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Author Topic: Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?  (Read 7638 times)

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« on: 31/01/2009 17:13:11 »
It seems that the DNA of larger species can be modified as a result of the inclusion of microbial DNA. So it should be reasonable to expect that microbes which were living in one species could get into the sex cells of another species (by "infection") and introduce all sorts of changes into organisms which would not be expected through mutation or straightforward Darwinistic selection. Of course, as with mutations, the majority of these events would result in a non-viable offspring.
Is there any record of unaccountable DNA changes of this sort having been observed?

This is along precisely the same lines as the artificially induced changes resulting from  genetic engineering and it would speed up the rate of change, thus fitting in with observations. It is yet another answer to the (almost reasonable, in this case) objections of creationists, based on the timescale argument.


 

Offline RD

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #1 on: 31/01/2009 18:07:50 »
 
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“Viral elements are a large part of the genetic material of almost all organisms,” said Dr. Sharp, who won a Nobel Prize for elucidating details of our genetic code. Base for nucleic base, he said, “we humans are well over 50 percent viral.”

Scientists initially dismissed the viral elements in our chromosomes as so much tagalong “junk DNA.” But more recently some researchers have proposed that higher organisms have in fact co-opted viral genes and reworked them into the source code for major biological innovations, according to Luis P. Villarreal, director of the Center for Virus Research at the University of California, Irvine.

Some genes involved in the growth of the mammalian placenta, for example, have a distinctly viral character, as do genes underlying the recombinant powers of our adaptive immune system — precisely the part that helps us fight off viruses.

In fact, it may well have been through taking genomic tips from our viral tormentors that we became so adept at keeping them at bay.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/science/08angi.html?_r=1&em&ex=1199941200&en=3bd96f63379d275d&ei=5087%0A&oref=slogin
 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #2 on: 31/01/2009 18:28:04 »
That link is half way there - thanks, interesting reading. But I was looking for evidence where someone has actually tracked one gene in one organism which suddenly turns up in another.
Perhaps it's too hard at the mo but it may be something which is everyday someday.
 

Offline RD

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #3 on: 31/01/2009 19:15:19 »
Wolbachia is type of bacteria...

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The researchers looked for Wolbachia genes in the genomes of more than 24 invertebrates, including wasps and nematodes, and found it in 8. In some cases, just short sequences of the bacterial genome were embedded in the invertebrate DNA. But in the fruit fly Drosophila ananassae, practically the entire Wolbachia genome was present. Further work showed that the bacterial genetic material was passed on in reproduction like normal genes.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/04/science/04obgeno.html

 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #4 on: 01/02/2009 01:53:29 »
That's good. So it's probably only a matter of time before they find some such in a mammal.
 

Offline _Stefan_

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #5 on: 01/02/2009 02:31:41 »
What creationists fail to realise about geological timescales is that what is considered "brief" and "explosive" still spanned periods of many thousands and millions of years. It is only "sudden" when it's compared to the age of the earth or the universe. That's still heaps of time for changes to occur.

Combine time with horizontal gene transfer and all the other avenues for change, it's no wonder evolution has achieved what it has.
 

Offline LeeE

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #6 on: 01/02/2009 13:47:40 »
That's very interesting RD.

One thing to be clear on though, is that Evolution is just one mechanism for genetic change, specifically, the result of random mutation conferring an advantage upon an individual so that that individual has an enhanced chance of survival and breeding.  Now if a virus were to occur that induced a genetic change throughout a species, I'm not sure if the genetic change in the affected species could be regarded as evolution because it was deterministic.  The mutation of the virus so that it could induce the genetic change in the species could be evolutionary though, unless it too was the consequence of a similar deterministic genetic change.

I guess I'm just being particular about the definition of evolution; it's not the only mechanism that results in genetic change.
 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #7 on: 01/02/2009 18:36:39 »
Why worry about a word and its definition?
If you mean that Darwinian Evolution would be compromised, that would be right. But even mutations are outside his particular model. Not many Scientists' theories have survived intact more than a few tens of years. I'm sure that CD, himself wouldn't have been upset or surprised.
If you just define evolution as change which occurs without outside intervention then there is no problem.
 

Offline LeeE

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #8 on: 01/02/2009 19:30:58 »
Well, if you think that making something less clearly defined is a good idea and wish to advocate ambiguity and a lack of clarity I'll, err... let you get on with it.
 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #9 on: 01/02/2009 21:10:57 »
 ;)As you hadn't defined it in the first place, a I assumed you were not that fussy.
 ;)
 

Offline LeeE

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #10 on: 02/02/2009 04:44:41 »
Hmm... I guess I am getting more pragmatic as I grow older after all.
 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #11 on: 02/02/2009 10:32:07 »
Where humans and domesticated animals are concerned there is also the mechanism of 'culture based' evolution. The increased level of communication between humans by speech, writing etc. means that cultural changes are accelerating and technology has been produced which is sidestepping Darwin completely. Individuals who would have died or failed to reproduce, in the past, are now surviving and this must have severe knock-ons for the genes of future generations.
It is, perhaps, not a PC subject to discuss but it does constitute a time-bomb which our grandchildren may have to deal with. What would we do if low fertility and reproductive problems no longer self-limited, resulting in a population with low fertility and defective reproductive systems?
 

Offline MonikaS

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #12 on: 02/02/2009 22:51:45 »
Where humans and domesticated animals are concerned there is also the mechanism of 'culture based' evolution. The increased level of communication between humans by speech, writing etc. means that cultural changes are accelerating and technology has been produced which is sidestepping Darwin completely. Individuals who would have died or failed to reproduce, in the past, are now surviving and this must have severe knock-ons for the genes of future generations.
It is, perhaps, not a PC subject to discuss but it does constitute a time-bomb which our grandchildren may have to deal with. What would we do if low fertility and reproductive problems no longer self-limited, resulting in a population with low fertility and defective reproductive systems?


I think we have now a cultural/scientific evolution in place, which discovers solutions to genetic problems that creep up in the human genom. We now see the beginings of genetic engineering that IMO will remove a lot of the remaining selective pressures for humans, at least in the first world.
The Nazis tried to remove the "unfit to procreate" from the gene pool, either by killing or sterilizing them. (Sterilizations happened in other countries too.)

This is not so much a biological but an ethical question. Do we have ways to decide who's worthy to procreate? Can we now decide what will be bad genes for future generations? If we do, we lose our humanity. Even if we have in the future, the far future IMO, fertility problems, there will be other ways of procreation of the human species.

What we now call "bad" gene might have an advantage somewhere else, see sickle cell anemia, where having the train protects you some what against malaria.
 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #13 on: 02/02/2009 23:37:30 »
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This is not so much a biological but an ethical question. Do we have ways to decide who's worthy to procreate? Can we now decide what will be bad genes for future generations? If we do, we lose our humanity. Even if we have in the future, the far future IMO, fertility problems, there will be other ways of procreation of the human species.

What we now call "bad" gene might have an advantage somewhere else, see sickle cell anemia, where having the train protects you some what against malaria.
I totally agree. However, one factor that will regulate the effects of these modern procedures is the billions of other humans who will never have the benefit(?) of them. The human gene pool is huge!
 

Offline _Stefan_

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #14 on: 03/02/2009 06:58:37 »
By the time the defects you describe become a real problem, isn't it reasonable to expect that the technology to correct them will have become available?
 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #15 on: 03/02/2009 11:11:08 »
That's more of a statement of faith in the modern system and not really based on experience, I think.
Can you honestly say that you can trust 'them' to sort out all our potential future problems?
 

Offline _Stefan_

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #16 on: 03/02/2009 11:38:40 »
Of course it's a statement of faith because it hasn't happened yet - we can only wait and see. But scientific understanding and technology have advanced so far in such a small amount of time, that it's conceivable to me that we will be able to deal with such problems in the future.

For example, suppose humans lost the ability to produce viable offspring via normal reproduction. Even today it is possible to revert adult somatic cells to "embryonic" stem cells; and stem cells can be differentiated into gametes (http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/article.php?id=226). With further advances, this is another avenue whereby a solution to infertility could be found.

I'm not certain that science can solve all our problems, but I can see that it has massive potential.
 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #17 on: 03/02/2009 17:32:25 »
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Of course it's a statement of faith because it hasn't happened yet - we can only wait and see.
Some statements are based on past experience, though.
Humans do quite well at solving problems with short time scales. Our experience of long timescale problems is not very impressive, though. We still have global warming, most humans don't eat very well and suffer from a load of curable diseases.
The Scientists are not the villains - it's the Politicians and the Industry Bosses. They're the ones who would put the mockers on any possible solution to the problems which I foresee. The first thing to happen would be to select a small minority to receive 'treatment'. The others would have to take their chances.
Could we guarantee that your and my genes would be in the 'chosen few'?
 

Offline _Stefan_

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #18 on: 04/02/2009 02:20:44 »
I agree with you in that sense, but I was talking about science's own potential, not the social, political and industrial issues that would prevent science from being advanced and applied.
 

lyner

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
« Reply #19 on: 04/02/2009 10:16:40 »
But the effect of Science on everyone's lives is very small unless the other agencies get involved and let / make it happen. If action were possible, to prevent a huge catastrophy, then you can be sure that the majority of the population would not benefit. Even a simple thing like HUNGER is not sorted out, yet. I fear it never will be, either.
 

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Another mechanism for speeding up Evolution?
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