Art-Making and Evolution

January 29,  2015 Painting is more than a metaphor for evolution it IS evolution.  As a painter explores, making new marks on a painting, testing viability of each new move in relation to those previously born, colors, lines - If the new mark survives it generates its own context for future new gestures.  If the new mark fails to add value and becomes painted over, it has become extinct.  The finished painting is a new organism to be tested in the wider world of family, friends, gallery owners, museum curators, auction houses and history.  Nature does not begin with the answer - the answer evolves from highly organized action.

Nature preserves its successes locking them away in the genome for continued expression from generation to generation.  All is not up for grabs at all times as Darwin proposed.  Nature is extremely conservative.  The idea of replicating molecules (RNA followed by DNA)  is over three billion years old - RNA and DNA are working just fine, as they have for eons - leave them alone.  Genes comprise base pair sequences over 1,000 base pairs long, each gene has been conserved over tens of millions of years. Change does not happen constantly, most genetic change is tossed by cell police and that which finds its way into an organism is 99% likely to cause a problem.  Most mutations are not advantageous.  Each cell in your body experiences mutations 10,000 times each day, almost all are discarded.

How does a mutation survive the gene police in order to find phenotypic expression?

Do these police ever sleep? go away on vacation? get deactivated by a transitory chemical event?  Evolution happens when it must,  otherwise things are quiet, stable, in equilibrium-in stasis.  After an extinction event, nature gets busy experimenting with new forms - new packages for her soap.  DNA has survived all mass extinctions.  Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and birds are just different size, color and shape boxes for the same soap.  The difference between a tiger and a human are like the difference between a box of Tide and a box of Tide with a “new and improved” label printed on the front - virtually same stuff inside the box.  Darwin thought nature acted like an angry adolescent throwing spaghetti on every available surface day and night - not so.   Nature is like the old guy on the porch who sometimes “Just sits” and sometimes “Just sits and waits”.

The human brain - a mind boggler.  It has been breaking all the rules regarding rate of change.  It has evolved very rapidly in evolutionary terms - a few million years from not much upstairs to the whole crazy  package.  Using Richard Dawkins’ analogy of the printing plates for an edition of an encyclopedia ( Dawkins uses a single book).  The plates are the human genome.  If there is a change,  every subsequent copy gets this update.  Once the edition has been printed every new individual carries a set of the original plates ( in EVERY cell - except sex cells).

JBQ:    Which sentence in which one of these 20,000 pages contains the message that the brain will listen?

JBQ:   Does this sentence in the genome also code for harmonic sensitivity? for rhythm?

JBQ:  At what point does the brain register that random sound has become music? That speech has become lyric and song?   What page contains the “words” for perceiving visual, tactile or taste harmony?

JBQ:  do the Irish and Italians tend to be excellent songwriters because the rhythm of their speech is close to melodic music as is?  Are there any great German songwriters?  does German speech lend itself to operatic expression as opposed to the less dramatic pop song?

JBQ:   Does each sensory reception address in the brain have its own judgemental cells with their olfactory, audio or visual recognition proteins? Are they proteins at all?


JBQ:    Does every cell in the body participate in making these judgements of suitability? even the liver, kidney, heart and lung cells?  Do they make judgements or simply receive the results of judgements from a higher point in the neural hierarchy?


JBQ:   Can the stomach or heart  originate an esthetic judgement like that dispensed by that cell group in the brain?  I have a gut feeling that it might.


JBQ:  What proteins code for esthetic discernment? What proteins switch it off and on? Is” off “the default or is “on” the default.  do we need an extra protein to sense beauty or do we ech have it and it is overridden in many? To hear sound is a primary level of perception, to judge sound as friend or enemy is a secondary function, to judge sound harmonious from cacophony is a tertiary capacity.


JBQ:    Do each of the five senses possess levels of response, each with its own esthetic component?  Does each of the five senses have its component of 500 different protein variations to make fine distinctions?  How did the Golden Mean develop as a standard for beauty ( .618 to 1.0)?   Do other animals besides humans care about this?  It his proportion in use when a female giraffe sizes up a suitor?


JBQ:   Does any animal care that a tiger may appear to be better proportioned than a hippo?  Does a human have proportions superior to those of a hog?  Is there an interspecies level of knowing?  There must be a raw esthetics at work when an animal distinguishes a starving, thus weak,  animal from a well-proportioned strong one that might put up a fight.


JBQ:  Do neurons at the receiving end of sense organs make judgements about such things or is all the action within the brain?  If there is a protein that codes for sense of proportion can it be switched off?  Why do many lefties have a greater esthetic sense than righties?


JBQ:  Are there different genes for each of the five senses for each type of sensory neuron that are in the genome i.e. carried by every cell or are different senses sorted by protein modification at dispersed ribosomes at various end points within the brain - tongue, fingertip, eyeball, ears?  In other words, do separate cells “read the book” and put their own spin on the basic story line?  If so - doesn’t this capability have to be ‘written’ in the primary  pages somewhere?


Maybe the ability to hear evolved 500 million years ago and the ability to distinguish harmony from dissonance evolved 200 million years ago and since the genome was already locked up for sound, this new capability had to be coded elsewhere, perhaps in some RNA blank page that lingers at the rough endoplasmic reticulum in every cell and is activated by a protein in the neuron or the sense organ for a role in natural selection.


The basic story, the one that is contained in the primary printing plates has been locked up for hundreds of millions of years and guarded closely, subsequent improvements in the system are coded via RNA that yet remain protected within the cell nucleus but are floating free of a chromosome and not part of the DNA-genome.


Humans may not have as many genes as a much simpler creature but we could easily have many thousands more encoded heritable messages.  See: epigenetic heritability via chromatin remodeling-ALC1,PARP1, paramutation, bookmarking, imprinting, transvection, teratogenic effects, X chromosome inactivation, position effect, regulation of heterochromatin,  DNA methylation at microRNA, CpG islands, small RNA, friendly prions, a fungus among us that won't go away.  the underlying gene sequence is preserved but repress / express proteins may be preserved through generations.


JBQ  Do the sensory neurons in the brain code and synthesize  their own protein independent of the genome?


JBQ: where does the sense of “I think she’s pretty” originate? Which bunch of neurons and how do they “know” that this real world array of line, colors, form, smell and sound is harmonious?  This know-how is not learned anew by each generation though obviously fine-tuned as fashions change in ideal body type it is hardwired in one’s consciousness.


JBQ:   Can people with a switched off sense of proportion still discern harmonious color?


JBQ:  How much physical distance in brain geography separates the sensory package of cells from the judgement package?  Are they adjacent?  Are there any processes that modify the signal prior to or after its reception?  She’s pretty but….she’s English, Irish, Muslim, African, under/over educated, too rational, too tall - I thought she was so much further away when I first laid eyes on her.


“Proteome remodeling underlies behavioral plasticity.  Targeted disruption of signaling molecules that regulate protein translation interfere with long-term synaptic or behavioral memories.”  Costa-Mattioli et al., - 2009


“Protein synthesis and long-term memory”  Davis and Squire - 1984


“Neuronal patterning at embryo” Martin and Ephrossi - 2009


Neurons are capable of local information processing.


In order for synapses to change they need new proteins.


If the mechanism is epigenetic then it is by definition easier to create a heritable change in RNA or some other molecular device  than DNA.  Many tertiary changes that may last a few thousand or just a few million years get a shot at the big show, the genetic major leagues of natural selection via heritability that may one day be stored in the genes for the duration as were the structural body parts of the fruit fly thorax some wings, some telomeres, some legs.  Perhaps my “Ugly Gene” is inherited in this manner.  Perhaps this more flexible system for inheriting  information uses epigenetic mechanisms to create heritable behavioral traits from direct life experience.


Perhaps musical, drawing, dancing, computational skill is heritable via modified RNA that works its way from sense organ memory into the germ cells - no genes involved yet inherited.