I am no biologist, but I have an imagination and a little bit of knowledge (dangerous!). I have an idea of what the next biggest change to the theory of evolution might be. My idea (I’m calling it mine since I’ve never heard anyone else describe this although I’m sure someone has probably already thought of it) is that the process of evolution is not entirely “random” but is to some small but significant degree guided by conscious intention of the organism itself.
There has been a lot of scientific research into the nature of consciousness and how it relates to the physical universe. The prevailing materialistic paradigm says that consciousness is an epiphenonmenon of the brain. The analogy is that the brain is like the CPU of a digital computer and the monitor is like conscious awareness. But Quantum theory long ago shattered the Newtonian paradigm, and a lot of courageous researchers who have dared to break free from the orthodoxy of the materialistic mainstream have been probing at the most fundamental question of our existence: what is consciousness – really? Their findings have proven over and over again that consciousness is not epiphenomenal, but is inexplicably (for now) intertwined with the fabric of the universe. Some theorists (Penrose and Hammeroff) have proposed models of consciousness by which the macroscopic physical hardware of the brain (CPU) might be linked with the immaterial zero-point-field that permeates the universe. In this model, the brain is more like an antenna tuning into and filtering out waves of consciousness rather than generating it.
Without going further into the theories of consciousness, I can say that plenty of other researchers have shown that conscious intention can have macroscopic effects. Experiments with random number generators have shown that when subjects focus their intention on moving the average, the average moves a small but statistically significant amount. Then there are (less well proven) anecdotes about synchronicity – incredibly unlikely coincidences that occur giving people the impression that the universe molds itself to meet their intentions or that their random lives are enmeshed in a non-random plan created by a higher consciousness (God?). If mutation is essentially a random process, then perhaps there is some as yet undiscovered means by which it can be influenced in a small but significant way by intention and memory. The lizard wants to blend in, so after a few billion generations, it gains the ability to change colors. The owl wants to see in the dark, so after a few billion generations, it’s eyes get bigger. Maybe the fish wanted to explore the land…
But could such intentions be held consistently over billions of generations? There does seem to be evidence of a “super-consciousness” within species that retains the memories and intentions of ancestors. Take for example, the Monarch butterfly. It requires 3 or 4 generations to complete a migration across the north American continent. Each generation
has no contact with the previous generation yet somehow this tiny insect brain when it emerges from the cocoon knows where it is in the migration cycle and instinctively seamlessly continues the journey where the previous generation left off. Experiments with rats have shown that even without any contact with previous generations, instincts can be formed from residual memories of ancestors. If there is a “super-consciousness” or species memory bank, then perhaps this “unified mind” combined with the power of conscious intention to affect random processes can be a self-guiding influence on a species’ own evolution. Who knows? …Just a random idea 🙂