Firstly, do we need new theories of evolution and inheritance?
Although natural selection elegantly explains how small evolutionary changes accumulate over time, Darwin wasn’t convinced his theory explained how new instincts are formed, or how the external environment shapes those instincts. That’s because, during his voyage on HMS Beagle, Darwin observed countless instances of instincts that appeared to have been influenced, (or ‘instructed’) by the animal’s environment. He called these ‘acquired adaptations’ because they were acquired during the life of the animal.
In 1868 Darwin published his ‘pangenesis‘ theory to explain how animals could acquire and inherit environmental information and how this information could be configured into environment-specific instincts. Although his theory, which was based on Lamarck’s theory of acquired characteristics, turned out to be wrong, to this day no viable explanation for acquired adaptations has emerged.
There remains a real and significant gap in Darwinian theory
This has left a small hole in the Darwinian paradigm, evident in the 1900 scientific papers, books and dissertations published in the last two decades critiquing aspects of NeoDarwinian theory. Today, evolutionary biology remains arguably the most challenged and incomplete of the life sciences.
The Mendelian theory of inheritance is equally flawed
It’s the same with Gregor Mendel’s seminal theory of inheritance. Although it explains how genes regulate the inheritance of physical traits, it doesn’t explain how emotions, instincts and innate behaviors are encoded into DNA and inherited. No single gene has been discovered for any complex innate behavior, and it certainly doesn’t explain how complex environmental information, (like migration routes, habitat construction and predator identification) is genetically acquired and inherited.
And when it comes to explaining the evolutionary function of noncoding DNA, which makes up over 98.5% of the human genome, modern genetics is mostly silent.
It’s not that Darwin and Mendel were wrong. My research suggests that for the first 3.2 billion years of evolution, Darwin’s selectionist process (natural selection) exclusively regulated both physical and behavioral evolution. Originally though, the first inheritable proto-instincts were simply reflex actions. But like everything else in nature, the process of evolution also evolved.
In a 2005 paper, I theorized that about 543 million years ago, a second instructionist (but nonLamarckian) evolutionary process emerged. This second process, which I call teemosis, took over the evolution of innate behavior, instincts, emotions and personality in multicellular animals.
The teemosis evolutionary process emerged because it filled a niche function – providing a means by which the genome can be genetically encoded with adaptive environmental information, (ie. information external to the genome), without deleteriously contaminating the genome. This facilitated the creation of environment-specific instincts that could be inherited by offspring. Without these new instincts, biological complexity and diversity could not emerge in any systematic form.
These new teemic instincts were a vast improvement over the old reflex actions that were basic stimulus-response behaviors.
The DNA molecule contains both protein coding nucleotides (‘genes’) that code for the proteins used to build cells, organs, bones etc. plus innumerable noncoding nucleotides that don’t code for proteins. Till now, the function of noncoding DNA (ncDNA) has been a mystery.
Teem theory finally explains the primary evolutionary function of noncoding DNA.
The teemosis evolutionary process
Briefly, my second evolution hypothesis argues that in multicellular animals, powerful, traumatic emotions generated by stressful environmental circumstances (such as predatory attacks, sexual encounters, accidents and misadventures) can be genetically encoded into an animal’s ncDNA.
Once encrypted in ncDNA, these traumatic emotions can be inherited to offspring, providing them with an emotional memory of the traumatic event.
I call these quanta of inherited information, teems, (derived from ‘Trauma Encoded Emotional Memory’) and suggest they are the genetic medium by which adaptive information (in the form of an emotional memories) is transferred from one generation to the next. Teems provide the means by which adaptive information (that helps the animal survive and procreate) can be acquired and inherited. Teems form the basis of all instincts and innate behaviors in multicellular animals.
Unlike natural selection, which uses random mutations of protein-coding genes to code for physical traits, the teemosis evolutionary process uses directed (non-random) mutations of non-protein-coding DNA to code for emotional and behavioral traits in animals.
Significantly, because the teemosis process requires emotions and sensory organs to work, only animals possessing a nervous system (necessary to generate emotions) and sensory organs (eyes, ears, etc.) can acquire the teemosis evolutionary process. Bacteria, plants and simple animals (like sponges) that don’t possess a nervous system or sensory organs evolve exclusively by natural selection. This limits their behavior to simple reflex actions.
This effectively divides the biosphere into two new distinctions: teemic and nonteemic kingdoms.
Why a second evolutionary process emerged is really quite simple. To create adaptive physical traits using random mutations, it’s imperative to prevent environmental factors contaminating the germ line (sperm cells). In biology, this is called the ‘central dogma’ and it’s necessary to prevent individuals inheriting things like their father’s lumbago or their mother’s skin cancer – ailments the parents acquired during their lifetime.
By comparison, to create adaptive inheritable behaviors, which frequently involve highly specific environmental information (like what a predator looks like, where to find food, and habitat construction – such as nest building) it’s essential to provide a means by which acquired environmental information (migration routes, mating behaviors, etc.) can be encoded into an individual’s DNA and inherited via sperm cells to its offspring.
The only solution to this dichotomy was for natural selection to come up with a second instructionist (but nonLamarckian) evolutionary processes, one that resided within the DNA molecule, but didn’t contaminate or disrupt gene function.
What nature came up with was a brilliant solution – invent a completely new DNA molecule (called Eukaryotic DNA), that was divided into two separate parts. One part (the coding genes) exclusively uses natural selection to regulate physical evolution in accordance with the central dogma. Meanwhile, the noncoding part of the DNA molecule regulates behavioral evolution via the teemosis evolutionary process.
Almost precisely 543 million years ago, the second evolutionary process came on stream and I suggest, from then on, life on earth has been regulated by two distinct evolutionary processes, (natural selection and teemosis) both housed within the same eukaryotic DNA molecule.
Complex life in the animal kingdom is today regulated by a synergy of the two evolutionary processes.
The Cambrian explosion
When the teemosis process came on stream 543 million years ago, it precipitated a dramatic and unprecedented increase in both behavioral and physical evolution that I suggest, is graphically revealed in the fossil record as ‘the Cambrian explosion’ – arguably the most concrete and telling proof of the emergence of a second evolutionary process.
The book provides the detailed proofs and arguments
This is a very brief description of what is essentially a complex, revolutionary new unified field theory of biology. But as Carl Sagan once cautioned, ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof’ – or at least detailed and convincing scientific arguments that can be tested empirically. The first step was the 2005 publication of the paper, Noncoding DNA and the teem theory of inheritance, emotions and innate behavior in the British journal Medical Hypotheses. Now the entire theory is set out in detail in The Second Evolution. Supported by 1100 scientific references, it provides the detailed arguments and proofs to validate a new postDarwinian biological paradigm.
Danny Vendramini, 2015
A draft version of The Second Evolution is now available as an Ebook on Amazon. The Kindle price is USD $9.18