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A. Lima-De-Faria: Autoevolution, Atoms To Humans

A. Lima-De-Faria: Autoevolution, Atoms To Humans

By Suzan Mazur

"For a long time the experimental studies carried out on elementary particles, chemical elements and minerals did not reveal that they had an evolution of their own. This picture has been drastically changed in recent years by the finding that the elementary particles, the chemical elements and the minerals have each had an autonomous evolution. Hence, three separate evolutions occurred before the biological one emerged.

Evolution starts when the universe is born. And this is not a loose process since the elementary particles already show specific ancestors and specific rules of evolution. Later the chemical elements of the periodic table also display an ordered and well-defined evolution. Still later, the minerals also undergo an evolution of their own. These three separate evolutions preceded the biological one.

It is this new evidence on the physico-chemical phenomena that now allows biological evolution to be placed in a completely different context. Most important is the fact that, since biological evolution was anteceded by these three levels, it became a prisoner of these previous evolutions. The laws and rules that they followed created the frame from which biological evolution could not and cannot depart.

I may confess that I have a certain aversion for creating new terms. However, in this case I felt compelled to coin the word autoevolution. It describes the transformation phenomenon which is inherent to the construction of matter and energy. This consequently produced and canalized the emergence of forms and functions."

-- Antonio Lima-de-Faria, Evolution without Selection. Form and Function by Autoevolution, 1988, Elsevier, New York (page 18)

Antonio Lima-de-Faria

"This was published 20 years ago. Nothing like the test of time to assess the validity of a scientific statement. The evolution of elementary particles (J.A. Pons et al. 2001), that of the chemical elements (E.R. Scerri 2007) and that of the minerals (B. Sandstrom 2006) have been corroborated since then by a vast body of research establishing the three evolutions on a firm basis. This evidence has revealed that they followed similar paths and carried their mark intact into the biological levels."
-- A. Lima-de-Faria, June 2008

Sweden's king decorated molecular cytogeneticist Antonio Lima-de-Faria "Knight of the Order of the North Star" for his outstanding experimental work, which elucidated the molecular organization of the chromosome and its evolutionary path.

Lima-de-Faria says this contribution was the product of work at the laboratory bench and at the light and electron microscopes for 13 hours a day, without weekends and vacations, for 30 years (which resulted in over 192 scientific papers).

The molecular analysis, using radioisotopes and other methods, made him realize that the chromosome, and the gene, arrived quite late in evolution and that their function and transformation were guided by the atomic processes which preceded them during mineral formation.

He opens two chapters in his book Molecular Evolution and Organization of the Chromosome, 1983, Elsevier, New York (pages 3 - 25) noting "The gene is not so important" and "The chromosome is not such an important structure either". And he points out that the chromosome, due to its rigid molecular organization, evaded both selection and randomness (pages 129 - 162).

Lima-de-Faria does not consider Charles Darwin's 1859 idea of natural selection -- survival of the fittest -- a theory. He writes in his classic book, Evolution without Selection. Form and Function by Autoevolution, that Darwinism and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, last dusted off 70 years ago, actually hinder discovery of the mechanism of evolution.

Lima-de-Faria says life "has no beginning; it is a process inherent to the structure of the universe."

Ever look at the swirls of frost on a window pane and discover similar patterns in the curled shoots of a fern? Or maybe wonder why an insect is leaf-shaped? Or why brain coral and the human brain look alike?

Antonio Lima-de-Faria concludes from these and other observations that seeming coincidental patterns arise in living organisms because they have the same atoms as minerals, with the symmetries of minerals "transferred intact to the cell and organism level".

He says "the human body is built on the atomic plan of a twin crystal" with the actual symmetry of the crystal "decided by the electronic properties of the constituent atoms." It is not an exact symmetry, however -- physicists think that total symmetries happened only briefly at the time of the Big Bang.

What's more, Lima-de-Faria says we've now collected enough data that it's possible to construct a preliminary periodic table in biology like that in chemistry, one that accounts for form and function of organisms occurring at regular intervals in evolution. In fact, he first presented a working biological periodicity table in his book Biological Periodicity. Its Molecular Mechanism and Evolutionary Implications, JAI Press, U.S.A. 1995 (page 283), along with a discussion of various functions and structures, such as the occurrence of the placenta, flight, vision, penis, bioluminescence and high mental ability.

Looking at the periodicity of the penis, for example, he identifies the flatworm, a lower invertebrate, as having developed almost as complex an organ as that of the human male penis -- with a seminal vesicle, a prostate gland and ejaculatory duct. He says penis structure has appeared at various times in evolution in snails, barnacles (possibly longer penis than some human forms) and whales. What he thinks lies at the base of this biological mimicry is molecular and atomic mimicry, well established in minerals and proteins. (emphasis added)

Antonio Lima-de-Faria is Emeritus Professor of Molecular Cytogenetics at Lund University in Sweden. He has a Ph.D. in genetics from Lund and completed his undergraduate studies in biology at the University of Lisbon in his native Portugal. A. Lima-de-Faria founded and served as Director, Institute of Molecular Cytogenetics, Lund University for almost 20 years.

He has been a Fellow of The Rockefeller Foundation, International Atomic Energy Agency and the Institute for Cancer Research in Philadelphia. He's also been a Visiting Professor or Visiting Scientist to a half dozen research institutes and universities, include Duke and Cornell in the U.S., the Max Planck Institut fur Meeresbiologie in Germany, the Centre de Recherches sur les Macromolecules in France, the National Institute of Genetics in Japan and the Institute of Animal Genetics at Edinburgh University, U.K.

Lima-de-Faria has been honored with appointments, prizes and medals from various countries (aside from Swedish knighthood). Among these are Portugal's Great Official Order of Santiago and Sweden's Gold Medal for State Service. He is a member of five scientific academies.

The five books he's published include: Evolution without Selection. Form and Function by Autoevolution, 1988; Handbook of Molecular Cytology, 1969; Molecular Evolution and Organization of the Chromosome, 1983; Biological Periodicity, Its Molecular Mechanism and Evolutionary Implications, 1995; One Hundred Years of Chromosome Research and What Remains to be Learned, 2004. His latest book is forthcoming later this year from World Scientific, Singapore.

As one would expect from a Swedish knight, Antonio Lima-de-Faria prefers personal communication. Our conversation has taken place by telephone and through air mail packages. He shares some of his extraordinary insights in the interview that follows.

Suzan Mazur: You've called natural selection "the opium of the biologist for over 100 years," saying it is an abstract concept, and as such it can't be measured and poured into a vial -- and that the term natural selection should be removed from evolution vocabulary because it is a hindrance to the discovery of the mechanism of evolution.

You acknowledge that natural selection exists but say it has nothing to do with the basic mechanism of biological transformation, which is based on physico-chemical and mineral layers of evolution. So why are most biologists and textbooks and scientific academies still embracing natural selection?

A. Lima-de-Faria: Selection is a political not a scientific concept. At the time of Darwin it fitted perfectly the expanding colonialism of Victorian England. At present, Darwinism has been equated with evolution in an effort to convert it into the ideological arm of globalization. For this reason it will remain a powerful force until this system will be superseded by a more humanitarian form of economic development.

Nothing could be better than selection because it can "explain" equally well a given situation or its opposite state. This is why there are as many Darwinist interpretations as there are authors. The result is total confusion.

Moreover, Darwinism starts from the wrong end of evolution. The Origin of Species is about a terminal process in biological transformation, thus it cannot give an answer to a phenomenon that started billions of years ago.

Everybody knows that selection occurs in nature, but the chromosome and the cell circumvent its effect by many molecular mechanisms. Among these are: DNA repair (which corrects atomic disturbances arising during DNA replication), RNA surveillance (which disposes of aberrant RNAs ensuring the formation of nondefective proteins) and the well known immune system that counteracts and destroys foreign agents adverse to the cell and the organism.

Moreover, if a given structure or function has disappeared, it may resurface due to the occurrence of biological periodicity.

Suzan Mazur: You've stated that we've never, in fact, had a theory of evolution and that Charles Darwin's idea of natural selection was not a theory. Is there any point then in making an "Extended Evolutionary Synthesis"?

A. Lima-de-Faria: There is no place for compromise. That is what most people have done before and continue to do. The long procession of criticisms of Darwinism and "new theories" that were supposed to substitute it were easily silenced. The main reason is that most of them, if not all were compromises, in which selection was still given some role in an undefined form.

The other main reason was that no physico-chemical alternative was produced. There was no sufficient evidence on the self-assembly of molecules and cells and on the molecular mechanisms that established the coherence of chromosome organization. The result was that they were easily dispensed with.

Since you are from New York, may I take the liberty to mention that in 1964 when I was a visiting professor at Duke University (Anatomy Department), I was invited to occupy the Chair of Genetics at Columbia University, a position which I declined.

A previous colleague at this university was Thomas Morgan who developed Drosophila genetics (Nobel laureate 1933). He stated that science was 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. I must confess that I have not even pretended to have that 1%.

Most of us are aware of the limitations of our knowledge and are only compelled to draw the logical conclusions of the results that we have accumulated. This is why I never called my novel concept of autoevolution a "new theory". Theories, in advanced sciences, such as chemistry and physics, are based on a coherent body of knowledge that allows predictions.

No prediction seems to be possible at present concerning biological transformation. Darwin could not tell, and no one can tell today what species will come after humans, sparrows or lilies. Since I always abhorred abstract models and "arm-chair theories", which abound in the literature, I looked for a physico-chemical mechanism that may not "explain" evolution but may elucidate its origin and dynamics.

Suzan Mazur: Should scientific papers be dispensable like art? If it's bad art, tear it up and make a masterpiece. The current argument of science elites, though, is that they can't just throw away thousands of papers and move in another direction -- even if it's the right direction.

A. Lima-de-Faria: In science you never throw away any well established result; you only elucidate better a given phenomenon as new technologies allow a deeper insight into the underlying mechanism. Independently of Darwinism, the study of evolution -- from paleontology to DNA sequencing -- has led to an impressive body of knowledge that is a formidable achievement and that will stand the test of time.

Few phenomena in biology are so well established as evolution. The great body of research in molecular biology and allied fields is totally independent of the Hollywood vision of Darwinism, and cannot be shaken by the fashions of the day.

Suzan Mazur: The irony is scientists are the best funded intellectuals and in exchange for government grants agree to ensure the public welfare -- yet funds are being squandered on the outdated Darwinian and neo-Darwinian approach to evolution. To what do you attribute this?

A. Lima-de-Faria: Grants are awarded by your colleagues who sit in Research Councils and Foundations. Most of us, in any establishment, tend to be conservative and to follow what is called the paradigm. This creates a cycle of submission. All courage that you may have in life is never enough. One prerequisite in the scientific endeavor is that you are so stupid that you never understand what your colleagues say.

Suzan Mazur: You describe biological evolution as a "prisoner of the rules and principles guiding the construction of matter and energy". You also say biological evolution is terminal. What happens next?

Lima-de-Faria: Obviously, no one knows what will happen next. Instead we need to concentrate on what is well established at present, that may give us a key to the order evident in biological transformation.

The origin of form and function must be sought in the process of self-assembly. This is not an abstraction but a permanent event which has been demonstrated to take place at the level of elementary particles (by physicists), atoms (chemists), macromolecules (biochemists) and cells (biologists).

The experimental results have been available for the last 35 years but have been ignored or silenced to avoid creating cracks in an edifice based on randomness and selection.

Self-assembly is a term coined by biochemists to describe the spontaneous aggregation of multimeric biological structures involving formation of weak chemical bonds between surfaces with complementary shapes. Isolated subunits can spontaneously assemble in a test tube into the final structure, a process that is inevitable and automatic.

At the first stage quarks and antiquarks united into mesons and other particles. Later protons, neutrons and electrons self-assembled into atoms, and at a further stage atoms assembled into crystals. At the protein level, the 12 dissociated units of aspartase transcarbamoylase are able to reconstitute the active enzyme.

Nucleosomes are the essential components of chromosomes. When their purified DNA and histones are isolated, they spontaneously rebuild the chromosome thread.

As one reaches the viruses, their RNA and proteins, as is the case in tobacco mosaic virus, will spontaneously reassemble producing infectious particles. Living organisms make the same feat.

The self-assembly of the dispersed amoeboid cells of Dictyostelium results in a complete slime mold. The animal Hydra can self-assemble from its dispersed cells which are highly complex.

As one reaches the organs of mammals, dispersed liver cells, kept in culture, can self-assemble into a functional liver and dispersed cells from human organs, like those of skin and capillaries are also able to self-assemble into these tissues and organs. There is no need for any form of disguised obscurantism or vitalism.

Experiments have demonstrated that the resulting cellular order is due to the production of specific molecules that are recognized by the cell's surface proteins. This evidence was a critical component in allowing me to propose a mechanism of evolution based on a rigid internal atomic organization. (Biological Periodicity. Its Molecular Mechanism and Evolutionary Implications, 1995).

Suzan Mazur: Are we close to recreating biological evolution?

A. Lima-de-Faria: Actually, in the case of some organisms, this recreation has occurred long ago. The best established example is that of a plant species found in nature that was obtained by experimental means.

It was the leading Swedish geneticist A. Muentzing who, in 1930 working with Galeopsis (hemp nettle), crossed two different species and by doubling their chromosome number obtained Galeopsis tetrahit which occurred spontaneously in nature. This work is not even mentioned in the Encyclopedia of Evolution (2 volumes, M. Pagel, Editor, 2002).

Muentzing's work does not support the dogmatism of Darwinism based on random mutation and selection. In the case of Galeopsis, no successive random mutations were needed, only crosses between two different species, and no selection was involved. The spontaneous doubling of the chromosomes resulted in the new species.

Silence is the strongest weapon. The disregard for science's ethical principles is widespread.

Suzan Mazur: In Evolution without Selection, you note that the nucleus has no obvious ancestor and no one seems to know where it comes from. Do you have further thoughts on this?

A. Lima-de-Faira: As far as I know, there is no further information on its ancestry. What is remarkable is that the nuclear envelope furnishes the best example of the unfailing power of self-assembly. At every cell division, and there have been an astounding number since the dawn of the cell, the nuclear envelope has self-assembled with a tremendous precision ensuring the formation of normal daughter cells. It is one of the most striking examples among the mechanisms responsible for the maintenance of biological order.

This order is also patent in the cellular shaping of a living organism. At present it is known that the pattern of an embryo is decided by a large collection of small and large RNAs, i.e., pure atomic processes, which have the 'road map' that decides the cellular pathways.

Everything is rigidly ordered in the universe, otherwise there could not be variation because disintegration would occur. In other words, paradoxically, a frame consisting of molecular constraints is an obligatory condition for variation to occur, otherwise any form, or function, would have soon decomposed into an unrecognizable pattern

A human's body shape has been repeated for over one million years. Without molecular internal coherence, an amorphous mass would have emerged at every new generation. However, this order cannot be total, otherwise there would be no place for transformation.

The key is movement -- permanent atomic movement -- that obliges alternatives (called errors by the less initiated). Significant is that these alternatives are not of all kinds (e.g., during the replication of DNA its bases are substituted by identical bases or by base analogs).

Only those molecules or atoms that partly agree with the original pattern are incorporated into the novel construction. If it would not be so, the order would rapidly have dissolved into incoherence. In other words: order associated with movement appear as the prevailing components of the universal construction.


Suzan Mazur says her interest in evolution began with a Cessna single engine flight into Olduvai Gorge, across a closed Kenyan-Tanzanian border, to interview the late paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey. Their meeting followed discovery of the 3.5 million year old hominid footprints by Leakey and her team at Laetoli Mazur says Leakey was the only reason the Tanzanian authorities agreed to give landing clearance. Her reports have since appeared in the Financial Times, The Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Archaeology, Connoisseur, Omni and others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email:

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