Not the artificial construct of evolution, but rather Goethean morphology can perhaps give us the key to understanding the vital development of biology.
Translated by John Bruce Leonard
Already from these few lines it is evident how in the theory of Saint-Hilaire, as much as in that of Goethe, the fixity of living forms is absolutely out of the question: species transform, they adapt to external conditions, but not by following the caprice of accident, nor through natural selection – the which, moreover, has a function more conservative than innovative, as the mechanisms of DNA protection and correction can demonstrate.
Coming to Goethe after this cursory review of Cuvier and Saint-Hilaire, we immediately see that the German thinker stands without shadow of a doubt nearer to Saint-Hilaire: the unity of Type is nothing other than the unity of organic composition which Saint-Hilaire discovered. Nevertheless one cannot fail to note, as we will shortly do, that Goethe absolutely does not exclude the influence and the strains of the environment (in Darwinian terms, the struggle for existence), and moreover that he understands that the influence of the environment, without the unity of Type, is actually incomprehensible. This problem did not escape Darwin’s notice; at the end of the chapter of Origin of Species already cited, ‘Difficulties on Theory’, he writes the following:
It is generally acknowledged that all organic beings have been formed on two great laws Unity of Type, and the Conditions of Existence. By unity of type is meant that fundamental agreement in structure, which we see in organic beings of the same class, and which is quite independent of their habits of life. On my theory, unity of type is explained by unity of descent. The expression of conditions of existence, so often insisted on by the illustrious Cuvier, is fully embraced by the principle of natural selection. For natural selection acts by either now adapting the varying parts of each being to its organic and inorganic conditions of life; or by having adapted them during long-past periods of time: the adaptations being aided in some cases by use and disuse, being slightly affected by the direct action of the external conditions of life, and being in all cases subjected to the several laws of growth. Hence, in fact, the law of the Conditions of Existence is the higher law; as it includes, through the inheritance of former adaptations, that of Unity of Type.
It is surpassingly evident in this passage that these were commonly discussed themes, at least amongst the specialists, and that the debate was strongly felt by Darwin himself, who seems to have much desired to introduce his concepts of descendancy and selection into that debate. And indeed he views unity of Type as a mere commonality of structure imputable to the common descent of the living and to the adaptation to conditions of existence, as the effects of natural selection – which, moreover, as we have seen and as we will consider more in depth, serves more to explain the constancy in living forms, than their novelty. For Darwin, the law of adaptation to conditions of existence is the most important law, and the unity of type strictly depends on it, insofar as the latter is interpreted as the simple fruit of descent, and therefore of ancient adaptations.
It is clear that Darwin sees the laws of development of the living in the same way in which the classic physicist sees the laws of inorganic nature, which means in an abstract manner, as idea which acts from without, and not as an internal principle, stimulated certainly by external conditions, but possessing its own principles and also that organicity, to express ourselves in phenomenological terms, which is the living being’s eidetic residue, or its typical phenomenon, or its primordial phenomenon, to speak with Goethe.1
And indeed, in the following passage of the poem The Metamorphosis of the Animals, Goethe, with the intuitive eye proper to great spirits, and with the strokes of a great artist, explains everything there is to understand regarding his position – a position in which Cuvier, Saint-Hilaire, and Darwin are all gathered together into a unique vision, as we will see:
Each animal’s purpose is itself; it springs out perfect
From the lap of Nature, and begets perfect children.
All its members are built according to eternal laws,
And its rarest form secretly preserves the Type [Urbild].
So each mouth is fit to grasp that food
Which is owed to the body; be that mouth weak or toothless
Or powerful of toothed jaw, in each case
It is a proper organ which carries food to the remaining parts.
Also each limb moves, some long, some short,
Entirely in harmony with the animal and its needs.
So is each child full, with an inner health
Determined by the mother: for no living part
Contradicts the others, but all work together for life.
Thus form determines the beast’s way of life,
And its way of living affects all forms
In return. So is revealed the orderly development
Which inclines toward change in externally working beings.
Within however is found the strength of noble creatures,
Determined within the holy circle of living development.
These limits do not extend around God, but it is nature which honors them:
For only through limits might perfection ever be.
But within, a powerful spirit seems to struggle
To breach the circle, an arbitrary will to create new forms
And also desires; but whatever this spirit begins, it begins in vain.
For indeed, though it urges toward the limbs,
To make them powerful, nonetheless
In the other limbs, the burden of this overload destroys
All beauty of form and all pure movement.
If you see that one creature enjoys a special advantage
Ask where elsewhere it suffers
Deficiency, and seek with seeking spirit
That soon you may come upon the key to all development;
For never has there been a beast with all its teeth
Enclosing its upper jaw, which wears also a horn upon its brow,
And so is the horned lion to the eternal mother
Utterly impossible to build, whatever force she furnishes;
For she has not mass enough, to plant
Full ranks of teeth, even while pushing up antlers and horns.
May it grant you high pleasure, this beautiful idea
Of strength and limit, of arbitrary will
And law, of freedom and measure, of moving order,
of advantage and deficit…
Here the key elements of the Goethean thought immediately dance before the eye, and in particular the concept of measure and proportion. In the Goethean conception of Nature, there exists no uncontrolled freedom nor extravagant fantasy. Nature infuses the living with a plastic force and with very precise laws, which we might define as laws of balance, which were already present, to a certain degree, as we have seen, in Saint-Hilaire; only that in Goethe they assume a systematic and scientific role without precedents. Indeed, in the Introduction of 1795, Goethe affirms:
If we examine an animal attentively, we will find that the diversity of forms which characterize it originates from that one of its parts which predominates over the others.
Thus, in the giraffe, the neck and the extremities are favored at the expense of the body, while in the mole we find the contrary. There thus exists a law by virtue of which a part cannot increase in volume save at the expense of another part, and vice versa. These are the limits within which plastic force exercises itself in the most bizarre and arbitrary of ways, and they are limits which this force cannot overcome; the plastic force reigns sovereign within these limits, which are quite restricted, but which are sufficient for development. The whole of the balance of nature is fixed; but nature is free to spend the partial sums in that way which best pleases her. Nature, when she wishes to spend a part, must economize in another, and for this she cannot ever fall into debt nor bankruptcy.
As Goethe will affirm some years later in the Metamorphosis of the Animals, there exists an iron law which dictates the boundaries within which the living can move, and there also exist insurmountable limits, insofar as there is imagination in nature but no will. Moreover, without limits to will there can exist no perfection. The living forms are perfect insofar as they conform to measure and balance. The spectacle of the natural world is born from the struggle between the tendency toward excess, and so toward chaos, on the one hand, and the limit which restrains this tendency and makes it conform to reason, albeit in the maximum variety possible, on the other.2
For Goethe, moreover, as for his contemporaries, the study of the skeleton is fundamental for the study of forms and of habits, and it is fundamental also for intuiting the physiology of animals. Indeed, he dedicates a very prominent part of his studies on the living world to the study of bones, stating the matter this way in the work already cited: ‘The skeleton is evidently the framework which determines the form of the animals. Knowledge of the skeleton aids knowledge of the other parts.’
But it is not enough, following the principle of Saint-Hilaire, to observe the organs, pursuing these from their most obvious manifestation, in different species, to the point of their disappearance. Goethe suggests instead the creation of synoptic tables for every bone, which consider all the variations to which each bone is subject or which it might encounter: ‘The deviations of possible forms are deduced by virtue of reason and experience; they should then be presented on a synoptic table, proceeding from the simple to the composite, from the rudimentary state to the perfect state, or vice versa, depending on whether the first or the second method seems the clearest.’
Evidently the skeleton, being the scaffolding of the animal organism, must be molded to accommodate and sustain a certain organic nature. The skeleton is a little like an identity card, the distinctive sign or signature of that life to which it has been destined.
In the same text Goethe also proceeds rigorously to list all the bones with which the general Type of the Vertebrates is composed, and then to illustrate what remains constant and what varies in the nature of these bones. Their position and function are the parameters which tend to remain invariable, but each bone can undergo numerous variations of form: it might atrophy, it might weld itself to another bone until it becomes almost unrecognizable; it might become hypertrophic or it might be pushed in the direction of another bone, or it might be bent by the general exigencies of the organism. The student of Zoology must occupy himself with all of this.
In the second place, we find perfect balance between external stresses and the internal law of development: living beings are perfectly adapted to their environment and model their behaviors to the form and the functions which they are given; but, inversely, the environment and the style of life which that environment brings exercise a strong pressure on form and functions, for which it appears logical to think that if the conditions of life change in a substantial way, the living being will adapt to its new conditions, but without ever violating the ideal principles of Type and the laws of organic development, as for instance the law of equilibrium of masses.
The organic laws appear every bit as stringent as those of inorganic nature, but they work on another plane; for indeed one cannot say that gravity is a principle internal to the stone, insofar as the stone is subjected to gravity, and the law of gravity is in a certain sense external to it. Organic being, on the other hand, has its own internal law: the bull is not subject to the law of equilibrium of masses, but this principle is an integral part of its organism and acts from within, making the bull conform to it – making the bull renounce its superior incisors and develop horns, just as that elephant which loses all its teeth apart from its molars, so that it can sprout its powerful tusks.3 The law of the living is immanent in the living; it is precisely the organic law.
But before we continue, it is necessary to linger for a moment on the nature of Type. Type, as Goethe himself avers, evidently cannot be a particular organism: if it is the model on which all instances are founded, it cannot be one of these instances. Nor can the most perfect organism, Man, be the general model, precisely by reason of his perfection. Type is a general image in which all the elements of the animal nature are present, with all its possible variations. If we wish to introduce an analogy with Geometry we might say that organic Nature in general represents space and its elements: the point, the line, surfaces and volumes and the various subdivisions of the organic world are as the axioms and the postulates followed hierarchically by theorems, corollaries, etc…
For example, the first ‘axiomatic’ subdivision might be that between vegetal nature and animal nature, and indeed the polarity between animal and plant is a fundamental one. Plants use metabolic residues of animal respiration, of the metabolism of proteins, and of organic degradation to produce those nutriments which then nourish the entire food chain; and this process in turn releases oxygen, itself fundamental for life. The symbolic gesture of the plant is its opening to light, its production of life from death, while that of the animal is its closing and its interior activity (which implicates evidently the release of toxins and thus the production of death).
Within the animal world, we can find another fundamental polarity in the separation between Vertebrates and Invertebrates. In reality it would be more exact to speak of Epineurates and Hyponeurates, that is animals which have a hollow neural canal over their digestive canal and those which rather have a solid neural canal beneath it. This polarity also has a general ‘axiomatic’ value which is then manifested in each group in the most disparate of ways, always obeying however the original schema.4 Within the Vertebrates, then, the various classes can be considered as so many specifications of the type, theorems which in different species have as many corollaries. In any case, the parallel with Geometry ends here, since the living world is not a static world; it is not made of fixed and immutable concepts, but of continuously transforming realities.
To follow this metamorphosis effectively, astute observation is necessary, as well as the comparison of innumerable cases and findings; also a mobile and extremely elastic intuitive kind of thought, such as that which is able to imagine, for example, a triangle which transforms from right to equilateral, isosceles, scalene, moving from acute to obtuse angles – a ‘genetic’ kind of thought, as Goethe would say, meaning a kind of thought capable of holding fast and of reconstructing, on the basis of observable data, all the transformations which a phenomenon might encounter, beginning from the typical model, and employing all the heuristic instruments at one’s disposal; in short, a plastic kind of thought, as plastic as the nature of its object.5 In reality, the most perfect instrument of research are senses educated in observation, and thought trained to perceive the essences of phenomena, since those essences are not simple generalizations of facts, but real forces acting in Nature and graspable by Human thought. Incidentally, even the famous fundamental biogenetic law, Haeckel’s recapitulation – which is supposed to demonstrate the Darwinian theory of descendancy and the genetic derivation of the species from one another, and thus to confute the Type as understood in Goethean terms – even this biogenetic law has been refuted.
The law of Haeckel states in brief that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, meaning that in its embryonic development the individual retraces all the stages of ‘inferior’ animal groups, revealing once again the adult forms of those groups which have preceded that of the embryo in question. The first critic of this idea was the great Karl Ernst Ritter von Baer, a pioneer in embryology, who had already formulated his four laws of development – laws which are valid to this day, and which remain perhaps the most lapidary word on embryology of all time. The sense of von Baer’s laws lies in the conviction that embryonic development is a process of individuation from the general to the particular. The embryo will therefore be similar to other embryos only in the very first stages of development, when it is only an agglomerate of cells (we are speaking therefore of its first days). Already from the formation of that primitive line in which the neural canal originates (let us remember that in the Epineurates this canal is dorsal and in the Hyponeurates it is ventral) we have the first profound differentiation, so that a Vertebrate can never pass through a phase similar to that of an Invertebrate.
Thus general traits appear before specific ones, distancing the fetus ever more from any similarity with any adult of inferior species. Moreover, von Baer observes, very often it is not the adult traits of less evolved beings which appear in the embryo of more evolved beings, but on the contrary it is the embryonic traits of inferior organisms which appear in the adult of superior forms, and this in a most evident way in species of the same Phylum: for example, the larvae of Miriapods (centipedes and millipedes) have three pairs of feet like their more evolved Insect cousins. This phenomenon is glaringly obvious amongst species of the same Order. For instance, the embryonic development of Anthropomorphic Apes, in which the fetus at its birth shows typical traits of a Human type: equal length of anterior and posterior limbs, centrally-positioned foramen magnum (the ‘hole’ at the base of the cranium through which the spinal marrow passes), scarce prognathism in the jaws, a globular cranium of large dimensions, vertical sexual canal, etc. – traits which then disappear in adult apes but which are conserved in the ‘hairless primate’, Homo sapiens.
But what is it that renders one species more evolved than another? Certainly not its greater adaptation to its environment, nor its capacity to survive, otherwise Bacteria would be without a shadow of a doubt absolutely the most evolved organisms. In answer to this question, it is once more von Baer who comes to the rescue: the more the mass of an organism is homogeneous (which is the same as saying, the more the parts of an organism are similar amongst themselves), the more the organism is to be considered little developed, that is primitive. In short, the more a being is differentiated and organically articulated, the more it is developed and therefore evolved. Here we find a truly objective criterion for establishing the degree of development of a being.
On the basis of these considerations, which are supported by the considerations of the German embryologist, we might build a table or a diagram of self-ation6 on which the beings might be placed hierarchically. The word selfation derives from a fusion of two other words: self-consciousness and individuation. We have seen, in fact, that von Baer considers those beings to be advanced which are more differentiated and articulated, i.e. those which are most individualized and finely differentiated, even in their infinitesimal parts and functions. Now if we observe attentively, this progress accompanies a progressive isolation from the environment, and the development of an autonomous interior life, up to its culmination, through ever more conscious beings, in self-conscious Man; thus the more a being becomes developed, articulated, and organically perfected, the more it tends to become individual, to isolate itself from its environment and to develop an increasingly autonomous interior life.
This is evident, for example, in the sequence of the vertebrates: from fish, totally immersed in their proper liquid element, to the amphibians which develop ambulation and aerial respiration but which stand however at the halfway point between two elements (they depend yet on water for their reproduction, their aerial respiration is yet imperfect like their circulation, and their skin is absolutely permeable to environmental influences); then to reptiles, in which we observe the closing of the ‘regulation’ of internal spaces and a complete closure with respect to the external world thanks to their horny skin and their scales; then to mammals and birds, in which this isolation reaches perfection, since their bodily temperature is independent from external temperature, their circulation and respiration are complete, their expulsion of waste substances is highly efficient, and, what is of utmost importance, they begin to emit articulate sounds which denote a more perfected interior life; finally up to man, in which sound becomes word, poetry, music, and in whom self-consciousness and thought is lit. As an aside, it also appears evident that physical perfection is not the cause of self-consciousness and of thought, but is rather a condition such that these ‘phenomena’ might manifest. Moreover, according to the morphological viewpoint, this sequence should not be seen as being the generation of superior kinds from inferior ones, but rather it should be seen in the syncronic-archetypical and typological sense (we will return to the birth of the species at the final part of our contribution).
But von Baer also anticipates another fundamental theme of modern biology: the concept of Neoteny,7 thematized by Harvard biologist Stephen J. Gould in the 1970s, i.e. the appearance of ‘infantile’ characteristics in the adults of a species, which amounts to saying the appearance, in adult stages of a developed species, of embryonic traits of less developed species.8 The human being is an obvious example of neoteny (or pedomorphosis): of all the Primates, adult Man is that which most resembles his embryo, and the embryos of anthropomorphic apes are more similar to this embryo (and thus to adult man) than to their own adult stages. Man seems to refer back to the dawning stage of his expulsion from the primates and from the Anthropomorphic Apes, and this is confirmed also by the comparison of the human genome with that of his nearest relatives. Contrasting the genes of the mitochondrial DNA which codify various enzymatic proteins (the first was Citocrome C9 and its neutral mutations10), it has been established that with respect to a hypothetical common ancestor, the human line has received about half of the variations of those received by the line of anthropoid apes; and moreover the fine structure of the cromatin (the material contained in the cellular nucleus, which makes up the Gene-containing Chromosomes, and which is constituted by nuclear DNA, histones, etc.) of his hypothetical progenitor was equal in eighteen out of twenty-three chromosomes, with the other pairs differing slightly.
This means that the traits of Man are ‘primitive’, and those of the apes are derivative, in von Baer’s sense; moreover this deviation is sufficiently recent with respect to previous estimations, dating back at most two million years. If one further considers Skull 1470, which was rediscovered along with two femurs by Richard Leakey near Lake Turkana, and which dates to at least three million years ago – a skull with modern proportions, though of reduced dimensions – it becomes evident that human or humanoid features are original and not derived, so that the ideas of von Baer and Gould have been confirmed. Another very important corollary of von Baer’s laws gives us a crucial principle for understanding how living species are generated: when a group takes a given road it cannot any longer turn back; that is, for example, as soon as it has set off down the road of the vertebrates it cannot generate from itself or evolve into or produce invertebrates, and the same thing is true for all taxonic ramifications. A specialized being cannot ever generate another specialized being: a reptile cannot ever generate a mammal nor a bird; a cow cannot ever generate a whale, nor an elephant a horse, nor a monkey a man. Evidently it is not only the case that a specialized organism cannot generate another specialized organism, but also that it cannot produced a non-specialized one:11 practically speaking, beings have the opportunity to distinguish themselves and to separate themselves only when they have not yet set off down any particular road, when they find themselves at a fork in the road – that is, when they are not yet specialized.
From this perspective, and given that we observe only specialized beings around ourselves, we can hypothesize that evolution or metamorphosis or speciation has arrested itself at its present state, and that at present new species cannot be born, for Nature has already made all of its possible choices: the organisms that we observe today are the fruit of those choices, physical evolution has reached its limits and its borders: species can only go extinct in the present state, or at most regress involutively [i.e. ‘devolving’ in a manner contrary to evolution – Trans.]. The fact of the matter is that for so long as Man can recall being in the world, which is to say since the invention of writing, there has never yet reached us any testimony of the birth of a new species, but only of extinctions and disappearances. Certainly new specialized species have been discovered, but no one has ever filmed or witnessed the moment in which a being generates a different being. Thus, given the data at our disposal, which we interpret, or attempt to interpret, in an unprejudiced way, the most logical conclusion seems to be precisely the one here laid forth: evolution has arrested itself; no new species will be born. At most there will arise variations of existing species, but not new species.
In support of this, the data of molecular biology and of genetics once more come to our aid: it seems that no more neutral mutations of mitochondrial DNA are occurring in the human line;12 everything is stalled; in man the physical evolution of animal nature reaches its end and its fulfillment. Moreover this is also the opinion of illustrious experts, according to whom the present variety of living species is not at all superior to that of the past, but indeed is equivalent to it, if not inferior for the species that have gone extinct. In point of fact, available fossil data show that the last explosion of taxa13 dates back essentially to fifty million years ago, with the explosion of Mammals and of Birds, and with the disappearance of many Orders that are now extinct. According to James Brough, differentiation was first concentrated on the most generalized levels (the Phyla, practically the very same to derive from the first explosion, that of the Cambrian, about 600 million years ago) and gradually on those less generalized up to the species; so the differentiation was gradually restricted; so far as its continuation is concerned, Brough expresses himself as follows: ‘As to the future, evolution may go on working in smaller and smaller fields until it ceases altogether’.14 Henri Decugis in 1941 was of the same view:
Paleontology has taught us in the the clearest possible way that animal and vegetal life has been, already for some time now, in strong regression, at least quantitatively. … The extinct species are infinitely more numerous than those still living. In addition, we know that toward the end of this process, many living species have evolved in a way contrary to organic progress, and have become more or less degraded.
Moreover … the duration of vertebrate animal species is much briefer than those less evolved species from which they are derived. The most perfected types are singularly more exposed to degeneration and extinction. The fragility of types is the price these species pay for their elevation in the scale of living things.
And yet again:
One of the most disappointing certainties of contemporary biology is that an immense number of vegetal and animal species, far from progressing in organization, are in full regression.15
And the same thing is noted by paleontologists of the caliber of J. Piveteau, Raymond C. Moore and Alfred S. Romer.
Differentiation therefore proceeds from the general to the particular, from Phyla to classes, then to Orders, and at last to species, before the morphogenetic urge exhausts itself and the species become extinct and ‘regress’ to hyper-specialized levels or to less perfected and more rudimentary organic differentiation. These are blind alleys wherein metamorphosis arrests itself and cannot proceed further: the life of the Species ends with extreme specialization in collateral niches, and with organic regression – in the last analysis, with aging. Among all the primates it is Man, as we have seen, who is from both the morphological point of view and also the molecular point of view the most originating form, the least specialized, the most ‘embryonic’, the least modified and for this the most perfect. His cousins constitute the senile, hyper-specialized, regressed form; for which the human form is the sole form which speaks of the indefinite, therefore of the future. Even the German pathological anatomist Max Westenhöfer16 came to maintain that the hominoid forms like Australopithecus etc., are forms deriving from Man of the modern time, or of varieties of the same, or of varieties of a unique species of pronounced dimorphism; and Richard Leakey himself also maintained that the various hominids, amongst themselves and together with Homo sapiens, possess a dimorphism which is easily assimilated with the modern interracial dimorphism.
The fact stands that remains of men with modern features have been rediscovered here and there at various stratigraphical levels, even very ancient ones; but these have been ignored by the academic world because they do not correspond to the dogmas of the evolutionistic credo, which see in man the last ring of the chain of life. But quite apart from disputes on the dating of rocks, which is very shaky ground, present-day Man might also be the last in order of appearance, but the first when evaluated as the original prototype of the living beings. One fact remains in any case, and that is that anthropomorphic apes are more recent than Man, are the aged branch of the human tree. According to the medieval thinkers, all the animals are but the aged and senile forms of Cosmic Man; famous indeed is the depiction of First Adam surrounded by the circle of the animals, the Zodiac, and, in the more ancient times, Phanes surrounded by the same circle. The ancients knew. This principle will bring us to understand also in what perspective we should frame the concept of metamorphosis.
1Organicity was already defined both by Hegel and by Schelling as internal excitability and intrinsic finality, and it was anticipated by Kant through the concept of intussusceptionem, as found in the Critique of Pure Reason, wherever he speaks of the nature of systematic philosophy: in the System of Knowledge, says Kant, the guiding idea, which already contains the totality of the system, organizes the parts beginning from within, in a manner that is necessarily defined as being organic. Moreover, Kant amply discusses the dispute on the finalism of nature in his Critique of Teleological Judgment.
2Here we seem to see once more the doctrine of the birth of colors from the contrast between light and obscurity which Goethe proposes in this Theory of Colors. This is a concept of Platonic ancestry (and, in its turn, Pythagorean), if we recall that in the Agrapha dogmata (the unwritten doctrines), Plato is presented as describing the birth and generation of the ideas from the union of Mònas and Dyas, identity-diversity, unity-duality.
3In reality, according to the Goethean view it would not even make sense to use terms which refer us back to utility, the which exists only as a derivative concept. In point of fact, the morphogenetic urge which makes structure appear comes first, and only afterward, if ever, does this structure become useful. Indeed, according to Goethe, we should not say that the Bull has horns because they are useful for thrusting, but we should ask ourselves why the Bull has horns that it uses to thrust.
4Daniele Nani, Sincronicità e dinamica della forma [Synchronicity and Dynamics of Form]; Il Capitello del Sole, 2001; p. 39.
5Goethean ‘genetics’ of Type does not treat of descendancy, such as Darwinian descendancy, but rather treats of morphologic topology and the dynamics of metamorphosis.
6An idea which originated under the roof of the University of Naples in 1997. [Translator’s note: The Italian is auto-azione, which plays off of the ‘auto’ in ‘autocoscienza’ and the ‘-azione’ in ‘individuazione’. This connection is preserved in self-ation; what is not preserved is the double meaning of the ‘azione’ half of the neologism, which in Italian means also ‘action’, so that the word could also be translated as ‘self-action,’ indicating the action of an organism on itself.]
7Stephen Jay Gould, ibid.
8But as we will explain, when we speak of less developed species, from the perspective of neoteny we must mean more specialized and less perfected species than those which are adapted to various environments or conditions. Thus the more advanced and perfected species in reality is the less ‘evolved’ and transformed. We therefore must speak of less specialized traits, insofar as the more specialized species are those with the more ‘senile’ form, but therefore also the less perfect with respect to ‘juvenile’, and therefore less specialized, species. From this perspective the best is often located behind and not ahead (therefore not necessarily in chronological order), and that which appears last was first. (G. Sermonti; Il Tao della Biologia, saggio sulla comparsa dell’Uomo [The Tao of Biology, Essay on the Appearance of Man]; Lindau, Turin 2007).
9Reductive mitochondrial oxide coenzyme, similar to the Hemo of Hemoglobin, which enters, together with other coenzymes and proteins (Cytochrome a, b, Ubiquinone, NAD, FAD, and FMN, Iron-sulfur protein, etc.), into the structure of enzymatic complexes, acting, thanks to the help of various dehydrogenates, as electron acceptors and protein transporters, toward the end of creating the ‘protonic gradient of membranes’ – a difference of essential potency in the synthesis of ATP, the energetic currency of living organisms. Cf. Principi di biochimica; A.L. Lehninger, D.L. Nelson, M.M. Cox; ed. Zanichelli.
10To each nucleotide triplet, which are the bricks of the genome, there corresponds an amino acid; many amino acids form proteins, which form the fundamental molecules of life, assembled in the Ribosome, beginning from the mature ‘primary transcript’ (mRNA), thanks to a specific clover-shaped nucleic acid, the transfer RNA. Usually the nucleotide in third position in the triplet of the DNA can vary without compromising the translation of the corresponding amino acid, so that its mutation is not considered to be among the corrective mechanisms which are always active in the cell. However not all mutations are of this kind; sometimes a true substitution is observed, which however does not modify the function of the protein, and therefore is always a neutral mutation. Cf. Molecular Biology of the Gene; J.D. Watson, T.A. Baker, S.P. Bell, A. Gann, M. Levine, R. Losick; ed Zanichelli.
11Even the phenomenon of Pedomorphosis should be seen, in this sense, not from the chronological perspective, but in a typological and archetypical way. In reality even S.J. Gould seems to us from time to time to look on this phenomenon as on a heuristic principle: he sometimes seems to interpret ‘late’ not chronologically, but typologically.
12Alan Templeton and Morris Goodman; cited in G.Sermonti; Il Tao della Biologia; Lindau. P. 98.
13The taxon is generically a taxonomic unit which can proceed from the species to the phylum; to specify the taxon in question one turns to the specific name.
14Reported in G.Sermonti, R. Fondi, Dopo Darwin [After Darwn]; Rusconi, p. 209.
15H. Decugis, Le vieillissement du monde vivant [The Aging of the Living World] pg. 2, 33-34; In G.Sermonti, R. Fondi, Dopo Darwin [After Darwin], Rusconi, p. 214.
16Westenhöfer pushes even further, by declaring, with the data of mitochondrial DNA ready at hand, that Man is the most ancient of all Mammals. In truth many testimonials of variable antiquity have been rediscovered here and there, but the most tomb-like silence has fallen on them. If they were revealed to be true, these discoveries would revolutionize not only Biology, but also human History, even as the findings of advanced civilizations in the middle of the Stone Age are presently doing. See, for example, the recent discovery of the cult-related city of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey.