When I was young, someone told me that evolution is like shooting your car and hoping that this makes the car go faster. I had the impression that evolution involves making random mutations, like randomly inserting/deleting characters into a program or an instruction manual, and that doing this across an enormous number of organisms over billions of years eventually leads to the life we see around us.

But now that I’ve learned some more biology, I’ve realized that biological life is set up to allow evolution to work much more effectively than it would by chance. In this post I’ll briefly describe the mechanisms I’ve learned about.

Mechanisms of evolution

Gene mutation strategies

  • Gene duplication
    • Eg the genes that detect light in our eyes all split off a common ancestor.
  • Exon shuffling
    • Most of our DNA is junk
      • I believe it to be junk because there’s a kind of puffer fish which lost most of it and seems to be fine.
    • The way genes work is that there are exons of useful stuff which have introns in between them.
    • This is nice because when you copy a bunch of genetic material from one place in the genome to another, it’s
  • Alternative splicing
    • This probably means that you can take out sections, mutate them, and then slowly bring them back in as they prove their worth.

Gene regulatory networks

  • gene regulatory networks as soft policies

Other evolutionary mechanisms

Facts to mention

  • Most DNA isn’t expressed much