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Tags: dna | nasa | gene jumping | cells

Our Understanding of Evolution Evolves Still

evolution display milan italy

Expositions of history of the evolution and development of mollusks, etc. in the Museum of Natural History in Milan, Italy. (Lestertairpolling/Dreamstime)

David Nabhan By Wednesday, 08 January 2020 03:15 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Hardly anything garners more elitist smirks than daring to wonder aloud whether or not science has the truest appreciation for what is transpiring at the very heart of evolution.

After science ceased burning people at the stake for promoting a revolving Earth, and later couldn’t poke fun at the supposed lunacy of manned-flight, one of the last refuges of "settled science" was evolution.

Nonetheless, much like other tens of thousands of scientific "facts" that have themselves evolved, it’s seeming more probable as time goes on that our understanding of evolution itself is far from settled.

Classical evolution posits that biological change is random and blind, that harmful as well as helpful mutations occur with equal probability and occurrence.

Survival of fittest then causes the deficiently altered to wither and die, while the lifeforms hosting the beneficial mutations go on to inherit the Earth.

Certainly, no animal can will itself to give birth to offspring that run faster, see farther, pick up scents better. Those abilities, if they come, necessitate millions of years of luck of the draw, the results of untold cosmic ray collisions and/or ultraviolet light irradiation upon target chromosomes, requiring uncounted trillions of replications of DNA for one fortunate coding error to occur. That may not be the clearest picture of what actually is transpiring however, not completely anyway.

NASA has discovered that certain bacteria somehow sense they are weightless when in zero gravity aboard missions orbiting Earth. There seems to be more of a sense of self-awareness at the cellular level than previously realized, even to hint at acts of real choice being carried out by the very cells of our bodies, to include actively re-arranging their own DNA, and not blindly or randomly, but purposefully and toward an improved state.

This is an incontrovertible reality to some degree in that it’s been calculated that our DNA should suffer a 1% copying error per generation — a death knell for the human race — but for the self-proofreading and proactive mending our cells accomplish themselves, their scrupulous editing and repairs holding the errors to 1 in 10 billion instead.

So what else are our cells opting for at microscopic level? Perhaps more than is realized. Experiments in the late 1980s indicated that strains of bacteria when purposefully starved mutated to eat foods they were previously unable to metabolize rather than perish.

This was accomplished by the ability, when stressed, to kick certain mutational abilities into an astonishingly high gear, throwing rapid-fire new forms of themselves at a problem until one version solves the threat at hand.

Beyond that, biologists have documented the astounding phenomenon known as "gene jumping" — the act of microbes physically tearing apart pieces of the own DNA and recombining them.

In the microbial world there is attack, defense, flight, fight, sex, life, death and no one can say how much more. There is even capture, surrender and compromise. Mitochondria, for example, are organelles living within cells that convert food into a form of energy usable by the cell.

How they became immersed within cells billions of years ago is unknown. It’s assumed that eons ago a primordial mitochondria was engulfed by a cell which simply decided not to digest it and the symbiotic relationship started there.

No biologist has ever elucidated, however, what sort of decision-making abilities are within the powers of simple cells, and certainly not to explain such a planet-changing option as cells choosing to make use of their power-producing mitochondrial partners rather than eating them.

All of this should be of extreme interest to us, as there are some thirty seven trillion cells that make up the average human body. Evolutionists would have us believe that there is next to nothing of the individual in any of that almost numberless horde of living things that come together to compose us.

The microscopy at the heart of all of us is supposedly and simply dragged forward, as if powerless passengers in the macro-world in the form of each individual fully-formed human.

And that view serves well to account for how spectacular comet strikes that annihilate dinosaurs and open niches for small mammals can push evolution one way rather than another. But that might also be a highly myopic view of an advanced group of primates that imagines itself in charge of a planet that it truly doesn’t possess in the least.

It’s conjectured, for example, that the yet to be catalogued species of microscopic lithoautotrophes living at astounding depths below the surface and deriving their energy from the mineral compounds within which they thrive are so abundant that they account for more biomass than all the living creatures of the planet’s surface combined.

No comet strike has ever bothered them in the least, nor will it ever.

David Nabhan is a science writer, the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three previous books on earthquakes. Nabhan is also a science fiction writer ("Pilots of Borealis," 2015) and the author of many scores of newspaper and magazine op-eds. Nabhan has been featured on television and talk radio all over the world. His website is www.earthquakepredictors.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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What else are our cells opting for at microscopic level? Perhaps more than is realized. Experiments in the late 1980s indicated that strains of bacteria when purposefully starved mutated to eat foods they were previously unable to metabolize rather than perish.
dna, nasa, gene jumping, cells
Wednesday, 08 January 2020 03:15 PM
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