|Published by FT Press|
In the first part of this post, I insisted on living organisms (viruses, bacteria, eukaryotes) and their evolutionary history.
Here I want to look at what Koonin writes about the mechanism of evolution.
What drives evolution?
One central idea in Koonin’s book, I think, is to propose an evolutionary outlook that is based on an analogy with the physical world. Central, for instance, is stochasticity, as a force shaping the genomic evolution. Equally important, in Koonin’s view, are the statistical principles that govern the interactions between all genes within a genome (he likens the collection of all genes in a genome to the ideal gas model in physics). Thus, genes are influenced by a number of statistical rules. On this line, even though it is apparently not possible to define “laws of genomics”, certain regularities can be identified, such as the proportion of different functional classes of genes within a given prokaryotic genome.
Koonin writes, p. 405:
“it is remarkable that the advances of genomics and systems biology, while revealing an extremely complex, multifaceted picture of evolution, at the same time allow us to derive powerful and simplifying generalizations. It is tempting to offer yet another version of the famous phrase: Nothing in evolution—and in population genetics—makes sense except in light of statistical physics.”