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Answering Cuvier: Notes on the systemic/historic nature of living beings

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Georges Cuvier, founder of vertebrate paleontology and an anti-evolutionist who argued that in living beings the relation between the parts (organs) and the whole (the organism), as well as the relation between the whole and its environment (way of existence or adaptation), are so exquisite and particular that a spontaneous or random origin of the living beings is totally unthinkable. Accordingly, he established a fundamental question, namely: 'how did living beings come to exist if not as a result of intentional design?' Here we argue that the current use of the notions of a genetic developmental program and of evolution as a process of genetic change are ultimately unsatisfactory as an answer to Cuvier's question. We propose a biological-historical approach to this question, based on the systemic-historical conceptualization of Natural Drift. Specifically, we propose that an organism comes to be a unique organized whole of mutually correspondent parts that exist as such through realizing a particular mode of relationship with its environment, neither as a consequence of design, nor by the operation of an internal building plan or program. This happens because the organism and its parts have arisen together in a historical systemic process that follows the course of the realization of the organism through its relation with its environment, both in ontogeny and phylogeny.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Departamento de Ciencias Ecologicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile ., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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