Natural reward theory could provide new foundation for biology


This is Owen Gilbert, author of the natural reward theory.

Dr Owen Gilbert, researcher on the Division of Integrative Biology on the College of Texas at Austin (USA) and creator of the latest paper suggesting the pure reward idea of evolution. Credit score: LE Gilbert

Pure reward idea addresses questions Darwin left unanswered, together with the rise of complexity, command over assets & innovativeness.

AUSTIN, TX, USA, December 14, 2020 / — A hyperlink between evolution over quick time frames (microevolution) and very long time frames (macroevolution) that might open new approaches to understanding a few of biology’s deepest questions is proposed by Dr Owen Gilbert of the Division of Integrative Biology on the College of Texas at Austin (USA) in a new paper, revealed within the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Rethinking Ecology.

In his work, Gilbert suggests that there’s an alternate non-random drive of evolution, which acts synergistically with pure choice and results in the elevated innovativeness, or development, of life with time. The novel idea enhances Darwin’s idea of evolution and addresses the questions it has left unanswered.

“This might remedy the thriller of why life has develop into extra modern with time,” factors out Gilbert.

Moderately than assume that pure choice applies to long-preserved items like species or clades, or that pure choice works for the long-term objective of “health maximization,” Gilbert reworked the foundations of evolutionary idea to indicate that there’s room for an additional non-random drive of evolution, pure reward.

Gilbert distinguishes the genetic items and time frames of long-term evolution. Whereas pure choice alters gene frequencies inside species, Gilbert argues, pure reward alters the whole abundance of whole genetic methods, together with genetic codes, gene networks, and genetic regulatory modules shared by species and better taxa. Gilbert proposes that pure reward additionally applies to cycles of invention, growth and extinction, which occur over hundreds to tens of millions of generations, and which, when repeated, lengthen into deep evolutionary time.

“All earlier theories of macroevolution assumed that pure choice is the one non-random drive,” Gilbert stated. “This meant that researchers needed to both extrapolate from microevolution to macroevolution, or assign foresight to pure choice—which everybody is aware of is an adulteration of the idea.”

“A principal benefit of invoking pure reward as a separate drive is that it means pure choice can be utilized to elucidate the stepwise origin of advanced traits, with out assigning omniscience to pure choice.” Forming an analogy to economics, Gilbert argues that pure choice performs the function of nature’s blind inventor, creating advanced “innovations” with out a watch to the broader market, whereas pure reward acts as nature’s blind entrepreneur, spreading advanced innovations to the markets or environments that instantly demand them.

“With this framework, it turns into doable to obviously separate issues of origin and success, which have lengthy been muddled,” Gilbert stated. “The result’s new insights on main issues of biology.”

Within the gentle of the pure reward idea, Gilbert opinions questions of the evolution of evolvability, why sexual replica is widespread, the fixation of a single genetic code, and the elements inflicting apparently sudden bursts of evolutionary change. Gilbert additionally investigates the query of whether or not the mammalian alternative of dinosaurs could also be thought of an development of life, culminating with a short assessment of the reason for success of human financial methods.

“Solely time will inform if the idea of pure reward is right,” Gilbert stated. “Present information present, nonetheless, that its principal assumptions are justified and that the idea holds promise in yielding new insights on main organic issues.”

In his conclusion, Gilbert summarizes the primary implication of the pure reward idea, “… development is defined as an anticipated consequence of two deterministic evolutionary forces, pure choice and pure reward, appearing collectively with out foresight for the longer term.”


Gilbert OM (2020) Pure reward drives the development of life. Rethinking Ecology 5: 1-35.

Owen M. Gilbert
College of Texas at Austin
+1 512-585-9071


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