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Biological Evolution

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The history of biological evolution is marked by a number of metasystem transitions, including: the origin of life itself, the development of the modern cell from the aggregation of pre-cellular organelles (the transition from prokaryotes to eukaryotes); the coordination of single cell organisms into multi-cellular organisms; and the origin of sexual reproduction.

A detailed treatment of these different developments can be found in:

Maynard Smith J. & Szathmàry E. (1995): Major Transitions in Evolution, (W.H. Freeman, Oxford).

From the book cover:

(...). This is the first book on all these major transitions. In discussing such a wide range of topics in one volume, the authors are able to highlight the similarities between different transitions- for example, between the union of replicating molecules to form chromosomes and of cells to form multicellular organisms. The authors also show how an understanding of one transition sheds light on others.

A common theme in the book is that entities that could replicate independently before the transition can replicate afterwards only as as part of a larger whole. Why, then, does selection between entities at the lower level not disrupt selection at a higher level? In answering this question, the authors offer an explanation for the evolution of cooperation at all levels of complexity.

Copyright© 1995 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

C. Joslyn, F. Heylighen,

Aug 14, 1995 (modified)
Jan 1992 (created)


Metasystem Transition Theory

The History of Evolution

Prev. Next

The Origins of Life

Eukaryotes: the origin of complex cells

Multicellular organisms

Sexuality as a Metasystem Transition

Metasystem Transitions in Biology


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