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Schrodinger, Erwin - What is Life - Mutations and 'jumping'



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Erwin Schrödinger – What is Life?

These considerations make it conceivable that an isomeric change of configuration in some part of our molecule, produced by a fluctuation of the vibrational energy, can actually be a sufficiently rare event to be interpreted as a spontaneous mutation.

Thus we account …. For the most amazing fact about mutations, the fact by which they first attracted de Vries’s attention, namely, that they are ‘jumping’ variations, no intermediate forms occurring.


One might think of attributing the natural rate [of mutation] to the radioactivity of the soil and air and to cosmic radiation.  But a quantitative comparison with the X ray results shows that the ‘natural radiation’ is much too weak and could only account for a small fraction of the natural rate …….

Nature has succeeded in making such a subtle choice of threshold values as is necessary to make mutation rare.  For we have …. arrived at the conclusion that frequent mutations are detrimental to evolution.  Individuals which, by mutation, acquire a gene configuration of insufficient stability, will have little chance of seeing their ‘ultra radical’ rapidly mutating descendancy survive long.  The species will be freed of them and will thus collect stable genes by natural selection.

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Schrodinger, Erwin

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Theory of Evolution

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