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Disclaimer: I believe in evolution. This is not a criticism of evolution. I am simply trying to understand something.

Disclaimer 2: I'm not a biologist, so my terms will be wrong.

An organism consists of many elements (organs, organelles, proteins, subprotein structures), which are mutually necessary, a term I just made up to refer to the fact that the entire function of the different elements depends on the existence of the others:

  • If any one of (heart, brain, lungs, stomach, ...) is removed, the organism will die.

  • If any one of (sodium-potassium pump, membrane ion channels, neurotransmitter, postsynaptic receptor, ...) the neuron will not be able to send any signals.

  • etc...

A naive argument would be: evolution cannot produce an object whose functioning depends on all elements being present. Clearly this claim is wrong, I am not asking for a refutation of this claim.

Rather my question is: Do we have a precise understanding (possibly even mathematical models) why there are paths of small beneficial changes through gene-space, which result in systems of mutually necessary parts at the phenotype level? I'd like to read about this. I'd prefer precise analysis, but even popular science accounts would be better than nothing.

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