Nature's Holism discusses the mechanism in nature causing
the coevolution between interacting species that leads to ecological
holism. It requires a study
of evolution and ecology. Human evolution is discussed to put
humanity into this ecological context. This book provides a
scientifically based argument for an ecological process often described
as coevolution and mutualism.
"holism" is an
interdependence between long-associated organisms
(living plants and animals), forming a larger natural system with its
own characteristics. Evolutionary processes lead to interactions
and behaviour that
provide a degree of compatibility (interdependence) between
long-associated organisms. A compatible organism exhibits behaviour
that reduces its effect upon the habitat or ecosystem upon which
its survival depends. If measured as a relative energetic value,
increased efficiency would
be found. Expressions of holism, such as in the bee and flower
interaction, are described in this book. After reading this
synopsis, read the detailed section on compatibility.
Atoms do not change their nature in any fundamental or evolutionary sense in the formation of molecules. Subatomic structure does not conform to the whole of biological holism. However, with molecules, coevolution is possible, conforming that (non-living) level of organisation to the whole and enabling biological holism. All evolutionary , ecological and biological changes are essentially molecular in origin. Atoms (chemistry) provide constraints to what molecular forms are possible.
At the ecosystem level of organisation, with interdependence and coadaptation found between associated organisms, the mode of biological perpetuation is to be found in the parts, the individual organisms.
Associations of species coevolve so that the animal becomes adapted
("suited") to use the
resources of its niche within the
ecosystem. In an
experiment called Prisoner's Dilemma
(Axelrod), that tested interactive models, the interactive process
(where elimination was possible) did not lead to survival of the
fittest as is generally understood of evolution today, but led to the
fittest being those that cooperated. Cooperation implies
interdependence. Biotic interactions during the evolutionary process
lead to interdependence and symbiosis. A species' formation of
instead of being a purely competitive mechanism, is behaviour through
which beneficial cooperative behaviour can be expressed. The
evolution of cooperation through natural selection requires that
successful strategies perpetuate
and that there is a source of variation in the strategies employed.
This is Darwinian natural selection, with
variations provided by genetic mutations.
Much of what Darwin said has holistic flair. He uses his term "struggle for existence" in a "metaphorical sense" "including dependence of one being on another (equated partially with "compatibility" ), and including not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny" (equated with "perpetuity"). We find a more subtle understanding of competition as an interaction in his statement that: "It is good thus to try in our imagination to give any form some advantage over another. Probably in no single instance should we know what to do, so as to succeed. It will convince us of our ignorance on the mutual relations of al organic beings; a conviction as necessary, as it seems to be difficult to acquire." This mutuality leads to compatibility, so Darwin says, "Let it be borne in mind how infinitely complex and close fitting are the mutual relations of all organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life." "Thus I can understand how a flower and a bee might become slowly, either simultaneously or one after the other, modified and adapted in the most perfect manner to each other, by the continued preservation of individuals presenting mutual and slightly favourable deviations of structure." Further, "if any one species does not become modified and improved in a corresponding degree with its competitors, it will soon be exterminated."
Darwin emphasises the associations of nature by first noting that "Competition should be most severe between allied forms, which fill nearly the same place in the economy of nature. Its "corollary of the highest importance: That the structure of every organic being (organism) is related, in the most essential yet often hidden manner, to that of all other organic beings, with which it comes into competition."
For scientific rigor, I introduce an established scientific model, the Lotka Volterra model , (行為方程式 behaviour equation) but with a slight modification.
----- = r1N1 ------------------------
Traditionally, this equation models competition (Smith, 1990), while here interactions of any form between associated species are considered. Putman (1994) recognises this possibility. After Gause , competition dominated the perception of ecologists dealing with the Lotka-Volterra model and ecosystems.
They modified the Lotka-Volterra model to explain other forms of interaction such as mutualism. Biological mutualism is a beneficial, reciprocal relationship between two species. The interaction favours survival, growth or fitness of both species (Smith, 1990). To model this, "The general approach has been a modification of the terms of the Lotka-Volterra equations for competition in which the negative alphas of competition become positive ." They term this positive coefficient the coefficient of mutualism. By the time Putman published his book, "Community Ecology" in 1994, they established this positiveness, negativeness or neutralness of biotic relationships: "Indeed all the various relationships through which the various members of a community might interact, may be represented as ++ (mutually beneficial); +0 (beneficial to one participant, not affecting the other); and +- (beneficial to one, damaging to the other)." To this he adds two more in a table, -- (for competition) and 0- (for incidental damage).
The most important variable in this model is the competition coefficient , alpha, which I have call the interactive coefficient ( i-factor ) (相聯係數 association coefficient) to accord with the compatibility idea and allow the consideration of all interactions, including competition and cooperation. The interactive coefficient (i-factor, alpha) represents the strength of interaction, showing the extent to which the growth rate of species 1 influences that of associated species 2 (Putman, 1994). i12 is the interactive effect on species 1 of species 2 (the effect of species 2 on species 1). Intraspecific interactive effects represented by the i-factor, or the "cost" of the interactive effect of two individuals of the same species, are given a value of 1. All other interactions with other species are measured relative to this value. In other words, the average interactive effect of two individuals of the same species is given a "cost" of 1. There are many ways of expressing this. Brewer (1994) explains it by saying that "the inhibitory effect of one or more individuals of species 1 on itself is 1/K1 ." This is a valid assumption as animal behaviour has evolved and is predictable so that it has a measurable average cost (statistical probability) for the species concerned. Colinvaux (1973) explains that "if an individual species 1 treats an individual of species 2 as one of its own kind, i21 = K2/K1 = 1."
In the standard analysis of the Lotka-Volterra Model, ecologists recognise the possibility of coexistence through decreased interactive effects between species (Smith, 1990). When intraspecific competition inhibits the growth of a population more than interspecific interactions do, coexistence is possible. Smith (1990) notes that coexistence occurs when "Each species inhibits its own growth through density-dependent mechanisms more than it inhibits the growth of the other species ." Colinvaux (1973) also notes that "for weakly competing populations, then, the Lotka-Volterra equations predict that both should persist indefinitely, their populations fluctuating only gently about equilibrium levels." Unfortunately, Smith and other ecologists did not realise the evolutionary implications of this "window of opportunity" that opens between two interactors under such conditions.
Adaptation, when between organisms that are both evolving,
leads to what appears like group selection, but is coadaptation.
The conclusion drawn from the model is that behaviour which reduces the
interactive effect or "cost" between individual organisms of the same (intraspecific) or different (interspecific) species, is
selected for through natural selection, as such behaviour leads to
ecological stability and
individual fitness. Natural selection
decreases the intensity of interaction between two associated species
through their diversification as this is an economic advantage.
Specialization and diversification are adaptive advantages, improving
survival potential; both reducing the intensity of interactions or the
coevolutionary consequence of interactive forces.
This book provides an interpretation of the paleontological record in the light of the modified Lotka Volterra model. An unexplained mystery is that evolutionary stasis is evident from the fossil record. Species remain unchanged for even millions of years once formed. With this pattern there is a rapid evolution of new species before the period of stasis. Because of this process, there is a significant absence of transitional or intermediate forms in the fossil record. Geneticists cannot explain this with their models. Complexity theorists can explain these processes and provide an alternative hypothesis to the one I provide. The same selective evolutionary pressure that reduces interactive costs between two species, also acts within a species. The effect of intense intraspecific competition is the stasis of the species as large variations will tend to be less efficient and rapidly eliminated by the interactive pressures selecting for efficiency within a population.
Below is a graph of three interacting species where the intensity of intraspecific interactions requires more energy than the average of interspecific interactions. The three species coexist, and due to close association, they coevolve.
This model assumes that intraspecific interactions are a significant force in many species. Wherever intraspecific interactions require more energy than interspecific interactions, coevolution can result in interdependent associations. Such interactions are epitomised by the bee and the flower and I have termed these compatible associations.
"That the two (theology and philosophy) have important overlapping concerns seems beyond question. A systematic philosophy that fails to give any thought to the question of God's existence could be judged seriously incomplete: likewise a theology that fails to enter into discussion with opposed views of the world, or to explore whatever philosophical support is available for its principal claims." (Honderich, 1995).
Thomas Hobbes , General J. C. Smuts , Immanuel Kant
and of course, Charles Darwin provides
important conceptual foundations to this book. A parallel idea is found
in the science of chaos and complexity .
Another primary reference is the Islamic Holy
Quraan , but this is a purely empirical idea. These sources
provide strength to the final concept and represent the main areas of
conflict in this book, namely theology (religion)
(see note 1), ethics (morals), evolution , teleology and holism. Briefly, Hobbes provides a method
of reasoning and a moral philosophy, an essential tool for a book of
this type. Smuts outlines a feasible and credible scientific holism.
The Holy Quraan defines constraints to the possible. Kant provides an
extensive insight into the implications of teleology and Charles Darwin
provides a practical and valid evolutionary mechanism. Nature's Holism
does not appear to align well with the Gaia
Follow the quick guded tour
and read more on perpetuity and
compatibility as the principles of Nature's Holism (ecotaoism).
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