The Living Genome
Ok, this is not really a book, it’s my dissertation which will hopefully become a book in the future. Until then, you can find many of the arguments developed in the dissertation in various papers, or read the summary below. If you want to read the whole thing contact me and I’ll gladly send you a copy.
Genes versus Genomes: The Role of Genome Organization in Evolution
(PhD Dissertation, Tel Aviv University, 2010. Supervised by Eva Jablonka)
Recent and not so recent advances in our molecular understanding of the genome make the once prevalent view of the genome as a passive container of genetic information (i.e., genes) untenable, and emphasize the importance of the internal organization and re-organization dynamics of the genome for both development and evolution. While this conclusion is by now well accepted, the construction of a comprehensive conceptual framework for studying the genome as a dynamic system, capable of self-organization and adaptive behavior is still underway. This work deals with the effect of such a conceptual shift on evolutionary thought. Specifically, I try to articulate the conceptual commitments and obligations of views that privilege explanatorily or causally the genome, its dynamics and mechanisms, over genes. I refer to this class of views as belonging to ‘the genome perspective’.
There are still only few attempts to integrate the genome perspective into evolutionary theory, and to examine how this changes the way evolutionary questions are formulated and studied. Although intra-genomic competition and conflict were studied extensively, these studies concentrated on the level of genes. The question whether genome-level re-organization events can be viewed as specific and adaptive responses to external stimuli, specifically stress, has received relatively scant attention. This dissertation maps part of the conceptual landscape relevant to these discussions, and attempts to draw guidelines for fruitful integration of the genome perspective into contemporary evolutionary thought, specifically the developmental perspective (Evo-Devo and DST). A major strand running through this work is the attempt to articulate the conceptual implications of a meta-theoretical commitment to giving explanatory privilege to genomes, considered as evolved developmental units, over genes. The genome perspective conceptualizes the genome as an evolved reactive system, whose functioning depends on the coordinated activities of a myriad of mechanisms.