A Silent Gene Theory of Evolution

Warwick Collins

A general evolutionary theory which, if it continues to be supported by the data, may in due course come to rival Darwin's theory that evolution is driven by natural selection.
Date Published :
March 2014
Publisher :
University of Buckingham Press
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9780955464287

In stock


Two distinguished scientists encouraged Warwick Collins in writing his revolutionary theory of evolution. Professor Freeman Dyson, one of the world's leading theoretical physicists, wrote, "I like your theory, and think it has a good chance of being right." He added, "Darwin would have liked your theory." Professor Donald Braben, a nuclear physicist who directed a series of wide-ranging research programs at BP, responded, "Hierarchically speaking, variation is of greater significance than selection. I agree, therefore, that if silent gene theory were proved correct, it would be the more complete theory, as Einstein's is compared with Newton's." Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species that "... unless profitable variations do occur, natural selection can do nothing." As Darwin recognized, natural selection, far from increasing variation within species, reduces variation constantly in favor of an optimum type. What then is the true source of variation in evolutionary systems? It is a question which has obsessed Warwick Collins, a novelist who had studied biology at university, for much of his adult life. He proposed in March 2000 that the required degree of variation could be achieved if large numbers of inert or silent genes existed within the genome. Such genes, because they do not code for physical characteristics, could freely mutate over time without deleteriously affecting the host organism. At a later stage they could be switched on, by largely random processes, and generate exotic new variants. Remarkably, his description of silent genes was found to correspond precisely with the so-called junk genes. These are found in all species, forming the great majority of genes in multicellular species and rising to 98.5% of the genome in humans. Until then their function had proved mysterious. In addition, Collins's theory predicted a number of features of the silent or junk genes which have since been increasingly verified by recent research: for example, that they could become active and begin to code, and that they influenced other genes. It is now widely accepted that, just as Collins predicted, the vast majority of significant mutation in the genomes of complex species arises from the silent genes. But Collins's powerful and ambitious theory moves well beyond the molecular realm. He argues that while natural selection is a major force in evolution, it is primarily negative and entropic. Instead, the great driver of complex evolution is the range of variation created by the silent genes. As Professor Donald Braben writes in his illuminating foreword, "Collins is proposing a general evolutionary theory which, if it continues to be supported by the data, may in due course come to rival Darwin's theory that evolution is driven by natural selection."


This work proposes to resolve two central mysteries of evolutionary biology: why organisms' genomes are filled with large amounts of genetic coding sequences with no known function (some 98.5 percent in humans) and how variation can occur in organism populations when natural selection reduces variation in favor of an evolutionary optimum for a given environment. He argues that the so-called "junk DNA" consists of silent genes that are not subject to the normal processes of natural selection and thus can evolve freely over long periods of time without adversely affecting the host organisms. He further argues that a strong theory of variation as the driver of evolution provides a better general theory of evolution than Darwin's theory that evolution is driven by natural selection. Previously unavailable in the US.

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