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Friday, May 19, 2006

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find related articles. powered by google. Guardian Unlimited Books Why I'm not a daffodil

"For most of the past 150 years, genetics has been the science of difference - what distinguishes a blue-eyed from a brown-eyed person, or both from a chimpanzee. By contrast, development has been the science of similarities: how is it that humans are so extraordinarily identical; nearly all of us growing up bilaterally symmetrical, with two arms and two legs, with exquisitely functioning though almost unimaginably complex brains? And while genetics became increasingly clever at accounting for such differences as blue versus brown eyes, it gulped and gave up the attempt to explain why, although humans are 98.8% genetically identical to chimpanzees, no one would mistake one for the other. What in this tiny 1.2% could account for the dramatic differences between two such closely related species? Meanwhile, generations of developmental biologists had studied in painstaking detail the seamless cellular cascade that leads, for instance, from the fertilised chick egg to the formation of its wings. But their work seemed to stall. It was time for the geneticists to come to the aid of the embryologists.

Yet despite valiant attempts to bring together these crucial pieces of the biological jigsaw, progress was painfully slow until the last couple of decades, when new insights into the mechanisms and control of gene action have begun to pour out of the molecular biology labs. It is these new findings that are contributing to what Sean Carroll, a distinguished researcher in the field, calls the Third Synthesis, of evolution, genetics and development, or, in the argot its practitioners so enjoy, Evo Devo."

redux [07.29.04]
find related articles. powered by google. Science & Theology News Accessible ‘Endless Forms’ shows the evolution of evolution

"The [ intelligent design ] people argue that the world is just too complex to have come about through blind law — intelligence must have intervened. However, evo-devo [ evolutionary development ] today is starting to fill in the gaps — the gaps that, in the opinion of Michael Behe and his friends, demand miracles. Existence is a miracle and life is a miracle, but increasingly it seems that the gaps do not need special miracles. Regular science can do the job.

More generally, I would go back to where I came in. The best of all arguments against the critics of science is the wonderful world that the best science reveals and explains. Offense is the best defense. Richard Dawkins is surely right when he argues against the cramped little medieval world of Genesis taken literally, and for the wonderful land of evolutionary studies. Sean Carroll’s book on evo-devo is a great passport to that land. "

find related articles. powered by google. Science & Theology News The problem with Darwinian solutions

"To sum up, developmental geneticists have found that the genes that seem to be most important in development are remarkably similar in many different types of animals, from worms to fruit flies to mammals.

Initially, this was regarded as evidence for genetic programs controlling development. But biologists are now realizing that it actually constitutes a paradox: if genes control development, why do similar genes produce such different animals? Why does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly instead of a barracuda?

If evo devo actually resolved the problems raised by these questions, then more power to it. Yet the real problem here is that Darwinian biologists like Carroll and Darwinian philosophers of biology like Ruse are pretending that evo devo has resolved fundamental problems of evolutionary biology when in fact it hasn’t.

[ rhetoric ]

Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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