves, nothing more nothing less. The most perfect meritocracy reigns in the eternal city as well as all over the UK.

On the other side the social democratic pseudo-criticism acknowledges some of the facts that so obviously led to the rioting such as the impact of welfare cuts in the most impoverished communities and ethnic groups of the capital but also praising the police and making clear that cuts should not affect the security forces. There are certain times in live in which one just cannot be friendly with everyone and this is something that these people totally fail to notic (after all that is not their function). Clearly, stating the obvious for everyone who does not normally go shopping in Harrod’s three times a week while trying to keep friends with the ones whose useless role actually triggered the street fighting can be regarded as nothing but sheer clumsy and meaningless babbling.

Then we have the political extra-parliamentarian, Anarchist, Autonomous and Marxist realms who still today are engaged in endless discussions and interpretations of these events, desperately trying to make reality fit into their own ideological constructions so that they can subsequently call their fucked-up analyses the ultimate and most accurate account on the London riots. Thus one has had to read and hear talking about “the next generation of social rebels” (by those more inclined to Bonanist Insurrectionist Anarchism) and the potential “revolutionary subject” in which the looting kids could become should they get (as it is always mandatory in these cases) the right type of “class consciousness” (read here: the right sort of indoctrination which happens to be the one my political sect professes and no other). I would like to know who is going to be the first pretty boy/girl trying to approach a group or individual of these young representatives of London’s underclass and how their attempts to enlighten them end up. We all know too well that such a thing is not going to happen and if it does it will most likely result in the kids taking the piss out of the puzzled propaganda man in the best case or with another nasty piece of sensationalist news in The Sun in the worst.

Of course cheap moralistic accusations and reactionary attitudes have to be ignored if we want to get a proper anarchist, revolutionary and precise assessment on the whole situation and its subsequent repercussions which indeed will be extremely deep and important in the years to come. On the other hand unrealistic triumphalism and deluded points of view reflecting what we wish the situation to be like rather than what it is happening in reality (with all its pros and cons) should be equally avoided at all costs if we really wish to seize the situation properly and make sense of it in the most tactically effective way.

Yes, the “rude boys”, the “chavs”, whatever one wants to call them, are the product of a tough social environment, economical austerity, broken families and many other issues that have always traditionally plagued the difficult lives of the poor and oppressed, of those at the bottom of the social pyramid. But also yes, the behaviour of these young guys in their daily lives as well as during some instants of the looting is sparkled with episodes of the most horrible cruelty towards each other and towards other people. Their attitudes in many occasions mimic and reproduce the values of capitalistic individualism, dog eat dog competitiveness, emptiness and selfish profit seeking. Their circumstances have indeed had a huge impact in making them the way they are but any possible change in their current state of affairs relies ultimately on them and in nobody else.

Here lies the real drama, the issue that should bother true revolutionaries, beyond any sort of doctrinal debate and pointless analyses based in 19th century (or even 1970’s) obsolete ideologies. There should not be room any more for the nefarious amorality so keen to some leftist and anarchist tendencies for whom social transformations are mainly the making of impersonal forces beyond human control such as the “Laws of History”, economical crises and the like. Likewise, the clearly overrated theory according to which mere participation in a riot or political movement suffices by itself to cast some sort of revolutionary consciousness in people who had never taken part in something like that before has never passed the test of reality and should be consequently taken with a (pretty big) pinch of salt. Actually the latter only appears to happen in a number of cases in the same way that does not in many others, probably in the majority of them. Besides nothing guarantee that the recently acquired political awareness will last for long. In full honesty it usually does not last longer than the very same episodes that gave rise to it unless there is some sort of ongoing movement to get involved with on the long run.

In the same way there is no doubt that taking part in a riot gives a lot of strength and self empowerment, helps one to realise their own power and capabilities… but this can also go in many ways depending on the level of political consciousness. The self-empowerment of a rioter who is not very aware (or not aware whatsoever) of the political meaning of his/her acts can indeed take a very nasty turn which is much less likely to happen to more politically aware rioters. Every riot contains in itself the risk of having good and honest people hurt. However a reaction like that of the Greek rioters of 2008 who raised 13000 Euro all over the country to pay an elderly lady who had had her kiosk burnt in the insurrection is not likely to happen in London, not in the short term at least. Hence, consciousness and understanding of what one does and why should come first than anything else.

Circumstances are important but so it is the will power who accepts to play with and against them in order to effect a meaningful, durable change. If it is true that most social revolutions begin with uncontrollable events, so many times tragic, dramatic, ugly, nasty, cruel… it is not less true that no revolution worth its name has ever been carried out without taking into account ethics, values and a conscious personal effort towards self-enhancement as a human being. Like it or not ethical issues play a crucial part in revolutionary processes be it for good or (as so many times have occurred unfortunately) for bad.

It was one said that slaves may stage rebellions but cannot organise revolutions and such a statement applies perfectly to the issue being discussed here. The London rioters, like their peers from the French “banlieues” back in 2005 have so far behaved as slaves possessed by the most understandable and terrible rage. They have unleashed a chain of actions and reactions that has brought many old questions back to the forefront. Their anger has been by all intents and purposes the most political event the UK has seen for the last 10 years at least. There is only one question left… how can they get a consciousness capable of turning them into a real threat towards capitalism and the state, exception made of some immediate feelings and intuitions they may have expressed to the media or in some hip-hop lyrics before, during and after the events. As long as they do not answer this question to themselves their attitude will be nothing but reactionary as their only plausible demand seems to be that of full access to the haven of consumption and nothing more.

Good jobs, the latest sport car, laptop, tablet, I-phone, video-game, pair of trainers… The radicalism of a given action does not lie in the amount of fire or molotov cocktails employed to make a point but in the contents, in the substance, in the aims that are consciously and coherently pursued through a given action or course of actions. Ideally the fire should come afterwards. Many may contend that things in live do not normally obey to any rational pattern or happen in an orderly fashion but follow twisted, complex and so many times unexpected paths; fair enough then but at least once the things have calmed down for a while what should be following is a certain degree of discussion, self-criticism and reflection which does not seem to be happening at all. It would be absolutely unrealistic to believe that such a thing could be going on right now among the ranks of these kids’ groups of peers as it is not definitely happening SEROUSLY SPEAKING among the plethora of UK’s radical groups if one has to judge for what has been said and published during the last year apart from a few exceptions.

So what’s next then. How can that massive chasm between these guys and the rest of the people, among their gangs and among one another be overcome. Within their own scale of values being the crew’s biggest bastard earns you respect. Such a respect is measured in pure and simple fear, the more the others fear me the more respected I will be. This is their world, this is what life has taught them, this is capitalism and state ideology in its most honest and brutal expression, hierarchy, oppression, pure and simple cruelty towards the weak. Most of the guys who die in a year do not fall under the bullets of the police but under those shot by another guy, by a rival gang or by both. Their attitudes towards girls or women are not in many cases much better than the treatment they dispense to the police. And the worst thing of all… they are in a world apart and hold no intention whatsoever to speak to anyone outside of it. All communication channels are closed. Realizing this is not a display of sanctimony but an account on what reality is like and how challenging the situation really is. Everybody knows that the mass media lie but such a statement should not be abused in order to delude ourselves. This reality exists, it is there and dealing with it will not be a piece of cake for anyone.

Discussion on the issue of the so-called “lumpen-proletariat” and the revolutionary potentiality of the “criminal element”

It has happened before in History that under certain circumstances of social unrest and revolutionary hopes criminals and members of what has been known as “lumpen-proletariat” or the “underclass” have turned into committed and sincere revolutionaries. Such a possibility if probably overrated and exaggerated in many cases is something that could get to happen if a solid anarchist, freedom fighting and/or revolutionary movement developed or if the boys themselves decided to become revolutionaries by their own intention although this appears to be very unlikely right now. If we look at it from a historical and ethnographic perspective we see how the type of societies within which bandit heroes the like of the different “Robin Hoods”, “Durrutis” and “Paleokostas” rose up are characterised by a strong sense of community and solidarity among the members of their lowest classes. These are contexts as well in which the actions of social bandits usually coincide with a strongly and highly politically charged popular ethos which would manifest itself through the existence of dense networks of organisations such as autonomous popular groups, revolutionary trade unions or popular associations of may kinds .

We are also looking at societies whose means of mass indoctrination are not so well developed as in the present society, where the rural world still exists by and for itself as a segregated cultural entity and has not yet been turned into a mere food supplier for the cities. The bandits are usually the sons of peasant families or come from a working class family that has just left the countryside and struggles to find its place and make a living in the chaos of the urban jungle. Social bandits have rarely undergone, let alone succumbed to the process of consumerist indoctrination through schooling, advertising and pressure from families, peers and teachers to become rich and get the money to buy what they want.

 What we have before us is a totally different picture for the mind of the rioters has been relentlessly fed with rubbish ever since they were born telling them what their aspirations should be only to block later any access to them or at least make them much harder to attain than for members of the economically stronger and often white (although not always) social classes.

The truth is that the transformation of the so-called “lumpen” or “underclass” into a revolutionary force capable of staging a radical anti-capitalist and anti-state transformation should not be excessively romanticised. It is true that for example, many Parisian and French gangs from the 1960’s known as the “Bloisson noires” joined the insurrection of May 68 but it is not less certain that most of the SS and SA shock troops within the National-socialist party in the 1930’s Germany were also made up of many members of Munich and Berlin’s underground and served the Nazis very happily from the very beginning of their rise to power, from the “Beer Hall Pustch” all the way to the very same War itself. It is this ambivalence what should make anarchists wary about looking at the reality around us as we would wish it to be rather than as it actually is in this (in addition to many other) subjects.

 Those members of the urban population who belong to non-white and European ethnic groups on the other hand have had those aspects of their culture that might have posed a real difference or a direct challenge to white European Western values conveniently nipped in the bud by the hypocritical as well as propagandistic policies on UK’s “multiculturalism”. What results of such a process is nothing but a light version of the original culture. Thus, those aspects of foreign or “exotic” cultures that prove to be more superficial, colourful, and above all marketable and easy to turn into an economical and ideological asset useful to present a picture of England and its capital as a “tolerant” and open tourist destination are the only ones allowed to exist. The reaction of many people among these oppressed ethnic groups then normally consist of closing ranks and turning to an acritical glorification and “pride” for their own cultures of origin, turning a blind eye on their flaws and assuming that anything different from Western culture has to be good just for being non-Western. This, as everybody should know by now, it is not always the case.

Conversely the cultural elements that may truly hint about the possibility of organising communities, administering justice, deal with social conflicts, distributing economical production etc… in a way different from the Western one are automatically dismissed and ignored. If something does not turn a profit it incurs straight away in the worst possible capital sin, therefore no help, no money, no media attention deserves to be spared on it. Thus how when it comes to “multiculturalism” the cultural “shell” is sold and the real substance thrown away. This and no other is the real nature of Western multiculturalism the subsumption of “difference” into simple, harmless “diversity”.

 Such realisation should not make us jump into the slippery slope of an uncritically blind support to absolute cultural relativism for every culture and not just the Western one carries its own share of unacceptable and nasty features, costumes and beliefs. However the point has been made I presume, that many useful and positive elements from different cultures that may challenge capitalism and the state are doomed to be segregated from the haven of Western multiculturalism.

 Going back to the possibilities that the present social context in the UK may offer to the emergence of social bandits or criminal heroes turned into revolutionaries we cannot look at such possibility with any sort of optimism. Yet as difficult as it may be, perhaps it is not utterly impossible. Anyhow, what can by no means be justified any more is any sort of passivity from the anarchist and revolutionary realm in such a difficult times like the ones we are currently living in. If we want we can provide some elements that may help to cause that in the long run some of these kids decide to become revolutionaries. Re-building a wide community network and a genuine revolutionary culture able to fight back (also rioting if necessary) against the offensive that state and capitalism will be launching in the years to come beyond leftist and reformist delusions of returning to the full employment and Welfare state society within capitalism is our best tactical option, probably the only one we have got at the moment. And to do this what is needed is anything but delusions and fucked up pseudo-analyses romanticising and idealising what actually happen during the riots as well as the characteristics of their protagonists.

The development of an honest, open revolutionary consciousness and its spread at the length and breadth of society is increasingly becoming our most important and basic duty. Social war in the streets is important but it can never be waged if it does not go hand in hand with a war of ideas.

It is not the end of Welfare State but the Welfare state itself what is to blame

 We are living the time that has seen the death of the moral individual and real community. The present tyranny of post-modernist pseudo-human condition considers any sort of comprehensive ethical principle as a nuisance, a mere obstacle in between one’s own individuality and what has allegedly become its main purpose in life; irresponsible, carefree, hedonistic self-gratification. What matters nowadays is not to lead a constructive, dignified, ethical, fertile existence based on a strong feeling of belonging to a given community and a set of values historically and culturally produced by it. What life is really about (so we are ordered to believe every day by thousands of media messages) is to have fun no matter how, regardless the consequences that our actions may have on others and always following what has been dictated to be such a concept of “fun” by the powers of capital and the state (mainly being stupid and earn enough money to get pissed on the weekend, own an I-phone and hire as many video games as you can).

The sacred principle of self-interest has reached its peak in our present society and so the sort of pseudo-human beings that it produces, especially within the cultural context of English speaking Anglo-Saxon countries. This and no other is the main catastrophe sponsored by capitalism and state domination, the sheer impoverishment of live, the wanton destruction of those human qualities that still gave humanity a certain sense of dignity and cohesion in face of the most difficult circumstances. We may be crossing the threshold towards a time in which a no longer human sub-species used to utter obedience and security paranoia, in principle not very inclined towards rebellion but still capable of staging one always for the most banal, shallow and primitive “reasons” will be mass produced by the propaganda apparatus and the tyranny of controlled desire.

Many anarchists and leftists still literally expect that an ongoing worsening of economical conditions and the fantasy of a collapse of capitalism wrongly perceived as “just around the corner” will give rise to the necessary “revolutionary consciousness” that will wipe oppression once and for all from the face of the earth. At the same time many among them coincide in blaming “the cuts”, and the undermining of Welfare state as the evil that must be fought against by all means necessary totally failing to recognise the most important problem of our times namely; the practical death of community and responsible individuality.In other words, the unsung tragedy of our times is that of the extinction of community spirit as such along with a well understood concept of the individual as a person with both free will and responsibilities towards him/herself and towards the others, with the capacity and duty at the same time of reflecting in their behaviour and take accountability for their mistakes. All this is nearly gone and we do not seem to feel very concerned about it.Simply state and capitalism have been making their duty to destroy the sort of attitude that used to lie in the basic psychological make up of any revolutionary, freedom loving behaviour in order to create the perfect slave for the last 5 decades at least especially after the 2WW, when Welfare State was established as the main ideological and material weapon against the cause of freedom and equality.

Against this massive operation of mind-narrowing aimed at instilling cowardice and conformism everywhere in society the antediluvian theoretical frameworks of most anarchist and leftist schools of thought can do nothing at all. The enemy has not stopped evolving and developing new weapons as well as new arguments to literally convince people that it is better buying the artificial freedom provided by market seductions than leading a live of their own even if personal dignity must be endured with a great deal of difficult moments and sometimes suffering. Rebellion, ideals, values… all this is not fashion any more… it is so 1960’s!!… so what does the answer of Anarchism, Leftism and most residual revolutionary currents to this state of affairs consists of?… apparently just remaining stuck in old fashioned economical determinism or in the unmovable, eternal truths of Marx, Bakunin, Saint Bonanno or Netchaiev… or coming up with insane inventions such as that of waging “war on society” as a whole…

There is something about economical determinism beyond the very true acknowledgement of the importance of economical issues in people’s life. When economicism is overstretched and taken as the magical formula bound to explain everything under the sun what we can be expected is nothing but some kind of prophetic thinking that usually does not work at all. People take resort to rebellion when they can take no more, and when the right set of “objective conditions” (always of a material-economical kind of course) takes place. That is all. That is how for Anarchism, Marxism and Leftism in general whether reformist or revolutionary self-interest also constitutes after all, the main reason to rebel. So one does not abandon selfishness until everything becomes so fucked up that no option is left but unite with the others and fight. No wonder that in most cases a few reforms from the state are usually enough to break a false sense of “solidarity” that does not last beyond a specific single-issued struggle. But what is even more striking is the fact that after more than 200 years in the History of these movements such a view has always remained unchallenged at the core of the aforementioned ideologies and that their subsequent developments which is to say; anti-capitalist and anti-state ideas share one of the main traits of those “bourgeois” ideologies opposed to them be these fascism or liberal representative democracy.

Hence how so many people, lefty and even anarchist organisations have traditionally failed to notice the long history of rejection to the use of money, the implementation of the logic of mass-production and the anti-ethics of self-interest, personal profit and “prosperity” to their habitats seen in many historical moments and communities. As people saw in the latter a threat with the potential to thwart their specific community traditions, personal autonomy, freedom of action and movement, beliefs and way of life many reacted in ways similar to that of the Luddites in this country for instance as well as others before, at the same time and after them.

The core question here is that we need to realise that self-interest and competition, although always present in human life, do not occupy such a central role in the existence of most human beings and the idea of its centrality is nothing but mere propaganda that has been forcefully embedded in collective mentality in order to turn us into a reflection of our masters. If we carry on basing our political activity in the assumption that people will react when “the situation gets to an unbearable point” we will be just gambling and doing not revolutionary activity at all since a situation of total material deprivation and anomie (history speaks volumes about this) very few times lead to a revolutionary social change compared to the amount of times in which it has served as a support for reactionary regimes if not to pure social cannibalism.

Rebellions are not the same as revolutions. Material conditions alone may lead to uprisings with the potential to lead towards literally anything and not necessarily to a positive outcome or a social improvement. However if what we want is a social revolution with a total change of social and economical relations, destruction of the state, prisons etc… then we need a new type of ethics, we need to develop convincing and accurate analyses and the appropriate sort of actions for every single occasion. We need a voluntary and never imposed regeneration of the human individual to be made as much extensive as possible to the general society, perhaps through a generalisation of serious and mature debate, reflection and actions fitted to the new levels of analyses and ethical excellence displayed. Eventually we need to work in all this before any sort of catastrophic event, societal collapse or armed conflict breaks out. In other words; this is the most important job right now, even if it entails to slow down a little bit and stop hiding our lack of tactical intelligence, debate and knowledge of the world around us behind the appearance of a restless as much as sterile activism. One of the features that makes Anarchism great as a revolutionary potency has always been the all too often forgotten notion of behavioural example, the dignity of doing at all times what is right and fair expecting nothing in exchange. So we should do as groups as well as individuals.

Going back to the matter of the summer riots, it amazes me how among so many sanctimonious explanations insisting in pinning down cuts, economical poverty and other stereotypical half-truths as the main reasons for the riots to happen almost everybody has failed to see in the feelings created by Mark Duggan’s murder and the constant stop and search humiliating policies one of the main triggers. The latter are not sheer material reasons to rebel but something much deeper than all that. Perhaps it may reveal after all a glimpse of these part of humanity that seems to have been lost nowadays. Pride, loyalty, dignity, solidarity, self-respect… formed part of the powder that somehow ignited the rioting despite all the negative aspects of it and its many flaws. On the other hand however, it would be utterly stupid to expect too much from the actions of people who have been indoctrinated to behave as the poor version of any city executive. What varies here is just the social extraction and the unequal opportunities to access a materialistic haven that otherwise both social groups crave for in equal measure. If there is not a conscience of what is being done in the rioter´s brain his actions will always lack the potential to transcend the stage of a child wiping because he wants a candy.

It should not be forgotten as so many activists possessed by an irrational and stupefying optimism have been doing so often that many among these guys are all too used to attack each other for the most spurious reasons in a regular basis. Thus no “revolutionary subject” capable of realising a “redistribution of wealth” can emerge just from “material conditions of deprivation” alone. The “get as much as you can grab” behaviour displayed by most rioters does not stem from a conscious desire for socialisation of wealth but from sheer selfishness and sometimes even competition with others to get more than them. The experience of looting in the riots was a private act and nothing more than that all the way long and it never went beyond such instinctual, primitive stage. It seems to me so that more than just blind rage a political consciousness is on the other hand much more needed. Moreover, this is not usually acquired just through the sheer experience of poverty alone but through personal will power along with the determination to learn from one´s mistakes and fight for something meaningful. In the end the emergence of a revolutionary subject boils down to a firstly personal and only subsequently collective decision. There is not such a thing as an “still unconscious but potential revolutionary”… There is not revolutionary collective or individual but the one who consciously chooses to be so and acts as such, end of the story. The rest is just self-delusion; again looking at reality the way we would like it to be rather than as it is, no matter how much or how little we like it.

A few words on “community”

Community, probably one among the most over-used and degenerated words in English vocabulary. 21st century new speak, with all its extensive collection of euphemisms is aimed at making the plans of the state and capitalism pass for something positive for the exploited and dominated ones. Our masters re-invent the language in the way that most suits their interests showing no hesitation at all in borrowing terminology from former revolutionary and liberation movements. But really, what does our masters call community?, does it have anything to do at all with what could be good for people?

The truth is that no community exists any more in the UK. Draconian legislation combined with the expansion of the police state to every single aspect of live are the solutions found by our masters to impose the forceful state of tense pacification needed by them to carry on with their business as usual. All those posters of smiley faces telling every one the right and wrong way of conducting themselves in public, all the legislation on “hate crime” supposedly oriented to end racism and sexism, to promote “multiculturalism”… every single intervention or campaign promoted and funded by the state are nothing but a smoke screen. Philanthropic messages used to hide the ultimate issue, the core objective of such policies which is no other than maintaining public order at all costs through a large increase in the capacity of the state to intervene in every aspect of individual existence.

Truly healthy communities can only exist outside and against the influence of capitalism and the state. The latter are by their very same nature anti-community forces, heralds of a totally distorted and poisonous concept of individualism that sanctions cruelty, competence and dominion over others as a natural way of life.

Hence that all those states populated by either overworked or benefit dependant highly deranged individuals and their not less deranged families, left to rot at their own devices but at the same time receiving the propaganda according to which they too will some day be able to become the owners of that car or those expensive sport shoes, can be considered anything but a community. At most they might form massive heaps of people living on top of each other in the cheapest housing available, stubbornly fighting against one another instead of uniting forces against a common enemy just because they are continuously having their brains worked upon by “education”, media messages and stressful lives to prevent them from thinking too much about their situation.

However alienation can never be used as an excuse to clear those who suffer it from a certain degree of responsibility on their own misery. Alienation always goes hand in hand with the negligence and unwillingness of the population who suffers it to accept their own responsibility in perpetuating this cycle of to a great extent openly tolerated oppression. To acknowledge that in the end they are being fouled every day and that no benefit allowance can restore the slightest lease of dignity back into their precarious lives. Victimism alone never applies to social situations beyond certain degree of complexity, beyond the sheer limit of physical survival and places where starvation for example are a common occurrence. Obviously this is not the case of any UK urban agglomeration… yet.

Community; within the current police state this word is clearly being used to hide what it is really going on, to define what could not be defined otherwise than a sheer human landfill, a depot for the wrecks of 3rd class inhabitants of the UK’s urban hells. Haunted by all the ailments of poverty, drugs, underpayment, dependence on the twisted mechanism of the benefit system and propaganda the populations of this places can be expected anything but cooperate, unite and fight. If they ever dared to do something like that the threat of taking away their job seeker allowances, income supports and other benefits would suffice to deactivate them. Once again, God bless the Welfare state.

The solution to such a grim scenario though does not imply a renunciation to community as such. Humans are social animals and the “war on society” promoted by those Nihilist so in fashion now a days cannot be considered anything but a hallucinatory reaction of those too impatient to accept that the long way of social war has its ups and downs. Every human group or community has problems, power relationships and different synergies playing inside them. That is part of the very same problem of live in general. Many affinity groups, no matter how nihilists they might claim to be have informal leaderships well established within themselves.

The question is not denying this negative complexities but learning how to keep them at bay, how to give them a positive dimension and use and how to detect them before they degenerate into a new form of oppression. Such is the duty contained by the revolutionary effort. The fact that no human group, community or even individual will ever be totally free from the risk of being taken over by its dark side should not discourage us from trying to bring about the best qualities of humanity, whether individual or collective and making them stay permanently. It should be made clear once and for all that revolution, social war means, above all self-improvement and constant effort, that there is not a defined end to it other than constantly striving to get ourselves and our communities better and better provided they are worth and healthy. Revolution means to correct any wrong doing in the best possible manner.

 The riots and austerity Britain in context

Capitalism is clearly not coming to an end but enduring a period of deep crisis in those countries that traditionally embraced it with the greatest faith in its condition as a reflection on what human nature must or rather should supposedly be like. Laissez-faire, cut-throat, survival of the fittest initial capitalism was followed in time by the most approachable “Welfare state” version of itself through which the state was made to appear as the great provider, the saviour of the poor. However the real cost of maintaining a welfare state in Western countries was well felt in those other nations of the so-called “Third World” whose resources have been systematically plundered so that we can keep our high levels of consumption and “welfare” going on in the rich countries.

Back at home, the increasing delegation of many functions historically developed by grass roots organisations of the old workers movement to the state lead to the near disappearance of any sort of community self-organisation outside and opposed to the binomial state-capitalism. If the classical worker’s movement, especially in its anarchist branch aimed at eventually (although some sooner than others) overthrow the state, now the latter has come to be considered as some sort of inevitable necessary evil.

In this matter the influence of most communist parties worldwide along with every single social-democrat party and sadly enough some anarcho-syndicalist formations proved totally nefarious. Most of them failed to notice and so to criticise and attack the ever increasing and nowadays seemingly unstoppable power of the media and state propaganda to mould the minds of the oppressed, seduce them and turn them into willing accomplices of the system while remaining stuck in their traditional economicism. The notion of indoctrination and mind manipulation of the masses could not otherwise be challenged by a left highly dependent on the whims emanated from their Moscow chiefs, experts themselves in the crafts of propaganda as they were. Trade-unionism did also its share in this matter by doing their best to turn the struggle of the working class into a mere quarrel about salaries, funding (especially their own) and contracts… in other words; they brought corruption to the worker’s struggle by burying revolutionary ideals and alternative organisational proposals in a thick layer of oblivion and reducing everything to money issues.

In a world in which badly understood commercially oriented individualism was set loose, any value regarding community, effort, struggle had by force to become something from the past, some sort of old-fashioned boring verborrhagia. Skills on how to self-organise at the most basic levels were lost and the poor were turned into some sort of state aid junkies, constantly striving to gain access to the new panacea in exchange of their dignity, their individual skills to self-organise (and those of their descendants), their own popular culture and their consent to be listed, managed,filed and eventually computerised this is, better controlled by the state. Former dead zones in terms of space and time where the control of the state and so as well of capitalism could not reach were lost forever. Only nowadays, in a moment in which Welfare state has finally become impracticable and the whole social space belongs to the enemy such a loss is becoming clearer than ever. CCTV networks provide us here with the best possible metaphor about this catastrophic loss.

Applying what has been said above to the context of the urban areas (especially those located in London) where the 2011 Summer riots took place we find the perfect manifestation of such a degree of decomposition at all levels, being this mental or physical, spiritual or material.

Many have rushed to blame the lack of proper educational facilities in these neighbourhoods, the state of their schools due to lack of funding and the elitism implicit in the management of monetary educational assignments through “League tables”. Although provided with a certain degree of truth this views are anyway highly misguiding since they fail to notice the very fact that schools, as it happens as well with the whole educational system from the lower to the highest ranks constitute nothing but the official and most immediate apparatus of capitalist and state propaganda. All those progressive statements about compulsory schooling as a great gain for the most disadvantaged social strata fail also to appreciate two questions here: Firstly that such an ideal application of education as a vehicle for social mobility has never worked completely under capitalist conditions. The rich have always found alternative ways to give their offspring a better and more privileged chance; hence private schools and universities or the invention of “masters” and “Phd’s” as an extension to the completion of a mere three or four years degree. Secondly it is not true that schooling was created out of some sort of philanthropic turn within capitalism. School no matter how religious or lay it may claim to be, is the institution for the domestication of the youth. It never was and will never be the solution to “social divide” and the promoter of “equal opportunities” so dear to social-democracy and Leninism.

So the mind of the youth is moulded by the education system for a reason. The “reason d’etat” is always present in every single paragraph of the syllabus and the national curriculum. Having their younger members kidnapped at the most tender age to get the ideology of the system well shoved up in their brains is not the best option for the working class to stop being waged slaves and break free from their condition some day. The thing is so self-evident that all the emphasis placed by so many and so well-intentioned leftists in causes like the one begging to increase funding for schools should begin to sound as what it truly is; a very bad joke.

Let us be clear and settle this point once and for all; the reason why so many parents from poor backgrounds send their children to school is that they do not have enough time out of work to look after them by themselves. They just need some place where to “stash” the kids while they are not around the house. Everybody knows at least in London that sending a kid to certain schools equates to the fact of preventing him or her from becoming an ”achiever” within the logic of capitalist labour market and dooming them to a future of bad salaries, benefits and misery. The state knows this and so it does not bother wasting any money in schools where the teachers are constantly overloaded with the expectation of super-humanly fixing those “behavioural faults” of their pupils that parents failed to correct at home in the first place.

Instead what the state might well be arranging for this dangerously increasing segment of the population is their future welcoming to the ranks of the Army and the security forces as fortress Britain and the world in general begins to undergo a new era of uncertainty, crises, rival super-powers struggling to take over the role of the presently declining USA empire, new regional conflicts and scuffles for markets and resources. All of it leading to a dramatic increase in the militarisation of public live and spaces, whose first stages we are currently witnessing in London via the golden excuse of Olympic philanthropy and pseudo-humanism. From the airports straight into the big metropolis. Social engineering of crowd control. State and capitalism foreseeing the exponential growth of an enemy within, among their increasingly impoverished population. The military, the police, private security companies and TSG as the greatest employers of the future. What is coming does not look good.

Will the rioters of today become the cops, hitmen and military of tomorrow?

Also, and since the all too useful and politically motivated connections between the mob, narcotics, petty crime and the police in times of crises and social disintegration should never be underestimated; should we also wonder if those among these kids who would not make it into this sort of “jobs” could get to be put to a better use as drug dealers, pimps or “black market” smugglers?… One thing is for sure; such a grim state of affairs could only be averted by the conscious action of those targeted to be its victims beyond any delusional reformism aimed at finding false solutions within the very same structures that create the problems. State and capitalism are these structures. The more the individuals buy into their mindset the more they become their willing slaves. Change must begin in the field of thinking, consciousness and ethics as much as in the field of street action.

What can we anarchists do about this?

True crises or early revolutionary situations normally involve a lot of improvisation but it is also true that the more prepared we are beforehand the better we will be able to respond to any challenging and potentially social changing event. The opposite is just as right; the more ill prepared and caught by surprise we remain the worse will we be able to react (if anything at all) and the less capacity to manoeuvre within the new terrain and flow of events we will count on.

So what we need to really start working on with no more delay is in reaching a certain degree of consensus and cooperation among different groups and schools of thinking within Anarchism, overcoming the present tiresome and pathetic sectarianism that characterises “the movement” (if such a thing actually exists which is dubious) in the UK. We need then to develop a fair level of tolerance with each other as well as a diversity of tactics liable of application under different conditions according to different practical and tactical approaches. We need to learn to cooperate with each other whether individually or collectively and to welcome internal differences turning them into a source for the whole movement to get enriched rather than impoverished and mutilated which is what happens now a days. An overarching common policy of collective understanding and diversity of tactics needs to be urgently and consciously implemented the sooner the better for time my friends is fucking running out.

Also the cultural level must be increased among most militants. We must begin seriously reading, studying and analysing the world around us in an innovative way beyond the dusty old ideologies from the 19th century as much as from those of the 60th and 70th decades of the former century. The latter obviously also includes Bonanno’s writings and Nihilism among many other authors and collectives whose contribution may be highly valuable (nobody is denying that in here) but finds itself indeed scattered with flagrant flaws that must be either corrected or done away with forever. No anti-intellectualism can justify any negligence about this. Brain work is as much important as showing muscle in the streets. It is about time for all of us to start asking ourselves about the biggest and most important questions such as economy, radical Anthropology, study of the military and the way in which the enemy works, intelligence gathering, tactics, strategy, political Philosophy and analysis of current affairs. A proper Anarchist independent discourse, actualised and adapted to the present times is still badly needed and no many British militants seem to worry too much about it. As long as we do not solve this problem our proposals will remain secondary and highly laughable, leaving the massive chasm in between Anarchist and those parts of the common population more likely to suffer the impact of the ongoing civilisation crisis untouched or even worse, making it more and more broad. We are not living through a crisis like others before but something much bigger than that.

These times we are going through are History on the making and we need to be prepared to navigate them as much dynamically as possible. We need to free ourselves and our movement from the curse of being always following others, tailing them in demonstrations, in the riots, in political actions of any kind. We need our own space and scope of action and it must be a seriously organised and efficient one, encompassing all of us and all sorts of tactics from peaceful resistance to open armed struggle.

Perhaps, when the next riots come to happen (if they do) we will be in a position to take to the streets and do our own messing around rather than just pathetically following whoever might be petroling stuff or looting at the time. Perhaps we will be able to carry out our own actions and sensibly choose our own targets engaging at the same time with other rioters from the so-called urban “underclass” just by means of sheer example. Perhaps that is the way of developing some alliances and mutual cooperation with them rather than by trying to uselessly preaching around about something they might not feel very inclined to hear, at least initially.

We need to get engaged with common people and make our message more public, visible and ubiquitous. But the achievement of this must be preceded by a whole change of mentality among all of us. We must become more open, tolerant and honest with each other. Our differences should be sported as a sign of openness, heterodoxy, resourcefulness, equality, and freedom and not as the shameful spectacle of infighting, back-stabbing and pointless gossip into which we appear so keen to turn them. Difference is a blessing, not an obstacle. At least that is the way it should be. Let us leave then the “unique revolutionary ways” to the authoritarians… unless we do not differ from them as much as we may think… do we?

 

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MORE BIOLOGY; “SYNTHETIC THEORY, CRISIS AND REVOLUTION” (By Maximo Sandin)

 

 

 

Translation : Irene Fernández Monsalve

From the very start, Darwinist theory suffered from significant weaknesses acknowledged by its author. Both the observation of natural species and the evidence derived from the fossil record were in direct conflict with two of its core concepts, natural selection and gradual change, giving rise to problems that deeply troubled Darwin and some of his followers.

But these problems, clearly observable, were “solved” in a theoretical way by mathematical population genetics modelling. Consequently, Darwinism consolidated in the middle of this century, in the shape of modern synthetic theory, the evolutionary model widely accepted since then by the scientific community.

Meanwhile, observations from the field of embryology were adding new discrepancies that contributed to a growing divergence between the observed evidence and the theoretical model.

This discrepancy has reached its peak as a result of recent discoveries in molecular genetics, and, especially, in the genetics of development. The implication of mobile elements, endogenous viruses, repeated sequences, homeotic genes, etc., in the transmission of genetic information, and its complex operation during embryonic development, have turned this divergence into a blatant contradiction.

The situation to which biology has been driven by the contradiction between these facts and the fundamental theoretical model corresponds to what Thomas Kuhn defines as a crisis in science.

In this context, the growing clues indicating a viral origin for the above mentioned sequences, in addition to viral self-integration ability in animal and plant genomes, could represent an evolutionary mechanism of an infective character, capable of giving answers to the problems mentioned previously.

The confirmation of this hypothesis would constitute what Kuhn referred to as a “scientific revolution”, with a subsequent change of paradigm, since it would not only affect the evolutionary mechanism, but also its interpretation and meaning.

Population genetics: from mathematics to nature

“But I now admit that in previous editions of my “Origin of Species” I probably attributed too much importance to natural selection or the survival of the fittest. I had not sufficiently considered before the existence of many structures that are neither beneficial nor pernicious, and I believe this to be one of the greatest omissions up to now detected in my work.” C. Darwin, “The Descent of Man”*

Darwin himself initiated the most authoritative criticism of the scientific content of his work. To the progressive loss of weight of natural selection as an evolution-driving mechanism, he added another weak point: gradual change. Amongst doubts and reassertions, he wrote: “Why is it that if species have descended from other species through minute gradations, we do not see innumerable transition forms everywhere? Why is not all Nature in confusion, instead of species being as we see them, well defined?*

In the face of such overwhelming arguments it seems inconceivable that the hypothesis of gradual change in the evolutionary process could survive without serious reconsideration. It is even stranger if we bear in mind that these observations do nothing but support the evidence from the fossil record, since, according to Darwin, if transformations from certain morphologies to others took place in a gradual way, “…the number of links must have been inconceivably large”*. And this is evidently not so. In fact, and just as Darwin himself acknowledged, the most eminent palaeontologists and the greatest geologists of his time advocated species immutability.

In other words, the theory whose objective was to explain the variability existing in nature was finding trouble, form the start, in adjusting to it precisely when it was observed in detail. If, instead of holding on to concepts that satisfied their cultural prejudices, Darwin’s advocates had shared with him his doubts and intellectual honesty, the path followed by evolutionary theory would possibly have been a different one.

But the path was precisely an ever-stronger assertion of the core concepts of natural selection and gradual change, and a progressive distancing from the observation of nature, in other words, the growth and consolidation of population genetics.

The rediscovery of Mendel’s laws, and Fisher, Haldane and Wright’s mathematical models, turned evolution into a process of “gradual change in allele substitution”. In Mayr’s recent words (97): “Mathematicians convincingly demonstrated that even mutations conferring relatively small advantages were favoured by selection, and their findings helped overcome various objections to natural selection.” *

The objections Mayr refers to are, amongst others, those coming from a field to which Darwin had paid special attention, considering it a fundamental source of information about evolution: embryology.

Despite the fact that Haeckel’s “fundamental ontogenetic law” had been discredited by the confirmation that he had forced the similarities between fish, bird and mammal embryos in order to highlight the importance of embryology’s contribution to the study of the evolutionary process, Harrison (37), Weiss (39) and Child’s (41) experimental studies had managed to forge the fundamental concept of the “morphogenetic field”. These “fields” are embryological information areas whose components create a network of interactions that allow each cell to acquire an embryonic potential determined by its position inside each field.

These complex interactions observed in embryos were not easily reconcilable with the (theoretical) mathematical postulates of population genetics. As a result, the geneticist Morgan prevented the publication of Child’s findings, since his works seemed to Morgan to be “outdated” and not “good science” (Mittman and Fausto-Sterling, 89).

In this way, a fundamental field of study for the understanding of evolutionary mechanisms, has until very recently been officially relegated by evolution scholars.

It might seem surprising that the trust placed in mathematical modelling to explain a non-visible phenomenon (evolution) proved strong enough to encourage scientists to ignore contradictory processes, whose existence could be clearly observed in the laboratory. However, the fact is that the social component once more proved to have more weight than scientific arguments. According to Beatty (94), the US Commission for Atomic Energy became one of the most important factors behind population genetics’ hegemony in the study of evolution. Their interest in the genetic effects of radiation made it possible for Dobzhanky, amongst others, to have access to a constant source of finance and collaborators, while the majority of evolution scholars from other fields found serious trouble getting financial support.

There is also a second factor, less well-known but more altruistic, that must be mentioned. According to Paul (88), Dobzhansky and other scientists saw in the population genetics model of adaptation an undermining of the racial and social prejudices that accompanied the concept of “fitness”.

With these precedents what is today known as “modern synthetic theory” emerged. Based on a strictly Mendelian conception of character transmission, its basic premises were:

1. Evolution is a gradual process of allele substitution taking place within a population. The source of variability for these alleles would be point mutations or micromutations.

2. Evolution is a gradual process of allele substitution taking place within a population.

The trust placed in the explanatory capacity of mathematical modelling led Dobzhansky (51) to write: “Since evolution is a change in the genetic composition of populations, the mechanisms of evolution constitute problems of population genetics”

The bases for the view of evolution widely accepted today were thus established: evolutionary change is a gradual process of gene frequency variation within a population, channelled by natural selection. Larger-scale events, ranging from the origin of new species to long-term patterns of evolutionary change, represent exactly the same process over longer periods of time. In Mayr’s (66) words, the evolutionary process “is no more than the extrapolation and extension of events that take place within populations and species” *.

However, this concept soon proved unsound in the very light of population genetics: extrapolating changes in gene frequencies within a species to larger-scale events, that is, to evolution, thus considering speciation as the starting point, soon proved to be seriously problematic.

According to population geneticists’ criteria, the transition from one species to another would imply a substitution of at least a dozen genes. And given the decline in population size necessary for the substitution of one allele for another to take place through the process of natural selection, the consequence would be the extinction of the species. This is what is known as “Haldane’s dilemma”, named after one of the pioneers in the elaboration of mathematical population genetics models.

However, the answer to this mathematical dilemma might be found (strange as it may sound to some people) in the observation of nature: natural selection favours geographical variation of species as an adaptation to specific conditions in the different areas they occupy, but such a diversification is always produced within species. In Goldschmidt’s (40) words: “Subspecies are not incipient species, they are culs-de-sac. Subspecies’ characters are like gradients, whereas the species limit is characterized by a jump, a discontinuity with no intermediate steps in many of its characters” *.

In any case, the fundamental problem does not seem to be that of explaining speciation as a result of natural selection acting upon gene frequency changes. The real “dilemma” is how to extrapolate speciation, in the sense of reproductive isolation, to the great changes in morphological, physiological and genetic organization that have taken place throughout evolution.

In 1977, the French biologist P. Grassé wrote about the confirmation of the natural selection process in nature: “…It is simply the observation of demographic factors, of genotypes, local fluctuations and geographical distributions. Frequently, observed species have remained practically unchanged over hundreds of centuries!” *.

The acknowledgement of this phenomenon has finally been embodied by the “theory of punctuated equilibrium”, formulated by the palaeontogists Eldredge and Gould in 1972. Its hypotheses are :
1. Stasis: most species show no directional change whatsoever during their time on earth. They appear in the fossil record with a very similar aspect to that of their disappearance. Morphological change is generally limited and non-directional.
2. Sudden appearance: in any local area, a species does not arise gradually through constant transformation of its ancestors, but emerges at once and fully formed.

These are the observed facts. Now, let us see their interpretation: the emergence of a new species would take place quickly in “geological terms” (Gould, 94), and its origin would be the result of natural selection acting over small isolated groups in the periphery of the geographical area occupied by the ancestral species. If the new species had acquired certain advantages over the original, it would be able to take over the central area quickly, suddenly appearing, as a result, in the fossil record.

It is important to note that no trace of evidence for this process has yet been found in the fossil record. What is more, we are back at the problem of associating speciation with evolution. Steven M. Stanley puts such a concept in its place in his book “The New Evolutionary Timetable” (1981): “Let us hypothetically suppose that we want to form a bat or a whale, separated from their common ancestor over 10 million years, through a gradual change process [65 million years ago mammals were small undifferentiated animals, and indeed, 50 million years ago Icaromycteris, a bat of current morphology, and Basilosaurus, which a despite its name was an 18 meter whale, already existed]. If one average chronospecies lasts one million years, or even more, and we just have 10 million years available, then we only have ten of fifteen chronospecies … to form a continuous succession connecting our minute primitive mammal with a bat and a whale. This is evidently absurd. Chronospecies, by definition, gradually go from one to the other, each of them showing very little change. A chain of ten or fifteen of them could take us from a little type of rodent to a slightly different one, maybe representing a new genus, but never from a bat to a whale!” *. In short, if species originate in “geological instants” and undergo practically no changes over long periods of time, it seems clear that the great evolutionary changes (macroevolution) cannot be the result of a simple extrapolation of allele substitutions inside a population. And if gradual change cannot be observed in the fossil record, and if living species show no trace of evidence for it, it seems reasonable to consider the possible existence of another mechanism of change.

This is exactly the same conclusion reached by R. Goldschmidt in 1940: There should be “macromutations”, that is instant mutations with great effect over an individual’s variability. It is probably not necessary to recall the cruel reaction of his “orthodox” colleagues, advocates of synthetic theory. The result of these macromutations, named “monsters without hope” by these colleagues, would not find a partner for reproduction, so that there would be no place for them in the evolutionary process.

However, significant discoveries have been made recently regarding the characteristics of gene expression regulation, showing that a great variety of factors act over the expression of complex groups of genes, and are able to give rise to great phenotypical effects. These discoveries have demonstrated not just that “macromutations” are possible, but also that in the scientific world it is more honest and creative to try to understand an observed phenomenon, even when not all of its mechanisms can be clearly defined, than to distort obvious facts in order to adapt them to the prejudices of the dominant majority.

The fact is that the fundamental problems still unanswered by modern synthetic theory are exactly the same that Darwin posed from the beginning: the stability of living species, and sudden changes in the fossil record.

Scientific model and social model

Karl Popper accused Sigmund Freud’s followers of “wanting to explain everything” on the basis of their theoretical principles. The two fundamental fallacies he attributed to them were, on the one hand, that they only looked for confirmatory examples, ignoring those that did not fit into Freudian theory, and, on the other hand, that they made the theory so flexible that anything could count as a confirmation.

These characteristics, however, do not seem to be exclusive to Freudianism (a less dogmatic theory, on the other hand, for its creator than for some of his followers), and become blatantly obvious each time an attempt is made to construct not even a criticism, but a mere synthesis of the current situation of the “official” theory of evolution. In addition, such a theory shares its arguments and dialectical resources with other doctrines when they become institutionalized. Indeed, synthetic theory seem to have moved from the category of theory to that of doctrine, based on two unquestionable principles that purport to explain all the variability present in living organisms: mutations, of a greater or lesser magnitude but always random, as generators of variability; and natural selection as the channelling agent of that variability. Under this simplified Darwinian cover it is possible to find a wide spectrum of interpretations. “Reactionary” defenders of what Darwin himself referred to as the “narrow interpretation” of natural selection, the “nature of bloody fangs and claws” (that Richard Dawkins (75), for instance, shares with Huxley) can be found at one end, considering DNA the basic unit and aim of evolution. At the other, we find more “liberal” and critical attitudes towards the official doctrine, giving species the category of raw material upon which selection acts, and advocating the abandonment of “strict adaptationism” as evolutionary mechanism (S.J. Gould is a deservedly prestigious representative of this interpretation).

Between these two viewpoints, which we could consider as examples of extreme positions, orthodoxy admits all sorts of gradations and combinations for each specific case, so that there is always a way of adapting the data to the theory. In case this proves to be insufficient, It is also possible to accept “permissible” exceptions, apparently due to their rare occurrence. In this way, many non-adaptive (even “anti-adaptive”) characteristics are justified on the basis of allometry; others, without possible justification, are either explained through pleiotropy or exaptation, the latest invention; the most surprising cases, through genetic drift, and, finally, a greater or lesser dose of neutralism, according to the case, covers the remaining instances.

But the problem with a rule arises when we add up all the exceptions and find a considerably larger number of them than of confirming cases. If we add the “ignored” exceptions (that keep growing day by day) to the officially admitted ones, we will find we are no longer talking about a problem with the theory, but about a serious illness.

Indeed, the biological mechanisms and processes that do not fit easily into synthetic theory keep piling up. As examples, we can cite regulating sequences, mobile elements, repeated sequences, homeotic genes, as well as remarkable regulation mechanisms at the different levels of organisation: at the cellular level, we find an extremely complex system of control made up of proteins that “revise” (check) and “repair” duplication errors, control correct cellular functioning and are capable of self-regulation; at the embryonic development level, morphogenetic fields control, with unbelievable precision, the spatial and temporal process of tissue and organ formation, and are capable of correcting accidents and reconducting the process; and, at the organic level, neuro-endocrine regulation systems connect tissues and organs under the protection of a complex immune system with an amazing capacity of response to foreign agents.

The great precision with which each of these systems operates, and the close interconnection between them all ?in other words, their complex-system nature with elements that cannot act as independent parts? leaves a narrow margin for random errors to act as an evolutionary mechanism. But if we also bear in mind their self-regulation capacity at the cellular and embryonic levels, what room is left for natural selection to act as change-inducer in organisms provoking true evolution?

This question is an old one. Long before these complex control, regulation and repair systems in organisms were known, the problem of the gradual and random appearance of complex organs was already being posed (this question especially worried Huxley). The answers given from within orthodoxy go from the “intelligent doubts” that, for example, Gould (86) shares with Goldschmidt (“…it is too difficult to invent a reasonable sequence of intermediate designs (in other words, of viable and functional organisms) between ancestors and descendants in cardinal structural transitions.” *) to the simplistic answers of R. Dawkins (1986), according to whom the gradual evolution of complex organs “is in no way a problem” since “it is clear that 5% of an eye is better than nothing, and 10% better than 5%”*. Such a “piecemeal” organ emergence would be the direct result of natural selection acting over DNA. In this way, from the “Selfish Gene” perspective, whose objective, according to Dawkins, is to “attain supremacy over other genes”, the action of natural selection over gene sequences can be proven through increasingly complex formulae derived from population genetics (Charlesworth et al., 94), to which the appropriate “selection coefficient” must be added in order to obtain coherent results.

However, from the embryonic development point of view, the direct step from gene to organism, forgetting all about the complex ontogenetic processes through which the genetic program information is executed, “is an unsustainably reductionist approach” (Devillers et al., 90) *, since genome expression during development is a “a system organized in hierarchical interconnected levels whose parts cannot be treated as independent elements”*.

The conclusion to which experts in the genetics of development are driven by new information is that “the role of natural selection in evolution is of little importance. It is simply a filter for inadequate morphologies generated by development.”* (Gilbert et al., 96).

These contradictions keep accumulating from different fields, showing the extremely weak condition the core concept of synthetic theory finds itself in. As early as 1984, Prevosti, in an essay about population genetics, concluded: “…if natural selection is not admitted, it is necessary to look for an alternative mechanism to explain the origin of the information contained in each species’ genetic program, where its functional properties are based. Up to now, such an alternative has not been found.” *

The situation seems to match perfectly what T. Kuhn (1962) defines as a crisis in Science. As a result of the activity of what he refers to as “normal science”, facts that contradict habitual interpretation arise, giving birth to an anomaly. This, in turn, gives rise to a crisis whose only possible solution is a change in the way the problem is viewed and analysed: that is, a change of paradigm.

Indeed the projection of cultural and social values, of a particular way of seeing the world, onto biological phenomena seems to be the fundamental problem underlying these contradictions.

If, as seems to be firmly established, the social and economic concepts of Malthus and Spencer, together with the prevailing world view of the time, were determinant in the birth of Darwinist theory, today the phenomenon has established itself more firmly with the simultaneous strengthening of the economic model based on free competition and chance as driving force, to the extent that it not only affects the theoretical frame of research in biology, but also the objectives and applications of the results.

However, despite the evident, and sometimes “astounding” discoveries derived from these principles, which might induce some people to think that it is now possible to control the mechanisms of life, if the theoretical framework supporting research is a deformation of reality, the results and their interpretation intrinsically carry their own deformation, even though they might appear congruent amongst themselves. In the words of the Sephardic philosopher Benito Spinoza, (“Ética demostrada según el orden geométrico”, 1675), “false ideas, that is, those inadequate and confused, succeed one another with the same necessity as true ones, that is, those clear and distinct.” *.

Paradigm and crisis

Kuhn (62) maintains that the criteria defining a scientific revolution are:

1.-A theory is able to solve the anomaly or anomalies responsible for crisis in the old paradigm, which is then displaced by the new one
2.-This new paradigm preserves, to a great extent, the old one’s specific problem-solving capacity.

If both criteria are met, progress will take place as a result of “quantum leaps” in science, that is, the differences will be qualitative, and not quantitative. A true scientific revolution is then followed by a period of “normal science”, governed by the new paradigm.

It is striking how Kuhn described the functioning of science as one of “punctuated equilibrium” a decade before Eldredge and Gould proposed it as an evolutionary model. However, unlike them, Kuhn understood such a behaviour in a true saltationist sense.

Indeed, the term revolution implies (in the strictest sense) a discrete episode, not a cumulative process. The analysis of theories and explanations throughout history shows that the approach towards different aspects of the same problem, or towards the same problem in different lights, can suddenly offer new solutions. And out of these solved problems new concepts, laws, theories and tools arise, leading us towards a new paradigm through which to view and explain the world. For “even observations change their nature under different paradigms”* (Kuhn, 62), since paradigms include the ontology of what constitutes their essence, their reality.

These observations come into head-on conflict with the view, by now traditional, of science as a steady, cumulative process, as a continuum between the first natural observation and current times, in which explanations, theories and laws have developed through the gathering and linking up of facts and discoveries. A gradual process that can, eventually, be speeded up through technological innovations or new discoveries, and whose progress will lead us, sooner or later, to the ultimate truth.

Nevertheless, the saltationist characteristic of the process of scientific knowledge forces a radical change in perspective. For, as we can see, we are not dealing with a subtle change of approach inside a paradigm, neither is it a question of false saltationism produced by an acceleration of the process of gradual change. Thanks to its own characteristics, and especially because of its consequences, it implies a real change.

The essential differences between these two perspectives display an interesting parallelism with the previously discussed macroevolutionary and extrapolative microevolutionary views of evolution: they confront a global view of the history of scientific knowledge with another that intends to universalise a process limited both in time and space, that is, the progress of empirical science, which we can consider as having “western” roots. And for that reason, from the gradualist, cumulative view, scientific revolutions in a deep, Kuhnian sense, do not exist in biology (Wilkins, 96).

Nevertheless, it is possible that the crisis, (real, in the light of the facts and arguments explained above) will bring about an inevitable change in paradigm. Moreover, we are probably facing the beginning of a revolution.

Crisis and revolution

In 1982, the Welsh astronomer Alfred Hoyle published a book entitled “Evolution from Space”, in which he theorized about the possibility that the strange viral capacities of self-integration in living organisms’ genomes, and of permanence in those genomes as “proviruses”, could be a mechanism for complex gene sequence acquisition, available for their eventual use as a response to or as a consequence of environmental changes or stimuli. Such a mechanism would justify the saltationist phenomena systematically observed in the fossil record, as well as explaining the deep differences in genetic and morphological organization present amongst great taxa.

For this phenomenon to be possible, an indispensable condition must be met: the sequences of viral origin must have a content with biological meaning, that is, they must be sorts of “subroutines” of vital processes.

Naturally, this proposition was ignored by official science, and was even ridiculed by some scientists, especially regarding the “outer space” origin Hoyle attributed to viruses. This was a logical reaction, on the other hand, since both the hypothetical role of viruses and their possible origin place such a proposal completely out of the paradigm, according to which all living organisms on Earth come from the random union of their chemical components and their subsequent evolution, in which natural selection, acting over molecules, has been the driving force from the very origin (Rebec, 94).

What is true, however, is that viruses are strange “organisms” which are not easily situated in the living world. They cannot be classified as “living organisms”, since they are “no more” than a DNA or RNA molecule wrapped up in a protein coat, sometimes of amazingly geometrical shape, that does not grow or feed. They can even crystallize without losing their abilities. They can only exist because they penetrate the cells of living organisms, where they introduce their genetic material, with its relevant information, and use the host’s proteins to make copies of themselves, which can then re-invade other cells, and, on occasions destroy them, thus damaging the receiving organism. This is their pathogenic aspect, which because it is the most easily observable, and because of its consequences, is usually considered as their fundamental nature. Nevertheless, and for unknown reasons, “on certain occasions” their genetic material (in a wide sense) inserts itself at a specific point it recognizes in the host’s genome, and stays there in the form of a “provirus” that can remain silent or code for its own proteins. An interesting aspect of this process is that retroviruses (a kind of RNA virus), once inside the cell, and in order to insert themselves in the host’s genome, transcribe their molecule into DNA through their own “reverse transcriptase”. This enzyme has the special feature of being unable to repair copying errors (unlike cellular replication), so that the inserted DNA molecules contain frequent “mutations” of the original. Another characteristic of this phenomenon, of great interest, is that “proviruses” can be “activated” by external factors, inducing them to escape from their insertion site (on occasions carrying with them cellular DNA fragments) and, after reconstructing their capsid, recover their infectious nature. A series of factors responsible for this activation have been identified: excess or defect of certain nutrients, ultraviolet radiation, and chemical substances foreign to the cell.

It must be admitted that all these characteristics in an organism that is not exactly “living”, sound, at the very least, strange. It is hard to imagine why they are so, and how they have originated. However, in the explanations normally found in textbooks such problems have clear solutions: these viruses are DNA or RNA fragments that “in some random way” (has it happened thousands of times?) have managed to escape from the cell (of different tissues and different taxa?); and, it appears that also “in some way” they have acquired all their complicated abilities, amongst which we find that of inserting themselves at a specific point in the DNA of a certain cell belonging to each species they “infect”.

Yet there is, in addition, another alternative that might convince those who find the previous explanation unlikely: from the “selfish DNA” perspective, viruses could constitute the final result of evolution.

It is surprising how from a scientific doctrine that prices itself on being rational and logical, fundamental problems of this kind are solved with such fragile and superficial “explanations”. The fact is that the line of thought which underlies this attitude is that “there is no need to understand it, as long as it works”, which in addition to not being very scientific, has led to widespread incongruity owing to a confusion between describing a process and understanding it.

As a result, for the moment we will ignore these so called “explanations” and maintain a reasonable doubt. It is necessary to acknowledge our ignorance, and the lack of a coherent scientific explanation of what these organisms on the borderline of the living and non-living world are, and how they have arisen. What does seem possible is to try to understand their significance on the basis of the consequences of their actions, in the light of Hoyle’s hypothesis. In other words, given that their sequences have the ability of self-integration in genomes in an “infective” way (that is, in a considerably large number of individuals), then if proof was found to show that the sequence content expression had “biological meaning” (which would be equivalent to saying that their manifestation was part of normal vital processes), it would be sufficient evidence to induce a serious consideration of their character as transporters of complex genetic information, and therefore of fundamental importance in the evolution of life.

But this is not all. The possible confirmation of such a hypothesis would not mean a mere change of focus in orthodox theory affecting the mechanism responsible for the introduction of variability exclusively. We are not dealing with a simple substitution of the “copy error” mechanism for a viral integration process. The simultaneous integration of sequences with complex biological content (that is, the integration of one complex system into another) in numerous individuals would radically change not just the process and the identity of the new character-creating agent, but also the meaning of the process. The new species would appear suddenly, through a substantial change (exactly as the fossil record reveals) shared by a considerably large number of “infected” individuals, making interfecundity possible. Natural selection would no longer be the “driving force” of evolution. It would simply be the elimination mechanism of faulty designs during extremely long evolutionary stasis periods, during which fit organisms (not “the fittest”) would easily reproduce, with variations in non-essential characters (whose origin, on the other hand, could be retroviral “copy errors”).

In short, we are dealing with a revolution in a strict Khunian sense. First of all, because confirmation of this hypothesis would solve two of the fundamental problems unanswered by the current paradigm:
1.-Saltationist phenomena systematically observed in the fossil record, which would be explained by complex gene sequence integration.
2.-The simultaneous change in a number of organisms high enough to allow for their interfecundity. But in addition, and as a result, the confirmation of such a mechanism would bring about a cascade of changes in numerous interpretations (including the “exceptions”) of described and manipulated biological processes, whose behaviour does not fit easily into conventional theory.

On the other hand, and in a meaningful way, the revolution’s lateral characteristics closely match those described by Kuhn (62). As well as being a hypothesis totally foreign to the existing paradigm, and hard to demonstrate (at least initially), “almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change”. Indeed, Hoyle’s profession and usual field of study is astrophysics, and regarding youth, it does not have to be a strictly chronological concept. If idealism, generosity and rebellion against conventions, are characteristic of youth (at least there was once a time when it was so), then Sir Alfred Hoyle, is, without a doubt, very young.

Finally, the philosophical consequences of revolution would be a “change of paradigm”, that is, a new way of looking at the nature of events. But it seems reasonable to postpone this aspect until the feasibility of the hypothesis is verified. For the moment, we will stick to confirming the existence of data capable of solving the above mentioned problems. We will have to proceed, as a result, in reverse order to that we are accustomed to: instead of taking an “unquestionable” model as the starting point and trying to force existing facts into that pattern, we will examine and interrelate the data, trying to identify the factors common to them, and finally, attempting to deduce what kind of model they suggest.

The quantum nature of life

Space limitations intrinsic to an essay of this kind force a necessary selection of the most significant data, which might give the impression of a premeditated bias. Nevertheless, customary interpretations of certain events within their own field of study, isolated from the general context and disconnected from their evolutionary meaning, might make them appear exceptional or rare. Therefore, we will try to compensate for such limitations with arguments, rare in the field of biology, but capable of providing a conceptual framework in which to interpret and interrelate certain phenomena that challenge our linear logic. To prevent this resource from appearing unscientific, it is necessary to remember that in his book “Life Itself” (81), Francis Crick posed a problem of a similar kind: “The fundamental facts of evolution are at first glance so strange that they could only be explained through an unconventional hypothesis”*. We are obviously not dealing with a deduction in the logical, linear sense, but with what we could refer to as an “impression”, or an intuition born of some mental product of his remarkable knowledge. But it is certainly not a sentence void of meaning since, indeed, precisely the fundamental facts in evolution are the ones that are the hardest to “fit” in the conceptual frame of conventional theory (assuming we do not limit ourselves to solving these problems with a “dogma of faith” kind of explanation). As fundamental facts we could consider the origin of life on Earth, the origin of the first cell and of the first multicellular organism, the emergence of all the great taxa, known as the “Cambrian explosion”, and the sudden changes in animal and plant organization observed in the fossil record. All of them are becoming harder and harder to explain under the “natural selection acting over random mutations” hypothesis, as knowledge about the complexity and stability of biological processes deepens.

Therefore, we will allow ourselves a brief reference to certain concepts that might provide a theoretical model in which to fit these “fundamental facts”. We will deal with the characteristics or properties of matter in the light of the astounding discoveries of quantum mechanics (not a very adequate name, since the discovered phenomena could be described as anything but mechanic).

As an outline, we can consider three of this discipline’s basic fundamental aspects. The first is that subatomic particles, the ultimate components of matter, do not have “individual entity” (they are not particles in a material sense), they only exist as a function of their relationships with others. In other words, their appearance in the shape of an atom would have had to be simultaneous.

The second is that the energy/matter produced by these “particle systems” are organised in discontinuous “quanta” that go (jump) from the atomic organisation level to the universe. These systems have the particular feature of being themselves formed by lower-level systems (totalities) interacting between themselves, so that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

The third is that electrons possess a dual nature: they are both particles and waves, conditions that are opposite and complementary at the same time. As a result, their state at a given instant can only be expressed as a probability.

These properties, so different to the materialist conception of Newtonian mechanics (this one really is so), are assumed by the scientific community, despite their difficult “visualisation” through our way of thinking and understanding the world.

But given their acceptance as properties of matter, and given that living organisms (including ourselves) are evidently material, it is pertinent to ask whether these properties are a constituent part of the essence of all living organisms, and therefore of their (our) qualities. In such a case, these properties would also condition the mechanisms of the evolutionary process.

Indeed, even though an inevitable reductionism leads to the study of living organisms (or partial aspects of them) as if they were independent entities, it becomes clear that the “independent organism” concept has little real reflection in nature. Living organisms are capable of self-organisation (that is, they can only exist) through intense exchanges with their environment, itself organized as a complexly interrelated, dynamic ecosystem.

Descending to lower levels, organisms themselves are open systems made up of units that construct organs functioning in a co-ordinated fashion with other organs. Each of them is in turn formed by cells ?extremely complex systems including energy transformation mechanisms, information and regulation networks, internal and external structure generation, etc. All these levels have in common the property of the whole as more than the sum of its parts, each of which can only exist if subject to the existence of the others. In this context, genes should least of all be considered as individual entities, since their activity (their identity) depends on the co-ordinated interaction of a considerably large number of regulation proteins, histones, RNA, and even other genes or groups of genes acting in a synchronic fashion.

Consequently, do these properties of matter have any implication whatsoever in the characteristics of the evolutionary process? There are sufficient clues to make us seriously think they do. And a truly spectacular case is a crucial phenomenon for the understanding of evolutionary and biological processes in general: the origin of the eukaryotic cell, and consequently, of the first component systems of living organisms.

The formation of the first eukaryotic cell, that complex network of processes so exquisitely interwoven, finds no easy explanation from the orthodox perspective in terms of a gradual (to a lesser or greater extent) result of random chemical reactions (Gesteland et al., 93). However, this process has been explained by L. Margulis and D. Sagan (85) in such a convincing way that it has joined the small group of evolutionary processes that may be considered as scientifically proven, both from the morphological and functional points of view. The inclusion of a Prochloron-type bacterium, and of aerobic bacteria resembling Paracoccus or Rhodopseudomonas, inside others is admitted as the origin of chlorplasts and mitochondria. The origin of cellular microtubules may be explained in the same way, being identified by the authors with spirochetes.

The interpretation of this phenomenon is explained by the own authors in terms of random and occasional endosymbiotic processes (in other words, a bacterium assimilated others, but did not digest them, acquiring a selective advantage over others). Nevertheless, putting aside the fact that a eukaryotic cell would be hard pushed to exceed bacterial reproductive capacity, a different interpretation is also possible: if the process we could consider as fundamental in the appearance of eukaryotes was produced as a result of the union of various “complex systems”, would it not be possible for this to be the main evolutionary mechanism?. We have already discussed the extreme cellular-process interdependence, and in this sense, bacteria are systems, totalities, what Koestler named holons. This integrity, strange as it may seem, makes it necessary for the emergence of cellular processes to have been simultaneous (totalities, just like the “quanta” of physics, cannot appear gradually). This would explain the sterility of trying to find the origin of life in self-replicating molecules (Rebeck, 94), since it seems clear that the cell is the only natural medium where the complex phenomena making up life can take place.

In fact, bacteria were not only the first living organisms identified on Earth, (according to Carl Sagan, the “speed” of life formation on Earth indicates the process was a probable one) but they were also the creators of the conditions needed for the emergence of life as we know it (see Margulis and Sagan, 95).

Irrespectively of their “taxonomic divisions”, these peculiar “systems” show certain activities very different to the pathogenic nature that is usually attributed to them (amongst them post-adaptive mutations (Cairns, 91)), activities that are always basic for the development of life, in soils, plants, and inside animals (Benoit, 97). And with all probability, there are still many more bacteria, with many more functions, to be discovered.

However, the apparently most surprising, ?but certainly the most coherent? conclusion Margulis and Sagan are driven to by the development of endosymbiotic theory is that living organisms are, after all, more or less modified bacterial aggregates.

It is curious how one might be contributing in a crucial way to a paradigm crisis, without even knowing it. For this model is not a mere contribution to current theory, but the proof for a process that overturns the accepted path of random mutations from the time of the first (unique?) cell. And, above all, it radically changes the meaning of the evolutionary mechanism.

However, the authors themselves do not see this difference in meaning, attributing responsibility for the appearance of multicellular organisms to random mutations in the original bacteria.

But let us consider the essential conditions necessary for the formation of a true muticellular organism. Jellyfish, for instance, ranking amongst the simplest animals existing today, have eleven types of different cells (mammals have around 200). For tissue formation in jellyfish to take place during embryonic development, the action of an “embryonic program”, no matter how simple, is indispensable to co-ordinate the position and proliferation of the already complex constituent cells. Bearing this in mind, what genetic material and which sequences allowed the transition from simple, typical eukaryotic cells to specialized cells capable of generating different structures and tissues? And, above all, irrespectively of the time available, how could the co-ordinated embryonic-development regulation appear? Could it have been through random accumulation of “copy errors” in the eukaryotic cell? Considering the extreme stability of cellular process, this seems very unlikely. But if we return to the “strange” pathogenic organisms that, together with bacteria, have turned into one of humanity’s worst enemies, we might find an answer in their non-pathogenic aspect (the “dual-condition” which, funnily enough, they share with bacteria). Viral abilities of self-insertion in animal and plant genomes and of translation of their own genetic information inside the host might sound like familiar phenomena in the context of our discussion: they represent a way for two genetic units (two systems) to combine and integrate themselves in a higher unit.

And such a mechanism could account for the most surprising evolutionary phenomenon for which irrefutable proof exists: the “Cambrian explosion”. The sudden and simultaneous appearance (in a strict sense) of all the great current animal phyla in strata immediately above those containing the simple Ediacarian fauna, radically challenges conventional evolutionary theory1. Amongst the identified organisms we find sponges, echinoderms, molluscs, polychaets, onychophorans, arthropods, and even the possible ancestors of chordates, and subsequently, of vertebrates.

In an unprecedented episode, structures as complex as antennae, articulated legs, rigid covers, shells, claws, eyes, propulsion structures, mouths and digestive tracts appeared. How can such a sudden revolution be explained?

The superficial orthodox explanation is “adaptive radiation in an empty environment”, but it is evident that such a “dogma of faith” is unsustainable. Even after admitting that different niche colonisation (there are diggers, swimmers, burrowers, grazers, etc.) could be justified on the basis of time availability, and that all the time in the world had been available for such an event to take place, how could we explain the great genetic and embryonic changes responsible for the appearance of all the current types of organization?

The palaeontologist S. J. Gould (86) once more makes use of the “intelligent doubt” to analyse this phenomenon: “If evolution took place in the commonly admitted way, that is, as a result of environmental adaptations through gradual changes, what we would initially find would be a few general designs and great variability inside each of them. However, we find exactly the opposite”*

And this global contradiction with the orthodox theory can be found in the intermediate steps, as well as at the initial phase and final result of evolution: it would be logical to expect the present situation to be the inverse of what the initial one “should be”?a greater variety of organization groups and less variability within each type of design. However, we find the opposite situation again. The appearance of the great taxa (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals) is equally sudden and equally hard to justify through gradual and individual changes, since the great remodelling of their organization, both morphologicalal and genetic, implies simultaneous changes in many interdependent characters (for a more detailed discussion, see “Lamarck y los Mensajeros”, Sandín, 95). It is not only the great organization changes, but also the variations within them, both in animals and plants, that display a similar pattern to the “punctuated equilibrium” of species. As cladistic systematics shows, these sudden appearances (incidentally, they reflect a great initial variability) tend to be associated with eras of great “geological disturbances”, and very frequently with previous periodic extinctions (Rampino and Stothers, 84). The consequences of these episodes have little to do with natural selection, unless it is understood as “the survival of those who survive”. Different-sized asteroids, falling to Earth in different quantities during the last 250 million years at least, are clearly implicated in these extinctions, which despite being massive have some curious selective characteristics that greatly surprise palaeontologists (for some unknown reason, some species survive). Consequently, Hoyle’s hypothesis cannot be honestly discarded. That is, be it through their possible action as new virus transporters, or because their effects over ecosystems activated previously existing viruses, viral “dual nature” influenced by asteroid impacts would justify both new biological characteristic emergence, and at least some of the strange selective extinctions.

Naturally, to render feasible such a mechanism it is necessary to admit that viral sequences, whether individually or through combinations of them, would translate proteins with “biological content”, that is, susceptible of forming part of normal biological processes. The scientific attitude towards this hypothesis, which we have reached following strictly rational arguments, should not be one of rejection before a viral condition of difficult explanation, but of trying to confirm the existence of objective proof supporting serious consideration of this possibility.

Viral function in nature

If viruses share with bacteria the double condition of pathogenic agents (destroyers) and basic units of life (creators), maybe we should not be asking ourselves which is the predominant condition, since from the previously explained perspective, both opposed conditions would be, at the same time, complementary. The question arising from such a dual nature should be: what conditions determine which of the two characters is expressed? As a starting point in the search for an answer, we must take into consideration that if bacteria have been proven to be at the origin of life as well as at the base for the functioning of life, their “negative” character could be the result of a certain factor upsetting the natural equilibrium of their activity. It does not seem necessary at this point to revise “why” bacteria that normally act in our digestive tract acquire pathogenic nature, or under what conditions bacterial epidemics break out in human populations.

Is it possible to find in viral dual nature a similar function to that of bacteria? In other words, are viruses a mysterious “special case” amongst the different possible manifestations of life, or are they a fundamental element of it? Let us see what the facts suggest.

Variable amounts of DNA known as “endogenous viruses” have been identified in animal and plant genomes. Different types exist, and most of them are considered to have evolved from exogenous viruses that “infected” different species in the past, becoming endogenous through their insertion in germ cells. Thousands of sequences of viral origin with active participation in vital functions of different tissues are being identified in growing numbers (Coffin, 94). Some of these sequences can be considered true “genetic fossils”; they are “ancient” proviruses that have undergone many mutations, although it is still possible to relate them to current retroviruses. Having lost their terminal zones (they are defective viral particles), they are no longer capable of escaping their insertion site. However, some of them maintain this capacity, existing in the form of mobile elements or transposable elements (TE). They are DNA sequences capable of movement and self-insertion as well as insertion of self-copies at different sites in the genome. These elements have been classified in two groups: Transposons, that re-insert themselves directly through DNA copies, and Retrotransposons, that in order to allow insertion need to transcribe their RNA copies to DNA with the reverse transcriptase. The implication of these elements in genome “repetitive sequence” formation (it is estimated that they make up 42% of the human genome) is obvious. And even though under the assumptions of population genetics’ calculations they have a “non-functional” nature (Charlesworth et al., 94) (thus enabling the selfish DNA hypothesis to be sustained), the fact is that sequences of this kind, such as LINE (long inserted elements), code for proteins with reverse transcriptase activity, needed for various types of retroelement mobility (Mathias et al., 91). Amongst them we can find some taking part in mammal eye crystalline formation and functioning (Brosius & Gould, 92).

In respect to the viral origin (and current condition) of these elements, it has been recently confirmed (Kim et al., 94) that Drosophila´s Gypsy element is in fact a retrovirus with the ability to rebuild its capsid and re-infect again. This might be the reason behind the existence of shared transposons between man and arthropods, nematodes, and planarians (Auxolabéhère, 92; García et al., 95; Oosumi, 95).

A very different condition to what was originally thought has recently been attributed to another constituent part of the genome: introns, considered to be noncoding genome segments located between coding genes or exons. In 1982, Thomas R. Cech and Sidney Altman discovered that “some” intron sequences belonging to “certain” RNA had enzyme properties allowing that same RNA to cut and splice itself during the transcription process, a discovery that was worth the Nobel Prize. Well, in the fungus Saccaromyces cerevisiae, the intron I2 is actually a retroelement (Moran et al., 95) (a special case?).

It can be said, therefore, that when we forget the “selfish” and “expansionist” DNA doctrines, the proportion of sequences of viral origin in the genome grows spectacularly, especially if we limit ourselves to the analysis of what these sequences do and how they originated (Indraccolo et al., 95). On the other hand, are these activities merely a way for the genome to “take advantage” of viral-origin sequences present in it (Charlesworth et al., 94)?, or, on the contrary, are they a fundamental part integrating the genome? In order to answer, we will examine some of the data regarding their functions.

Through localization changes and duplications, mobile elements are able to provoke chromosomal rearrangements, as well as changes in gene expression and regulation, with important evolutionary consequences (McDonald & Cuticciaba, 93).

A retrotransposon responsible for an expanded expression of amylase secretion genes has been identified (Robins and Samuelson, 93). In many mammals, the enzyme secretion is restricted to the pancreas, whereas in humans the retrotransposon-mediated modification allows salivary glands to secrete the amylase as well, widening the range of foods that can be ingested, and thus conferring humans a clear evolutionary advantage.

In the same way, more retrotransposons have been identified and shown to be involved in histocompatibility gene regulation (Robins and Samuelson, 93), in the expression of the various tetra-1-alfaglobulins in human tissues (Kim et al., 89), as well as in other mammals, invertebrates (Dnig and Lipstick, 94) and plants (McClintock, 94).

The recently discovered Wolbachia bacterium is a striking case that has passed unnoticed until now, since its small size allowed it to escape the filters usually employed in bacteria isolation. This bacterium was discovered in the common pill bug (Armadillium vulgaris), and was found to contain a transposon, named f factor, that in the face of certain adverse environmental conditions has the ability of raising the proportion of female pill bug offspring to 90%. To achieve this, the transposon enters germ cell nuclei where it can either integrate itself in a male chromosome turning it into a female one, or inhibit the male chromosome from the pill bug’s genome. Does this phenomenon have any evolutionary consequences? Perhaps it can be better evaluated bearing in mind that it is not an isolated case: according to Rousett et al. (92), from 10 to 15% of all insect populations in nature are “infected”. And these peculiar “diseases” are also an important adaptative mechanism for plants (Galitski & Roth, 95) regarding response to environmental conditions: in plants, mitochondrial DNA acts “on certain occasions” over its “host’s” reproduction. A “male sterility” gene turns up to 95% of individuals of thyme, for example, into females (Gouyón and Couvet, 85). In maize and petunia, these genes come from both mitochondria and chloroplasts (let us remember their origin) and have been found in very different plants with higher or lower frequency (Gouyón and Couvet, 87). The mechanism has been recently described (Brennicke et al., 93): firstly, a messenger RNA from the organelle enters the cytoplasm, where it is transcribed to DNA by the reverse transcriptase enzyme, thus allowing its insertion in the nuclear genome. Apparently, large fragments of organelle DNA have been transferred directly to the nucleus (it is not known how), so that between 3 and 7% of the nuclear genome would be made up of such sequences.

Since 1988 (Varmus et al.), lineage relationships between reretrotransposons and retroviruses are being studied. On top of their replication and insertion mechanisms, they have in common the quality of “oncogene activation” (Dombrouski et al., 91). In this way, similar sequences to mammal LINE retrotransposons have been found inside the c-myc oncogene in breast cancer.

Regarding the evolutionary importance of such sequences, it must be remembered that in Drosophila (which is not a special genome case, but the most studied), from 3000 to 5000 mobile sequences related to “certain phenomena of quick adaptation to environmental change” * exist, making up from 10 to 15% of its DNA (Biemont and Brookfield 96).

In addition, the activity of endogenous viruses does not seem to be without evolutionary importance: placenta emergence in mammals, an achievement as complex as momentous, has been shown to have elements of retroviral origin implicated in different parts of its functioning mechanism. In placental mammals, parental genes from the male and the female contribute in a different but complementary way to embryonic development. Without the mother’s imprinting, the embryo is abnormal; without the father’s, the placenta cannot develop. This mechanism must necessarily be at the very origin and evolution of placentation: on the one hand, so that the mother accepts the development of a strange body inside and in close contact with her; on the other, to limit its development preventing invasion of maternal tissues (Hall, 90). According to Neumann et al. (95), this phenomenon has been induced by the presence of defective retroviral particles of the IAP type. But in addition to participating in its functioning, they are also implicated in its formation. It has been demonstrated (Lyden et al., 95) that antigens of retroviral origin are expressed in normal trophoblast cells in the human placenta with a very significant role: they take part in the morphological differentiation of these cells.

Furthermore, these phenomena are no exception. More than 1% of the 10,500 perfectly known gene sequences have been identified (up to now) as corresponding to endogenous retroviruses, and are expressed in 37 human tissues as constituent parts of the brain, placenta, embryo, lung, etc. (Genome Directory, Sept. 95.)

This phenomenon has an evident evolutionary significance concerning the explanation of saltationist events (as well as of another, more concrete phenomenon: cellular proliferation control), which can be further clarified by data derived from Drosophila, an organism studied in depth by the genetics of development. In its embryo, 15 retroviral sequences have been found to be implicated in the space and time control of different tissue development.

The growing evidence indicating the action of viral sequences in essential vital processes supports the view that they are not exceptional events. And a convincing argument to endorse the possible importance of their activity is that both their “infective character” and their “biological content” would consistently explain evolutionary puzzles currently unsolved. It has been proven (Tristem et al., 95) that there is a considerable difference between endogenous retroviral “populations” in reptiles and in birds and mammals. Could this fact be explained from our perspective?

Let us take a look at the answer to the question regarding their activation conditions.

Coxackieviruses form part of a “family” divided into two types, A and B. Their infection in humans produces pathology “only” in 10% of all cases. Some of them have been studied experimentally. For example, in mice, the CVB3 induces myocarditis, the CVB4 induces pancreatitis, etc. In a study (Gauntt & Tracy, 95) in which mice were inoculated with a non-virulent strain of CVB3 (named CVB3/0), it was seen that a selenium-deficient diet (cellular and extra-cellular selenoproteins act as antioxidants) produced the emergence of a unique type of extremely virulent CVB3 in different mice 10 days after inoculation. Examination of their genomes demonstrated that they had suffered six nucleotide changes in the same six positions. Studies of different nucleotide changes in the CVB3 genome have confirmed the existence of a limited number of changes associated with the virulent character.

Although the interpretation for the phenomenon given in the study was that “multiple random mutations” had taken place, and that what was observed afterwards in the different mice was the result of natural selection driving the process to different viruses with exactly the same mutations (another example of Kuhn’s observations about scientists’ tendencies to see exactly what they have been trained to see), the fact is that the most reasonable interpretation seems to be a reaction to environmental stress.

A different but equally significant kind of response to environmental stress was observed by Ter-Grigorov et al. (97) in an experiment with the objective of studying the reaction to auto-immune stimuli in female mice. Females were crossed with males over a period of one year, reinforcing, after each crossing, the immune response of the female with male B6 immunoblasts. Of the 65 mice obtained, 13 developed acute leukaemia, and 50 a chronic “AIDS-like disease”, with the “appearance” of complete intra and extra-cellular C virions with horizontal and vertical transmission capability.

The meaning of these phenomena becomes clear if we add them to the previously mentioned viral activities. Just like bacteria, viral functional aspect in organisms is upset by environmental aggressions, whether intrinsic to the ecosystem or the result of human manipulation, triggering off a “response” in the shape of a pathogenic agent.

In short, it looks like there is enough experimental evidence answering the question about the causes (and consequences) of pathogen-character activation in viruses, which can be added to the already-known factors responsible for “provirus” activation. And we would possibly have many more if we could count those which, with all probability, have been discarded following orthodoxy’s failure at explaining them.

But if to these empirical data, which are increasingly hard to reject as exceptional or negligible in number, we add the effort to find the factor common to all the great (and small) evolutionary puzzles we have been discussing, it is possible to propose a new model totally modifying not only the fundamental mechanism of conventional evolutionary theory, but its very essence, the meaning of the evolutionary processes.

A new evolutionary model

Such a model can be synthesized in the following way: the origin and evolution of life would be a process of complex system integration, successively auto-organised in higher-level systems. Bacteria would be the basic units, equipped with all the basic processes and mechanisms needed for cellular life, with components that appear to have remained almost unchanged throughout the evolutionary process. Viruses, through their chromosome-integration mechanism, would be the agents that either individually, or in combinations of themselves, would introduce new sequences responsible for embryonic control of new tissue and organ appearance and functional regulation.

Viral and bacterial response capacity to environmental stimuli would justify the inevitably rapid and far-reaching changes shown in the fossil record, forcibly needed due to the complex interrelation between tissues and the whole organism. And their “infective” character would render these changes possible in a considerably large number of organisms simultaneously. On the other hand, this infective character could be implicated in mass and selective extinctions, often coinciding with episodes of environmental disruption, events that would therefore be part of the evolutionary process.

In this context, natural selection, whose lack of creative power has been previously discussed, would be relegated to a secondary plane in the evolutionary process, being occasional and void of meaning as a mechanism for evolution. Competition would no longer be the driving force behind evolution, since new species would arise and mature as a whole. And randomness, be it biological or statistical, would be further called into question by determinism, by the teleological content implied by the existence of “components of life”, whatever their origin. That is, whether these components have arisen on Earth, as a result of an “emergent property” of matter, or whether this, or any other phenomenon, implies that they exist and propagate in the universe.

But this new model not only leads us to a new view of the nature of biological processes. The relegation of the old concepts, with their deep cultural roots, to their rightful place implies the emergence of new ideas, of new values modelling the way reality is interpreted: in short, a new paradigm.

In the light of the above mentioned facts, this process would mean not only a substantial change in the interpretation of the general evolutionary process, but also a reinterpretation of many of the biological phenomena that are a part and consequence of it. This would be an enormous task, since it would imply, in some way or another, a “re-making of biology”, requiring a new integrated approach to the different research fields. In such an integrated model, it would be possible to fit those processes which are not only inconsistent with conventional theory, but in open contradiction with it.

In this way, in a Complex System Integration Model of Evolution the facts could be explained as follows:

Anti-stress proteins, employed by cells in environmental distress to repair injury, hold a close resemblance in all organisms, indicating extreme conservation. For example, the hsp10 and hsp60 have only been found in mitochondria and chlorplasts. The hsp60 and hsp70, denominated “chaperones”, re-nature proteins de-natured by heat. But, probably more significantly, the hsp70 has been associated with oncoviruses through the PP60 src enzyme implicated in cellular growth regulation (Langer et al., 92; Welch, 92).

Proteins involved in apoptosis (programmed cell death), basic in all living tissues, and with special importance in embryonic development, can work both to favour and to inhibit it. Now the Epstein-Barr virus produces substances “resembling” the Bcl-2 apoptosis inhibitor, or can alternatively manufacture molecules making the host cell increase its own Bcl-2 synthesis (Cohen et al., 92). Papilloma viruses disactivate or degrade the P53 apoptosis regulator, and this process has also been confirmed in various kinds of “viral origin” cancers, to which we will return later on (Korsmeyer, 95).

These phenomena indicate an extreme conservation of fundamental processes, suggesting a kind of evolution not through changes of original sequences, but through the addition of new ones. This would explain, for example, why the study of hormone relationships among all biological groups indicates “lateral links, and not of descent” * (Barja de Quiroga, 93), or also why shark or human antibody molecules, for example, “have suffered relatively small changes for 450 million years” (Litman, 97). According to this author: “…what does seem surprising is that […] apparently enigmatic evolutionary jumps take place in short periods, and in an uncommon magnitude, at least in humoral immunity” *.

Finally, and as exemplary of another fundamental process in Evolution, we will consider certain facts from the genetics of development, whose orthodox interpretation comes into head-on conflict with “official theory”, and which can provide an explanation as to how viral integration has operated upon morphological differentiation in the evolutionary processes. These facts concern homeosis, and are capable of truly explaining the mysterious (and inexplicable) cases of convergent adaptation produced at random. Homeotic genes control different tissue, organ and structure development. When situated at the same positions in chromosomes, they produce the same characteristics in organisms as phylogentically far apart as toads (Xenopus laevis), flies (Drosophila), fish, birds and mammals, affecting different level structures, from organs to global differentiations such as axis, segments, etc. “Homeoboxes” for eye, wing, globulin, gastrulation, etc. have been identified (Gilbert et al., 96). The layout and structure of their DNA suggests a formation through successive gene duplication. If to this duplication mechanism, in which transposons play an obvious part, we add the clear viral origin of sequences identified in embryonic differentiation of different tissues in different taxa, the origin of homeotic genes becomes clear. And their implication for our evolutionary model even more so, since they illustrate the possible working mechanism of viral sequences with specific biological content in new organ emergence.

A new paradigm

This new perspective offers new interpretations, and therefore possible answers to serious scientific problems resulting from an economicist approach in some cases, and in others from the lack of communication and exchange between different “specialists”, which prevents the incorporation of such problems into an evolutionary context. For the commercial use of pharmaceutical products, or of genetic engineering techniques, whose “spectacular” achievements have had great social repercussions through the media, is conditioning biological research to such a point that it is becoming an entrepreneurial activity. As a result, both the working rationale and the objectives of that work are being profoundly transformed.

In the first place, the need to render the results profitable gives rise to strong competition between different working groups (sometimes putting scientists in unedifying situations and attitudes) so that the fundamental practice of exchanging information and results, once a routine activity, is disappearing.

In the second place, research is increasingly being financed by private enterprises whose economic interests are far stronger than any other, leading to a rushed commercialisation of techniques and products (as patents) whose “side-effects” are only evaluated after their market release. This is the case of research that purports to manipulate “genes of commercial interest” * (Mackay et al., 92) such as those introduced in plants and animals using transgenic plasmid and retroviral vectors.

Nevertheless, given the special characteristics of these vectors, it would be more prudent to try to understand the phenomenon and put it in its right place in nature, before continuing with manipulations whose end-results might be unforeseeably dangerous, since the problems (already observed) of artificial character propagation to other species (such as the example of “transgenic” maize herbicide resistance) can be uncontrollable.

Another problem of similar consequences and origin is that raised by xenotransplants. The serious “side-effects” of animal organ use have finally been related to the activation of animal endogenous proviruses when introduced in another species. The danger of hybridisation and propagation of “new viruses” is evident.

This last phenomenon might lie behind the emergence of AIDS virus “variants”. Apparently, HIV-1 and HIV-2 are both closer to certain monkey viruses (chimpanzee and Macaca mulata) than between themselves (Huet, 90), a fact that supports the hypothesis of an origin brought about by human activities (possibly the preparation of vaccines with whole monkey blood). In other words, we would not be facing a “new” pathogenic virus, but the alteration of an endogenous virus that in normal conditions would have a specific function: immunodepression, a necessary phenomenon in mammals during pregnancy. And this would also explain the effects in AIDS patients treated with wide spectrum antiretrovirals, or with a combination of them. Failure in different organs would be the consequence of an alteration of viral sequences involved in normal activity.

Finally, the implication of viral-origin sequences in embryonic cell proliferation control, together with “proviral” activation factors, allows us to place “oncogenes” in an evolutionary context: “oncoviruses” would not be exceptional cases. With all probability, they would be viruses containing sequences responsible for embryonic development control of specific tissues, and their malignization would be the result of an activation at an inadequate time (Seifarth et al., 95).

In short, these answers might be able to shed some light at least on certain aspects of the problems that up to now have found no easy solution. In any case, they show that the procedures derived from the current paradigm (that is, of its scientific premises, but especially of its social component) not only distort the approach to these puzzles, but in some cases might be contributing to their creation.

To conclude, and taking up Kuhn’s arguments once more, the consequences of such a new approach would not only mean a theoretical model change. The bases of the new paradigm necessarily take us to a new way of interpreting the control mechanism of vital processes, and consequently, to a new perception of and attitude towards nature. If the
social (cultural) model determines to a great extent the way we see and relate to the world, it seems clear that the substitution of a paradigm based on competition and irresponsible chance for one of maturing as a whole and of essential unity and co-operation, and very especially of prudence and respect in the face of what we do not know or control, must come together with (or be preceded by) a substantial change in our social and cultural values.

It is true that no matter how benevolent the vision of nature and society may be, the existence of competitive behaviour cannot be ignored. However, in the same way as in the evolutionary process competition, whatever its connotations, is in no case a “creative force” but exactly the opposite, the social model based on “free competition” (which is no more than “big fish eats small fish”) is a rosy path for selfish and irresponsible attitudes that can only lead us to a cul-de-sac.

Acknowledgements

I should like to express my sincere gratitude to Lucía Serrano and María Bornemann for their effective collaboration, and above all for identifying with this work. I would also like to thank Juan Fernández Santarén for his lucid critical revision of the manuscript, and Carlos Sentís for his continuous contribution of information.

Notes
1. It has been recently suggested (Nature, 28th August 1997) that the origin of the main metazoan clades might be dated to the Ediacarian period. That is, their appearance would be even more sudden and inexplicable.

* Not original quotation. Re-translated into English from the Spanish version.

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MORE BIOLOGY; “SYNTHETIC THEORY, CRISIS AND REVOLUTION” (By Maximo Sandin)

 

 

 


Originally published in: Arbor CLVIII, 623-624 (November-December), p.265-300

Translation : Irene Fernández Monsalve

From the very start, Darwinist theory suffered from significant weaknesses acknowledged by its author. Both the observation of natural species and the evidence derived from the fossil record were in direct conflict with two of its core concepts, natural selection and gradual change, giving rise to problems that deeply troubled Darwin and some of his followers.

But these problems, clearly observable, were “solved” in a theoretical way by mathematical population genetics modelling. Consequently, Darwinism consolidated in the middle of this century, in the shape of modern synthetic theory, the evolutionary model widely accepted since then by the scientific community.

Meanwhile, observations from the field of embryology were adding new discrepancies that contributed to a growing divergence between the observed evidence and the theoretical model.

This discrepancy has reached its peak as a result of recent discoveries in molecular genetics, and, especially, in the genetics of development. The implication of mobile elements, endogenous viruses, repeated sequences, homeotic genes, etc., in the transmission of genetic information, and its complex operation during embryonic development, have turned this divergence into a blatant contradiction.

The situation to which biology has been driven by the contradiction between these facts and the fundamental theoretical model corresponds to what Thomas Kuhn defines as a crisis in science.

In this context, the growing clues indicating a viral origin for the above mentioned sequences, in addition to viral self-integration ability in animal and plant genomes, could represent an evolutionary mechanism of an infective character, capable of giving answers to the problems mentioned previously.

The confirmation of this hypothesis would constitute what Kuhn referred to as a “scientific revolution”, with a subsequent change of paradigm, since it would not only affect the evolutionary mechanism, but also its interpretation and meaning.

Population genetics: from mathematics to nature

“But I now admit that in previous editions of my “Origin of Species” I probably attributed too much importance to natural selection or the survival of the fittest. I had not sufficiently considered before the existence of many structures that are neither beneficial nor pernicious, and I believe this to be one of the greatest omissions up to now detected in my work.” C. Darwin, “The Descent of Man”*

Darwin himself initiated the most authoritative criticism of the scientific content of his work. To the progressive loss of weight of natural selection as an evolution-driving mechanism, he added another weak point: gradual change. Amongst doubts and reassertions, he wrote: “Why is it that if species have descended from other species through minute gradations, we do not see innumerable transition forms everywhere? Why is not all Nature in confusion, instead of species being as we see them, well defined?*

In the face of such overwhelming arguments it seems inconceivable that the hypothesis of gradual change in the evolutionary process could survive without serious reconsideration. It is even stranger if we bear in mind that these observations do nothing but support the evidence from the fossil record, since, according to Darwin, if transformations from certain morphologies to others took place in a gradual way, “…the number of links must have been inconceivably large”*. And this is evidently not so. In fact, and just as Darwin himself acknowledged, the most eminent palaeontologists and the greatest geologists of his time advocated species immutability.

In other words, the theory whose objective was to explain the variability existing in nature was finding trouble, form the start, in adjusting to it precisely when it was observed in detail. If, instead of holding on to concepts that satisfied their cultural prejudices, Darwin’s advocates had shared with him his doubts and intellectual honesty, the path followed by evolutionary theory would possibly have been a different one.

But the path was precisely an ever-stronger assertion of the core concepts of natural selection and gradual change, and a progressive distancing from the observation of nature, in other words, the growth and consolidation of population genetics.

The rediscovery of Mendel’s laws, and Fisher, Haldane and Wright’s mathematical models, turned evolution into a process of “gradual change in allele substitution”. In Mayr’s recent words (97): “Mathematicians convincingly demonstrated that even mutations conferring relatively small advantages were favoured by selection, and their findings helped overcome various objections to natural selection.” *

The objections Mayr refers to are, amongst others, those coming from a field to which Darwin had paid special attention, considering it a fundamental source of information about evolution: embryology.

Despite the fact that Haeckel’s “fundamental ontogenetic law” had been discredited by the confirmation that he had forced the similarities between fish, bird and mammal embryos in order to highlight the importance of embryology’s contribution to the study of the evolutionary process, Harrison (37), Weiss (39) and Child’s (41) experimental studies had managed to forge the fundamental concept of the “morphogenetic field”. These “fields” are embryological information areas whose components create a network of interactions that allow each cell to acquire an embryonic potential determined by its position inside each field.

These complex interactions observed in embryos were not easily reconcilable with the (theoretical) mathematical postulates of population genetics. As a result, the geneticist Morgan prevented the publication of Child’s findings, since his works seemed to Morgan to be “outdated” and not “good science” (Mittman and Fausto-Sterling, 89).

In this way, a fundamental field of study for the understanding of evolutionary mechanisms, has until very recently been officially relegated by evolution scholars.

It might seem surprising that the trust placed in mathematical modelling to explain a non-visible phenomenon (evolution) proved strong enough to encourage scientists to ignore contradictory processes, whose existence could be clearly observed in the laboratory. However, the fact is that the social component once more proved to have more weight than scientific arguments. According to Beatty (94), the US Commission for Atomic Energy became one of the most important factors behind population genetics’ hegemony in the study of evolution. Their interest in the genetic effects of radiation made it possible for Dobzhanky, amongst others, to have access to a constant source of finance and collaborators, while the majority of evolution scholars from other fields found serious trouble getting financial support.

There is also a second factor, less well-known but more altruistic, that must be mentioned. According to Paul (88), Dobzhansky and other scientists saw in the population genetics model of adaptation an undermining of the racial and social prejudices that accompanied the concept of “fitness”.

With these precedents what is today known as “modern synthetic theory” emerged. Based on a strictly Mendelian conception of character transmission, its basic premises were:

1. Evolution is a gradual process of allele substitution taking place within a population. The source of variability for these alleles would be point mutations or micromutations.

2. Evolution is a gradual process of allele substitution taking place within a population.

The trust placed in the explanatory capacity of mathematical modelling led Dobzhansky (51) to write: “Since evolution is a change in the genetic composition of populations, the mechanisms of evolution constitute problems of population genetics”

The bases for the view of evolution widely accepted today were thus established: evolutionary change is a gradual process of gene frequency variation within a population, channelled by natural selection. Larger-scale events, ranging from the origin of new species to long-term patterns of evolutionary change, represent exactly the same process over longer periods of time. In Mayr’s (66) words, the evolutionary process “is no more than the extrapolation and extension of events that take place within populations and species” *.

However, this concept soon proved unsound in the very light of population genetics: extrapolating changes in gene frequencies within a species to larger-scale events, that is, to evolution, thus considering speciation as the starting point, soon proved to be seriously problematic.

According to population geneticists’ criteria, the transition from one species to another would imply a substitution of at least a dozen genes. And given the decline in population size necessary for the substitution of one allele for another to take place through the process of natural selection, the consequence would be the extinction of the species. This is what is known as “Haldane’s dilemma”, named after one of the pioneers in the elaboration of mathematical population genetics models.

However, the answer to this mathematical dilemma might be found (strange as it may sound to some people) in the observation of nature: natural selection favours geographical variation of species as an adaptation to specific conditions in the different areas they occupy, but such a diversification is always produced within species. In Goldschmidt’s (40) words: “Subspecies are not incipient species, they are culs-de-sac. Subspecies’ characters are like gradients, whereas the species limit is characterized by a jump, a discontinuity with no intermediate steps in many of its characters” *.

In any case, the fundamental problem does not seem to be that of explaining speciation as a result of natural selection acting upon gene frequency changes. The real “dilemma” is how to extrapolate speciation, in the sense of reproductive isolation, to the great changes in morphological, physiological and genetic organization that have taken place throughout evolution.

In 1977, the French biologist P. Grassé wrote about the confirmation of the natural selection process in nature: “…It is simply the observation of demographic factors, of genotypes, local fluctuations and geographical distributions. Frequently, observed species have remained practically unchanged over hundreds of centuries!” *.

The acknowledgement of this phenomenon has finally been embodied by the “theory of punctuated equilibrium”, formulated by the palaeontogists Eldredge and Gould in 1972. Its hypotheses are :
1. Stasis: most species show no directional change whatsoever during their time on earth. They appear in the fossil record with a very similar aspect to that of their disappearance. Morphological change is generally limited and non-directional.
2. Sudden appearance: in any local area, a species does not arise gradually through constant transformation of its ancestors, but emerges at once and fully formed.

These are the observed facts. Now, let us see their interpretation: the emergence of a new species would take place quickly in “geological terms” (Gould, 94), and its origin would be the result of natural selection acting over small isolated groups in the periphery of the geographical area occupied by the ancestral species. If the new species had acquired certain advantages over the original, it would be able to take over the central area quickly, suddenly appearing, as a result, in the fossil record.

It is important to note that no trace of evidence for this process has yet been found in the fossil record. What is more, we are back at the problem of associating speciation with evolution. Steven M. Stanley puts such a concept in its place in his book “The New Evolutionary Timetable” (1981): “Let us hypothetically suppose that we want to form a bat or a whale, separated from their common ancestor over 10 million years, through a gradual change process [65 million years ago mammals were small undifferentiated animals, and indeed, 50 million years ago Icaromycteris, a bat of current morphology, and Basilosaurus, which a despite its name was an 18 meter whale, already existed]. If one average chronospecies lasts one million years, or even more, and we just have 10 million years available, then we only have ten of fifteen chronospecies … to form a continuous succession connecting our minute primitive mammal with a bat and a whale. This is evidently absurd. Chronospecies, by definition, gradually go from one to the other, each of them showing very little change. A chain of ten or fifteen of them could take us from a little type of rodent to a slightly different one, maybe representing a new genus, but never from a bat to a whale!” *. In short, if species originate in “geological instants” and undergo practically no changes over long periods of time, it seems clear that the great evolutionary changes (macroevolution) cannot be the result of a simple extrapolation of allele substitutions inside a population. And if gradual change cannot be observed in the fossil record, and if living species show no trace of evidence for it, it seems reasonable to consider the possible existence of another mechanism of change.

This is exactly the same conclusion reached by R. Goldschmidt in 1940: There should be “macromutations”, that is instant mutations with great effect over an individual’s variability. It is probably not necessary to recall the cruel reaction of his “orthodox” colleagues, advocates of synthetic theory. The result of these macromutations, named “monsters without hope” by these colleagues, would not find a partner for reproduction, so that there would be no place for them in the evolutionary process.

However, significant discoveries have been made recently regarding the characteristics of gene expression regulation, showing that a great variety of factors act over the expression of complex groups of genes, and are able to give rise to great phenotypical effects. These discoveries have demonstrated not just that “macromutations” are possible, but also that in the scientific world it is more honest and creative to try to understand an observed phenomenon, even when not all of its mechanisms can be clearly defined, than to distort obvious facts in order to adapt them to the prejudices of the dominant majority.

The fact is that the fundamental problems still unanswered by modern synthetic theory are exactly the same that Darwin posed from the beginning: the stability of living species, and sudden changes in the fossil record.

Scientific model and social model

Karl Popper accused Sigmund Freud’s followers of “wanting to explain everything” on the basis of their theoretical principles. The two fundamental fallacies he attributed to them were, on the one hand, that they only looked for confirmatory examples, ignoring those that did not fit into Freudian theory, and, on the other hand, that they made the theory so flexible that anything could count as a confirmation.

These characteristics, however, do not seem to be exclusive to Freudianism (a less dogmatic theory, on the other hand, for its creator than for some of his followers), and become blatantly obvious each time an attempt is made to construct not even a criticism, but a mere synthesis of the current situation of the “official” theory of evolution. In addition, such a theory shares its arguments and dialectical resources with other doctrines when they become institutionalized. Indeed, synthetic theory seem to have moved from the category of theory to that of doctrine, based on two unquestionable principles that purport to explain all the variability present in living organisms: mutations, of a greater or lesser magnitude but always random, as generators of variability; and natural selection as the channelling agent of that variability. Under this simplified Darwinian cover it is possible to find a wide spectrum of interpretations. “Reactionary” defenders of what Darwin himself referred to as the “narrow interpretation” of natural selection, the “nature of bloody fangs and claws” (that Richard Dawkins (75), for instance, shares with Huxley) can be found at one end, considering DNA the basic unit and aim of evolution. At the other, we find more “liberal” and critical attitudes towards the official doctrine, giving species the category of raw material upon which selection acts, and advocating the abandonment of “strict adaptationism” as evolutionary mechanism (S.J. Gould is a deservedly prestigious representative of this interpretation).

Between these two viewpoints, which we could consider as examples of extreme positions, orthodoxy admits all sorts of gradations and combinations for each specific case, so that there is always a way of adapting the data to the theory. In case this proves to be insufficient, It is also possible to accept “permissible” exceptions, apparently due to their rare occurrence. In this way, many non-adaptive (even “anti-adaptive”) characteristics are justified on the basis of allometry; others, without possible justification, are either explained through pleiotropy or exaptation, the latest invention; the most surprising cases, through genetic drift, and, finally, a greater or lesser dose of neutralism, according to the case, covers the remaining instances.

But the problem with a rule arises when we add up all the exceptions and find a considerably larger number of them than of confirming cases. If we add the “ignored” exceptions (that keep growing day by day) to the officially admitted ones, we will find we are no longer talking about a problem with the theory, but about a serious illness.

Indeed, the biological mechanisms and processes that do not fit easily into synthetic theory keep piling up. As examples, we can cite regulating sequences, mobile elements, repeated sequences, homeotic genes, as well as remarkable regulation mechanisms at the different levels of organisation: at the cellular level, we find an extremely complex system of control made up of proteins that “revise” (check) and “repair” duplication errors, control correct cellular functioning and are capable of self-regulation; at the embryonic development level, morphogenetic fields control, with unbelievable precision, the spatial and temporal process of tissue and organ formation, and are capable of correcting accidents and reconducting the process; and, at the organic level, neuro-endocrine regulation systems connect tissues and organs under the protection of a complex immune system with an amazing capacity of response to foreign agents.

The great precision with which each of these systems operates, and the close interconnection between them all ?in other words, their complex-system nature with elements that cannot act as independent parts? leaves a narrow margin for random errors to act as an evolutionary mechanism. But if we also bear in mind their self-regulation capacity at the cellular and embryonic levels, what room is left for natural selection to act as change-inducer in organisms provoking true evolution?

This question is an old one. Long before these complex control, regulation and repair systems in organisms were known, the problem of the gradual and random appearance of complex organs was already being posed (this question especially worried Huxley). The answers given from within orthodoxy go from the “intelligent doubts” that, for example, Gould (86) shares with Goldschmidt (“…it is too difficult to invent a reasonable sequence of intermediate designs (in other words, of viable and functional organisms) between ancestors and descendants in cardinal structural transitions.” *) to the simplistic answers of R. Dawkins (1986), according to whom the gradual evolution of complex organs “is in no way a problem” since “it is clear that 5% of an eye is better than nothing, and 10% better than 5%”*. Such a “piecemeal” organ emergence would be the direct result of natural selection acting over DNA. In this way, from the “Selfish Gene” perspective, whose objective, according to Dawkins, is to “attain supremacy over other genes”, the action of natural selection over gene sequences can be proven through increasingly complex formulae derived from population genetics (Charlesworth et al., 94), to which the appropriate “selection coefficient” must be added in order to obtain coherent results.

However, from the embryonic development point of view, the direct step from gene to organism, forgetting all about the complex ontogenetic processes through which the genetic program information is executed, “is an unsustainably reductionist approach” (Devillers et al., 90) *, since genome expression during development is a “a system organized in hierarchical interconnected levels whose parts cannot be treated as independent elements”*.

The conclusion to which experts in the genetics of development are driven by new information is that “the role of natural selection in evolution is of little importance. It is simply a filter for inadequate morphologies generated by development.”* (Gilbert et al., 96).

These contradictions keep accumulating from different fields, showing the extremely weak condition the core concept of synthetic theory finds itself in. As early as 1984, Prevosti, in an essay about population genetics, concluded: “…if natural selection is not admitted, it is necessary to look for an alternative mechanism to explain the origin of the information contained in each species’ genetic program, where its functional properties are based. Up to now, such an alternative has not been found.” *

The situation seems to match perfectly what T. Kuhn (1962) defines as a crisis in Science. As a result of the activity of what he refers to as “normal science”, facts that contradict habitual interpretation arise, giving birth to an anomaly. This, in turn, gives rise to a crisis whose only possible solution is a change in the way the problem is viewed and analysed: that is, a change of paradigm.

Indeed the projection of cultural and social values, of a particular way of seeing the world, onto biological phenomena seems to be the fundamental problem underlying these contradictions.

If, as seems to be firmly established, the social and economic concepts of Malthus and Spencer, together with the prevailing world view of the time, were determinant in the birth of Darwinist theory, today the phenomenon has established itself more firmly with the simultaneous strengthening of the economic model based on free competition and chance as driving force, to the extent that it not only affects the theoretical frame of research in biology, but also the objectives and applications of the results.

However, despite the evident, and sometimes “astounding” discoveries derived from these principles, which might induce some people to think that it is now possible to control the mechanisms of life, if the theoretical framework supporting research is a deformation of reality, the results and their interpretation intrinsically carry their own deformation, even though they might appear congruent amongst themselves. In the words of the Sephardic philosopher Benito Spinoza, (“Ética demostrada según el orden geométrico”, 1675), “false ideas, that is, those inadequate and confused, succeed one another with the same necessity as true ones, that is, those clear and distinct.” *.

Paradigm and crisis

Kuhn (62) maintains that the criteria defining a scientific revolution are:

1.-A theory is able to solve the anomaly or anomalies responsible for crisis in the old paradigm, which is then displaced by the new one
2.-This new paradigm preserves, to a great extent, the old one’s specific problem-solving capacity.

If both criteria are met, progress will take place as a result of “quantum leaps” in science, that is, the differences will be qualitative, and not quantitative. A true scientific revolution is then followed by a period of “normal science”, governed by the new paradigm.

It is striking how Kuhn described the functioning of science as one of “punctuated equilibrium” a decade before Eldredge and Gould proposed it as an evolutionary model. However, unlike them, Kuhn understood such a behaviour in a true saltationist sense.

Indeed, the term revolution implies (in the strictest sense) a discrete episode, not a cumulative process. The analysis of theories and explanations throughout history shows that the approach towards different aspects of the same problem, or towards the same problem in different lights, can suddenly offer new solutions. And out of these solved problems new concepts, laws, theories and tools arise, leading us towards a new paradigm through which to view and explain the world. For “even observations change their nature under different paradigms”* (Kuhn, 62), since paradigms include the ontology of what constitutes their essence, their reality.

These observations come into head-on conflict with the view, by now traditional, of science as a steady, cumulative process, as a continuum between the first natural observation and current times, in which explanations, theories and laws have developed through the gathering and linking up of facts and discoveries. A gradual process that can, eventually, be speeded up through technological innovations or new discoveries, and whose progress will lead us, sooner or later, to the ultimate truth.

Nevertheless, the saltationist characteristic of the process of scientific knowledge forces a radical change in perspective. For, as we can see, we are not dealing with a subtle change of approach inside a paradigm, neither is it a question of false saltationism produced by an acceleration of the process of gradual change. Thanks to its own characteristics, and especially because of its consequences, it implies a real change.

The essential differences between these two perspectives display an interesting parallelism with the previously discussed macroevolutionary and extrapolative microevolutionary views of evolution: they confront a global view of the history of scientific knowledge with another that intends to universalise a process limited both in time and space, that is, the progress of empirical science, which we can consider as having “western” roots. And for that reason, from the gradualist, cumulative view, scientific revolutions in a deep, Kuhnian sense, do not exist in biology (Wilkins, 96).

Nevertheless, it is possible that the crisis, (real, in the light of the facts and arguments explained above) will bring about an inevitable change in paradigm. Moreover, we are probably facing the beginning of a revolution.

Crisis and revolution

In 1982, the Welsh astronomer Alfred Hoyle published a book entitled “Evolution from Space”, in which he theorized about the possibility that the strange viral capacities of self-integration in living organisms’ genomes, and of permanence in those genomes as “proviruses”, could be a mechanism for complex gene sequence acquisition, available for their eventual use as a response to or as a consequence of environmental changes or stimuli. Such a mechanism would justify the saltationist phenomena systematically observed in the fossil record, as well as explaining the deep differences in genetic and morphological organization present amongst great taxa.

For this phenomenon to be possible, an indispensable condition must be met: the sequences of viral origin must have a content with biological meaning, that is, they must be sorts of “subroutines” of vital processes.

Naturally, this proposition was ignored by official science, and was even ridiculed by some scientists, especially regarding the “outer space” origin Hoyle attributed to viruses. This was a logical reaction, on the other hand, since both the hypothetical role of viruses and their possible origin place such a proposal completely out of the paradigm, according to which all living organisms on Earth come from the random union of their chemical components and their subsequent evolution, in which natural selection, acting over molecules, has been the driving force from the very origin (Rebec, 94).

What is true, however, is that viruses are strange “organisms” which are not easily situated in the living world. They cannot be classified as “living organisms”, since they are “no more” than a DNA or RNA molecule wrapped up in a protein coat, sometimes of amazingly geometrical shape, that does not grow or feed. They can even crystallize without losing their abilities. They can only exist because they penetrate the cells of living organisms, where they introduce their genetic material, with its relevant information, and use the host’s proteins to make copies of themselves, which can then re-invade other cells, and, on occasions destroy them, thus damaging the receiving organism. This is their pathogenic aspect, which because it is the most easily observable, and because of its consequences, is usually considered as their fundamental nature. Nevertheless, and for unknown reasons, “on certain occasions” their genetic material (in a wide sense) inserts itself at a specific point it recognizes in the host’s genome, and stays there in the form of a “provirus” that can remain silent or code for its own proteins. An interesting aspect of this process is that retroviruses (a kind of RNA virus), once inside the cell, and in order to insert themselves in the host’s genome, transcribe their molecule into DNA through their own “reverse transcriptase”. This enzyme has the special feature of being unable to repair copying errors (unlike cellular replication), so that the inserted DNA molecules contain frequent “mutations” of the original. Another characteristic of this phenomenon, of great interest, is that “proviruses” can be “activated” by external factors, inducing them to escape from their insertion site (on occasions carrying with them cellular DNA fragments) and, after reconstructing their capsid, recover their infectious nature. A series of factors responsible for this activation have been identified: excess or defect of certain nutrients, ultraviolet radiation, and chemical substances foreign to the cell.

It must be admitted that all these characteristics in an organism that is not exactly “living”, sound, at the very least, strange. It is hard to imagine why they are so, and how they have originated. However, in the explanations normally found in textbooks such problems have clear solutions: these viruses are DNA or RNA fragments that “in some random way” (has it happened thousands of times?) have managed to escape from the cell (of different tissues and different taxa?); and, it appears that also “in some way” they have acquired all their complicated abilities, amongst which we find that of inserting themselves at a specific point in the DNA of a certain cell belonging to each species they “infect”.

Yet there is, in addition, another alternative that might convince those who find the previous explanation unlikely: from the “selfish DNA” perspective, viruses could constitute the final result of evolution.

It is surprising how from a scientific doctrine that prices itself on being rational and logical, fundamental problems of this kind are solved with such fragile and superficial “explanations”. The fact is that the line of thought which underlies this attitude is that “there is no need to understand it, as long as it works”, which in addition to not being very scientific, has led to widespread incongruity owing to a confusion between describing a process and understanding it.

As a result, for the moment we will ignore these so called “explanations” and maintain a reasonable doubt. It is necessary to acknowledge our ignorance, and the lack of a coherent scientific explanation of what these organisms on the borderline of the living and non-living world are, and how they have arisen. What does seem possible is to try to understand their significance on the basis of the consequences of their actions, in the light of Hoyle’s hypothesis. In other words, given that their sequences have the ability of self-integration in genomes in an “infective” way (that is, in a considerably large number of individuals), then if proof was found to show that the sequence content expression had “biological meaning” (which would be equivalent to saying that their manifestation was part of normal vital processes), it would be sufficient evidence to induce a serious consideration of their character as transporters of complex genetic information, and therefore of fundamental importance in the evolution of life.

But this is not all. The possible confirmation of such a hypothesis would not mean a mere change of focus in orthodox theory affecting the mechanism responsible for the introduction of variability exclusively. We are not dealing with a simple substitution of the “copy error” mechanism for a viral integration process. The simultaneous integration of sequences with complex biological content (that is, the integration of one complex system into another) in numerous individuals would radically change not just the process and the identity of the new character-creating agent, but also the meaning of the process. The new species would appear suddenly, through a substantial change (exactly as the fossil record reveals) shared by a considerably large number of “infected” individuals, making interfecundity possible. Natural selection would no longer be the “driving force” of evolution. It would simply be the elimination mechanism of faulty designs during extremely long evolutionary stasis periods, during which fit organisms (not “the fittest”) would easily reproduce, with variations in non-essential characters (whose origin, on the other hand, could be retroviral “copy errors”).

In short, we are dealing with a revolution in a strict Khunian sense. First of all, because confirmation of this hypothesis would solve two of the fundamental problems unanswered by the current paradigm:
1.-Saltationist phenomena systematically observed in the fossil record, which would be explained by complex gene sequence integration.
2.-The simultaneous change in a number of organisms high enough to allow for their interfecundity. But in addition, and as a result, the confirmation of such a mechanism would bring about a cascade of changes in numerous interpretations (including the “exceptions”) of described and manipulated biological processes, whose behaviour does not fit easily into conventional theory.

On the other hand, and in a meaningful way, the revolution’s lateral characteristics closely match those described by Kuhn (62). As well as being a hypothesis totally foreign to the existing paradigm, and hard to demonstrate (at least initially), “almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change”. Indeed, Hoyle’s profession and usual field of study is astrophysics, and regarding youth, it does not have to be a strictly chronological concept. If idealism, generosity and rebellion against conventions, are characteristic of youth (at least there was once a time when it was so), then Sir Alfred Hoyle, is, without a doubt, very young.

Finally, the philosophical consequences of revolution would be a “change of paradigm”, that is, a new way of looking at the nature of events. But it seems reasonable to postpone this aspect until the feasibility of the hypothesis is verified. For the moment, we will stick to confirming the existence of data capable of solving the above mentioned problems. We will have to proceed, as a result, in reverse order to that we are accustomed to: instead of taking an “unquestionable” model as the starting point and trying to force existing facts into that pattern, we will examine and interrelate the data, trying to identify the factors common to them, and finally, attempting to deduce what kind of model they suggest.

The quantum nature of life

Space limitations intrinsic to an essay of this kind force a necessary selection of the most significant data, which might give the impression of a premeditated bias. Nevertheless, customary interpretations of certain events within their own field of study, isolated from the general context and disconnected from their evolutionary meaning, might make them appear exceptional or rare. Therefore, we will try to compensate for such limitations with arguments, rare in the field of biology, but capable of providing a conceptual framework in which to interpret and interrelate certain phenomena that challenge our linear logic. To prevent this resource from appearing unscientific, it is necessary to remember that in his book “Life Itself” (81), Francis Crick posed a problem of a similar kind: “The fundamental facts of evolution are at first glance so strange that they could only be explained through an unconventional hypothesis”*. We are obviously not dealing with a deduction in the logical, linear sense, but with what we could refer to as an “impression”, or an intuition born of some mental product of his remarkable knowledge. But it is certainly not a sentence void of meaning since, indeed, precisely the fundamental facts in evolution are the ones that are the hardest to “fit” in the conceptual frame of conventional theory (assuming we do not limit ourselves to solving these problems with a “dogma of faith” kind of explanation). As fundamental facts we could consider the origin of life on Earth, the origin of the first cell and of the first multicellular organism, the emergence of all the great taxa, known as the “Cambrian explosion”, and the sudden changes in animal and plant organization observed in the fossil record. All of them are becoming harder and harder to explain under the “natural selection acting over random mutations” hypothesis, as knowledge about the complexity and stability of biological processes deepens.

Therefore, we will allow ourselves a brief reference to certain concepts that might provide a theoretical model in which to fit these “fundamental facts”. We will deal with the characteristics or properties of matter in the light of the astounding discoveries of quantum mechanics (not a very adequate name, since the discovered phenomena could be described as anything but mechanic).

As an outline, we can consider three of this discipline’s basic fundamental aspects. The first is that subatomic particles, the ultimate components of matter, do not have “individual entity” (they are not particles in a material sense), they only exist as a function of their relationships with others. In other words, their appearance in the shape of an atom would have had to be simultaneous.

The second is that the energy/matter produced by these “particle systems” are organised in discontinuous “quanta” that go (jump) from the atomic organisation level to the universe. These systems have the particular feature of being themselves formed by lower-level systems (totalities) interacting between themselves, so that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

The third is that electrons possess a dual nature: they are both particles and waves, conditions that are opposite and complementary at the same time. As a result, their state at a given instant can only be expressed as a probability.

These properties, so different to the materialist conception of Newtonian mechanics (this one really is so), are assumed by the scientific community, despite their difficult “visualisation” through our way of thinking and understanding the world.

But given their acceptance as properties of matter, and given that living organisms (including ourselves) are evidently material, it is pertinent to ask whether these properties are a constituent part of the essence of all living organisms, and therefore of their (our) qualities. In such a case, these properties would also condition the mechanisms of the evolutionary process.

Indeed, even though an inevitable reductionism leads to the study of living organisms (or partial aspects of them) as if they were independent entities, it becomes clear that the “independent organism” concept has little real reflection in nature. Living organisms are capable of self-organisation (that is, they can only exist) through intense exchanges with their environment, itself organized as a complexly interrelated, dynamic ecosystem.

Descending to lower levels, organisms themselves are open systems made up of units that construct organs functioning in a co-ordinated fashion with other organs. Each of them is in turn formed by cells ?extremely complex systems including energy transformation mechanisms, information and regulation networks, internal and external structure generation, etc. All these levels have in common the property of the whole as more than the sum of its parts, each of which can only exist if subject to the existence of the others. In this context, genes should least of all be considered as individual entities, since their activity (their identity) depends on the co-ordinated interaction of a considerably large number of regulation proteins, histones, RNA, and even other genes or groups of genes acting in a synchronic fashion.

Consequently, do these properties of matter have any implication whatsoever in the characteristics of the evolutionary process? There are sufficient clues to make us seriously think they do. And a truly spectacular case is a crucial phenomenon for the understanding of evolutionary and biological processes in general: the origin of the eukaryotic cell, and consequently, of the first component systems of living organisms.

The formation of the first eukaryotic cell, that complex network of processes so exquisitely interwoven, finds no easy explanation from the orthodox perspective in terms of a gradual (to a lesser or greater extent) result of random chemical reactions (Gesteland et al., 93). However, this process has been explained by L. Margulis and D. Sagan (85) in such a convincing way that it has joined the small group of evolutionary processes that may be considered as scientifically proven, both from the morphological and functional points of view. The inclusion of a Prochloron-type bacterium, and of aerobic bacteria resembling Paracoccus or Rhodopseudomonas, inside others is admitted as the origin of chlorplasts and mitochondria. The origin of cellular microtubules may be explained in the same way, being identified by the authors with spirochetes.

The interpretation of this phenomenon is explained by the own authors in terms of random and occasional endosymbiotic processes (in other words, a bacterium assimilated others, but did not digest them, acquiring a selective advantage over others). Nevertheless, putting aside the fact that a eukaryotic cell would be hard pushed to exceed bacterial reproductive capacity, a different interpretation is also possible: if the process we could consider as fundamental in the appearance of eukaryotes was produced as a result of the union of various “complex systems”, would it not be possible for this to be the main evolutionary mechanism?. We have already discussed the extreme cellular-process interdependence, and in this sense, bacteria are systems, totalities, what Koestler named holons. This integrity, strange as it may seem, makes it necessary for the emergence of cellular processes to have been simultaneous (totalities, just like the “quanta” of physics, cannot appear gradually). This would explain the sterility of trying to find the origin of life in self-replicating molecules (Rebeck, 94), since it seems clear that the cell is the only natural medium where the complex phenomena making up life can take place.

In fact, bacteria were not only the first living organisms identified on Earth, (according to Carl Sagan, the “speed” of life formation on Earth indicates the process was a probable one) but they were also the creators of the conditions needed for the emergence of life as we know it (see Margulis and Sagan, 95).

Irrespectively of their “taxonomic divisions”, these peculiar “systems” show certain activities very different to the pathogenic nature that is usually attributed to them (amongst them post-adaptive mutations (Cairns, 91)), activities that are always basic for the development of life, in soils, plants, and inside animals (Benoit, 97). And with all probability, there are still many more bacteria, with many more functions, to be discovered.

However, the apparently most surprising, ?but certainly the most coherent? conclusion Margulis and Sagan are driven to by the development of endosymbiotic theory is that living organisms are, after all, more or less modified bacterial aggregates.

It is curious how one might be contributing in a crucial way to a paradigm crisis, without even knowing it. For this model is not a mere contribution to current theory, but the proof for a process that overturns the accepted path of random mutations from the time of the first (unique?) cell. And, above all, it radically changes the meaning of the evolutionary mechanism.

However, the authors themselves do not see this difference in meaning, attributing responsibility for the appearance of multicellular organisms to random mutations in the original bacteria.

But let us consider the essential conditions necessary for the formation of a true muticellular organism. Jellyfish, for instance, ranking amongst the simplest animals existing today, have eleven types of different cells (mammals have around 200). For tissue formation in jellyfish to take place during embryonic development, the action of an “embryonic program”, no matter how simple, is indispensable to co-ordinate the position and proliferation of the already complex constituent cells. Bearing this in mind, what genetic material and which sequences allowed the transition from simple, typical eukaryotic cells to specialized cells capable of generating different structures and tissues? And, above all, irrespectively of the time available, how could the co-ordinated embryonic-development regulation appear? Could it have been through random accumulation of “copy errors” in the eukaryotic cell? Considering the extreme stability of cellular process, this seems very unlikely. But if we return to the “strange” pathogenic organisms that, together with bacteria, have turned into one of humanity’s worst enemies, we might find an answer in their non-pathogenic aspect (the “dual-condition” which, funnily enough, they share with bacteria). Viral abilities of self-insertion in animal and plant genomes and of translation of their own genetic information inside the host might sound like familiar phenomena in the context of our discussion: they represent a way for two genetic units (two systems) to combine and integrate themselves in a higher unit.

And such a mechanism could account for the most surprising evolutionary phenomenon for which irrefutable proof exists: the “Cambrian explosion”. The sudden and simultaneous appearance (in a strict sense) of all the great current animal phyla in strata immediately above those containing the simple Ediacarian fauna, radically challenges conventional evolutionary theory1. Amongst the identified organisms we find sponges, echinoderms, molluscs, polychaets, onychophorans, arthropods, and even the possible ancestors of chordates, and subsequently, of vertebrates.

In an unprecedented episode, structures as complex as antennae, articulated legs, rigid covers, shells, claws, eyes, propulsion structures, mouths and digestive tracts appeared. How can such a sudden revolution be explained?

The superficial orthodox explanation is “adaptive radiation in an empty environment”, but it is evident that such a “dogma of faith” is unsustainable. Even after admitting that different niche colonisation (there are diggers, swimmers, burrowers, grazers, etc.) could be justified on the basis of time availability, and that all the time in the world had been available for such an event to take place, how could we explain the great genetic and embryonic changes responsible for the appearance of all the current types of organization?

The palaeontologist S. J. Gould (86) once more makes use of the “intelligent doubt” to analyse this phenomenon: “If evolution took place in the commonly admitted way, that is, as a result of environmental adaptations through gradual changes, what we would initially find would be a few general designs and great variability inside each of them. However, we find exactly the opposite”*

And this global contradiction with the orthodox theory can be found in the intermediate steps, as well as at the initial phase and final result of evolution: it would be logical to expect the present situation to be the inverse of what the initial one “should be”?a greater variety of organization groups and less variability within each type of design. However, we find the opposite situation again. The appearance of the great taxa (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals) is equally sudden and equally hard to justify through gradual and individual changes, since the great remodelling of their organization, both morphologicalal and genetic, implies simultaneous changes in many interdependent characters (for a more detailed discussion, see “Lamarck y los Mensajeros”, Sandín, 95). It is not only the great organization changes, but also the variations within them, both in animals and plants, that display a similar pattern to the “punctuated equilibrium” of species. As cladistic systematics shows, these sudden appearances (incidentally, they reflect a great initial variability) tend to be associated with eras of great “geological disturbances”, and very frequently with previous periodic extinctions (Rampino and Stothers, 84). The consequences of these episodes have little to do with natural selection, unless it is understood as “the survival of those who survive”. Different-sized asteroids, falling to Earth in different quantities during the last 250 million years at least, are clearly implicated in these extinctions, which despite being massive have some curious selective characteristics that greatly surprise palaeontologists (for some unknown reason, some species survive). Consequently, Hoyle’s hypothesis cannot be honestly discarded. That is, be it through their possible action as new virus transporters, or because their effects over ecosystems activated previously existing viruses, viral “dual nature” influenced by asteroid impacts would justify both new biological characteristic emergence, and at least some of the strange selective extinctions.

Naturally, to render feasible such a mechanism it is necessary to admit that viral sequences, whether individually or through combinations of them, would translate proteins with “biological content”, that is, susceptible of forming part of normal biological processes. The scientific attitude towards this hypothesis, which we have reached following strictly rational arguments, should not be one of rejection before a viral condition of difficult explanation, but of trying to confirm the existence of objective proof supporting serious consideration of this possibility.

Viral function in nature

If viruses share with bacteria the double condition of pathogenic agents (destroyers) and basic units of life (creators), maybe we should not be asking ourselves which is the predominant condition, since from the previously explained perspective, both opposed conditions would be, at the same time, complementary. The question arising from such a dual nature should be: what conditions determine which of the two characters is expressed? As a starting point in the search for an answer, we must take into consideration that if bacteria have been proven to be at the origin of life as well as at the base for the functioning of life, their “negative” character could be the result of a certain factor upsetting the natural equilibrium of their activity. It does not seem necessary at this point to revise “why” bacteria that normally act in our digestive tract acquire pathogenic nature, or under what conditions bacterial epidemics break out in human populations.

Is it possible to find in viral dual nature a similar function to that of bacteria? In other words, are viruses a mysterious “special case” amongst the different possible manifestations of life, or are they a fundamental element of it? Let us see what the facts suggest.

Variable amounts of DNA known as “endogenous viruses” have been identified in animal and plant genomes. Different types exist, and most of them are considered to have evolved from exogenous viruses that “infected” different species in the past, becoming endogenous through their insertion in germ cells. Thousands of sequences of viral origin with active participation in vital functions of different tissues are being identified in growing numbers (Coffin, 94). Some of these sequences can be considered true “genetic fossils”; they are “ancient” proviruses that have undergone many mutations, although it is still possible to relate them to current retroviruses. Having lost their terminal zones (they are defective viral particles), they are no longer capable of escaping their insertion site. However, some of them maintain this capacity, existing in the form of mobile elements or transposable elements (TE). They are DNA sequences capable of movement and self-insertion as well as insertion of self-copies at different sites in the genome. These elements have been classified in two groups: Transposons, that re-insert themselves directly through DNA copies, and Retrotransposons, that in order to allow insertion need to transcribe their RNA copies to DNA with the reverse transcriptase. The implication of these elements in genome “repetitive sequence” formation (it is estimated that they make up 42% of the human genome) is obvious. And even though under the assumptions of population genetics’ calculations they have a “non-functional” nature (Charlesworth et al., 94) (thus enabling the selfish DNA hypothesis to be sustained), the fact is that sequences of this kind, such as LINE (long inserted elements), code for proteins with reverse transcriptase activity, needed for various types of retroelement mobility (Mathias et al., 91). Amongst them we can find some taking part in mammal eye crystalline formation and functioning (Brosius & Gould, 92).

In respect to the viral origin (and current condition) of these elements, it has been recently confirmed (Kim et al., 94) that Drosophila´s Gypsy element is in fact a retrovirus with the ability to rebuild its capsid and re-infect again. This might be the reason behind the existence of shared transposons between man and arthropods, nematodes, and planarians (Auxolabéhère, 92; García et al., 95; Oosumi, 95).

A very different condition to what was originally thought has recently been attributed to another constituent part of the genome: introns, considered to be noncoding genome segments located between coding genes or exons. In 1982, Thomas R. Cech and Sidney Altman discovered that “some” intron sequences belonging to “certain” RNA had enzyme properties allowing that same RNA to cut and splice itself during the transcription process, a discovery that was worth the Nobel Prize. Well, in the fungus Saccaromyces cerevisiae, the intron I2 is actually a retroelement (Moran et al., 95) (a special case?).

It can be said, therefore, that when we forget the “selfish” and “expansionist” DNA doctrines, the proportion of sequences of viral origin in the genome grows spectacularly, especially if we limit ourselves to the analysis of what these sequences do and how they originated (Indraccolo et al., 95). On the other hand, are these activities merely a way for the genome to “take advantage” of viral-origin sequences present in it (Charlesworth et al., 94)?, or, on the contrary, are they a fundamental part integrating the genome? In order to answer, we will examine some of the data regarding their functions.

Through localization changes and duplications, mobile elements are able to provoke chromosomal rearrangements, as well as changes in gene expression and regulation, with important evolutionary consequences (McDonald & Cuticciaba, 93).

A retrotransposon responsible for an expanded expression of amylase secretion genes has been identified (Robins and Samuelson, 93). In many mammals, the enzyme secretion is restricted to the pancreas, whereas in humans the retrotransposon-mediated modification allows salivary glands to secrete the amylase as well, widening the range of foods that can be ingested, and thus conferring humans a clear evolutionary advantage.

In the same way, more retrotransposons have been identified and shown to be involved in histocompatibility gene regulation (Robins and Samuelson, 93), in the expression of the various tetra-1-alfaglobulins in human tissues (Kim et al., 89), as well as in other mammals, invertebrates (Dnig and Lipstick, 94) and plants (McClintock, 94).

The recently discovered Wolbachia bacterium is a striking case that has passed unnoticed until now, since its small size allowed it to escape the filters usually employed in bacteria isolation. This bacterium was discovered in the common pill bug (Armadillium vulgaris), and was found to contain a transposon, named f factor, that in the face of certain adverse environmental conditions has the ability of raising the proportion of female pill bug offspring to 90%. To achieve this, the transposon enters germ cell nuclei where it can either integrate itself in a male chromosome turning it into a female one, or inhibit the male chromosome from the pill bug’s genome. Does this phenomenon have any evolutionary consequences? Perhaps it can be better evaluated bearing in mind that it is not an isolated case: according to Rousett et al. (92), from 10 to 15% of all insect populations in nature are “infected”. And these peculiar “diseases” are also an important adaptative mechanism for plants (Galitski & Roth, 95) regarding response to environmental conditions: in plants, mitochondrial DNA acts “on certain occasions” over its “host’s” reproduction. A “male sterility” gene turns up to 95% of individuals of thyme, for example, into females (Gouyón and Couvet, 85). In maize and petunia, these genes come from both mitochondria and chloroplasts (let us remember their origin) and have been found in very different plants with higher or lower frequency (Gouyón and Couvet, 87). The mechanism has been recently described (Brennicke et al., 93): firstly, a messenger RNA from the organelle enters the cytoplasm, where it is transcribed to DNA by the reverse transcriptase enzyme, thus allowing its insertion in the nuclear genome. Apparently, large fragments of organelle DNA have been transferred directly to the nucleus (it is not known how), so that between 3 and 7% of the nuclear genome would be made up of such sequences.

Since 1988 (Varmus et al.), lineage relationships between reretrotransposons and retroviruses are being studied. On top of their replication and insertion mechanisms, they have in common the quality of “oncogene activation” (Dombrouski et al., 91). In this way, similar sequences to mammal LINE retrotransposons have been found inside the c-myc oncogene in breast cancer.

Regarding the evolutionary importance of such sequences, it must be remembered that in Drosophila (which is not a special genome case, but the most studied), from 3000 to 5000 mobile sequences related to “certain phenomena of quick adaptation to environmental change” * exist, making up from 10 to 15% of its DNA (Biemont and Brookfield 96).

In addition, the activity of endogenous viruses does not seem to be without evolutionary importance: placenta emergence in mammals, an achievement as complex as momentous, has been shown to have elements of retroviral origin implicated in different parts of its functioning mechanism. In placental mammals, parental genes from the male and the female contribute in a different but complementary way to embryonic development. Without the mother’s imprinting, the embryo is abnormal; without the father’s, the placenta cannot develop. This mechanism must necessarily be at the very origin and evolution of placentation: on the one hand, so that the mother accepts the development of a strange body inside and in close contact with her; on the other, to limit its development preventing invasion of maternal tissues (Hall, 90). According to Neumann et al. (95), this phenomenon has been induced by the presence of defective retroviral particles of the IAP type. But in addition to participating in its functioning, they are also implicated in its formation. It has been demonstrated (Lyden et al., 95) that antigens of retroviral origin are expressed in normal trophoblast cells in the human placenta with a very significant role: they take part in the morphological differentiation of these cells.

Furthermore, these phenomena are no exception. More than 1% of the 10,500 perfectly known gene sequences have been identified (up to now) as corresponding to endogenous retroviruses, and are expressed in 37 human tissues as constituent parts of the brain, placenta, embryo, lung, etc. (Genome Directory, Sept. 95.)

This phenomenon has an evident evolutionary significance concerning the explanation of saltationist events (as well as of another, more concrete phenomenon: cellular proliferation control), which can be further clarified by data derived from Drosophila, an organism studied in depth by the genetics of development. In its embryo, 15 retroviral sequences have been found to be implicated in the space and time control of different tissue development.

The growing evidence indicating the action of viral sequences in essential vital processes supports the view that they are not exceptional events. And a convincing argument to endorse the possible importance of their activity is that both their “infective character” and their “biological content” would consistently explain evolutionary puzzles currently unsolved. It has been proven (Tristem et al., 95) that there is a considerable difference between endogenous retroviral “populations” in reptiles and in birds and mammals. Could this fact be explained from our perspective?

Let us take a look at the answer to the question regarding their activation conditions.

Coxackieviruses form part of a “family” divided into two types, A and B. Their infection in humans produces pathology “only” in 10% of all cases. Some of them have been studied experimentally. For example, in mice, the CVB3 induces myocarditis, the CVB4 induces pancreatitis, etc. In a study (Gauntt & Tracy, 95) in which mice were inoculated with a non-virulent strain of CVB3 (named CVB3/0), it was seen that a selenium-deficient diet (cellular and extra-cellular selenoproteins act as antioxidants) produced the emergence of a unique type of extremely virulent CVB3 in different mice 10 days after inoculation. Examination of their genomes demonstrated that they had suffered six nucleotide changes in the same six positions. Studies of different nucleotide changes in the CVB3 genome have confirmed the existence of a limited number of changes associated with the virulent character.

Although the interpretation for the phenomenon given in the study was that “multiple random mutations” had taken place, and that what was observed afterwards in the different mice was the result of natural selection driving the process to different viruses with exactly the same mutations (another example of Kuhn’s observations about scientists’ tendencies to see exactly what they have been trained to see), the fact is that the most reasonable interpretation seems to be a reaction to environmental stress.

A different but equally significant kind of response to environmental stress was observed by Ter-Grigorov et al. (97) in an experiment with the objective of studying the reaction to auto-immune stimuli in female mice. Females were crossed with males over a period of one year, reinforcing, after each crossing, the immune response of the female with male B6 immunoblasts. Of the 65 mice obtained, 13 developed acute leukaemia, and 50 a chronic “AIDS-like disease”, with the “appearance” of complete intra and extra-cellular C virions with horizontal and vertical transmission capability.

The meaning of these phenomena becomes clear if we add them to the previously mentioned viral activities. Just like bacteria, viral functional aspect in organisms is upset by environmental aggressions, whether intrinsic to the ecosystem or the result of human manipulation, triggering off a “response” in the shape of a pathogenic agent.

In short, it looks like there is enough experimental evidence answering the question about the causes (and consequences) of pathogen-character activation in viruses, which can be added to the already-known factors responsible for “provirus” activation. And we would possibly have many more if we could count those which, with all probability, have been discarded following orthodoxy’s failure at explaining them.

But if to these empirical data, which are increasingly hard to reject as exceptional or negligible in number, we add the effort to find the factor common to all the great (and small) evolutionary puzzles we have been discussing, it is possible to propose a new model totally modifying not only the fundamental mechanism of conventional evolutionary theory, but its very essence, the meaning of the evolutionary processes.

A new evolutionary model

Such a model can be synthesized in the following way: the origin and evolution of life would be a process of complex system integration, successively auto-organised in higher-level systems. Bacteria would be the basic units, equipped with all the basic processes and mechanisms needed for cellular life, with components that appear to have remained almost unchanged throughout the evolutionary process. Viruses, through their chromosome-integration mechanism, would be the agents that either individually, or in combinations of themselves, would introduce new sequences responsible for embryonic control of new tissue and organ appearance and functional regulation.

Viral and bacterial response capacity to environmental stimuli would justify the inevitably rapid and far-reaching changes shown in the fossil record, forcibly needed due to the complex interrelation between tissues and the whole organism. And their “infective” character would render these changes possible in a considerably large number of organisms simultaneously. On the other hand, this infective character could be implicated in mass and selective extinctions, often coinciding with episodes of environmental disruption, events that would therefore be part of the evolutionary process.

In this context, natural selection, whose lack of creative power has been previously discussed, would be relegated to a secondary plane in the evolutionary process, being occasional and void of meaning as a mechanism for evolution. Competition would no longer be the driving force behind evolution, since new species would arise and mature as a whole. And randomness, be it biological or statistical, would be further called into question by determinism, by the teleological content implied by the existence of “components of life”, whatever their origin. That is, whether these components have arisen on Earth, as a result of an “emergent property” of matter, or whether this, or any other phenomenon, implies that they exist and propagate in the universe.

But this new model not only leads us to a new view of the nature of biological processes. The relegation of the old concepts, with their deep cultural roots, to their rightful place implies the emergence of new ideas, of new values modelling the way reality is interpreted: in short, a new paradigm.

In the light of the above mentioned facts, this process would mean not only a substantial change in the interpretation of the general evolutionary process, but also a reinterpretation of many of the biological phenomena that are a part and consequence of it. This would be an enormous task, since it would imply, in some way or another, a “re-making of biology”, requiring a new integrated approach to the different research fields. In such an integrated model, it would be possible to fit those processes which are not only inconsistent with conventional theory, but in open contradiction with it.

In this way, in a Complex System Integration Model of Evolution the facts could be explained as follows:

Anti-stress proteins, employed by cells in environmental distress to repair injury, hold a close resemblance in all organisms, indicating extreme conservation. For example, the hsp10 and hsp60 have only been found in mitochondria and chlorplasts. The hsp60 and hsp70, denominated “chaperones”, re-nature proteins de-natured by heat. But, probably more significantly, the hsp70 has been associated with oncoviruses through the PP60 src enzyme implicated in cellular growth regulation (Langer et al., 92; Welch, 92).

Proteins involved in apoptosis (programmed cell death), basic in all living tissues, and with special importance in embryonic development, can work both to favour and to inhibit it. Now the Epstein-Barr virus produces substances “resembling” the Bcl-2 apoptosis inhibitor, or can alternatively manufacture molecules making the host cell increase its own Bcl-2 synthesis (Cohen et al., 92). Papilloma viruses disactivate or degrade the P53 apoptosis regulator, and this process has also been confirmed in various kinds of “viral origin” cancers, to which we will return later on (Korsmeyer, 95).

These phenomena indicate an extreme conservation of fundamental processes, suggesting a kind of evolution not through changes of original sequences, but through the addition of new ones. This would explain, for example, why the study of hormone relationships among all biological groups indicates “lateral links, and not of descent” * (Barja de Quiroga, 93), or also why shark or human antibody molecules, for example, “have suffered relatively small changes for 450 million years” (Litman, 97). According to this author: “…what does seem surprising is that […] apparently enigmatic evolutionary jumps take place in short periods, and in an uncommon magnitude, at least in humoral immunity” *.

Finally, and as exemplary of another fundamental process in Evolution, we will consider certain facts from the genetics of development, whose orthodox interpretation comes into head-on conflict with “official theory”, and which can provide an explanation as to how viral integration has operated upon morphological differentiation in the evolutionary processes. These facts concern homeosis, and are capable of truly explaining the mysterious (and inexplicable) cases of convergent adaptation produced at random. Homeotic genes control different tissue, organ and structure development. When situated at the same positions in chromosomes, they produce the same characteristics in organisms as phylogentically far apart as toads (Xenopus laevis), flies (Drosophila), fish, birds and mammals, affecting different level structures, from organs to global differentiations such as axis, segments, etc. “Homeoboxes” for eye, wing, globulin, gastrulation, etc. have been identified (Gilbert et al., 96). The layout and structure of their DNA suggests a formation through successive gene duplication. If to this duplication mechanism, in which transposons play an obvious part, we add the clear viral origin of sequences identified in embryonic differentiation of different tissues in different taxa, the origin of homeotic genes becomes clear. And their implication for our evolutionary model even more so, since they illustrate the possible working mechanism of viral sequences with specific biological content in new organ emergence.

A new paradigm

This new perspective offers new interpretations, and therefore possible answers to serious scientific problems resulting from an economicist approach in some cases, and in others from the lack of communication and exchange between different “specialists”, which prevents the incorporation of such problems into an evolutionary context. For the commercial use of pharmaceutical products, or of genetic engineering techniques, whose “spectacular” achievements have had great social repercussions through the media, is conditioning biological research to such a point that it is becoming an entrepreneurial activity. As a result, both the working rationale and the objectives of that work are being profoundly transformed.

In the first place, the need to render the results profitable gives rise to strong competition between different working groups (sometimes putting scientists in unedifying situations and attitudes) so that the fundamental practice of exchanging information and results, once a routine activity, is disappearing.

In the second place, research is increasingly being financed by private enterprises whose economic interests are far stronger than any other, leading to a rushed commercialisation of techniques and products (as patents) whose “side-effects” are only evaluated after their market release. This is the case of research that purports to manipulate “genes of commercial interest” * (Mackay et al., 92) such as those introduced in plants and animals using transgenic plasmid and retroviral vectors.

Nevertheless, given the special characteristics of these vectors, it would be more prudent to try to understand the phenomenon and put it in its right place in nature, before continuing with manipulations whose end-results might be unforeseeably dangerous, since the problems (already observed) of artificial character propagation to other species (such as the example of “transgenic” maize herbicide resistance) can be uncontrollable.

Another problem of similar consequences and origin is that raised by xenotransplants. The serious “side-effects” of animal organ use have finally been related to the activation of animal endogenous proviruses when introduced in another species. The danger of hybridisation and propagation of “new viruses” is evident.

This last phenomenon might lie behind the emergence of AIDS virus “variants”. Apparently, HIV-1 and HIV-2 are both closer to certain monkey viruses (chimpanzee and Macaca mulata) than between themselves (Huet, 90), a fact that supports the hypothesis of an origin brought about by human activities (possibly the preparation of vaccines with whole monkey blood). In other words, we would not be facing a “new” pathogenic virus, but the alteration of an endogenous virus that in normal conditions would have a specific function: immunodepression, a necessary phenomenon in mammals during pregnancy. And this would also explain the effects in AIDS patients treated with wide spectrum antiretrovirals, or with a combination of them. Failure in different organs would be the consequence of an alteration of viral sequences involved in normal activity.

Finally, the implication of viral-origin sequences in embryonic cell proliferation control, together with “proviral” activation factors, allows us to place “oncogenes” in an evolutionary context: “oncoviruses” would not be exceptional cases. With all probability, they would be viruses containing sequences responsible for embryonic development control of specific tissues, and their malignization would be the result of an activation at an inadequate time (Seifarth et al., 95).

In short, these answers might be able to shed some light at least on certain aspects of the problems that up to now have found no easy solution. In any case, they show that the procedures derived from the current paradigm (that is, of its scientific premises, but especially of its social component) not only distort the approach to these puzzles, but in some cases might be contributing to their creation.

To conclude, and taking up Kuhn’s arguments once more, the consequences of such a new approach would not only mean a theoretical model change. The bases of the new paradigm necessarily take us to a new way of interpreting the control mechanism of vital processes, and consequently, to a new perception of and attitude towards nature. If the
social (cultural) model determines to a great extent the way we see and relate to the world, it seems clear that the substitution of a paradigm based on competition and irresponsible chance for one of maturing as a whole and of essential unity and co-operation, and very especially of prudence and respect in the face of what we do not know or control, must come together with (or be preceded by) a substantial change in our social and cultural values.

It is true that no matter how benevolent the vision of nature and society may be, the existence of competitive behaviour cannot be ignored. However, in the same way as in the evolutionary process competition, whatever its connotations, is in no case a “creative force” but exactly the opposite, the social model based on “free competition” (which is no more than “big fish eats small fish”) is a rosy path for selfish and irresponsible attitudes that can only lead us to a cul-de-sac.

Acknowledgements

I should like to express my sincere gratitude to Lucía Serrano and María Bornemann for their effective collaboration, and above all for identifying with this work. I would also like to thank Juan Fernández Santarén for his lucid critical revision of the manuscript, and Carlos Sentís for his continuous contribution of information.

Notes
1. It has been recently suggested (Nature, 28th August 1997) that the origin of the main metazoan clades might be dated to the Ediacarian period. That is, their appearance would be even more sudden and inexplicable.

* Not original quotation. Re-translated into English from the Spanish version.

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* PREVOSTI, P. 1984. Darwinismo y mendelismo. En “En el Centenario de Mendel: La Genética ayer y hoy.” Ed. Alhambra, Madrid.

* RAMPINO, M.R. & STOTHERS, R.B. 1984. Terrestrial mass extinctions, cometary impacts and the sun’s motion perpendicular tho the galactic plan. Nature, 308: 709.

* REBEK, J. 1994. A template for life. Chemistry in Britain, 30 (4).

* ROBINS, D. & SAMUELSON, L. 1993. En Transposable Elements and Evolution. McDonald, J. (ed). Kluwer.

* ROUSSET ET AL. 1992. Wolbachia endosymbionts responsible for various alterations of sexuality in arthropods. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. Series B-Biological Sciences, 250 (1328): 91-98.

* RÜBSAMEN-WAIGMANN, H. & DIETRICH, U. 1991. La genealogía de los virus. Mundo Científico, 11(117).

* SANDIN, M. 1995. Lamarck y los mensajeros. La función de los virus en la evolución. Ed. Istmo, Madrid.

* SEIFARTH, W.; SKLANDY, M.; KRIEGSCHNEIDER, F.; REICHERT, A.; MEHLMANN, R. & LEIBMOSCH, C. 1995. Retrovirus-like particles released from the human breast cancer line T47-D display tipe B- and C- related endogenous retroviral secuences. Journal of Virology, 69: 10.

* SEPKOSKI, J. 1993. Fundamentos de la vida en los océanos. En “El libro de la vida”. S.J. Gould (ed.). Ed. Crítica, Madrid.

* STANLEY, S. M. 1981. The New Evolutionary Timetable. Simon & Schuster, New York.

* STOYE, J.P. 1997. Proviruses pose potential problems. Nature, 386: 126-127.

* TER-GRIGORIOV, V.S.; KRIFUKS, O.; LINBASHEVSKY, E.; NYSKA, A.; TRAININ, Z. & TODER, V. 1997. A
new transmissible AIDS-like disease in mice induced by alloimmune stimuli. Nature Medicine, 3 (1): 37-41.

* TRISTEM, M.; MYLES, T. & HILL, T. 1995. A highly divergent retroviral secuence in the tuatara (Sphenodon). Virology, 210: 1.

* VARMUS, M.E. 1988. Retroviruses. Science, 240: 1427-1435.

* WEISS, P. 1939. Principles of Development. Holt, New York.

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viñeta WILKINS, A.S. 1996. Are there “Kuhnian” revolutions in Biology? BioEssays, 18 (9): 695-696.

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CRITICISM OF THE ANARCHIST BOOK FAIR (London)

This pamphlet was left in some of the tables in the London Anarchist book fair 2011. It warns us against self-satisfaction and the lack of actual action within the UK anarchist movement beyond the very same repetitive rituals developed over the last 10-20 years.

ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR

or ‘the most exciting day of the year

 

 

Another year, another bookfair and another chance for everyone to show up to the one event where everyone will be. Another chance to have some discussions, get some pamphlets to read, check out a book or even buy a t-shirt.

Why is that? Why is it that up to one or two thousand people show up for an anarchist bookfair (that costs a few thousand pounds to rent for the day, although there are loads of massive empty spaces ready to be used), yet only a dozen show up for a meeting, demo, action, solidarity gathering etc.? There is something wrong with that.

The reasons are many, personal differences, different opinions or whatever else. But sometimes, even if the way we say it and look at it, is different, our actions can and should be common.

 

Sure its easy to be an anarchist when all you have to do is show up for a bookfair, talk politics, follow a lecture, have a coffee, have a laugh, watch a documentary and then go the after party and get shit faced. But what about taking to the streets, why are we never there?

Because, we shouldn’t fool ourselves. We are not there. Maybe we were a little bit in the student protests and we definitely were there on March 26th but we are not there on a regular basis. And we were not there when our brothers and sisters were smashing and burning london. Maybe because we do not agree with everything that took place. No one agrees with burning poor peoples houses and shops but these things happen in an revolt like this. This does not mean that we should not have been there in an organized way to support them and explore the common ground and common hate towards the enemy.

 

We are not a movement. And we need to become one. All around the world there are small fires of resistance being lit. Comrades are stepping up the struggle in a variety of ways. If we have the will and the people nothing can stop us, we should know that. We need to overcome whatever fears and problems we have and unite, create, assemble, selforganize and act in order to bring this rotten system, that destroys us day by day, to its knees and give it the coup de grace.

 

We obviously have nothing against the bookfair, or the afterparties and we respect what the comrades of these collectives do. But its time to do more than just party and have fun, from today lets start having fun in a different way.

 

Lets destroy this world and build a better, equal, and free world. 

FOR ANARCHY

 

FOR REVOLUTION

 

FOR FREEDOM

-a few comrades

 

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BIOLOGY: AN OLD PERSPECTIVE (By Maximo Sandin)

 

 

The currently predominant scientific vision of the world originated in the “scientific revolution” begun in the XVI and XVII centuries by Copernicus, Galileo and Newton’s theories. The technical and economic boom that produced the subsequent industrial revolution drove science towards a mechanistic, utilitarian approach to nature, the purpose of which was (and still is) to predict and control the studied phenomena.
Until then, the close contact with nature inherent to Western and other cultures’ lifestyles had engendered an “ecological” vision of “Mother Earth”. Scientific perception of the world was aimed at understanding the meaning of natural phenomena (in a religious or philosophical context) rather than trying to dominate them.

New knowledge from physics and ecology has highlighted the failure (and peril) of man’s attempt to control nature, and suggests a need to return to an “old way of looking” at the world.

BIOLOGY: AN OLD PERSPECTIVE

Students of science history will not be surprised to find that “objective” scientific observations can easily be a reflection of the observer’s own mental framework. This culturally determined “way of thinking” derives from the combination of more or less accidental historical circumstances that shape the beliefs of a specific society at a given time, along with personal circumstances shaped by the subject’s own experience and training. It is what the science philosopher Thomas Kuhn called the “Paradigm”, which is not a scientific theory or hypothesis, but a way of looking at the world which is influenced by scientific observation and experience, and also by the observer’s cultural prejudice.

Scientific interpretation of nature, especially of the origin and relationships between living beings, is perhaps one the disciplines that has most clearly evidenced this “cultural dependency”, most probably due to an unconscious, a posteriori attempt by the scientist to find or rather justify man’s place in nature in accordance with the most profound, deeply rooted beliefs of his social and cultural context.

Not even the greatest minds of history have freed themselves from this trap. Aristotle’s hierarchical concept of the animal world and different peoples can be explained by the fact that he was a member of the aristocracy and hence a slave owner. The theory of cataclysms and successive creations used by Cuvier to explain the obvious sudden changes in the fauna between geological strata had clear religious connotations in addition to the influence of his contemporary revolutionary spirit. There are hundreds of similar examples familiar to us, and thousands more…

So, what about the present concept of the living world?

The theory of evolution, the central idea to the description of the origin and relationships amongst living beings and between them and their environment, is apparently solidly based on Darwin’s 1869 work, “The Origin of the Species by Natural Selection”. The influence of the predominant contemporary economic and social theories by Malthus and Spencer is obvious. Thus, if we at least admit the possibility that certain cultural influences or prejudices about the scientific perspective on the world, a brief reference to the current context is also pertinent. From an historical perspective, the present situation is none other than the culmination, and perhaps the start of the crisis, of the economic and social model that began at the time of Darwin’s theory. The consolidation and sophistication of the two models have certain similarities. When the free market economy was expanding at the start of this century, the empirical basis provided by the mathematical theory of population genetics for the description and prediction of biological variation facilitated the reorganisation and consolidation of the Darwinian theory in academic circles. Under the name of the Synthetic Theory, it claims that the micro-evolutionary processes of random mutation that generate variability and random genetic drift are harnessed by natural selection or intraspecific competition, thereby acting as the driving force for change and evolution.

Let us try to withdraw from the time context (to do so from the cultural environment is harder) and try to contextualise the present paradigm. Although the synthetic theory has sufficient explanatory capacity and potential for experimental verification to explain the observable variability in present living beings, it is much less appropriate for explaining how this point has been reached. Even Darwin himself was unconvinced, writing, “Why, if the species have descended from other species through undetectably minute graduations, do we not see everywhere innumerable forms of transition? Why is the whole of Nature not in confusion instead of the species, as we see them, being well defined?”

If his theory was true “The number of intermediate and transitory stages between all living and extinct species must have been inconceivably great.” In other words, there should be evidence of the transition between the different animal phyla (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals), although this is obviously not the case. Moreover, the larger the amount of data available, the greater the evidence of the lack of a gradual transition between groups (Fig. 1). Darwin himself acknowledged that this was “the most obvious and serious objection that could be raised against my theory.”

As in so many other cases, however, the disciples turn out to be more radical defenders of the master’s theory than their master himself: the modern defenders of natural selection (the clearly predominant body of thought in the scientific world) claim that by working gradually through intraspecific competition on random mutations, natural selection is not only an acceptable explanation of present biological variation, but is moreover the only possible mechanism to explain it.

One extremely belligerent (and apparently successful) exponent of this attitude, the prestigious zoologist R. Dawkins (1), finds no difficulty in explaining the appearance of new complex structures in living creatures as the result of the accumulation of random mutations shaped by natural selection. He does not hesitate to use this mechanism to describe the appearance of the eye, for example, in spite of its complex structure and cerebral connections and its controversial evolution: “O ne per cent vision is better than total blindness, 6% is better than 5%, and so on upwards in a gradual, continuous series.” This simplistic way of “explaining” the appearance of complex new organs and structures is quite common in texts on evolution, despite its obvious weakness, since otherwise they could not be explained in terms of natural selection acting gradually on random mutations as a mechanism for change.

Nevertheless, the lack of any creative role by this process can even be seen in the experiments that purport to confirm it: the famous example of “industrial melanism” in the peppered moth (Fig. 2) shows that natural selection can only explain variations within the limits of a certain species. In 1973, the French biologist Pierre Grassé (L’Evolution du Vivant” wrote that proof of Darwinian evolution “…Is merely the observation of demographic factors, local fluctuations of genotypes and of geographic distributions. The observed species have often remained practically unchanged for hundreds of years!” This phenomenon is familiar to palaeontologists. It has led S.J. Gould and N. Eldredge (2) to formulate the theory of “punctuated equilibrium”, according to which most species appear suddenly in the fossil records and remain with few or no changes until their disappearance or sudden transformation into a different species that arrives fully formed (Fig. 3).

Proof of this (previously described by Cuvier in the XVIII century) should lead us to think that the way one species is transformed into another might indicate that there is something other than the gradual change mechanism postulated by the synthetic theory. On the contrary, however, Gould and Eldredge’s interpretation does not leave the slightest room for such a possibility. They claim that these new species are formed quickly “in a geological context”, but always through the action of natural selection on gradual changes.

Evidence for this phenomenon might have prompted Darwin to propose an alternative mechanism to explain these sudden changes. But it is too late. The Paradigm is too well entrenched.

One perhaps simple but nevertheless pertinent example can be found in modern cities. For the average citizen of industrialised countries, bound to the tough working conditions of a competitive society based on production and consumption, every individual is a potential competitor, customer or employee (this may also be extrapolated to international relations). This is precisely the “scientific” vision set out by Dawkins (3) in his “selfish gene” theory, based of course on the “objective” observation of relations between organisms, which is supported by a considerable number of biologists.

Of course this is an extreme example of neo-Darwinian tendencies, and has obvious ideological connotations. Not all scientists accept such radical socio-biological views. The majority, however, when subjected to the paradigm of natural selection as the driving force of change and competition as its main resource, try to justify the growing body of evidence for genetic variability in organisms, increasingly inexplicable in terms of natural selection, by pointing to a growing proportion of neutral mutations and random microevolutionary phenomena (4).

THE “SAMURAI” BIOLOGISTS

The apparent inability to accept that the fundamental problem, the origin of these divergent and often contradictory explanations, might be the cultural approach used in the to analysis, does not prevent this phenomenon from arising in scientists from other cultures.

One of the best-known Japanese biologists is Mooto Kimura. His “neutralist” theory of evolution is based on “orthodox” criteria and methods, (i.e., acceptable to western science), as he is an expert in population genetics. Nevertheless, his conclusions appear to question the Darwinian model. He claims that the majority of DNA mutations are neutral, i.e., they do not give the organism a real advantage in the “struggle for survival”. Naturally, as a specialist in population genetics, he has been able to test the action of natural selection, although he does not believe that it has the “creative” importance attributed to it by Darwinists.

Another highly prestigious Japanese biologist, practically unknown in the West, is less influenced by the “orthodox” methodology. Kinji Imanishi (University of Kyoto), who has been studying evolution since 1941, claims that Darwinism errs in over-emphasising the individual, when in fact the group is the real entity. Nature encourages continuity, mutual relationships and stability. He believes that the basic concept is “coexistence” and not the Darwinian “competition principle”. Change is progressive and co-ordinated in cells, organisms and in populations. In evolution, all individuals of a species change at the same time when the moment arrives. It is a “maturing” process, not a random mechanical change in a few genes.

The most interesting feature of this vision, which is the closest match to the fossil record evidence, is that the author acknowledges its cultural component- an attitude hard to imagine in “orthodox” scientists: “Darwin lives in the West and Imanishi in the East”, he writes. Western culture exalts individualism; life is competition, while Eastern philosophy/religion is impregnated with a sense of solidarity, the preponderance of the society over the individual.

In “Darwin amongst the Samurai” (Mundo Científico, vol.6, nº 4), the French biologist Pierre Thuillier discusses Imanishi’s theory: “Hence, the anti-Darwinist theory can freely develop a “poetic vision” that has the basic advantage of appealing to the Japanese public. Ultimately, the harmonious nature described by Imanishi plays a “compensatory” role. When the Japanese experience harsh competition in their everyday lives, the evolutionary utopia offered to them gives them a reason to believe in a better world.”

Apart from this questionable interpretation of Japanese society (a lot could be said about how such competition is organised, its social integration and its results), it is striking that he justifies the origin of a scientific theory on both its cultural context and the “tastes” of its audience. The author does not, however, suggest a similar phenomenon in the “Western” theory, as from his cultural perspective, “It is proven that intraspecific competition is manifested in 90% of the cases studied”. He goes on, “Have Kimura and Imanishi been carried away , so to speak, by the same cultural wave?”

Thuillier claims that, “Imanishi brings us back to an old, still unresolved problem: the integration of Western science [i.e., Science] by an outside culture.” ( the present author’s italics). Outside cultures (outside what?), however, may have “useful” aspects. Thuillier discusses Werner Heisenberg’s opinion about the Japanese physicists Tomonaga and Yukawa: “For example, the great contribution by Japan to quantum mechanics since the last war may indicate a certain relationship between traditional Eastern philosophical ideas and the philosophical contents of the quantum theory. It may be easier to adapt to the quantum concept of reality when one has not yet been subjected to the simplistic materialism that still reigns in Europe in the final decades of this century.” For Thuillier, this cultural way of looking at matter (the Paradigm) seems valid when describing some aspects of reality but not others, as he concludes: “The difference is that Yukawa turned to physics and in 1949 was awarded the Nobel Prize, while Imanishi, who continued to reject the “bellicose philosophy of neo-Darwinian evolution, chose to challenge it with anti-western evolutionism.”

It thus seems that matter,reality, differs according to one’s scientific discipline…. Or perhaps it might be that the differences depend on who is doing the studying.

Let us briefly return to quantum physicists who seem to have disengaged themselves from their cultural context to some extent (their obvious advantage is that their study matter is abstract tand thus avoids socio-economic nuances). What is the “philosophical component” of their theory that suggests such kinship with Asian traditions?

Put simply (with apologies to Dr. Heisenberg), there are three outstanding aspects: put in “accessible” terms, the first is that subatomic particles, the ultimate components of matter, are not “individual entities” (particles in a material sense), but only exist in terms of their relationship with the rest. The second is that energy/matter, produced by these “systems of particles” is organised into discontinuous “quanta” from the level of elementary particles up to the Universe. These systems are formed by lower level systems that interact in such a way that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”, called “Holons” by the physicist A. Koestler.

The third and perhaps hardest feature to “visualise” is that the elementary particles, electrons, have the dual quality of being particle and wave at the same time- opposing and at the same time complementary conditions, and thus their essence cannot be described at a given moment other than in terms of probability.

QUANTUM NATURE

These three concepts all differ from the mechanistic, materialist view of reality describe by Heiseberg, but are accepted by the scientific community as if they were scientifically demonstrable facts, (i.e., empirically and experimentally), in spite of being hard to “visualise” materially. If, however, we focus on our “visual field”, an intermediate space between subatomic particles and the Universe, we might have a “direct experience”. Can these concepts be applied to the living world by applying the freedom of the physicist’s mind?

Let us consider the first two points. Although the trend or inevitable necessity in biology for specialisation leads to the study of very restricted aspects of living beings (at times to a surprising extent), it seems clear that the concept of the “independent organism” has little real value. Ecology explains that living beings organise themselves through intense exchanges with their surroundings, which in turn are organised as a dynamic, highly integrated ecosystem. The sum of these ecosystems also makes up system of living and non-living forms at different levels, amongst which there are interrelationships and interdependencies. Finally, the whole biosphere constitutes an enormous dynamic, self-regulating ecosystem.

At lower levels, the organisms themselves are open systems composed of units that are grouped into organs that work in co-ordination with others, and which at the same time are formed by cells- highly complex systems that include mechanisms to transform energy, information and regulation networks, the generation of internal and external structures…. All of these levels have the common quality that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, none of which can survive if not in harmony with the rest. Not even genes can be regarded as individual entities, since their activity (and existence) depends on the co-ordinated interaction of many regulatory proteins, histones, RNA and even other individual or grouped genes that must be synchronised. In other words, biological processes seen in overall terms are in effect systems that integrate different levels and work in harmony, as a whole according to the “eastern-quantum” perspective. Of course the relationships between each component could be described more prosaically (more “objectively” in our perspective) in terms of struggle or competition: a way of describing biological phenomena such as the selection of males for mating, food gathering, the immune processes and even the mechanisms for genetic regulation, which can be defined in terms of “competition between histones and the transcription factors” (5). This interpretation of struggle or competition may, however, have an element of observer input which, when the specific fact is analysed, might understate its significance or function in the more global context of its relational system and the final results.

BACTERIA: “QUANTAL LIFE”

One spectacular example of such a dual interpretation is a phenomenon that I consider crucial to biological processes- the origin of the eukaryotic cell and hence the first component systems of living beings.

The mystery of the formation of the first cell, a complex and exquisitely interweaving of processes that is so hard to explain from an orthodox perspective (6) as a result of gradual, more or less random chemical processes, has been explained by Margulis and Sagan so soundly that it is considered to be one of the few scientifically proven evolutionary processes. The insertion of a Prochoron bacterium, or aerobic bacteria like Paracoccus or Rhodopseudomonas , into another (Fig. 4) seems clearly (morphologically and functionally) to have been the origin of chloroplasts and mitochondria, essential organelles of eukaryotic cells. It can also be verified by deciphering and comparing the DNA of these organelles with the above-mentioned bacteria, revealing surprising similarities that are indicative of a faithful conservation of these DNA sequences from their origin. The authors also claim to have observed the symbiotic origin of eukaryotic cell organelles in the derivation of cellular microtubules from spirochaetes.

The orthodox interpretation of this extraordinary process is that it is a case of phagocytosis (i.e., one “bacteria industry” or “bacteria bank” devouring or assimilating another) conferring a selective advantage , or a case of parasitism (by which one benefits at the other’s expense).

From a different perspective, i.e., from outside the paradigm of competition as the driving force of evolution, it can be described as the integration or co-operation of two or more systems, the result of which something more than the sum of its constituent parts: Bacteria are systems, totalities, what physicists call Holons and, although seemingly strange, this integrity ensures their sudden appearance, given that totalities, like quanta in physics, cannot appear gradually. This different perspective might encourage a search for the meaning within the phenomenon- its teleological content (which is not in itself negative or ascientific, but merely a possibility), and allow the deduction or induction of the results or consequences of such co-operation.

This concept (or something similar) has been used in a rigorous study of the phenomenon by Margulis, who defends bacteria against their “excessively maligned” traditional role (“What is Life? Simon and Schuster, 1995) as merely the source of illness, overlooking their vital role in the origin of eukaryotic cells and a wide variety of important functions within the dynamic relationship between the “living” and “non-living” worlds. It is generally accepted that in the origins, the extraction of carbon dioxide from the primitive atmosphere and the generation of an atmosphere with a high oxygen content was largely due to the activity of photosynthetic bacteria and subsequently of unicellular algae, their first descendants.

Moreover, present-day bacterial functions may differ greatly from the pathological character usually ascribed to them. Some fix nitrogen in poor soils and facilitate plant life which would otherwise be impossible, others produce fermentation and make substances assimilable and useful to complex organisms which could not be exploited without such prior activity. Some do their work in herbivore intestines, some in humans, while others transform elements that are toxic to other organisms such as nitrogen, sulphur and carbon compounds into organic matter that can be absorbed by plants.

The neo-Darwinian explanation of these necessary processes for life might “simply” be that the bacteria have adapted to a lifestyle that coincidentally is useful for life itself. However, there is further process (guided mutation) which disturbs the defenders of the orthodox theory, as it may well “waken the ghosts of Lamarckian evolution”, although it might also shed light on the matter. It has been found (8) that when certain bacteria are presented with a food source they cannot use, they mutate (in this case two independent mutations which alone would be of no use) that facilitate the assimilation. The probability of this simultaneous event happening spontaneously is virtually nil. It is thus a response to the environmental conditions, and hence a post-adaptive mutation.

In other words, as Margulis indicates, they are not merely pathogenic agents but a basic component of life. They obviously have a pathogenic character, but one might consider that this is so when an external phenomenon disrupts the harmony (or, if that sounds too “eastern” or unscientific, the balance) by which biological phenomena occur in nature. In an ecological sense, is there a “bad guy” in the food chain?

THE VIRUS: MESSENGER OF DEATH – MESSENGER OF LIFE?

Speaking of “bad guys”, there are other “critters” that do not seem to fit into this “harmonious” vision of the terrestrial ecosystem. Judging by the social repercussions echoed in the scientific and general media, the virus has apparently become the worst enemy of the human race.

In scientific terms, the way they invade cells, their self-organisational ability, their origin and place in nature, etc., are still a mystery despite their detailed study and our knowledge of many of their genetic sequences (Fig. 5).

These beings on the boundary between the living and non-living worlds have no real existence except within other organisms. Outside, they cannot be regarded as “live” organisms. They are simply a DNA or RNA molecule wrapped in a protein capsule of a sometimes surprisingly geometric shape. The way that these “inert” bodies inject their genetic material into the host cell is also surprising, but more astonishing still is that with their genetic material they feed in the enzymatic machinery that makes it possible to cut and merge the host cell’s DNA with their own, entering the host cell where they can stay inactive or begin to translate their own genetic information. In some cases this information allows new viruses to be constructed using the cellular machinery until the cell is destroyed and others are infected. This is their pathological quality. Others, however, merely feed their genetic information into the rest of the cellular DNA (Fig. 6).

The biological significance of this integration process may be familiar to the reader: it is a means by which two genetic units (two systems) can combine into a single larger unit. How does this fit into the evolutionary context? This feature makes the virus worthy of consideration as a potential mechanism for the input of complex DNA sequences into animal and plant genomes. By taking the unconventional path, i.e., instead of trying to fit the data to a preconceived body of ideas that explain evolution, we shall look at the data afresh and then see what plan they suggest.

Variable amounts of DNA known as “endogenous viruses” have been found in animal and plant genomes. Most of the different types are thought to be derived from exogenous viruses that infected the species in the past and have become endogenous by insertion into germ cells. Thousands of sequences of viral origin are being discovered that actively participate in the function of distinct tissues. Some of these sequences can be regarded as true genetic fossils; “ancient” proviruses that have undergone multiple mutation although they can still be linked to some present retroviruses. Others occur in the form of mobile or transposable elements (TE)- DNA sequences capable of moving and inserting themselves or their copies into new locations in the genome.

The meaning of the presence and activity of all these viral elements in animal and plant genomes can be deduced from their effects. Through their reinsertion, the mobile elements can provoke chromosomal reorganisation and, above all, changes in gene expression and regulation, with important evolutionary consequences. A retrotransponson has been described that is responsible for the modification-amplification of the expression of the genes involved in amylase secretion. In mammals it is only secreted in the pancreas, but in humans it is also secreted by the salivary lands, thus extending the range of food that can be ingested- a clear adaptive advantage. Other retrotransposons are involved in the regulation of genes linked to hystocompatibility (9), and to the expression in tissues of human, mammal, invertebrate and plant alphaglobines (10, 11, 12, 13).

This explains the lack of correspondence in attempts to link the morphological evolution of closely related species to the rates of amino acid change in proteins: it may have taken place primarily by means of changes in the regulation of genetic activity rather than through changes in amino acid sequences.

Recent discoveries are even more spectacular (and informative) about the activity of endogenous viruses: in some cases, endogenous retroviruses can carry genes from the somatic to the germ line. In a recent study, Rothenfluh demonstrates the existence of a genetic transmission mechanism of the acquired immunological memory of lymphocytes to the germ line, thus constituting a strictly Lamarckian mechanism. In other cases, the retroviral sequences are expressed directly: nearly 1% of the 10,5000 completely known genetic sequences expressed in 37 animal tissues correspond to endogenous retroviruses and are expressed as a constituent part of the brain, placenta, embryo, lung, etc. (Genome Directory, Sept. 1995).

Finally, another important form of activity from an evolutionary-mythological perspective has been discovered in HIV-1 retroviral antigens, expressed in human placenta trophoblast cells. This important task contributes to the morphological differentiation of these cells.

Data from a well-studied organism in developmental genetics can provide clues to the obvious evolutionary significance of this phenomenon, as well as in terms of the control of cell proliferation: 15 retroviral sequences have been identified in Drosphila embryos, whose purpose is the spatial and temporal control of the development of different tissues (12).

An expanding body of this type of information can be found in recent (and doubtlessly future) scientific publications on molecular biology, virology, genetics, etc.

A VERY OLD NEW MODEL

Returning to the previous theme, what might this type of information mean from an evolutionary perspective? In the above context, it provides a reasonable answer to several unresolved problems for the Synthetic Theory:

Firstly, it demonstrates the existence of a mechanism by which the new genetic information may be fed into genomes by the integration of a complete system- a mechanism that is much more plausible than the mutation-disorganisation of a closely interconnected cellular system. Secondly, it may explain the appearance of these new sequences (Goldsmith’s “macromutations, se Box 2), in a sufficient number of individuals to facilitate their survival as a species. And thirdly, the sudden changes associated with this phenomenon would prove the existence of the saltationist phenomena observed in the fossil record.

Defenders of the conventional evolution theory would not hesitate to reject these three general aspects, but if we avoid the theoretical or philosophical implications and focus on the rationalist, Cartesian methodology -the only one in our cultural context of any use for a scientific analysis of reality, we can seek possible proof for these three suppositions.

Abundant molecular information solidly backs the first aspect: one significant example is the extremely conservative nature of ancestral sequences that can be traced from bacteria up to higher organisms. They can be followed from the regulatory sequences of genetic activity such as the TBP (the “universal protein”), through cellular proteins, up to cellular structures such as microtubules. This astonishing pattern is often mentioned but rarely given any importance. However, it would obviously not happen if evolution were to happen by small random mutations that had diversified the DNA from the bacterial origin up to the present organisms.

This is not a mere hypothesis or interpretation. The changes and chronology of genetic sequences by integration have recently been documented: sequence analysis of genes related to the expression of amylase in human salivary glands suggests that the retrotransposon responsible for amplifying its expression may have been inserted 45 million years ago (the palaeontologically established point of separation between prosimians and anthropods (9). Furthermore, the retrotransponsible element L-1.2, the first to be identified in the human DNA in chromosome 22, has been located in the same place in chimpanzees and gorillas (15), suggesting that it has been at the same genome location for at least 6 million years.

Spectacular results have been obtained recently in the study of large tax, although they do not lead to any evolutionary interpretation as they are inexplicable from the official paradigm. A considerable difference between the retroviral “populations” of reptiles and those of birds and mammals has been demonstrated (16). Does this have an explanation from our perspective?

Other, less demonstrable but no less indicative proof can be added to this list. Several aspects of embryonic development have been interpreted lucidly by Charline and Devilliers (17) in an evolutionary context. They claim that the biological variation of the Synthetic Theory, which states that genes are treated in calculations of evolutionary genetics as being independent from each other, “is an unsustainable reductionist position. Not all genetic combinations are actually feasible. There is a small number of genotype combinations for each organisational plan.” The genome now appears to be “a system organised into hierarchical and interconnected functional levels.” The gene ceases to be a free agent , and becomes “a member of a society whose correction mechanisms restrict its potential for variation within a range of the possible and the impossible”. The stability of these paths, however, would not imply that they were unalterable. natural selection has clearly worked in living beings, but only on specific characters in the final stages of embryonic development, whose inflexibility diminishes as the initial “almost immutable” stages such as those that determine the overall organisation are superseded by phases that are more “open” to minor changes.

The action of retroviral sequences involved in cellular differentiation is perfectly plausible in this embryonic mechanics of “hierarchised and interconnected functional levels”, as this is a means of feeding into a closely knit system the sequences (the system) necessary for the expression of a new tissue (or even an organ) with a large number of equally interconnected processes that this requires.

Strange as it may seem, the experts in ontolonogenetic development are not surprised. They conclude their article by asking, “Have these intermediate forms, so often lost and missed, always existed? Are they not in many cases simply the fruit of imagination impregnated by the necessity of continuous series?” The conclusion from the rigorous analysis of embryonic processes and their role in evolutionary change is clear: “The discontinuity (of the fossil record) may not be contingent- linked to gaps in the record-, but rather fundamental, which can be attributed the evolutionary mechanics.”

What is really disturbing about this more than plausible evolutionary mechanism, however, is that it inevitably implies that the viral sequences which most probably have been involved in the evolution process must have contained a priori complex sequences with a biologically consistent expression. Naturally one may think that their current expression may have been acquired “randomly” after their insertion, but certain anatomic facts help to choose one of the two alternatives.

“Mosaic evolution”, normally used as an example of gradual change (Fig. 7), is usually explained very vaguely in palaeontology texts. Often used examples are the “mammal-like reptiles” from the Permian and Archaeopterix (268 and 150 M.y.a., respectively). However, these examples not only give the impression of a gradual change, but also of large-scale reorganisations that involve simultaneously interrelated sets of tissues and organs (for a deeper analysis, see “Lamarck y los Mensajeros” by the present author).

Perhaps the most important information in this sense stems from a much more surprising and controversial evolutionary process. “Adaptive convergence” has been defined from the neo-Darwinian perspective as proof “of the incredible ability of natural selection to collect good designs” (1), i.e., incredible similarities produced by random (and individual) mutations that survive and dominate as a result of similar selection pressure. This claim, however, is based more on a firm belief than on scientifically proven facts. How can these random, independent mutations explain the surprisingly close resemblance in the general morphology of species from different sub-classes of mammals that branched in the Early Jurassic (200 M. y.a.) and have evolved separately since then, e.g., marsupials and placentals? Morphologically similar versions of wolves, cats, moles, flying squirrels, anteaters have arisen in Australia (Fig. 8). Is the same morphology necessary to move across the ground and feed? Is it imposed directly by habitat, which on the other hand is not absolutely identical on every continent? Why could the randomly produced organisational plan not have led to the existence of a chickephant, for example?

The present or past existence of complex genetic sequences that led to these “general designs” may seem mysterious, but on clear reflection, it would be even more fantastic if they had been reached via processes that are accepted as logical by the conventional evolution theory. Whatever the case, for orientation purposes we may recall a mammalian order in the early Palaeocene (66 M.y.a.), the Creodonts, which left no “direct” descendants, i.e., they bear no relation to their present counterparts although their remains prove that their anatomies “resembled” ferrets, cats, wolverines or dogs. Similar phenomena have also been observed in insects and plants.

Taken together, these arguments probably cannot even establish the plausibility of this process, so we shall make a final effort using the arisal of the eye, an incredibly complex and efficient structure with simultaneous essential neuronal complements, which has been the subject of fierce debate. Some sequences even belong to retroelements involved in the formation and function of the crystalline lens (18). The existence and structural similarity of the eye in many phylogenetically distinct lines has obliged acceptance of the surprising idea that because it is an efficient model, it may have arisen several times in the (fantastic) random process of evolution. Pausing for thought along the rationalist method, this multiple development would be statistically equivalent to the probability of a gorilla (or in its absence an action movie star) bashing away at random at a typewriter and producing Don Quixote several times over. In spite of the range of “environment pressures” , however, it is surprising to see the close resemblance of, for example, vertebrate and octopus eyes.

All of these data lead us to propose an alternative concept or model which Darwin himself would probably have accepted as a clarification of his doubts. It is an old model that shares the concepts of Cuvier and Lamarck who, incidentally, can be found at the deepest roots of Darwin’s work.

In effect, “intermediate stages” cannot be seen in the fossil record, nor even in living species, because they probably never existed. We have also seen that the inheritance of acquired genetic characteristics is possible, and even the horizontal transmission of these genetic sequences amongst species in different phyla is possible (19).

Furthermore, we would also accept the evidence of data that shed light on an old debate: whether selection equals (or implies) adaptation but not evolution. The truth is in fact completely the opposite. Moreover, even if one accepts the “non-creative” but conservationist role of natural selection, it is still impossible to adduce a fundamental role to all-powerful chance, in the light of two striking facts that have been disputed since the onset of the Darwinian theory: the response of organisms to natural selection and the perfect adaptations to the environmental conditions (in many cases so sophisticated that Darwinian biologists tend to use Lamarckian expressions, “The branchii grow longer or increase their area in order to extract oxygen more efficiently in deep water”, etc.). The complexity of processes involving many adaptations makes their appearance extremely difficult to justify as a random action of small individual mutations and their subsequent slow expansion through the population by means of mechanisms proposed in population genetics.

There are, however, mechanisms that seem to justify “mutations” as a response to the environment, making these two phenomena more reasonable.

Recently (20) non-pathogenic viruses have been found to undergo multiple mutations that render them virulent as a consequence of dietary deficiency in the host. The Coxsackievirus is a family of two types- A and B. Their infection of humans induces pathologies in only 10% of cases, some of which have been well documented experimentally. In mice, for example, the CVB3 and CBV4 viruses produce inflammations of the myocardia and pancreas respectively.

When mice were inoculated with a non-viral strain of Coxsackievirus 3 (CV3/O), a selenium-deficient diet was found to produce a single, extremely virulent type of CVA3 in different mice 10 days after inoculation. Their genomes revealed that they had undergone 6 nucleotide changes at the same 6 positions. Studies of different nucleotide changes in the CVB3 genome confirm that there is a small number of changes linked to this virulent trait, i.e., not just any change will do.

The paper interprets this obvious response to environmental stress through several independent mutations (reminiscent of what we have seen in bacteria) in a way that is driven by the obligation (perhaps unwitting) to not transgress the orthodox interpretation, i.e., the paradigm. It claims that there were multiple random mutations and what was found in the different mice was the result of selection that had led the different viruses to precisely the same mutations.

This interpretation is hard to defend. It is a further example of the way that scientists “tend to see what they have been trained to see, and cease to see what they know should not be there” (Kuhn). Subjecting the data to the paradigm of competition as the driving force of change impedes one’s view of the obvious, and leads to interpretations that are at times so complicated that they verge on the miraculous in explaining much simpler phenomena (albeit no less mysterious to our mental schemes- Fig. 9).

The aggressive vision of nature criticised by Imanishi sometimes turns scientific language into something reminiscent of military terminology. We are at war against the virus, at war against bacteria, against insects… But perhaps, as has often been the case in human history, we have provoked them beforehand. The difference is that in this case, there might be no winners.

However, by distancing ourselves from this viewpoint, well-reasoned explanations can be found to the evolutionary predicaments arising from such strained and often contradictory interpretations.

Viral integration provides a mechanism to explain the saltationist phenomena (obvious in the fossil record), speciation and even rapid response to the environment. Evidence of post-adaptive mutations in virus (also seen in bacteria and yeast) and the ability of the virus to integrate and then leave the genomes of living beings, explains horizontal transmission between different species, and even between different phyla.

The latest discoveries of these surprising phenomena suggest that the whole concept of nature may have to be reworked. It is not a matter of starting over again (the methodology and specialisation have amply proven their efficiency), but rather changing the way of interpreting the information which, as we have seen, lead to different answers. And these answers in turn make us ask new questions:

Might this response by the virus to environment stress explain the existence of sources of “emerging viruses” in populations subjected by the economic system to harsh misery and famine? When humanity lived in harmony with nature, we must have lived in a reasonable balance with micro-organisms (which does not mean that we were free of illness), and the permanent famine we see now at different points of the planet were then only sporadic events.

Are “scientific” manipulation such as the production of vaccines using ape blood, or xerotransplants (using the tissue of other animals) perhaps feeding specific viral sequences into humans from animals that might have terrible repercussions?

Are treatments using broad spectrum antiretroviruses on AIDS (or simply seropositive) patients damaging retroviral sequences that normally work in different organs, accelerating their death?

And finally, might “oncogenes” not simply be sequences of a viral origin, whose purpose is to work during embryonic growth to produce the cellular differentiation and proliferation of a specific tissue (an interesting clue is the extreme cellular specificity of the virus)? Might tumour proliferation be “simply” an activity of these sequences at an unfortunate moment, either due to environmental factors, of renowned influence in viral activation such as radiation, foreign chemical substances or dietary habits or deficiencies?(21).

The answer to these questions (and their practical consequences) does not imply that the “Paradigm” needs to be questioned, but it does highlight the need for a change of attitude in scientific and philosophical vision of natural phenomena. There may well be a great deal of truth in the harmonious concept proposed by Imanishi: the ideas of concerted change and maturing (Lamarck’s trend towards complexity). This also indicates that a process may be underway that is still beyond the scope of our scientific and technical ability which are, in fact, a result of our way of thinking. Because what is definitely beyond doubt is the enormous danger (especially for humanity) of senseless attempts to manipulate biological processes which we really do not understand.

We do not dominate or control nature, although we are convinced that we do. We can only attack it, and we cannot predict its response, the way it will regain its balance. Unfortunately, this is not a metaphor but a fact that “ignorant natives” the world over have discovered and suffered: our science, our culture with its reductionist and mercantile attitude has focused too much on studying trees and the profit that can be made from them, which is precisely what has prevented us from discovering the beauty and harmony of the forest.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Dawkins, R. 1986. “The blind watchmaker”. Longmans. London.

2. Elredge, N. & Gould, S.J. 1972. “Models in Paleobiology”. T.J.M. Schopf (ed.) W.M. Freeman.

3. Dawkins, R. 1975. “The selfish gene”. Oxford University Press.

4. Charlesworth, B.; Sniegowski, P. & Stpan, W. 1994. “The evolutionary dynamics of repetitive DNA in eukaryots”. Nature. Vol. 371, 215-220.

5. Chouard, T. & Yaniv, M. 1994. “El control de la expresión de los genes”. Mundo Científico. Vol. 4. Nº 149.

6. Gesteland, R.F. & Atkins, J.F. 1993. “The RNA World”. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.

7. Margulis, L. & Sagan, D. 1985. “El origen de las células eucariotas”. Mundo Científico. Vol. 5. Nº 46.

8. Rennie, J. 1993. “Los nuevos giros del ADN”. Investigación y Ciencia. Nº 200.

9. Robins, D. & Samuelson, L. 1993. En “Transposable Elements and Evolution”. McDonald, J. (ed). Kluwer.

10. Kim, J.; Yu, C.; Bailey, A.; Hardison, R. & Shen, C. 1989. Nucleic Acid Res. 17, 5687-5701.

11. Marendez, C. & Johnson, L. 1990. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 87, 2531-2535.

12. Dnig, D. & Lipshitz, H.D. 1994. “Spatially regulated expression of retrovirus-like transposons during Drosophila melanogaster embryogenesis”. Genetical Research. 64: 3.

13. Mc.Donald, J. & Cuticchiaba, J. 1993. En “Transposable Elements and Evolution”. McDonald, J. (ed). Kluwer.

14. Lyden, T.W.; Johnson, P.M.; Mwenda, J.M.; Rote, N.S. 1995. “Expresion of endogenous HIV-1 crossreactive antigens within normal extravillous trophoblast cells”. Journal of Reproductive Inmunology, 28, 3.

15. Dombroski, B.A.; Mathias, S.L.; Nanthakumar, E.J.; Scott, A.F. & Kazazian, M.M.Jr. 1991. “Isolation of the L1 gene responsible for a retrotransposition event in man”. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 49, 403.

16. Tristem, M.; Myles, T. & Hill, T. 1995. “A highly divergent retroviral secuence in the tuatarc (Sphenodon)”. Virology, 210: 1.

17. Devillers, Ch.; Charline, J. & Laurin, B. 1990. “En defensa de una embriología evolutiva”. Mundo Científico, vol. 10, nº 105.

18. Brosius, J. & Gould, S.J. 1992. “On ‘genenomenclature’: a comprehensive (and respectful) taxonomy for pseudogenes and other ‘junk DNA'”. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 89: 10706-10710.

19. García, J.; Bayascas, J.R.; Marfany, G.; Muñoz, A.; Casali, A.; Baguna, J. & Salo, E. 1995. “High copy number of highly similar mariner-like transposons in planarian (Platyhelminthe): evidence for a trans-phyla horizontal transfer”. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 12: 3.

20. Gauntt, Ch. & Tracy, S. 1995. “Deficient diet evokes nasty heart virus”. Nature Medicine. Vol. 1. Nº 5.

21. Seifarth, W.; Sklandy, M.; Kriegschneider, F.; Reichert, A.; Mehlmann, R. & Leibmosch, C. 1995. “Retrovirus-like particles released from the human breast cancer line T47-D display tipe B- and C- related endogenous retroviral secuences”. Journal of Virology. 69: 10.

Box 1:

The selfish gene hypothesis or theory can be regarded as the philosophical culmination of liberal economic Darwinism taken to a mechanistic, reductionist extreme.

At present it is widely accepted by many biologists, especially geneticists and biochemists, who regard it as a good model to explain the variability of genetic sequences in different animal and plant genomes.

The theory claims that the real unit of evolution is neither the species nor the individual, but the individual gene or DNA segment which is virtually eternal once it has gained “supremacy” amongst populations. Organisms are only a vehicle, a survival machine for the genes.

According to Dawkins, all animal behaviour is guided by the following principle: “For every survival machine, every other survival machine is an obstacle to overcome or a resource to be exploited”.

Criticism of this warped vision of nature includes the fact that this theory has become part of the British neo-Nazi party ideology. But it is not necessary to seek out radical ideological connotations. The theory is actually the basic idea underlying the business and social relations of our “free market economy”.

Box 2

In the 1940’s, the German geneticist R. Goldshmidt was the first scientist to propose a genetic explanation for the saltationist phenomena found in the fossil record. He found that ordinary and isolated mutations in Drosophila were too small to be extrapolated to macroevolution. There had to be “macromutations”, i.e., mutations with an instantaneous effect that had a great influence on the viability of the individuals. The reaction by “orthodox” scientists was cruel. They claimed that the results of these “macromutations”, which they sarcastically called “monsters with a future” or “hopeless monsters” would have no partners to mate with, and would thus have no place in evolution.

Nevertheless, viral integration not only makes “macromutations” feasible, but also the simultaneous appearance of a considerable number of “monsters with a future”.

Figure legends

Figure 1

The comparison of basic components in today’s major taxa (DNA, RNA, cellular proteins and even hormones”) provides increasing support for the existence of these gaps in the fossil record. The phylogenetic relationships deduced from them are “lateral kinship”, not descent.

Figure 2

“Industrial melanism” of the peppered moth is a classic example of direct observation of natural selection, and is commonly used in texts on evolution. When light-barked birch trees and building facades in England were darkened by industrial pollution at the start of the century, the dark moths became more abundant than the pale forms because predatory birds found them harder to see. When the pollution was reduced, the pale varieties became predominant again, i.e., only the proportions of each colour changed.

Figure 3

The presence of “living fossils” is usually attributed to the stability of the marine habitat, but this stability cannot explain the sudden disappearances and transformations that are seen in both the marine and terrestrial environment.

Figure 4

Research is bringing to light a growing number of bacteria which enter another and actively participate in their life cycle. The truly astonishing aspect is that this cannot be described as a case of phagocytosis or parasitism. It is real symbiosis which is transmitted by inheritance in many cases, i.e., the symbiotic association is maintained during reproduction.

Figure 5

The usual explanation for the origin of the virus is a fragmentation of genetic material, which “somehow” escaped from the original cell. This explanation might be comforting to a mechanistic mind, but neither its strange properties nor its appearance are so. the illustration shows a T-type phage. The electron microscope photograph shows a l -type phage “landing” on a bacteria. While those who have studied biology are familiar with the image and know (?) its origin, the traditionalists try to convince their “profane” audience that it is “merely” a piece of DNA that “escaped” from a cell.

Figure 6

The biological cycle of the virus, first seen in bacteria and then in eukaryotic cells, has two alternatives: in the lytic phase (A), the virus injects a DNA or RNA molecule which takes on a circular form and replicates by a rotation that generates a long DNA chain with several copies of viral genes. Each copy controls the synthesis and assembly of the proteins in the virus capsule using cellular material. In an hour, the host cell lyses (self-destructs), freeing some 100 viruses which can infect others. In other cases, depending on currently poorly known conditions, the lysogenic phase (B) arises. The viral DNA enters a point of the cellular DNA (specific to each virus) where it codifies its own genetic information and replicated in each cell division. Under these conditions, the latent virus (“protovirus”) can be maintained indefinitely, although it sustains its ability to produce a lytic cycle, multiplying itself anew. This process can be induced experimentally by exposing the cell to UV or X rays, or chemical compounds.

Once the cell is infected, the RNA or retro-viruses are transcribed to DNA by means of an enzyme: reverse transcription.

While the DNA has an extremely stable behaviour (it can reproduce more than 100 million times without a single nucleotide error in its chains), RNA viruses change (mutate) some 100,000 times faster than DNA viruses. The basic cause is that reverse transcription “does not know how to correct” the errors in the copy, and hence often feed “imprecise” nucleotides into the transcribed DNA. Considering the extreme stability of the DNA (heightened in the cell by the extraordinary mechanism of enzima.

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SICK SOCIETY (Miquel Amoros-Spain)

 

SICK SOCIETY. We are living dangerously. The danger is part of the lifestyle that has been imposed upon us, danger in the form of unexpected accidents, unexpected illnesses, undermining poisoning or sudden death; danger linked to new technologies and more specifically to the morbid conditions of survival in the latest stages of capitalism. Despite the so-called breakthroughs of what the power calls progress, mankind had never before lived among mountains of cement and waste, nuclear power plants, chemical factories, transgenic products and industrial pollutants. The result is not encouraging: urbanization, land destruction and reshaping, pollution of air, water and soil, climate change, hole in the ozone layer, noise, isolation, loneliness, confinement, sedentary lifestyle, air conditioners, industrial food … all of which determine not just an extreme set of conditions optimal for the proliferation of diseases associated with the deterioration of the immune system, but also for the emergence of new, deadly epidemics linked to the spread of deadly virus once benign, or simply poisoning and iatrogenic conditions (1). For the masters this is the price people have to pay to enjoy the present techno-economic development. In fact, it is the essential process of capitalist production, which in turn is a process of destruction of life. Disease build up along with profits and its management is a fundamental part of the system. The number of breakdowns and the depth of the disaster are the reason why the situation is in many respects irreversible. Productive forces are eminently destructive forces and their constant development can only increase its catastrophic effects. We have already surpassed the threshold. That feeling of chaos and of having reaching a no return point is in the basis of the distaste for life many humans suffer from, which results in addictions, anxiety, depression, hypertension, and suicide. Consciousness subjected to atomization is so contaminated by capitalist values transmitted without any possible reply by the mass media, that misery takes over both minds and bodies. Every pseudo solution is offered within the frame of the very same system that causes misery, supported by the extensive use of psychiatric drugs. Thus each new generation of anxiolitics legitimates and strengthens it, while the mental health can do nothing but only worsen. The disappearance of social consciousness is the most terrible consequence of the present sick society. It means that human beings have no effective mechanisms to protect their mental individuality from the repeated attacks of a capitalist environment increasingly hostile, having no other let escape but taking the ways out of either brutalisation or disease. The highly spread rampant compulsive consumerism of drug (whether prescription or over the counter ones)would be its primary form. A parallel process occurs with the physical defence mechanisms which are equally weak due because of the harmfulness of the environment and the hazardous diets, which in addition to the mental problems give rise to cardiovascular complications, the main cause of a third of the deaths, immunodeficiency, diabetes, asthma, ageing of the lungs, the majority of cancers and new diseases whose aetiology is still difficult to ascertain so they have to be classified as “syndromes.” Pollution causes ten times more deaths than traffic accidents. Cancer is a metaphor of capitalism, which clings to the social fabric-tissue and accumulates steadily and unstoppably, until it causes the death of the patient society. The disease is characteristic of industrialized society, one out of three humans will end up suffering from it, and in despite of the amount of capital and resources invested in its study, its progression seems to be unstoppable even among young people. Anyone slightly informed could point out at its environmental causes, namely nuclear and electromagnetic radiation, chemicals present either in our food or polluting our environment and mental disorders. While living around nuclear power plants increases the risk of cancer for more than ten, we should not forget the relationship between brain tumours and leukaemia and radar, television or telephone antennas as well as the ratio of skin cancer with hole in the ozone layer. It does not take a Doctor to see that living near industrial areas entails real risks of genetic abnormalities and lymphomas. Doing something as ordinary as driving on the polluted metropolitan cities (all of them are) leads to more lung cancer than smoking. The effects on the health of thousands of compounds with which the chemical and pharmacological industries “gift” us every year remain unknown although we do know that many pesticides, plastics, fuels, medicines, food additives and preservatives are carcinogenic. We just can find them everywhere: in toys, food, ceramics, packaging, electrical material, insulation, cosmetics, textiles, computers, CDs, etc.. Some are also hormone disrupter, allergens or immunosuppressive. Others are simply poison, susceptible of military use, responsible for syndromes such as the “toxic oil” (an organophosphate pesticide) or the death of bees (a neurotoxin). Finally, certain manic, repressed or ultra-competitive behaviours are prone to develop a tumours. All the latter are forms of degradation of personality fostered by the prevailing mental conditions which encourage the oblivion of one’s own self. Apart from this, chemical and nuclear industry are primarily responsible for the havoc caused in the immune protection mechanisms of human body. It is intimately interwoven with the food industry, the population concentration in urban conurbations, energy production, the manufacturing of drugs, the system of wage labour and the consumerist lifestyle. It can not be altered without entirely affecting our present social structure which is to say the whole dominant social system. As an example it can be mentioned that the, destruction of land by deforestation or urbanization for instance, are forcing the increase of monoculture, with the addition of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, the development of transgenic GMO (genetically modified organisms) and the waste of energy, with its consequences of increasing pollution, disappearance of traditional cultures, emission of greenhouse effect causing gases, promiscuity and infectious diseases. The economy always reacts in the same way i.e. by increasing its harmful effects. Urban sprawl generates increased mobility and consequently an increase in demand for fuel giving rise to rising oil prices, which justifies the construction of new nuclear plants. Mass concentrations of cattle and poultry, global warming and aberrant foods (junk-fast food and the like) facilitate the spread of diseases in animals (swine flue, bluetongue) and its transition to humans (avian influenza, bovine spongiform encephalopathy aka Creutzfeldt-Jacobs disease), which triggers panic and in the same token benefits pharmaceutical industry corporations, which sell new recipes to the States for prevention programs and create new jobs. Superlative production of refuse fills the land with highly toxic “dark spots” but also creates a powerful industry of recycling, waste disposal and management, whose treatment plants, landfills and incinerators continue the cycle of pollution within certain “security” limits admissible for the economic interests at stake, to be established by a National Waste Plan and so on. In reality what society is sick of is of capitalism and so any cure will necessarily have to put forward with no hesitation the question of its eradication. To combat the disease it is never enough just to mask the symptoms. This has been the failure of environmentalism. The real issue is to build communities, which is to say social groups without commodified capitalistic social relationships. These communities have to be self-sufficient, i.e., they must operate outside the market, allowing in certain degree the direct satisfaction of real needs and resisting the manipulation of our desires by the spectacular culture. However, just this can never be enough but just the starting point, the ground where the new “dangerous classes” born out of the bankruptcy of capitalist society, those who must suppress the market and the state forever have to get their support, care and healing. Go outside to fight inside. That might well be the new slogan. Miquel Amoros. (1) Iatrogenic condition: Disease caused by the very same hospital environment and/or its staff.

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ON SABOTAGE AS ONE OF THE FINE ARTS (By the Asturian Institute of Comparative Vandalism-2001)

 

On Sabotage as one of the Fine Arts:

A contribution to the topic of the theory of the practice of Sabotage
by The Asturian Institute of Comparative Vandalism
“Misdirecting our attention toward partial objectives
only benefits the managers of our misery and those
who will one day lay claim to its management, and
both are among the targets for sabotage.”

Who will revive the violent whirlpools of flame if not us
and those that we consider brothers?
Come! New friends: this will please you.
We will never work, oh tides of flame!
This world will explode.
It’s the true path. Forward, on the march.
A. Rimbaud-
-1-


The spread of sabotage, its increasing practice, on a greater or lesser scale, against the domination of the market, is a given fact. Burning Phone booths and cash machines, disabling locks at shopping centres, smashing shop windows, setting fire to the offices of temp agencies and employment offices, shoplifting, the sabotage of the infrastructure of capitalism (high-speed railroads, dams, expressways, construction projects) … are offensive practices against the colonization of our lives by the most advanced form of capitalism — the integrated spectacle.
All this is put into practice by individuals bored with survival as commodities (life reduced to economic imperatives) and disillusioned with false opposition (more false and less oppositional with each day that goes by), parties and unions that want to manage our misery and integrate us into a mode of production that prevents us from any participation in the decisions that relate directly to us and that assist in enslaving us, mutilating every gesture of negation of the existent. The spectacle writes the scenario and distributes the roles:
worker, professional, student, housewife, mother, father, son, daughter, unemployed, police, soldier, artist, humanitarian, intellectual… the majority, individuals who assume different roles in the course of 24 hours, see their existence as still more terrible, assuming this is possible. Everyone with his neurotic schizoid viewpoint hat will react to the stimuli launched by power in the way that was already expected. All social activity is planned in order to reinforce the spectacle, thus slowing down its unstoppable process of decomposition.
Though we don’t want to hear the shrieking of militants of whatever organization, clearly we are not against the concept of “organization” as such, but against “organization” conceived as an end in itself, as the crystallization of any ideology, and as a separated organ, representing a class. We are for the autonomous self-organization of the exploited. History has shown through two clear examples that the traditional form of the party (Russian revolution) and union (Spanish revolution) were nothing more than two attempts to manage capitalism and not to overcome it, and this is something that, consciously or unconsciously, everybody knows. In the seizure of power, it is not destroyed, but exercised: in the first case, the class of bureaucrats replaced the bourgeoisie, and in the other case, the anarcho-syndicalist leaders participated in bourgeois power, calling for the self-management of exploitation and alienation, while the base tried to overcome the relationships of production and social relationships in practice through the direct management of every aspect of their lives
and not just work. To be precise, both forms have the exaltation of work in common (something that they also share with National Socialism and with every political form of capitalism). Their quantitative vision sought an increase in production, leaving aside the qualitative increase of life. This (practical and theoretical) defeat of the traditional organizations, which claim to represent us, has not been absorbed by the working class (it seems that we only know how to work), and we go along without maintaining any possibility of control over
essential aspects of our lives, in a world that is developed, not only without our participation, but against us.
But, comrades, history is not cyclic; it is a cumulative process and already weighs too heavily upon our weary bodies.
-2-
Never did mockers waste more idle breath. — William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream


The contradiction between the possibilities of the means of production (the use of a few of them for the enjoyment of all, since most of them are useless and harmful and would be destroyed) and the relations of production (waged exploitation, commoditization, the exclusions of class society) has reached an insurmountable point of rupture. In the spectacle it is easier to falsify the nature of this contradiction than to increase mercantile production with increasing use value. This inertia forces it to display all of its methods for recuperating any real movement of opposition and to turn the spectacular critique of the spectacle to its advantage. A self-critical hypocrite directed by its own police of decomposed thought (pro-situationists, cadres, non-governmental organizations, recuperators, artists, journalists… the clique of politically correct alternatives).
These toilet brushes of modernity, like good priests, hope that with their patches, the proper development of the system will lead us, hand in hand, into an ideal world planned by their false consciousness and by the putridity of their armoured brains; as if they had ever given us anything. Their social function, which has been denounced for decades already, has been worth more to them than any aggressions, beatings or assassinations, and we are sure that these will not be mere anecdotes. They deceive and manipulate us. We must not allow them to have a single day more. They are the guardians to the keys of our informal chains. They amuse us with insignificant debates. They impose their opinions on us, avoiding questions so simple that they would make them tremble with terror: How best to live? Who and what keeps us from this? Questions that immediately unmask the professionals of the lie. Critical coherence and the critique of incoherence aid in this operation.
-3-
Injustice is not anonymous; it has a name and an address.
— Bertold Brecht


Situationist theory, as integral critique of the totality of the conditions of survival and of the mercantile-spectacular capitalism that necessitates them, has been confirmed in events by falsification. One cannot fight alienation by means of alienated forms. The sabotage of this world starts with the break with the roles the
System imposes on us, the sabotage of our death in life and the refusal of the roles that they have allotted and appointed to us. To speak of the Revolution in these times is “to have a corpse in one’s mouth”. We only need to look around ourselves to see a scenario that constantly reminds us of the defeat. Sabotage is thus an action that serves as a propellant against the unreality that oppresses us. A practice that has not gone unnoticed by
ideological recuperation, which has transformed it into “terrorism” (the professionalization of sabotage that has done no more than reinforce the system, due to its centralist, hierarchical and militarist character). Today, what is proposed is not the creation of an armed organization of this type, but widespread attack by small affinity groups, uncontrollable by any higher organization, that come together and dissolve like the lunar tides. The ides that are born of the awareness of how bad things are and of the worsening that awaits us due to events.
In the 19th century, such a practice existed that put the incipient capitalism in check. Beyond the Luddite attacks, the “proletarian rounds” rendered their repression and recuperation, in which the embryonic unions would play a role, almost impossible due to their lack of a rigid structure and their maximum flexibility in attacks. A group of people came together, struck and disappeared into the mass, while a new group came
together within it. Such widespread sabotage makes it difficult for the enemy to organize repression. Thus it transforms the attack into a universe of pleasure for the enlightened hooligan, the feelings of which are impossible to describe or communicate with the poor and banal language of words. The game of subversion, the rules of which are written by those that participate in it, becomes an effective weapon against capitalism in all its forms. There is much more to destroy than to build.
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Our epoch does not need to write poetic slogans, but to realize them.
— Situationist International

It has been demonstrated that small groups that attack do more damage than large organizations that specialize in armed struggle. The Angry Brigade continued its actions when people were arrested and the English state assumed the movement had fallen apart. The Kale Borroka (street struggle) in Euskadi, which Jarrai (the youth organization of the Basque nationalist left, NDR) recently declared uncontrollable, is another example. Power has difficulty repressing and eliminating little groups that with complete security do not know each other, and the only thing that unites them is the desire for the destruction of a system that prevents them from living and condemns them to survival and uncertainty. They don’t attempt exhibitionist actions in order to make propaganda as some acronym or mark of origin. In the case of the Asturias, sabotage was a class weapon used innumerable times, particularly in labour conflicts with these enterprises: Duro Felguera, Hunosa, Naval and Ciata… (Asturian businesses and mines where sabotage was determinant in the struggles going on in the 1990’s); every weary person, regardless of her or his ideology, uses it. From the clerk who steals office supplies to the worker who damages the machine to which he is chained, passing through the use of plastic explosives like the licensed professionals of Duro Felguera. Today, the example is the burning of the ETTs (temporary employment agencies). The practice of sabotage remains limited to precise and very localized


conflicts, without global perspectives, simply aiming for partial solutions with economic demands that remain within imposed limits where capitalist logic unfolds. The same holds in the case of the ETTs, an attack that goes beyond the temporality of a conflict in one enterprise, but that does not place wage slavery into question. Instead it only questions its most extreme form, not aiming at putting an end to exploitation, but rather to the ETTs. Today the conflict is global and it is not resolved through partial struggles, but through total struggle and
through the refusal of this society as a whole. It is necessary to put an end to the reduction of our lives to commodities and to wage labour that wears us out, not just to ETTs. We must put an end to class society and not just fascism. Misdirecting our attention toward partial objectives only benefits the managers of our misery and those who will one day lay claim to its management, and both are among the targets for sabotage. The widespread practice of sabotage (unhindered autonomy, maximum flexibility, self-organization, minimum risk) among like-minded individuals opens the possibility for real communication, destroying spectacular communication, smashing the apathy and impotence of the eternal revolutionist monologue. Relationships and the possibility of contact with other people in the refusal of the spectacular role, these are transient situations that in their preparation and development carry in their essence the qualities of the revolutionary situation that will not retreat and that will suppress the conditions of survival. It does not fall into the irremediable alienating hierarchization that every specialized armed group of an authoritarian and militaristic character, to which the masses delegate their participation in the attack, carries within itself. The quantitative growth of this practice does not come to us from the hands of propagandists of the spectacle, but rather by taking a walk through the scenario of capitalism, and finding in this drift the burned Phone boxes and cash dispensers, the ETTs with shattered windows, the smiths changing the locks of a supermarket. These visions make our complicit smiles blossom and move us to go out that very night to play with fire with the aim of making the same smiles rise on the faces of unknown accomplices through the fellowship of destruction. The number doesn’t matter, but rather the quality of the acts: sabotage, expropriations, self reduction… they return part of the life that is denied us back to us, but we want it all.
Comrades, the game is yours and we take courage in its daily practice. Organize it yourselves with your accomplices. Against the old world in all its expressions, in order to leave pre-history, let’s launch and multiply attacks.

For the abolition of class society and the state.STOP.

Against the merchandise and the wage work.STOP.

For the Anarchy.STOP.

For the Comunism.STOP.

STONES AND FIRE!!!

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