Transcript: Richard C. Lewontin, Co-evolution: Organisms and Environment | May 11, 2003

Richard Lewontin gives a lecture standing on a stage. He’s in his sixties, clean-shaven with gray hair. He’s wearing glasses, a beige suit, brown sweater, white shirt, and a dark blue tie.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Richard Lewontin. Harvard University. The Co-evolution of organisms and the Environment. Recorded January 10, 2003."

He says UM, WHAT I
WANT TO TALK ABOUT TODAY, UH, IS
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
ORGANISM AND ENVIRONMENT IN A
PARTICULAR CONTEXT AND THAT IS
THE ONE POSED BY DARWIN AND, UH,
TRY TO LOOK AT IT AGAIN IN A
DIFFERENT WAY.
DARWIN, I THINK, HAS TO BE
UNDERSTOOD AS SOMEONE WHOSE
REVOLUTION WAS NOT SIMPLY
PRESSING THE CASE FOR EVOLUTION,
NOR EVEN, UH, EXPLAINING
EVOLUTION BY NATURAL SELECTION,
BUT HAVING PERFORMED A MUCH MORE
FUNDAMENTAL, UH, INTELLECTUAL
FEAT, WHICH IS -- AND, AND, AND
ONE OF MUCH DEEPER IMPORT.
AND THAT IS A RUPTURE WHICH HE
INTRODUCED, BETWEEN CAUSES THAT
ARE INTERNAL TO ORGANISMS AND
CAUSES THAT ARE OUTSIDE OF THEM.
LET US SAY A RUPTURE BETWEEN
WHAT'S INSIDE AND OUTSIDE.
UH, BETWEEN ORGANISM AND
ENVIRONMENT.
UH, IN A WAY THAT WAS
FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT FROM
WHAT WENT ON IN THE 18th CENTURY
AND BEFORE, WHERE THERE WAS NO
CLEAR DIVISION BETWEEN THE
FORCES OPERATING WITHIN
ORGANISMS AUTONOMOUSLY AND THE
FORCES OPERATING OUTSIDE OF
ORGANISMS ON THEM.
THE LIVING COULD BECOME -- THE
DEAD COULD BECOME LIVING, UM,
THE POPE'S STAFF WOULD PUT FORTH
LEAVES, UH, AN IVORY, NOT A
STONE, BUT IVORY STATUE WOULD
BECOME, UH, A LIVING WOMAN, UH,
THAT IS TO SAY, THE, THE BARRIER
BETWEEN THE NONLIVING AND THE
LIVING, UH, WAS NOT A FIRM ONE
AND, UH, EVOLUTIONISTS IN
PARTICULAR BEFORE DARWIN AND
THERE WERE MANY EVOLUTIONISTS
BEFORE DARWIN, UH, BELIEVED IN
THE INHERITANCE OF ACQUIRED
CHARACTERISTICS.
LET US SAY WHATEVER CAME FROM
THE OUTSIDE INTO THE ORGANISM
WOULD THEN BECOME INCORPORATED
INTO THE ORGANISM'S HEREDITY AND
BE PASSED ON TO THE NEXT
GENERATION, SO THERE WAS AGAIN
NO BARRIER BETWEEN THE -- WHAT,
WHAT COMES OUTSIDE, THE FORCES
OUTSIDE AND THE INTERNAL FORCES.
WHAT DARWIN DID WAS TO ALIENATE
THE OUTSIDE FROM THE INSIDE BY
SAYING THAT EVOLUTION OCCURRED
BECAUSE ORGANISMS VARIED, ONE
FROM ANOTHER, AS A CONSEQUENCE
OF INTERNAL CAUSES, HE DIDN'T
KNOW WHAT THEY WERE, BECAUSE HE
DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT
GENETICS, OF COURSE, BUT HE HAD
THIS NOTION OF SOME INTERNAL
CAUSES OF VARIATION.
AND THAT'S WHAT MADE ORGANISMS
DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER, NOT
THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT THE
INTERNAL, INDEPENDENT CAUSES AND
THEN, THE VARI -- THE VARIOUS
KINDS WERE TESTED BY THEIR
RELATIONSHIP TO THE ENVIRONMENT,
WHICH WAS EXTERNAL AND THE
FORCES OF THE, OF THE WORLD
EXTERNALLY IMPOSED THE
CONDITIONS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF
ORGANISMS AND EVOLUTION OCCURRED
BECAUSE SOME ORGANISMS FITTED
BETTER INTO THE PRE-EXISTENT
DEMANDS OF THAT EXTERNAL WORLD.
SO YOU'VE GOT AN EXTERNAL WORLD
WHICH MADE DEMANDS ON ORGANISMS
AND AN INTERNAL SET OF CAUSES
WHICH CAUSED VARIATION FROM ONE
TO ANOTHER, SO MANY ARE CALLED,
BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN, UH, THERE
WAS A NOTION OF, OF, UH,
CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE, THOSE OF
YOU WHO ARE INTERESTED IN
PHILOSOPHY WILL RECOGNIZE THAT
SAYING, UH, THE WHOLE NOTION
THAT, THAT, UH, ORGANISM VARY
AND EITHER THEY FIT OR THEY
DON'T FIT.
NOW THAT WAS AN EXTREMELY
IMPORTANT INSIGHT FOR DARWIN AND
IT MADE MODERN BIOLOGY IN
GENERAL AND MODERN EVOLUTIONARY
THEORY IN PARTICULAR, POSSIBLE.
UH, THE, THE, THAT ALIENATION OF
THE INTERNAL CAUSES OF VARIATION
FROM THE EXTERNAL CAUSES OF
SELECTION AND FITTING.
BUT LIKE ALL, UH, THEORIES OR,
OR, OR EVEN INTELLECTUAL
REVOLUTIONS, UH, THEY FIT INTO A
PARTICULAR HISTORICAL CONTEXT
AND THERE COMES A TIME WHEN ONE
HAS TO LOOK AT THEM AGAIN.
THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS, AS
EVERY BIOLOGIST KNOWS, AND THIS
IS A PECULIARITY OF THE
CIRCUMSTANCE IN WHICH WE FIND
OURSELVES, AS EVERY BIOLOGIST
KNOWS, UH, THE CAUSES OF THE
EXTERNAL WORLD ARE NOT, IN FACT,
AUTONOMOUS AND INDEPENDENT OF
THE CAUSES OF THE INTERNAL
WORLD.
IT IS TRUE THAT THERE IS NO
INHERITANCE OF ACQUIRED
CHARACTERISTICS, EXCEPT CULTURAL
INHERITANCE, IF YOU WANT TO TALK
ABOUT THAT, BUT IT IS NOT THE
CASE THAT THERE IS AN EXTERNAL
WORLD CALLED THE ENVIRONMENT,
WHICH IS STRUCTURED BY SOME
AUTONOMOUS PROCESS AND EITHER AN
ORGANISM FITS INTO IT OR IT
DOESN'T.
THE FIRST AND, AND, AND THE GIST
OF MY LECTURE IS TO EXPLAIN WHY
THAT EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT, THAT
FIXED WORLD, DOESN'T EXIST,
OUTSIDE OF AND INDEPENDENT OF
THE ORGANISMS THAT ACTUALLY LIVE
IN IT.
INDEED, YOU HAVE TO THINK OF THE
WORD "ENVIRONMENT" ITSELF,
ENVIRONS,
TO BE
ENVIRONS,
THERE HAS TO BE
SOMETHING AROUND WHICH THE THING
IS, I MEAN, YOU CAN'T BE
ENVIRONED UNLESS THERE'S A
CENTRE TO IT AND THE VERY
DEFINITION OF THE ENVIRONMENT
IS, IN FACT, A CONSEQUENCE OF
OUR CENTRING ON THE ORGANISM.
IF YOU DON'T THINK THAT'S TRUE,
IMAGINE DESCRIBING THE
ENVIRONMENT OF AN ORGANISM THAT
YOU HAD NEVER SEEN.
I MEAN, YOU COULD MAKE IT UP.
UH, HOW DO YOU, HOW DO YOU
DESCRIBE AN ENVIRONMENT?
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT
ENVIRONMENTS ARE DESCRIBED ONLY
AFTER THE ORGANISMS HAVE BEEN
SEEN.
UH, THERE WAS ONE FATAL ATTEMPT
TO DESCRIBE AN ENVIRONMENT
WITHOUT AN ORGANISM, THAT COST A
LOT OF MONEY AND CAME TO NO
GOOD.
AND THAT WAS THE ATTEMPT TO FIND
LIFE ON MARS.
UH, HOW DO YOU FIND LIFE ON
MARS?
WELL, THERE WERE TWO
PROPOSITIONS.
ONE, UH, WAS WHAT WE MIGHT CALL
THE MORPHOLOGICAL DEFINITION OF
LIFE, IF IT WIGGLES, IT'S ALIVE
AND THE SUGGESTION WAS THAT THEY
SEND OFF, IN THE MARS LANDER, A
MICROSCOPE, WHAT ARE ESSENTIALLY
A MICROSCOPE.
THEY WOULD THEN GET SOME DUST
FROM MARS AND THEY WOULD PUT IT
ON THE STAGE OF THE MICROSCOPE
AND THE MICROSCOPE WOULD LOOK AT
THIS DUST AND SEND BACK THE
SIGNAL TO EARTH AND IF PEOPLE
SITTING IN THE SPACE CENTRE
LOOKED AT IT AND THERE WERE
THINGS WIGGLING AROUND, THEY
WOULD SAY, OH, THERE'S LIFE ON
MARS AND EVERYBODY SAID, OH,
WELL, THAT'S CHILDISH, I MEAN,
YOU KNOW, THERE COULD BE ALL
KINDS OF LIFE THAT DIDN'T WIGGLE
OR THAT LOOKED LIKE IT MIGHT BE
ALIVE, BUT ISN'T, YOU DON'T
WANNA BE SO NAIVE AS THAT, WE'LL
BE MUCH MORE SOPHISTICATED AND
WE'LL MAKE A PHYSIOLOGICAL AND
BIOCHEMICAL DEFINITION OF LIFE.
AND WHAT THE MARS LANDER IN FACT
DID WAS NOT TO MAKE A
MICROSCOPE, BUT TO MAKE A LARGE
VACUUM CLEANER AND THAT VACUUM
CLEANER, WHEN IT LANDED, SENT
OUT ITS NOZZLE ONTO THE SURFACE
OF MARS AND SUCKED UP SOME DUST
INTO THE VACUUM CLEANER

He walks around the stage and continues
AND INSIDE THE VACUUM CLEANER WAS A,
UH, WAS A GROWTH MEDIUM,
CONTAINING RADIOACTIVE CARBON
AND A DETECTOR OF RADIOACTIVE
CARBON DIOXIDE AND THE ARGUMENT
WAS, IF THERE'S ANYTHING ALIVE
ON MARS, IT'LL COME INTO THIS
GROWTH MEDIUM, IT WILL GROW, IN
GROWING IT WILL USE THE CARBON
AND CONVERT IT TO CARBON DIOXIDE
AND WE WILL DETECT THE
RADIOACTIVE CARBON DIOXIDE AS
IT, UH, AS IT APPEARS.
AND SURE ENOUGH, YOU CANNOT
IMAGINE THE EXCITEMENT AT THE
SPACE CENTRE WHEN THE METER
MEASURING THE CARBON DIO...
RADIOACTIVE CARBON DIOXIDE BEGAN
TO UP LIKE THAT, I MEAN, PEOPLE
WERE OUT OF THEIR MINDS WITH JOY
AND THEN SUDDENLY, THE METER
STOPPED RISING AND FELL RATHER
ABRUPTLY, SO THE, THE DETECTION
OF CARBON DIOXIDE WENT UP LIKE
THIS AND THEN -- WHST! -- DOWN
LIKE THAT.
EVERYBODY THOUGHT, WELL, THE
THING'S NOT WORKING, BUT THEY
CHECKED, NO, THE METERS WERE
WORKING, EVERYTHING'S WORKING,
FOR SOME REASON THE CARBON
DIOXIDE ROSE EXPONENTIALLY, AS
YOU EXPECT FROM A GROWING
BACTERIAL COLONY, BUT THEN JUST
DROPPED LIKE THAT.
AND A YEAR LATER, I THINK IT WAS
ABOUT A YEAR LATER, THERE WAS A
MEETING AT MIT THAT I ATTENDED
TO DECIDE WHERE THERE WAS LIFE
ON MARS AND ESSENTIALLY WHAT
PEOPLE DID WAS TO TAKE A VOTE.

[Laughter]

Richard continues AND, UH,
THEY VOTED NO.

[Laughter]

Richard continues UH, THEY
VOTED NO, THIS RADIOACTIVE
CARBON DIOXIDE WAS NOT GENERATED
BY A LIVING ORGANISM, IT WAS
A -- PROBABLY A CATALYTIC, UH,
CHEMICAL PROCESS ON FINELY
DIVIDED CLAY PARTICLES AND
THAT'S WHAT GAVE RISE TO THE
CARBON DIOXIDE AND SURE ENOUGH,
A COUPLE OF YEARS LATER, THEY
SUCCEEDED IN MIMICKING THAT IN
THE LABORATORY, SO IT COULD HAVE
BEEN.
NOW I DON'T KNOW WHETHER THERE'S
LIFE ON MARS OR NOT, BUT YOU
NOTICE THAT THE ATTEMPT TO FIND
LIFE ON MARS WAS TO CREATE AN
ENVIRONMENT FOR THAT LIFE TO
LIFE IN AND GROW IN AND THEN SEE
WHETHER IT WORKED.
BUT IN ORDER TO CREATE THE
ENVIRONMENT FOR LIFE ON MARS,
YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT KIND OF
LIFE THERE IS ON MARS.
LOOK ON EARTH, THERE ARE LOTS OF
ORGANISMS, EVEN MICROORGANISMS
THAT WOULDN'T HAVE MADE ANY
CARBON DIOXIDE FROM THAT MEDIUM.
THERE'S AN INFINITY OF
ENVIRONMENTS I COULD DESCRIBE,
UH, BUT THE ONLY ENVIRONMENTS
THAT IT'S WORTH DESCRIBING ARE,
IN FACT, THE ENVIRONMENTS THAT
ARE ACTUALLY OCCUPIED, THAT
ACTUALLY ARE AROUND SOME LIVING
OBJECT.
AND, UH, THAT MEANS THAT THE
CLASSICAL MODEL WHICH WE USE IN
HAVE USED FOR YEARS IN
ECOLOGY, AS WELL AS EVOLUTION,
OF THE ORGANISM FITTING INTO A
PRE-EXISTING ENVIRONMENT DOESN'T
WORK.
LET US SAY SINCE ENVIRONMENT
ONLY EXISTS AS SOME KIND OF A
JUXTAPOSITION OF EXTERNAL
FACTORS, JUXTAPOSED THROUGH THE
NEXUS OF THE ORGANISM ITSELF,
ENVIRONMENTS ARE CREATED BY, IN
SOME SENSE, THE, THE, THE
SENSUOUS LIFE ACTIVITIES OF
ORGANISMS.
THEY'RE DEFINED BY THEM, THEY'RE
CHANGED BY THEM, I DON'T WANT TO
SPEND A LOT OF TIME GIVING SOME
DETAIL, BUT IT'S EXTREMELY
IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT
BECAUSE THE ENVIRONMENT IS
DEFINED ONLY RELATIVE TO AN
ORGANISM THAT IS ENVIRONED, UH,
THAT WE MUST THEN UNDERSTAND...
KNOW THE ORGANISMS AND WHAT THEY
DO IN ORDER TO CREATE THOSE
ENVIRONMENTS.
NICHES, THE NOTION OF THE
ECOLOGICAL NICHE, I DON'T KNOW,
SOME OF YOU MAY BE ECOLOGISTS
AND YOU'LL RECOGNIZE THE NOTION
OF THE ECOLOGICAL NICHE, IT'S
THE NICHE, THE METAPHOR OF THE
NICHE IS, IN FACT, A HOLE IN THE
WORLD INTO WHICH THE ORGANISM
FITS AND THE CLASSICAL DARWINIAN
VIEW IS, THE BETTER IT FITS, THE
MORE LIKELY IT IS TO SURVIVE,
BUT THE NICHE THEN PRE-EXISTS
THE ORGANISM.
AND WHAT I WANT TO CLAIM IN THIS
LECTURE IS THAT NICHES AND
ENVIRONMENTS DO NOT PRE-EXISTENT
ORGANISMS.
THAT'S THE WRONG METAPHOR.
THE METAPHOR OF FITNESS, WHICH
WE HAVE INHERITED FROM DARWIN,
IS THE WRONG METAPHOR.
AND THAT MEANS THAT THE, THAT
THE EVOLUTIONARY METAPHOR OF
ADAPTATION IS THE WRONG
METAPHOR, BECAUSE ADAPTATION IS
THE NOTION THAT THE, THAT THE
WORLD CHANGES, MAKES A NEW
AVAILABLE NICHE AND ORGANISMS
MOVE INTO IT, THEY DON'T FIT SO
WELL, SO THEY BEGIN TO EXPAND A
LITTLE AND CONTRACT UNTIL THEY
JUST FIT THE NICHE AND THAT'S
THE PROCESS OF ADAPTATION,
LITERALLY BECOMING APT TO
SOMETHING, BECOMING GOOD FOR
SOMETHING.
BUT TO, TO ADAPT, AS WE ADAPT A
KEY BY FILING IT TO FIT IN A
LOCK, OR AS I DO WHEN I GO TO
EUROPE, I HAVE TO TAKE
ELECTRICAL ADAPTOR, UH, FOR MY
ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES OF VARIOUS
KINDS, IT'S BECAUSE THERE EXISTS
A PRE-EXISTENT PROBLEM WHICH IS
THEN SOLVED BY THE ADAPTATION,
SO IT'S THE PROBLEM-SOLUTION
METAPHOR, WHICH, IN FACT, I'M
CHALLENGING.
UM, WHAT I WANT TO SAY IS THAT,
UH, WHAT ORGANISMS DO IS NOT
ADAPT TO PRE-EXISTING
ENVIRONMENTS, THEY CONSTRUCT
ENVIRONMENTS.
THAT THE PROPER METAPHOR IS A
METAPHOR OF CONSTRUCTION, IT'S A
METAPHOR, OF COURSE AND THE...
AND THAT NOTION OF CONSTRUCTION
HAS, UH, BOTH TRIVIAL AND
NONTRIVIAL VERSIONS OF IT.
NOW IT'S CLEAR THAT IN ONE
SENSE, ORGANISM CONSTRUCT THEIR
ENVIRONMENT, BIRDS BUILD NESTS.
ANTS BUILD NESTS.
WE BUILT THIS BUILDING.
UH, THIS IS THE ENVIRONMENT OF
YOU AND ME, IT WASN'T HERE
BEFORE, WE BUILT IT.
UM, SO THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF
ACTUAL, PHYSICAL CONSTRUCTS THAT
ARE MADE, SO IT -- CONSTRUCTION
CEASES TO BE A METAPHOR IN THAT
CASE, IT'S IN FACT THE, THE, THE
ORIGINAL PROCESS, UH, TO WHICH
IT IS -- WHICH HAS BECOME
METAPHORIZED.
BUT, BUT IT GOES MORE DEEPLY
THAN THAT.
UM, ON ANOTHER LEVEL, ORGANISMS
CONSTRUCT ENVIRONMENTS, AGAIN
PHYSICALLY CONSTRUCTING THEM,
UH, BUT NOT, UH, USING BEHAVIOUR
AND THEIR INSTINCTS AND SO ON.
UM, I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY OF YOU
KNOW THE -- ABOUT WHAT'S CALLED
SCHLIEREN OPTICS.
IT'S A FORM OF OPTICS WHICH, IF
YOU TAKE PICTURES THROUGH IT OR
YOU LOOK THROUGH SCHLIEREN
LENSES, YOU CAN SEE DIFFERENCES
IN REFRACTIVE INDEX OF GASES.
AND DIFFERENCES IN REFRACTIVE
INDEX ARE CAUSED BY DIFFERENCES
IN TEMPERATURE AND MOISTURE.
NOW IF I LOOK AT THE PEOPLE IN
THIS ROOM THROUGH SCHLIEREN
OPTICS AND I'VE SEEN THE
PHOTO -- I'VE SEEN THE MOVIES
MADE THROUGH SCHLIEREN OPTICS,
I'VE ACTUALLY SEEN THEM, WHAT
YOU SEE IS THAT EACH PERSON IN
THIS ROOM, I, NEVER MIND YOU, I,
AM SURROUNDED BY A LAYER OF AIR
OF A DIFFERENT, UH, OPTICAL
DENSITY THAN WHAT'S OUT THERE
AND OUT THERE AND THAT LAYER IS
RISING, YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE IT
COME UP AND UP AND UP AND OFF
THE TOP OF MY HEAD.
AND IF YOU TAKE PICTURES OF
TREES, THEY HAVE IT, OTHER
ANIMALS HAVE IT, EVERY LIVING
ORGANISM OF -- THAT'S
TERRESTRIAL HAS SUCH A LAYER OF,
AS IT TURNS OUT, WARM, MOIST AIR
AND THAT WARM, MOIST AIR IS
CREATED BY THE METABOLISM OF THE
ORGANISM.
IT'S BECAUSE THE ORGANISMS ARE
PUTTING OUT HEAT, EVERY ORGANISM
THAT'S METABOLIZING IS PUTTING
OUT HEAT AND ALSO METABOLIC
WATER.
NOT JUST PERSPIRATION, BUT
ACTUALLY WATER, WHICH IS
PRODUCED BY YOUR METABOLISM.
AND THE RESULT IS THAT WE'RE
SURROUNDED BY THIS CONSTANTLY
MOVING BARRIER, IT'S ABOUT THAT
THICK, UH, OF, OF WARM, MOIST
AIR.
AND WE LIVE NOT OUT THERE, WE
LIVE, EACH ONE OF US, IN THIS
SHELL OF WARM, MOIST AIR, WHICH
WE ARE CONSTANTLY CONSTRUCTING
BY OUR METABOLIC ACTIVITY,
WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT AND, I
MEAN, LOOK, THAT'S WHY THERE'S
THE WINDCHILL FACTOR, HAVE YOU
EVER THOUGHT, WHAT IS THIS
WINDCHILL FACTOR, WHY IS IT
COLDER WHEN THE WIND BLOWS?
CAN'T BE ANY COLDER WHEN THE
WIND BLOWS, IT'S THE SAME AIR,
IT'S JUST MOVING FASTER.
IT'S COLDER WHEN THE WIND BLOWS
BECAUSE IT'S STRIPPING AWAY FROM
AROUND YOU AND AROUND BUILDINGS,
BUILDINGS HAVE THEIR OWN, HAVE
THEIR OWN SHELL, WHICH IS
CREATED BY THEIR, BY THEIR
HEATING PLANT, WHICH GOES OUT,
THE WIND STRIPS AWAY FROM YOU
THIS PROTECTIVE LAYER AND YOU
ARE, FOR THE FIRST TIME, REALLY
EXPOSED TO THE ATMOSPHERE.
THAT'S WHY THERE'S A WINDCHILL
FACTOR.
SO CONSTRUCTION CAN BE OF THAT
SORT, THAT ORGANISMS ACTUALLY
CONSTRUCT A SHELL AROUND THEM,
AND THAT HAS A VERY POWERFUL
INFLUENCE ON A NUMBER OF THINGS,
FOR EXAMPLE, ALL THE PARASITES,
THE MICRO-PARASITES, WHICH, OF
COURSE, NO ONE IN THIS ROOM HAS,
BUT...

[Laughter]

Richard continues -- BUT,
BUT, UH, LOTS OF PEOPLE HAVE HAD
AND DO STILL HAVE OVER THE
WORLD, THOSE PARASITES LIVE
INSIDE THAT BOUNDARY LAYER.
AND IF ANY OF YOU WERE SO
UNFORTUNATE AS TO HAVE FLEAS,
FOR EXAMPLE, YOUR FLEAS WOULD
NOT BE LIVING OUT THERE, THEY
WOULD BE LIVING IN THE BOUNDARY
LAYER.
AND THAT MEANS THAT THAT IS
ITSELF A, UM, POWERFUL
CONSTRAINT ON THE EVOLUTION OF
FLEAS.
BECAUSE IF FLEAS GREW LARGER, IF
THERE WAS SOME SELECTION TO MAKE
FLEAS BIGGER, THEY WOULD BEGIN
TO STICK UP OUT OF THE BOUNDARY
LAYER, THEY WOULD BE SORT OF
WADING AROUND UP TO THEIR KNEES
IN THE BOUNDARY LAYER AND THEIR
BACKS WOULD BE -- AND THEY WOULD
BE IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
ENVIRONMENT.
BECAUSE THEY THEMSELVES WOULD
HAVE GOT LARGER AND THEREFORE
COULD NO LONGER HIDE IN THE
BOUNDARY LAYER.
SO THE PRODUCTION OF
ENVIRONMENTS, THE CONSTRUCTION
OF ENVIRONMENTS HAS
IMPLICATIONS, NOT ONLY FOR THE
ORGANISM DIRECTLY THAT
CONSTRUCTS IT, BUT FOR ALL THE
ORGANISMS IN THE PENUMBRA OF
LIVING THINGS THAT SURROUND THAT
ORGANISM.
UH, BUT THERE'S A MUCH MORE, A
MUCH DEEPER AND, AND, AND MORE
PERVASIVE MEANING OF
CONSTRUCTION, BESIDE MAKING
NESTS, BESIDE MAKING BUILDINGS
AND BESIDE THAT KIND OF BOUNDARY
LAYER OF -- AND THAT IS THAT
ORGANISMS DECIDE, IF I MAY USE
THE WORD "DECIDE," DETERMINE BY
THEIR SENSUOUS LIFE ACTIVITIES,
WHAT ASPECTS OF THE WORLD ARE
RELEVANT TO THEM AND WHAT
ASPECTS OF THE WORLD ARE
IRRELEVANT TO THEM.
LOOK, UH, WHEN I LIVED IN
BRITAIN, UM, IN MY GARDEN, THERE
WERE A LOT OF BIRDS AND AMONG
THEM WERE THRUSHES.
AND IN BRITAIN, THRUSHES HAVE A
LITTLE TRICK, THEY LIVE ON LAND
SNAILS, IN PART, THEY TAKE THE
SNAILS

He repeatedly hits the back of his hand against the other and continues
AND THEY RAP THEM AGAINST
STONES THAT THEY FIND IN THE
GARDEN TO BREAK THE SNAILS AND
THEN THEY EAT THE INSIDES.
OR IF THEY DON'T RAP THEM ON
STONES, THEY RAP THEM ON YOUR
ROOF TILES, WHICH IS NOT VERY
GOOD FOR THE ROOF TILES.
LIVING SIDE BY SIDE IN SOME
PHYSICAL, IN SOME PHYSICAL
SENSE, WITH THOSE THRUSHES, UH,
WERE CROWS, WHO CAME DOWN TO THE
GROUND, OR UP ON THE ROOF AND SO
ON, UH, NOW, THE STONES IN THE
GARDEN WERE PRESENT IN THE
PHYSICAL PROXIMITY OF THE CROWS,
BUT THEY WERE PART OF THE
ENVIRONMENT OF THE CROWS.
WHEREAS THE STONES WERE PART OF
THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE THRUSHES
AND THE REASON THE STONES,
ALTHOUGH PHYSICALLY PRESENT,
WERE PART OF THE ENVIRONMENT OF
THE THRUSHES, BUT NOT TO THE
CROWS, IS BECAUSE THEIR
EXISTENCE WAS NOT PERCEIVED IN
SOME IMPORTANT SENSE BY THE
CROWS, THEY'RE IRRELEVANT TO THE
CROWS AND THAT'S BECAUSE A
CROW'S WAY OF LIFE HAD NOTHING
TO DO WITH THOSE STONES.
UH, WHAT BECAME PART OF THE LIFE
OF EACH OF THOSE BIRDS, IN
ADDITION TO THE, TO THE STONES,
WERE PARTICULAR BITS OF GRASS OR
TWIGS OF CERTAIN SIZES, WHICH
THEY USED FOR MAKING NESTS AND
THE, AND THE, AND, AND BIG TWIGS
WERE NOT PART OF THE ENVIRONMENT
OF THE THRUSHES AND LITTLE TWIGS
WERE NOT PART OF THE ENVIRONMENT
OF THE, OF, OF THE CROWS AND SO
ON AND I CAN GO ON, I HOPE THAT
POINT IS CLEAR, THAT WHAT IS
RELEVANT TO AN ORGANISM, WHAT
APPEARS IN ITS ACTUAL
INTERACTIVE SPHERE, WHAT IS IT'S
ENVIRONMENT IS DETERMINED BY THE
LIFE ACTIVITY OF THE ORGANISM.
UH, LOOK, UM, FISH GOTTA SWIM
AND BIRDS GOTTA FLY, UH, AS THE
OLD SONG USED TO SAY.
IF YOU HAVE WINGS, THEN UP THERE
BECOMES PART OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT
IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAY
THAN IF YOU HAVE FINS AND YOU
SWIM IN THE WATER.
UH, TREES IN THE FOREST ARE NOT
PART OF THE ENVIRONMENT OF FISH
IN THE, IN THE POND OR IN THE,
IN THE RIVER.
UH, AND WHAT BECOMES PART OF THE
ENVIRONMENT CHANGES AS THE
ORGANISM ITSELF CHANGES.
I WANT YOU TO CONSIDER THE
ORIGIN OF FLIGHT, FOR EXAMPLE.
'CAUSE FLIGHT MAKES ALL SORTS OF
THINGS RELEVANT TO YOU WHICH
WERE NOT RELEVANT TO YOU WHEN
YOU WERE EARTHBOUND.
UM, HOW DID ORGANISMS SPROUT
WINGS AND START TO FLY?
WELL, WE HAVE THE FACT THAT
MUTATIONS OCCURRED AND SOME
LITTLE THINGS AROSE, BUT IT'S
QUITE CLEAR THAT RUDIMENTARY
WINGS, TINY WINGS, MAKE NO
CONTRIBUTION TO FLIGHT AT ALL
AND IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE THAT, I
SUGGEST YOU GO AND GET A PAIR OF
TABLE TENNIS PADDLES AND DO THIS
AND SEE HOW MUCH LIFT YOU GET, I
MEAN, YOU GET NONE.
NOT JUST, NOT JUST A LITTLE, YOU
GET NONE.
UM, JOEL KINGSOLVER HAS
SUGGESTED AND I THINK PROBABLY
CORRECTLY, VERY INGENIOUSLY,
FROM MEASUREMENTS THAT HE'S
MADE, THAT INSECT WINGS BEGAN
NOT AS FLIGHT APPENDAGES AT ALL,
BUT AS THERMOREGULATORY DEVICES.
MANY BUTTERFLIES NOW, FOR
EXAMPLE, TURN THEIR WINGS TOWARD
OR AWAY FROM THE SUN TO GET WARM
OR TO KEEP -- OR, OR NOT.
AND SMALL PADDLE-LIKE APPENDAGES
ARE VERY GOOD THERMOREGULATORY
DEVICES, IF YOU TURN THEM AT
RIGHT ANGLES TO THE SUN, A LOT
OF ENERGY IS COLLECTED.
AND HE SHOWED THAT AS THOSE GET
LARGER, THEY BECOME LESS,
THERE'S LESS ADDED EFFICIENCY AS
A THERMOREGULATORY DEVICE, BUT
AT A CERTAIN POINT, THEY GET
LARGE ENOUGH SO THEY PICK UP A
LITTLE LIFT.
AND NOW, IF THEY GET A LITTLE
BIT LARGER, THEN THEY REALLY DO
PRODUCE SOME LIFT.
AND A SUGGESTION IS THAT,
INDEED, INSECT WINGS BEGAN AS
THERMOREGULATORY DEVICES, UH AND
NOT AS PART OF MAKING THE AIR
PART OF THE, OF THE ENVIRONMENT
OF FLIES, BUT THEN BECAME WINGS
AND THE ENVIRONMENT OF FLIES
CHANGED.
WHY DID THE ENVIRONMENT OF FLIES
CHANGE, 'CAUSE THEY COULD FLY.
THEY COULD FLY UP INTO, UH,
INTO, UH, FLOWERS AND THINGS OF
THAT SORT.
ONE HAS TO ASK ONESELF, FOR
EXAMPLE, UNDER THE NOTION OF THE
ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGE AND THE
ORGANISMS' RESPONSE, WHEN DID
SWIMMING BECOME A CHALLENGE
SUFFICIENT FOR THE DOGLIKE
ANCESTORS OF SEALS TO CAUSE
EVOLUTION TO TURN THOSE SEALS'
LEGS INTO FLIPPERS?
'CAUSE THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED.
MODERN SEALS HAD, AS ANCESTORS,
THINGS THAT LOOKED LIKE SORT OF
BIG, GENERALIZED DOGS AND, UH, I
SUPPOSE THEY WENT NEAR THE
WATER, THEY MAY EVEN HAVE GOT IN
THE WATER AND PAWED AT THE WATER
TO GET SOME FISH THAT WENT BY, I
DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY DID, AT
WHAT POINT DID NATURAL SELECTION
BEGIN TO CHANGE THOSE -- AT WHAT
POINT DID SWIMMING BECOME A
PROBLEM FOR THE DOGLIKE ANCESTOR
OF THE SEAL AND THEN BECOME THE
PROBLEM FOR THE SEAL, WHICH
THEN, THEN, THEN ESTABLISHED THE
FLIPPERS.
THERE'S SOME POINT, BUT AT ONE
TIME THERE WAS NOT PART OF THE
ENVIRONMENT, ANOTHER TIME IT
WAS, AT ONE TIME THE NICHE WAS
OF A DOG NICHE AND ANOTHER TIME
IT WAS A SEAL NICHE AND HOW THAT
TRANSITION WAS MADE IS NOT CLEAR
TO US, BUT WHAT IS CLEAR IS THAT
THERE WAS A CHANGE IN THE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE
ORGANISM AND ITS SURROUNDING,
UH, MATERIAL.
WHICH CHANGED THE WHOLE
DIRECTION OF NATURAL SELECTION.
IT NO LONGER BECAME DESIRABLE TO
RUN LIKE HELL, IT BECAME
DESIRABLE TO SWIM.
SO THAT'S THE SENSE IN WHICH I,
I MEAN CONSTRUCTION.
UH, AND THAT HAS A VERY CURIOUS
CONSEQUENCE FOR US.
I COULD HAVE GIVEN A COMPLETELY
DIFFERENT LECTURE ON MY
FAVOURITE THEME, WHICH IS THAT
ORGANISMS ARE NOT MADE BY THEIR
GENES, UH, THEY ARE CONSEQUENCE
OF AN INTERACTION BETWEEN GENES
AND ENVIRONMENT AND SO ON.
BUT NOW I WANT TO TURN MY BACK,
OR STAND ON MY HEAD OR WHATEVER
AND SAY, BUT IT'S THE CASE THAT
THE ENVIRONMENT IS CODED IN THE
GENES.
IF IT'S TRUE WHAT I SAY THAT THE
ENVIRONMENT IS THE CONSTRUCTION
OF AN ORGANISM, THEN INDEED THAT
ORGANISM'S LIE ACTIVITIES, WHICH
ARE THEMSELVES DEEPLY INFLUENCED
BY THEIR SHAPE AND SIZE, AND,
AND WHETHER THEY'RE
THERMOREGULATORY OR NOT, ALL
THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE SOME WAY
CODED IN THE GENES, THEN CODE
FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, SO JUST AS
THE ORGANISM IS MADE BY THE
OUTSIDE, THE OUTSIDE IS MADE BY
THE ORGANISM AND THOSE ARE NOT
IN CONTRADICTION, THEY ARE
SIMPLY A KIND OF, YOU SHOULD
PARDON THE EXPRESSION,
DIALECTICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE.
NEITHER CAUSE NOR EFFECT, BOTH
ARE CAUSES AND BOTH ARE EFFECTS.
AND I WANNA COME BACK TO THAT.
BUT, BUT JUST SORT OF TO MAKE
THE PARADOX, I WANNA CLAIM THAT
ORGANISMS' ENVIRONMENTS ARE
CODED IN THEIR GENES.
NOW ORGANISMS DON'T ONLY
CONSTRUCT THEIR ENVIRONMENT,
THEY ALSO ALTER -- WE COULD SAY
THEY ALTER THEIR ENVIRONMENTS,
IF THAT'S A WAY TO PUT IT AND
THEY, I MEAN, THE, THE, THE
BORDERLINE BETWEEN CONSTRUCTION
AND ALTERATION IS NOT OBVIOUS
AND I, I DON'T WANNA MAKE THAT A
CLEAR BOUNDARY LINE, BUT IT, IT
BRINGS ME OVER INTO A DIFFERENT
REALM OF, OF EXAMPLES AND SO ON.
ORGANISMS ALTER THEIR
ENVIRONMENTS.
EVERY ORGANISM IN THE WORLD, NOT
JUST HUMANS IN TECHNOLOGICALLY
ADVANCED COUNTRIES, ARE IN THE
PROCESS OF DESTROYING THEIR
ENVIRONMENTS.
EVERY ORGANISM PUTS OUT WASTE
PRODUCTS.
EVERY ORGANISM BREATHES IN LIFE-
GIVING OXYGEN AND GIVES OUT
LIFE-DESTROYING CARBON DIOXIDE,
LIFE-DESTROYING FOR THEM, BUT OF
COURSE GOOD FOR PLANTS.
UM, THAT IS TO SAY, EVERY...
SOME OF YOU MAY EVEN RECOGNIZE
THE ORIGIN OF THIS, UH, QUOTE
I'M ABOUT TO GIVE, EVERY ACT OF
PRODUCTION IS AN ACT OF
CONSUMPTION AND EVERY ACT OF
CONSUMPTION IS AN ACT OF
PRODUCTION.
WHEN I CONSUME OXYGEN, I PRODUCE
CARBON DIOXIDE, WHICH IS THEN
BECOMES THE CONSUMPTION OF A
PLANT, WHICH THEN PUTS OUT
OXYGEN AND SO ON, UM, MORT SAUL
ONCE SAID, NO MATTER HOW CRUEL,
NO MATTER HOW EVIL, NO MATTER
HOW VICIOUS YOU'VE BEEN TODAY,
REMEMBER THAT WITH EVERY BREATH
YOU TAKE, YOU MAKE A FLOWER
HAPPY.

[Laughter]

Richard continues UH, THE
WASTE PRODUCTS OF SOME ORGANISMS
ARE THE FOOD OF OTHER ORGANISMS.
AND, UM, EVERY ORGANISM IS
FOULING ITS OWN NEST BY PUTTING
OUT WASTE PRODUCTS AND CONSUMING
RESOURCES IN SHORT SUPPLY, I
MEAN, WE DO A PARTICULARLY
EFFICIENT JOB OF IT AND THAT'S
ANOTHER ISSUE, I MEAN, A
POLITICAL ISSUE, WHICH WE CAN
RETURN TO, BUT ONE MUST NOT
THINK THAT SOMEHOW NATURE IS IN
A WONDERFUL EQUILIBRIUM STATE IN
WHICH EVERY ORGANISM IS
PRESERVING ITS ENVIRONMENT AND
ONLY WE ARE DESTROYING OUR OWN
ENVIRONMENTS.
IT'S NOT TRUE.
IT'S A CONSTANT TENSION FOR ALL
LIVING ORGANISMS BETWEEN THE
CONSUMPTION OF RESOURCES IN
SHORT SUPPLY AND THE PRODUCTION
OF POISONOUS RESOURCES.
WHICH BECOME RESOURCES FOR OTHER
THINGS.
NOW THERE ARE -- THIS HAS A, A
VARIETY OF CONSEQUENCES.
UH, ONE OF THEM IS THAT
ORGANISMS CAN NOT ONLY -- THEY
MAY NOT BE THEIR OWN WORST
ENEMY, BUT THEY MAY BE THE WORST
ENEMY OF THEIR CHILDREN.
THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN GENERATIONS
WAS NOT INVENTED BY PEOPLE.
UH, I COME TO YOU FROM VERMONT,
WHICH IS COVERED WITH, UH,
FOREST, UH, AND THERE WAS A TIME
WHEN A LARGE FRACTION OF THE
FOREST IN VERMONT WAS WHITE
PINE.
AND, UH, THE RESULT IS THAT
LUMBER COMPANIES BOUGHT UP HUGE
TRACTS OF LAND TO CUT THE WHITE
PINE FOR, FOR LUMBER AND FOR
PAPER AND THEY CUT THE WHITE
PINE AND LO AND BEHOLD, INSTEAD
OF WHITE PINE COMING UP TO
REPLACE IT, HARDWOODS CAME UP.
SCRUBBY OLD HARDWOODS THAT
NOBODY WANTED.
UH, THEY TRIED PLANTING WHITE
PINE.
BUT THEY COULDN'T WIN THE
STRUGGLE.
THEY PUT THE WHITE PINE IN AND
THE HARDWOODS WOULD COME UP AND
SHADE OUT THE WHITE PINE AND THE
AMOUNT OF LABOUR REQUIRED TO
KEEP THE HARDWOODS OUT WAS
GREATER THAN THEY COULD AFFORD.
IN FACT, IN 1800, UH, VERMONT
AND ALL OF NEW ENGLAND WAS A
MIXED HARDWOOD FOREST, WITH AN
OCCASIONAL PINE TREE HERE OR
THERE.
BEGINNING IN ABOUT 1810 OR SO,
UH, FARMERS BEGAN TO COME IN AND
CLEAR THE FORESTS, CUTTING THEM
DOWN TO MAKE FARMLAND AND THE
MAXIMUM EXTENT OF FARMLAND IN
VERMONT WAS ABOUT 1840,
ACTUALLY.
I MEAN, MY TOWN HAS LOST THE
POPULATION PROGRESSIVELY SINCE
1840.
EXCEPT FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS,
WHEN PEOPLE HAVE COME BACK
AGAIN, BUT -- AND THEY CUT DOWN
THE FARMS, THE, THE, THE
HARDWOODS AND MADE FARMS AND
THEN, IN THE DEPRESSION AND IN
LATE 19th CENTURY, THEY BEGAN TO
ABANDON THOSE FARMS AND AS THEY
ABANDONED THE FARMS, PINES BEGAN
TO GROW.
AND PRETTY SOON THE PINES FILLED
THE LAND AND WHEN PEOPLE CAME
AROUND IN 1920s AND '30s, SAW
ALL THESE PINE TREES, THEY SAID,
OH, WONDERFUL, THAT'S THE FOREST
AND THEY MADE A MISTAKE.
THE SO-CALLED CLIMAX VEGETATION
OF NEW ENGLAND IS NOT PINE
TREES, IT'S, UH, A MIXED
HARDWOOD.
BEECH, BIRCH, OAK, NOT MUCH OAK,
MAPLE AND SO ON.
THE REASON THAT YOU HAVE THIS
SUCCESSION, I.E. FARMLAND TO
PINES, PINES TO HARDWOODS, IS
BECAUSE PINE TREES MAKE IT
IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN
OFFSPRING TO GROW UP.
THEY DO THAT BY SHADING THEM.
YOUNG PINE SEEDLINGS ARE SHADE
INTOLERANT AND THEY CANNOT
SUCCEED IN GROWING UP IN THE
SHADE OF THEIR OWN PARENTS.
THAT MEANS THAT, UH, A PINE
FOREST IS UNSTABLE.
BECAUSE THE PINE TREES, THE
ADULT PINE TREES, CREATE AN
ENVIRONMENT WHICH IS POISONOUS
AND IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN
OFFSPRING.
PINE TREES ARE, IN FACT, WHAT WE
CALL A WEED.
A WEED IS LITERALLY A PLANT, IF
YOU THINK ABOUT WEEDY PLANTS,
WHICH COMES INTO A DISTURBED
HABITAT, WHICH THEN CHANGES THE
NATURE OF THE SOIL, THE SHADING
AND EVERYTHING, THE MOISTURE AND
SO ON IN SUCH A WAY THAT IT
CANNOT REPRODUCE ITSELF IN THAT
HABITAT AND INSTEAD OF THAT,
OTHER PLANTS COME IN AND THE
ONLY REASON THE WEEDS HAVEN'T
GONE EXTINCT IS BECAUSE HABITAT
IS BEING DISTURBED BY, BY
EXTERNAL PERTURBATIONS FOREVER,
FIRES COME, PEOPLE COME, EVEN
BEFORE PEOPLE, THERE WERE FIRES
OR, OR LANDSLIDES OR EARTH
SLIDES AND SO WEEDS HAVE LIVED
FOREVER ON THAT EXTERNAL
PERTURBATION.
THE MOMENT THE EARTH SETTLES
DOWN TO A STABLE PHYSICAL STATE,
WEEDS WILL DISAPPEAR.
UH, SO HERE WE HAVE AN EXAMPLE
OF THE CREATION OF AN
ENVIRONMENT BY AN ORGANISM, NOT
JUST OF PINE TREES, BUT OF ALL
WEEDS, WHICH ARE INIMICAL TO THE
WELFARE OF THEIR OWN OFFSPRING
AND THAT'S AN EXAMPLE OF
CHANGING ENVIRONMENT, WHAT
PLANTS DO, PLANTS PUT OUT ROOTS,
THE ROOTS EXCRETE WHAT ARE
CALLED HUMIC ACIDS INTO THE
SOIL, UH, THAT CHANGES THE, THE
CHEMISTRY OF THE SOIL, PUTS OUT
ORGANIC ACIDS, CHANGES THE PH OF
THE SOIL, FUNGI CAN GROW IN
THAT, SO SOMETIMES A POSITIVE
RATHER THAN A NEGATIVE THING,
THE FUNGI THAT GROW, SO-
CALLED... FORM ASSOCIATIONS WITH
THE ROOTS AND HELP TO NOURISH
THE PLANTS, SO THE PLANTS
ACTUALLY, BY PERTURBING THE, THE
PHYSICAL AND CHEMICAL STRUCTURE
OF THE SOIL ACTUALLY CAN HELP
THEMSELVES, SO THEY'RE NOT ALL
DESTROYING THE CONDITIONS OF
THEIR OWN EXISTENCE, SOME ARE
IMPROVING THE CONDITIONS OF
THEIR OWN EXISTENCE.
IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE SPECIAL
CASE, THERE ARE NO RULES.
EVERY ORGANISM BOTH DESTROYS AND
IMPROVES THE CONDITIONS OF THEIR
OWN EXISTENCE AND YOU HAVE TO
THINK ABOUT IT, NOW I'M GONNA
SHOW YOU A VERY SIMPLE CASE,
'CAUSE I WANNA COME BACK TO IT,
IN A LABORATORY EXPERIMENT,
UH... WITH FRUIT FLIES, WHICH
ARE THE ONLY ORGANISM I REALLY
KNOW WELL...

He projects a slide on a screen showing a line graph.

He continues UH... I DON'T KNOW
WHETHER YOU'RE GONNA BE ABLE TO
SEE THIS OR NOT.
ALL RIGHT, THIS IS A PICTURE OF
RESULT OF AN EXPERIMENT, THE
EXPERIMENT IS AS FOLLOWS.
YOU TAKE LITTLE GLASS VIALS AND
YOU FILL THE VIALS WITH A
PRECISELY MEASURED AMOUNT OF A
SOLID FOOD WHICH, WHICH -- THESE
ARE FRUIT FLIES AND THEIR LARVAE
ARE GONNA LIVE IN THIS FOOD.
PRECISELY MEASURED AMOUNT OF, OF
SOLID FOOD IN WHICH YOU SEED
SOME YEAST, SOME LIVING YEAST
AND THEN INTO EACH VIAL, YOU PUT
A CAREFULLY COUNTED NUMBER OF
FRESHLY HATCHED WORMS, LARVAE,
FLY LARVAE.
AT THE END, YOU ASK WHAT
PERCENTAGE OF THOSE FLY LARVAE
SURVIVED AND CAME OUT AS NEW
ADULTS.
THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT ON
SURVIVAL OF THE LARVAE OF FLIES
IN FIXED FOOD.
AND THIS WAS DONE AT DIFFERENT
INITIAL DENSITIES OF THE LARVAE.

He approaches the screen and points to the graph.

He continues HERE ONE LARVAE PER VIAL, HERE
TWO, HERE FOUR, HERE EIGHT, HERE
20, HERE 40, SO THE ONE LARVA
PER VIAL HAD ALL THAT YEAST AND
ALL THAT FOOD ALL TO ITSELF, NO
COMPETITORS.
THE TWO, THEY WERE STRUGGLING
WITH EACH OTHER FOR THE COOKIE,
UH, BY THE TIME IT GOT TO 40, IT
WAS REALLY NATURE RED IN TOOTH
AND CLAW.
WHAT IS THE OUTCOME?
ON THE VERTICAL AXIS SHOWS THE
PERCENTAGE SURVIVORSHIP.
AND LO AND BEHOLD, EVEN WHEN,
WHEN THE LARVAE WERE ALL BY
THEMSELVES, THEY DID NOT SURVIVE
AS WELL AS WHEN THEY WERE TWO.
AND FOUR ACTUALLY SURVIVED,
WELL, DIFFERENT EXPERIMENTS, IN
THIS CASE, SLIGHTLY WORSE THAN
TWO, IN OTHER EXPERIMENTS,
SLIGHTLY BETTER, EIGHT STARTED
TO COME DOWN, 20 AND 40 -- BUT
SO WHAT YOU OBSERVE IS THAT THE
HIGHEST SURVIVAL PROBABILITY WAS
NOT FOR THE LOWEST DENSITY.
NOW WHY IS THAT?
HOW COME, IF YOU HAD NOBODY TO
COMPETE WITH, YOU DIDN'T SURVIVE
BEST?
THE ANSWER IS THAT THESE LARVAE
TUNNEL IN THE FOOD, THEY
ACTUALLY WORK THE FOOD, THEY
FARM THE FOOD, THEY MAKE, THEY,
THEY, THEY MAKE FURROWS AND IN
THE FURROWS, THE YEAST GROWS AND
IF THERE ARE ENOUGH LARVAE, THEY
MAKE ENOUGH TUNNELS SO THERE'S A
LOT MORE SPACE FOR THE YEAST TO
GROW AND SO THERE'S MORE FOOD.
AND THE BALANCE BETWEEN THE
COMPETITION AND THE SUCCESSFUL
FARMING OF YEAST, IF I CAN PUT
IT THAT WAY, IS SUCH THAT IN
THIS PARTICULAR EXPERIMENT, TWO
AND FOUR WERE BEST AND IT GOT
POORER AT ONE AND POORER -- SO
HERE'S A CASE IN THE MOST
SIMPLIFIED CASE YOU CAN IMAGINE,
I MEAN, IT'S NOT COMPLICATED,
VERY SIMPLE AND TO PROVE WHAT I
SAY IS TRUE, IF YOU REDO THE
EXPERIMENT, IN WHICH CASE...
AND, AND MAKE THE FOOD SOFT
INSTEAD OF HARD, SO THE TUNNELS
COLLAPSE AND YOU DON'T GET ANY
TUNNELS, IT'S JUST A SOFT FOOD,
THIS EFFECT DISAPPEARS.
THE EFFECT APPEARS ONLY WHEN THE
FOOD IS HARD ENOUGH SO THAT
LITTLE TUNNELS PERSIST IN THE
FOOD.
SO HERE'S ANOTHER EXAMPLE, WHICH
YOU CAN SEE VERY, VERY SIMPLY,
OF HOW AN ORGANISM MAKES A WORLD
WHICH, WHICH DETERMINES ITS
POSSIBILITY OF SURVIVORSHIP AND
CHANGES THE RELATIONSHIP OF
COMPETITION AND I WILL SHOW YOU
LATER HOW THAT CAN HAVE VERY
POWERFUL EFFECTS ON THE OUTCOME
OF EVOLUTION IN THIS PARTICULAR
CASE.
OKAY.
I PROBABLY BEAT THAT HORSE AS
MUCH AS I WANT TO, SO LET ME
MOVE ON TO ANOTHER THING THAT
ORGANISMS DO.
UH, ORGANISMS NOT ONLY DEFINE
WHAT'S RELEVANT, I'LL, I'LL,
I'LL FINISH PRETTY SOON, THEY
NOT ONLY DEFINE WHAT'S RELEVANT,
THEY NOT ONLY, UH, ALTER, BY
POISONING AND FARMING AND DOING
ALL THOSE THINGS THE
ENVIRONMENTS THEY HAVE, BUT IN
ADDITION, UH, THEY CHANGE THE
STATISTICAL NATURE OF THE
SIGNALS THAT COME IN.
THEY, BY THEIR OWN LIFE
ACTIVITIES, SHIELD THEMSELVES,
IF I MAY PUT IT THAT WAY, FROM
LOCAL PERTURBATIONS IN WHAT'S
AVAILABLE.
THEY IRON THINGS OUT, THAT'S ONE
OF THINGS THEY DO, OR -- IN
FACT, ORGANISMS ARE WONDERFUL
EXAMPLES OF MATHEMATICIANS, THEY
CAN BOTH DIFFERENTIATE AND
INTEGRATE.
UH, THEY REALLY DO TIME
INTEGRATION AND DIFFERENTIATION.
LET ME TALK ABOUT TIME
INTEGRATION.
UH, MANY, MANY KINDS OF
ORGANISMS, NEARLY ALL PLANTS,
ALL, ALL SEED PLANTS, CERTAINLY
AND MOST KINDS OF LARGER
ANIMALS, UH, HAVE MECHANISMS OF
THE STORAGE OF ENERGY THROUGH
BAD TIMES -- FROM GOOD TIMES
THROUGH BAD TIMES.
UH... SO DO PLANTS, I MEAN,
LET'S THINK OF IT, AN ACORN IS A
STORAGE DEVICE.
UH, THERE'S A LOT OF STORED
ENERGY IN THE ACORN, SO WHEN THE
CORN GERMINATES, THE TINY LITTLE
GERM CELL HAS NUTRITIVE MATERIAL
AROUND IT, IN FACT, ALL MAJOR,
ALL BIG SEEDS ARE STORAGE
DEVICES, PROVIDING ENERGY FOR
THE NEWLY EMERGING EMBRYO AND IT
LIVES ON THAT FOR A BIT BEFORE
IT'S ABLE TO PHOTOSYNTHESIZE.
THOSE ACORNS, I MEAN, THERE'S A
WHOLE HIERARCHY, THOSE ACORNS
ARE THEN THE STORAGE DEVICES FOR
SQUIRRELS, WHO STORE THEM AWAY
SO THAT WHEN WINTER COMES, UH,
THEY HAVE SOMETHING TO EAT.
UH, WE -- OR LET'S TAKE THE
POTATO.
THE POTATO IS A STORAGE DEVICE
FOR THE POTATO PLANT, SO THAT
NEW SPROUTS CAN COME UP FROM
THE, FROM THAT NUTRITION.
WE TAKE THE POTATOES AND PUT
THEM IN SACKS AND PUT THEM IN
COOL PLACES, UH, SO THAT WE, WE
INTEGRATE OVER, OVER TIME, WE...
I -- WE EVEN OUT THE, THE SUMMER
AND WINTER.
LOOK, IF WE COULD ONLY EAT IN
THE SUMMERTIME, OR IN THE FALL,
WE'D BE IN BIG TROUBLE.
UM, HAVING ET THOSE POTATOES, WE
THEN INVOKE ANOTHER STORAGE
DEVICE, WHICH IS THIS THING HERE.

He grabs his tummy.

[laughter]

He continues IT'S THE...
IN MEN IT'S THE GREATER
MOMENTUM, IN WOMEN IT'S THE
BUTTOCKS, UH AND BREASTS, UM, WE
HAVE BODY FAT, WHICH IS
DIFFERENTIALLY LOCATED IN
DIFFERENT PEOPLE AND IN
DIFFERENT -- AND PARTIALLY IN
THE DIFFERENT SEXES, UH, WHICH
IS A STORAGE DEVICE FOR ENERGY
AND THIS IS TURNED INTO CULTURAL
EVENTS, FOR EXAMPLE, THE FAMOUS
POTLATCH OF THE WESTERN, UH,
NATIVE AMERICANS, WHO, WHO, WHO,
UM... GIVE LARGE AMOUNTS OF...
IT'S A FORM OF MUTUAL SHARING,
UM, AND, UH, WE -- BY -- THEREBY
WE'RE, WE'RE INTEGRATING OVER
TIME AND, AND ADVANCED SOCIETIES
HAVE LABELLED ON -- LADLED ON
TOP OF THAT ONE LAST KIND OF, OF
STORAGE DEVICE, EVENING OUT OVER
FLUCTUATIONS AND THAT'S MONEY.
MONEY... CROP FUTURES, FUTURE
MARKETS ARE A FORM OF STORAGE
DEVICE, SO THAT IT IS NOT THE
CASE THAT IN THE WINTERTIME, THE
PRICE OF POTATOES OR BREAD OR
ANYTHING GOES SKY HIGH BECAUSE
IT'S NOT AVAILABLE.
UH, SO IT'S ANOTHER FORM OF
INTEGRATION AND THAT'S PART OF
OUR BEHAVIOUR.
I MEAN, YOU MAY THINK OF IT AS
ECONOMIC ACTIVITY, IT IS, BUT
IT'S THE BEHAVIOUR OF A LIVING
ORGANISM, INVENTED BY THAT
LIVING ORGANISM.
SO THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF
STORAGE DEVICES.
UM, PLANTS WILL FLOWER WHEN THE
TOTAL NUMBER OF HOURS OF LIGHT
OR THE TOTAL NUMBER OF HOURS OF
LIGHT OR THE TOTAL NUMBER OF
DEGREE DAYS REACHES SOME TOTAL,
SO THEY ADD, THEY ACTUALLY
ACCUMULATE INFORMATION ON THE
DEGREE DAYS THAT HAVE BEEN GOING
ON, UNTIL IT GETS HIGH ENOUGH
AND THEN THEY FLOWER.
UH, CICADAS, YOU'VE HEARD OF 13
YEAR AND 17 YEAR CICADAS, THEY
COUNT, I MEAN, THEY ACTUALLY
STORE UP SEASONAL INFORMATION,
THEY KNOW HOW MANY YEARS HAVE
GONE BY.
THEY DON'T COUNT CONTINUOUSLY,
THEY COUNT BY SEASONS.
THAT'S HOW THEY CAN COME OUT
EXACTLY IN 13 YEARS OR 17 YEARS.
SO THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF
INTEGRATIONS WHICH ORGANISMS
PERFORM, UH, TO CREATE, TO, TO
EVEN OUT VARIATION OF THE WORLD.
ORGANISMS ALSO DIFFERENTIATE, IN
THE MATHEMATICAL SENSE.
LET'S SAY ORGANISMS ARE ABLE TO
DO THINGS WHEN SOMETHING
CHANGES, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER
THE CHANGE IS UP OR DOWN.
THEY DETECT RATES OF CHANGE
RATHER THAN LEVELS.
THE MOST FAMOUS EXAMPLE OF THIS,
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF EXAMPLES,
UH, IN GENERAL, BY THE WAY, UH,
THIS IS TRUE FOR PARASITES, UH,
THAT HAVE ALTERNATIVE HOSTS.
PARASITES GENERALLY, WITH
ALTERNATIVE HOSTS, BECOME SEXUAL
WHEN THEY CHANGE HOST.
THEY STAY ASEXUAL WHEN THEY'RE
IN THEIR SO-CALLED PRIMARY HOST,
WHEN THEY FLIP OVER TO THE OTHER
HOST, THEY BECOME SEXUAL.
NOW A FAMOUS SWITCH OF THAT KIND
OCCURS IN THE LITTLE WATER FLEA,
CLADOCERA, UH, STUDIED BY BANTA
BACK IN THE '20s, THEY ARE
FACULTATIVE, UH, ASEXUAL
ORGANISMS, SOMETIMES THEY HAVE
SEX AND SOMETIMES THEY DON'T.
THEY'RE PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF
REPRODUCING ENTIRELY ASEXUALLY
AND THEN ONCE IN A WHILE, MALES
ARE PRODUCED AND THEN THEY HAVE
SEX.
THE SIGNAL FOR THE PRODUCTION OF
MALES IS A CHANGE IN THE
ENVIRONMENT.
EITHER GETTING DRY OR GETTING
TOO MUCH OXYGEN OR GETTING NOT
ENOUGH OXYGEN OR GETTING AN
ENRICHMENT OF THE FOOD IN THE
WATER OR GETTING A DEPOLARATION

- DEPOPULARIZATION OF THE FOOD
IN THE WATER OR THE TEMPERATURE
GOING UP OR THE TEMPERATURE
GOING DOWN.
WHAT THE CLADOCERA ARE DETECTING
IS THAT THE WORLD THAT THEY KNOW
HAS SUDDENLY CHANGED AND THEIR
REACTION TO A CHANGED WORLD IS
TO HAVE SEX.
AND THAT'S A PERFECTLY SENSIBLE
THING TO DO, BECAUSE SEXUAL
REPRODUCTION THEN AIDS THE
PRODUCTION OF NEW VARIANTS WHICH
MIGHT BE ADAPTED, IN SOME SENSE,
TO THAT NEW WORLD.
UH, SO ORGANISMS ARE CAPABLE OF
DETECTING RATES OF CHANGE.
AND, UH, THEY DO THAT BY
MECHANISMS WHICH ARE CODED BY
THEIR DNA IN THEIR GENOMES, UH,
WHICH THEY THEN CONVERT THAT
INTO PHYSIOLOGICAL PROPERTIES.
UM, FINALLY, LET ME VERY QUICKLY
SAY THAT ORGANISMS ALSO -- OH, I
WAS GONNA MENTION ON MY LIST,
DON'T FORGET THAT BEARS
HIBERNATE AND HIBERNATION IS A
VERY IMPORTANT WAY OF EVENING
OUT THE TEMPERATURE, BY AVOIDING
THINGS.
ORGANISMS HAVE A WAY OF EVENING
OUT THE EXTERNAL WORLD BY HIDING
FROM ITS FLUCTUATIONS.
HIBERNATION'S AN EXAMPLE,
AESTIVATION IS ANOTHER.
THIS BUILDING IS ANOTHER, I
MEAN, WE EVEN OUT OUR
ENVIRONMENT BY GETTING -- BY
KEEPING THE ENVIRONMENT OUT
THERE.
AND CREATING AN INTERNAL WORLD
FOR OURSELVES.
THE FINAL THING THAT ORGANISMS
DO AND I'LL STOP MY LIST THERE,
IS TO CHANGE THE, TO CHANGE THE
ACTUAL PHYSICAL NATURE OF THE
SIGNALS THAT COME INTO THEM.
THEY TRANSDUCE THE PHYSICAL
SIGNALS.
FOR EXAMPLE, AS IT GETS WARMER
IN THIS ROOM, FROM ALL THE HOT
AIR THAT'S BEING PRODUCED, NOT
JUST BY ME, BUT BY YOU AS WELL,
UH, 'CAUSE YOU'RE BREATHING, WE
ALL PERCEIVE AN INCREASE IN
TEMPERATURE, UNLESS THE AIR
CONDITIONING IS WORKING
PARTICULARLY WELL, UH, WE
PERCEIVE AN INCREASE IN
TEMPERATURE AND THAT INCREASE IS
TEMPERATURE IS PERCEIVED AT OUR

- AT THE SURFACE OF OUR BODIES
BY AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF
MOLECULES BOUNDING PER SECOND,
THE MEAN FREE ENERGY OF
MOLECULES HITTING US, THAT'S
THERMAL ENERGY.
BUT WE CONVERT THAT IN OUR
LIVERS INTO CONCENTRATION OF
SUGAR AND OTHER MOLECULES, SO TO
SAY, WE TAKE THE SIGNAL WHICH IS
THERMAL ENERGY AND WE CONVERT IT
INTO CHEMICAL SIGNALS WHICH THEN
HELP US KEEP OUR BODY
TEMPERATURE CONSTANT.
SO -- BUT IF WE WERE NOT US, BUT
WERE SNAKES OR LIZARDS, WE
COULDN'T DO THAT.
THE SNAKE OR LIZARD WOULD GET
HOTTER AS IT GETS HOT IN THE
ROOM, SO OUR DIFFERENT BIOLOGIES
ARRANGE THAT WHAT'S OUT THERE
GETS CONVERTED IN ITS APPEARANCE
TO WHAT'S IN HERE BY THE LIFE
ACTIVITY, BY THE METABOLISM OF
THE ORGANISM.
WE'RE NOT CONSCIOUS OF THAT
INCREASE IN TEMPERATURE, UNLESS
IT GETS EXTREME.
AND WE DON'T FAINT BECAUSE OF
IT, UNLESS IT GETS EXTREME.
UM, THE OTHER EXAMPLE I CAN
THINK OF COMES FROM PERSONAL
EXPERIENCE, UM, WE USED TO GO
COLLECT IN THE DESERT, COLLECT
FRUIT FLIES IN THE DESERT AND
ONCE IN A WHILE, WE'D WIND UP...
WE'D SEE A SIDEWINDER, WHICH IS
A RATHER NASTY LITTLE
RATTLESNAKE AND ONE WOULD HEAR
THE RATTLES AND YOU'D SEE THE
SNAKE, NOW THE RATTLES CAUSE
CHANGES IN, IN, IN YOUR, YOUR
EARDRUMS, THEY... REFRACTIONS OF
THE EARS, THAT'S THE WAY THOSE
SIGNALS COME IN AND THE PHOTONS
COME INTO YOUR EYES AS SNAKE-
PRODUCED PHOTONS, BUT YOU
CONVERT THEM IMMEDIATELY INTO A
CHEMICAL FORM, NAMELY, UH, YOU
SUDDENLY GET YOUR ADRENALIN
FLOWING LIKE CRAZY AND THAT'S
CONVERTED BY YOUR CENTRAL
NERVOUS SYSTEM FROM ONE KIND OF
PHYSICAL SIGNAL INTO A
COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ONE.
AND THAT'S IMPORTANT, THAT'S NOT
TRIVIAL, BECAUSE I ASSUME THAT
WHEN ONE SIDEWINDER SEES ANOTHER
SIDEWINDER, THE SAME THING
DOESN'T HAPPEN, UH, THAT, UH,
THEY DON'T CONVERT THOSE SIGNALS
INTO ADRENALIN, I DON'T EVEN
KNOW IF SIDEWINDERS HAVE
ADRENALIN, BUT THEY MAY CONVERT
IT INTO SEX HORMONES, IF IT'S A
SIDEWINDER OF THE OTHER SEX.
SO THE WAY THE ORGANISM REACTS
TO WHAT YOU WOULD CALL THE
EXTERNAL WORLD, BUT IS THE INTE-
INTERNALIZATION OF THAT WORLD,
DEPENDS ON THE NATURE OF THE
ORGANISM ITSELF, THAT'S THE
POINT I WANNA MAKE.
NOW YOU MAY OBJECT AND SAY,
WELL, THAT'S ALL VERY NICE, BUT
LOOK, THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT
ARE TRUE FOR ALL ORGANISMS, I
MEAN, ORGANISMS DID NOT PASS THE
LAW OF GRAVITATION, RIGHT?
THAT'S SOMETHING WE ALL DEAL
WITH.
THAT'S NOT TRUE.
ORGANISMS DIDN'T PASS THE LAW OF
GRAVITATION, BUT ORGANISMS, BY
THEIR GENES, IF I HAVE TO SAY,
DETERMINE WHETHER THE LAW OF
GRAVITATION IS RELEVANT OR
IRRELEVANT TO THEM.
THE LAW OF GRAVITATION IS
CERTAINLY RELEVANT TO US AND
IT'S RELEVANT TO BIRDS, BUT YOU
KNOW IT'S NOT RELEVANT TO, UH,
BACTERIA.
IF YOU'VE EVER SEEN A CULTURE OF
BACTERIA, UM, THEY'RE FLOATING
IN THERE, THEY WILL SEDIMENT
VERY, VERY, VERY SLOWLY IF YOU
GIVE THEM LONG ENOUGH, BUT
BACTERIA ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE
LAW OF GRAVITY, 'CAUSE THEY'RE
TOO SMALL AND THEY LIVE IN A
BUOYANT -- AND THEY'RE, AND
THEY'RE BUOYANT.
AND WHY ARE THEY SMALLER THAN WE
ARE?
BECAUSE THEY -- THEIR GENES MAKE
THEM SMALLER THAN WE ARE.
SO AGAIN, GENES ARE IMPORTANT.
I, I HAVE TO KEEP SAYING THAT,
'CAUSE I ALWAYS GET ACCUSED OF
SAYING THAT GENES DON'T MATTER.
OF COURSE THEY MATTER.
UH, ON THE OTHER HAND, BACTERIA
EXPERIENCE A FORCE WHICH WE
FORTUNATELY DO NOT.
UH AND THAT'S BROWNIAN MOTION.

He moves back and forth and says
I MEAN, I'M HAPPY TO SAY THAT I
AM NOT BOUNDED BACK AND FORCE
ACROSS THE PLATFORM BY BEING HIT
BY THE MOLECULES THAT ARE
HITTING ME, BECAUSE I'M BIT
ENOUGH, BUT BACTERIA ARE SO
SMALL, THEY GET HIT ONLY NOW AND
THEN THEN AND THEN THEN AND THEN
THEN AND THEY ARE BOUNDED BACK
AND FORTH, YOU CAN WATCH
BACTERIA BEING BOUNDED AROUND BY
BROWNIAN MOTION IN A LIQUID.
SO SIZE IS ONE OF THE MOST
IMPORTANT DETERMINANTS OF
ENVIRONMENT.
TEENY LITTLE ORGANISMS
NECESSARILY LIVE IN A TOTALLY
DIFFERENT WORLD, EVEN IN THE
FUNDAMENTAL SENSE OF THE, OF, OF
FUNDAMENTAL PHENOMENA OF
PHYSICS, LIKE GRAVITY AND
BROWNIAN MOTION, THAN DO LARGE
ORGANISMS.
AND THAT'S A CONSEQUENCE OF
INTERNAL FORCE OF THE ORGANISM,
NAMELY SIZE.
ALL RIGHT, WHAT IS THE
CONSEQUENCE OF THIS REVOLUTION,
I MEAN, I TITLED THE, THIS, THE
CO-EVOLUTION OF ORGANISM AND
ENVIRONMENT, WHAT IS THE
CONSEQUENCE FOR EVOLUTION?
FORMALLY, THE EVOLUTIONIST
DESCRIBES OR USED TO DESCRIBING,
IS USED TO DESCRIBING THE WORLD
AS FOLLOWS.
THE RATE OF CHANGE OF ORGANISMS,
I MEAN, I COULD WRITE THIS AS
DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS, BUT
FORTUNATELY FOR YOU, I DON'T
HAVE A BLACKBOARD, UM, THE RATE
OF CHANGE OF ORGANISM WITH
RESPECT TO TIME, IT'S TIME RATE
OF CHANGE, IS SOME FUNCTION OF
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE
ORGANISM AND OF THE CURRENT
STATE OF ITS ENVIRONMENT, RIGHT?
THAT'S, THAT'S THE LAW OF
EVOLUTION.
AND THEN WE HAVE A LAW OF THE
CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT.
THE RATE OF CHANGE OF
ENVIRONMENT WITH TIME IS SOME
FUNCTION OF THE EXTERNAL WORLD,
YOU KNOW, VOLCANOES ERUPT AND
THE WORLD COOLS AND WHATEVER'S
GOING ON OUT THERE, SO THE, THE,
THE EXPRESSION FOR THE RATE OF
CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT WITH TIME
ONLY CONTAINS ENVIRONMENT IN IT.
SO THE RATE OF CHANGE OF
ORGANISM HAS BOTH ORGANISM AND
ENVIRONMENT IN IT, BUT RATE OF
CHANGE OF ENVIRONMENT HAS ONLY
ENVIRONMENT IN IT.
WHAT I'M SUGGESTING TO YOU IS
THAT'S WRONG.
THAT IF WE REALLY WANT TO
UNDERSTAND ORGANISM AND
ENVIRONMENT AND THEIR EVOLUTION,
WE HAVE TO SEE IT AS A CO-
EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS, IN WHICH
ANY CHANGE IN THE EXTERNAL WORLD
CERTAINLY INVOKES AN
EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE IN THE
ORGANISM, BUT EVERY CHANGE IN
THE ORGANISM RE-REORGANIZES, IN
SOME WAY, THE EXTERNAL WORLD, AS
FAR AS THE ORGANISM IS
CONCERNED, AND SO THE EXTERNAL
WORLD IS EVOLVING AS A
CONSEQUENCE OF THE EVOLUTION OF
THE ORGANISM.
I DON'T MEAN THAT THE, THAT THE
SUN IS BECOM -- DIMMING BECAUSE
OF WHAT ORGANISMS DO, I MEAN
ENVIRONMENT IN THE SENSE OF THE
ENVIRONMENT BEING THE, THE NEXUS
OF RELEVANT ISSUES THROUGH THE,
THROUGH THE ORGANISM.
SO WE HAVE A PAIR OF
DIFFERENTIAL EQUATIONS, IN WHICH
BOTH FORMS ARE BOTH CAUSES AND
EFFECTS.
ORGANISMS ARE THE CAUSE OF THE
ENVIRONMENT AS WELL AS THE
EFFECT, ENVIRONMENT IS THE CAUSE
OF THE ORGANISM AS WELL AS ITS
EFFECT.
THERE'S A -- AND PHYSICISTS HAVE
NO PROBLEM WITH THIS.
BIOLOGISTS HAVE A TERRIBLE
PROBLEM, BIOLOGISTS FEEL THAT
SOMEHOW EACH THING IS EITHER A
CAUSE OR AN EFFECT.
BUT PHYSICISTS HAVE LONG
RECOGNIZED THAT THINGS APPEAR
BOTH IN, IN COUPLED DIFFERENTIAL
EQUATIONS, IN BOTH EQUATIONS,
THINGS CAN SIMULTANEOUSLY BE
CAUSES AND FEEDBACK EFFECTS AT
THE SAME TIME.
AND THAT'S TRUE IN BIOLOGY AS
WELL AS IN MOLECULAR PHYSICS.
IT'S JUST BIOLOGISTS ARE MORE
SIMPLEMINDED THAN PHYSICISTS, I
MEAN, THAT'S WHY I'M A
BIOLOGIST, BECAUSE I, I FAILED
PHYSICS ACTUALLY.
I PASSED IT WHEN I TOOK IT THE
SECOND TIME.
NOW, UH, ONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES
AND I WAS GONNA SHOW YOU ANOTHER
SLIDE, BUT I WON'T BECAUSE TIME
IS, I FEEL, HURRYING NEAR, UM,
ONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES IS THAT
NATURAL SELECTION TENDS TO BE,
UH, FREQUENCY DEPENDENT.
THAT IS TO SAY THAT THE DEGREE
TO WHICH SOME TYPE IS FAVOURED
IN NATURAL SELECTION DEPENDS ON
HOW FREQUENT THAT TYPE IS IN THE
POPULATION AND WHO ELSE IS IN
THE POPULATION.
SO, FOR EXAMPLE, NATURAL
SELECTION DOES NOT OBEY THE
SIMPLE LAWS OF GAME THEORY OR OF
UTILITY THEORY.
IF I PUT A AND B TOGETHER TO
COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER, B MAY
BE BETTER THAN A.
B MAY OUTCOMPETE A.
AND IF I PUT B AND C TOGETHER, C
MAY OUTCOMPETE B, RIGHT?
SO B IS BETTER THAN A AND C IS
BETTER THAN B.
WHAT'S YOUR PREDICTION WHEN I
PUT A AND C TOGETHER?
WELL, C OUGHT TO BEAT A, BECAUSE
IT WAS BETTER THAN B AND B WAS
BETTER THAN A, BUT WHEN YOU PUT
'EM TOGETHER, HALF THE TIME, A
BEATS C.
THAT IS TO SAY, THE COMPETITION
BETWEEN ORGANISMS IS IN MULTI
DIMENSIONS, IT'S A SCISSORS,
PAPER, STONE PROBLEM, BECAUSE
EACH ORGANISM IS THE ENVIRONMENT
OF THE OTHER ONE AND THEY
COMPETE ALONG DIFFERENT
DIMENSIONS.
SO A MAY WIN -- B MAY WIN
AGAINST A BECAUSE B IS FASTER ON
ITS FEET, SO TO SPEAK.
C MAY WIN AGAINST B BECAUSE C IS
SMARTER THAN B.
BUT A MAY BEAT C BECAUSE A IS A
GIANT AND C IS A MIDGET AND, UH,
THAT'S WHERE THE, THE
COMPETITION OCCURS ON THE BASIS
OF SIZE.
THAT -- THERE'S NO PREDICTING
AND THAT'S BECAUSE THE IMMEDIATE
ENVIRONMENT IS ALTERED BY THE
ACTUAL COMPOSITION OF THE
POPULATION, SO NATURAL SELECTION
IS BOTH FREQUENCY DEPENDENT,
EACH KIND IS ITS OWN WORST ENEMY
USUALLY AND IT'S ALSO TYPE
DEPENDENT AND ALL THE SIMPLE
RULES OF TRANSITIVITY DON'T
APPLY.
AND THAT'S THE TROUBLE WITH
BIOLOGY.
THE TROUBLE WITH BIOLOGY IS THAT
IT'S DIFFERENT STROKES FOR
DIFFERENT FOLKS AND IF YOU
REALLY WANNA BE A BIOLOGIST, YOU
HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT DETAILS.
DETAILS MATTER.
UH, OKAY, FINALLY I HAVE TO
ADMIT, I HAVE AS MY LAST THING
ON THE LIST, THAT ALTHOUGH
ORGANISMS CONSTRUCT THEIR
WORLDS, THAT CONSTRUCTION IS NOT
ARBITRARY, THAT IS TO SAY, IT IS
CONSTRAINED CONSTRUCTION.
YOU CAN'T CONSTRUCT YOUR WORLD
IN ANY OLD WAY.
AND THE CONSEQUENCE IS THAT
CONSTRUCTION HAS OCCURRED OVER
AND OVER AGAIN IN RATHER SIMILAR
WAYS AND INDEPENDENTLY.
FOR EXAMPLE, THERE ARE MANY
MODES OF SWIMMING FOR FISH.
THEY INCLUDE, UH, WIGGLING YOUR
TAIL, UH, RAYS SWIM THROUGH THE

- FLY THROUGH THE WATER, UH,
SEAHORSES, UH, SWIM BY ROTATING
LITTLE THINGS SO THEY, LIKE
LITTLE HELICOPTERS THROUGH THE
WATER, THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT
WAYS OF SWIMMING THROUGH THE
WATER, UH, THEY HAVE BEEN
INVENTED MORE THAN ONCE
INDEPENDENTLY, UH, THERE ARE
CONVERGENCES, SO THAT FOR
EXAMPLE, BIRD FAUNA IN SOUTH
AMERICA HAVE MANY RESEMBLANCES
TO THE BIRD FAUNA IN NORTH
AMERICA, EVEN THOUGH, AS FAR AS
WE KNOW, THERE'S BEEN NO...
THEY'RE TOTALLY DIFFERENT
SPECIES, SO THERE ARE
CONSTRAINTS IN HOW ORGANISMS CAN
REORGANIZE THE WORLD BECAUSE YOU
HAVE TO GET THERE FROM HERE AND
WHERE YOU ARE DETERMINES WHERE
YOU CAN GET FROM HERE AND YOU
CAN'T GET THERE FROM, YOU CAN'T
GET ANYWHERE ARBITRARILY FROM
WHERE YOU ARE.
ONE HAS TO RECOGNIZE THAT
EVOLUTION IS CONSTRAINED NOT
ONLY THE STRUCTURE OF THE
POSSIBILITIES IN THE OUTSIDE
WORLD, BUT ALSO BY THE
HISTORICAL PHENOMENA THAT YOU
HAVE TO GO FROM HERE TO THERE.
LET'S SAY ORGANISMS ARE NOT
UTOPIANS.
THEY CANNOT IMAGINE A WORLD THEY
WANT TO MAKE AND THEN MAKE IT.
THEY HAVE TO ACTUALLY SUCCEED IN
MOVING TO THAT STATE FROM THEIR
CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCE.
AND JUST AS THAT APPLIES IN
POLITICS, IT APPLIES IN
REVOLUTIONS, UM, IT APPLIES IN
EVOLUTION AS WELL.
SO I SUGGEST TO YOU THEN THAT
YOU STOP TALKING ABOUT
ADAPTATION, YOU STOP THINKING
ABOUT ECOLOGICAL NICHES, AND YOU
STOP TALKING ABOUT PROBLEMS AND
THEIR SOLUTIONS OR CHALLENGES
AND THEIR RESPONSES AND YOU
THINK ABOUT THE WORLD AS A
COEXISTING -- A CO-EVOLVING
SYSTEM OF ORGANISMS AND THE
WORLD THAT THEY CREATE AND MOST
OF ALL, THAT YOU GIVE UP THE
SLOGAN, LET'S SAVE THE
ENVIRONMENT.
BECAUSE THERE ISN'T THE
ENVIRONMENT.
THERE MAY BE A STATE OF THE
WORLD THAT YOU ALL LIKE, AND
THAT'S OKAY, AND YOU CAN SAY,
LET'S SAVE THE WORLD AS IT IS
NOW, BECAUSE I LIKE IT OR
BECAUSE IT'S GOOD FOR HUMAN
LIFE, BUT LET US REMEMBER,
PLEASE, THAT
THE
ENVIRONMENT OR THE, THE ENSEMBLE
OF ALL THE ENVIRONMENTS IS
CONSTANTLY EVOLVING AND CHANGING
AND YOU CAN'T MAKE IT STOP WHERE
IT IS, EXCEPT BY EXTRAORDINARY
EFFORT AND ONLY IN A VERY SMALL
PART OF IT THAT WHICH IS
RELEVANT TO AS MANY POWERFUL
PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE.
THANK YOU.

[Applause]

Watch: Richard C. Lewontin, Co-evolution: Organisms and Environment