Contingency, convergence and hyper-astronomical numbers in biological evolution.
Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences 58 (2016) 107-116
Abstract:Counterfactual questions such as "what would happen if you re-run the tape of life?" turn on the nature of the landscape of biological possibilities. Since the number of potential sequences that store genetic information grows exponentially with length, genetic possibility spaces can be so unimaginably vast that commentators frequently reach of hyper-astronomical metaphors that compare their size to that of the universe. Re-run the tape of life and the likelihood of encountering the same sequences in such hyper-astronomically large spaces is infinitesimally small, suggesting that evolutionary outcomes are highly contingent. On the other hand, the wide-spread occurrence of evolutionary convergence implies that similar phenotypes can be found again with relative ease. How can this be? Part of the solution to this conundrum must lie in the manner that genotypes map to phenotypes. By studying simple genotype-phenotype maps, where the counterfactual space of all possible phenotypes can be enumerated, it is shown that strong bias in the arrival of variation may explain why certain phenotypes are (repeatedly) observed in nature, while others never appear. This biased variation provides a non-selective cause for certain types of convergence. It illustrates how the role of randomness and contingency may differ significantly between genetic and phenotype spaces.
From genotypes to organisms: State-of-the-art and perspectives of a cornerstone in evolutionary dynamics.
Physics of life reviews 38 (2021) 55-106
Abstract:Understanding how genotypes map onto phenotypes, fitness, and eventually organisms is arguably the next major missing piece in a fully predictive theory of evolution. We refer to this generally as the problem of the genotype-phenotype map. Though we are still far from achieving a complete picture of these relationships, our current understanding of simpler questions, such as the structure induced in the space of genotypes by sequences mapped to molecular structures, has revealed important facts that deeply affect the dynamical description of evolutionary processes. Empirical evidence supporting the fundamental relevance of features such as phenotypic bias is mounting as well, while the synthesis of conceptual and experimental progress leads to questioning current assumptions on the nature of evolutionary dynamics-cancer progression models or synthetic biology approaches being notable examples. This work delves with a critical and constructive attitude into our current knowledge of how genotypes map onto molecular phenotypes and organismal functions, and discusses theoretical and empirical avenues to broaden and improve this comprehension. As a final goal, this community should aim at deriving an updated picture of evolutionary processes soundly relying on the structural properties of genotype spaces, as revealed by modern techniques of molecular and functional analysis.
arXiv papers can't be properly linked on this feed. You can see mine by clicking on the link below.
bioRxiv papers can't be properly linked on this feed. You can see mine by clicking on the "arXiv" link below.
Is SGD a Bayesian sampler? Well, almost
JOURNAL OF MACHINE LEARNING RESEARCH 22 (2021)