LucidBeast tips a mind-bending report at New Scientist on the latest paradigm-breaking work of Carl Woese, one of whose earlier discoveries was the third branch of life on Earth, the Archaea. Woese and physicist Nigel Goldenfeld argue that, even in its sophisticated modern form, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection applies only to a recent phase of life on Earth. Woese and Goldenfeld believe that horizontal evolution led to the rise of the genetic code itself. "At the root of this idea is overwhelming recent evidence for horizontal gene transfer — in which organisms acquire genetic material 'horizontally' from other organisms around them, rather than vertically from their parents or ancestors. The donor organisms may not even be the same species. This mechanism is already known to play a huge role in the evolution of microbial genomes, but its consequences have hardly been explored. According to Woese and Goldenfeld, they are profound, and horizontal gene transfer alters the evolutionary process itself."
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