By Lynn Margulis
From one of many nice iconoclasts of recent biology, Lynn Margulis, a groundbreaking new conception of the origins of species
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Extra resources for Acquiring Genomes. A Theory of the Origin of Species
They do not beget but preclude scientific understanding. Would not society be better served, then, if we adopted symbiotic metaphors instead of competitive ones? No. Society will be better served by more accurate scientific understanding, and this is not to be gained by substituting one pole of oversimplified metaphors for another. But of course organisms do vie in various ways with each other for space and food. Such vying however (or competition) among members of the same species does not in itself lead to new species; a source of genetic novelty—usually symbiogenesis—is needed.
Symbiosis” is an ecological term that describes two or more organisms of different kinds in protracted physical contact. Even bees and flowers, associated as they are by pollination ecology, do not have a symbiotic relationship. They enjoy other kinds of relationships, but they are not in physical contact long enough to be symbionts. Eyelash mites and the human body are symbionts. The odors that your socks emanate come from some of the bacteria and fungi that live between your toes; they have special habitats.
No. Then what are the units of competition? If you ask what are the units of biomass we can tell you in grams or ounces. If you ask how light or biotic potential is to be measured, we answer in lux or foot-candles or number of offspring per generation. But if you ask “what are the units of competition” we reply that yours is not a scientific notion. Vogue terms like “competition,” “cooperation,” “mutualism,” “mutual benefit,” “energy costs,” and “competitive advantage” have been borrowed from human enterprises and forced on science from politics, business, and social thought.
Acquiring Genomes. A Theory of the Origin of Species by Lynn Margulis