Fascinating findings: but is it time to rethink Biology?

“When facts change, I change my mind.” When JM Keynes wrote those words he spoke not just for economists, but for intelligent people everywhere. Which is why we’d like you to at least think about the work of Professor Livnat and his team at Haifa Univeristy, as ably reported by Ryan Morrison of the Mail [1] For the Professor and his team may have found evidence of non random mutations in the part of our genes that codes for the HbS protein that helps protect us from Malaria.

Why is this important? Because the central tenet of evolutionary theory is that mutations in the genome accumulate at random; the consequences of these are selected in the environment so that those with the most favourable mutations survive and reproduce at higher rates. The alternative, proposed by Lamarck, is that somehow organisms “learn” from their environment, and thus modify their own inheritances. So far there has been little evidence for this.

Yet now the team at Haifa seem to have found evidence of mutations in the HbS genes occurring at a rate faster than might be expected from random, inherent mutation. If so, it will be ground breaking, doing for Biology what the famous Michelson Morley result did for physics. So how do we at LSS respond?

1 Caution, as ever. There have been Lamarckian upswings before in the history of biology-most recently associated with epigenetics-but the central doctrine, as t’were, has still held firm

2 There seems to be one supporting study (see the article) but we’d like to see a lot more

3 If information gets back to the genes from the environment, how? And how is it stored. If giraffes learn to grow longer necks by stretching, how do they tell their genes to store the new data?

4 Professor Livnat agrees random mutations still play a big part. Pray tell us, how is this contribution integrated with the “learned” contribution-at a level of explanation that would satisfy an information scientist.

Yes, we at LSS are open minded, and long for more money for the Professor and his team. But we are also skeptics on all matters, and the wisest counsel is: wait and see.


Ryan’s article has a great hyperlink to the original paper

#natural selection #mutation #lamarck #dna #evolution #biology

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