- In contrast with Olson’s analytical approach2, Alvaro Moreno’s essay on ‘The Role of Individuality in the Origin of Life’ draws our attention to the evolutionary history of biological individuality, the study of which, he believes, is required for an adequate understanding not only of biological individuality but also of life as such: the successful proliferation of life on Earth would not have been possible without the emergence of forms of biological individuality.
- This emergence, Moreno explains, was a long process with three stages.
- Biogenesis begins with the evolution of self-maintaining (autopoietic) networks of chemical processes which become organisationally integrated as a result of a process of encapsulation.
- Second, as these minimal forms of individuality acquire primitive capacities of heritance they undergo a process of complexification which triggers the appearance of proto-ecosystems, i.e., synchronic networks of interactions between different groups of proto-species. This process is accompanied by the emergence of semi-autonomous genetic quasi-individuals which replicate themselves using the organisation of autopoietic protocells.
- Only when, finally, the latter develop an early form of immune system to protect themselves against invasion do we see the advent of true individuals in the sense of hierarchically and cohesively organised systems, which through cooperation may in turn generate new cohesive associated entities.
I don't yet have a copy of this paper. I will buy the book when it comes out.
Footnote 1: Footnote 2:
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