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Genes not as important as we might think?


From Michael Brooks at New Statesman:

According to a growing number of researchers, the standard story of the influence of genes is overblown. So many other factors influence how we turn out as individuals and how we evolve as a species that the fundamentals of biology need a rewrite. “This is no storm in an academic tearoom,” a group of biologists wrote in the journal Nature in October. “It is a struggle for the very soul of the discipline.”

An organism’s environment is another complicating factor. Shape, for instance, is supposed to be genetically determined in fish. However, a trip to Lake Malawi has shown how shallow that idea can be. The lake’s cichlid fish are genetically unique, yet some species look a lot like those in the nearby Lake Tanganyika. Their big, pouting lips and protruding foreheads seem to be a result of environmental pressures and developmental pathways and not genetic instructions.

The shape of a sycamore leaf, too, is determined only in part by genetics. The chemistry of the soil the tree is growing in, even just its wetness, affects the outcome. And wetness matters to commodore butterflies: they emerge from the chrysalis orange in the dry season and blue in the rains.

So, life is complicated. More.


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as to this comment from the article in the OP,,,
Genes are not as important as you might think - 13 Nov. 2014 Excerpt: An organism’s environment is another complicating factor. Shape, for instance, is supposed to be genetically determined in fish. However, a trip to Lake Malawi has shown how shallow that idea can be. The lake’s cichlid fish are genetically unique, yet some species look a lot like those in the nearby Lake Tanganyika. Their big, pouting lips and protruding foreheads seem to be a result of environmental pressures and developmental pathways and not genetic instructions. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/genetics/genes-not-as-important-as-we-might-think/
,,,here is a related study,,,
Is the outcome of evolution predictable? - Oct 28, 2014 Excerpt: There are only very few circumstances in which one can investigate the repeatability of evolution, because spatially independent environments that are populated by the same species are extremely rare in nature. "The young and completely isolated crater lakes along the Central American Volcanic Arc in Nicaragua provide an ideal setting to study parallel evolution. Several crater lakes house populations of Midas cichlid fish that have developed independently from the ancestral population in the nearby great lakes of Nicaragua. This setting is like a natural experiment", explains Axel Meyer. In two of these crater lakes, Apoyo and Xiloá, new types of Midas cichlids evolved, independently from each other, in less than 10,000 years. These new species show identical morphological adaptations that are not found in the ancestral population: from the shallow, murky water to the new habitat of the deep, clear water of the crater lakes. "In each of the two crater lakes new species of the Midas cichlid evolved with an elongated body – a phenotype that does not exist in ancestral lakes from which the colonisers of crater lakes came from", explains Meyer,,, "Our study shows that complex parallel phenotypes in similar environments can evolve very rapidly, repeatedly and yet via different evolutionary routes. This is a microevolutionary example of rewinding Gould's tape and resulting in the evolution of two very similar species, albeit by non-parallel evolutionary routes", sums up Axel Meyer. http://phys.org/news/2014-10-outcome-evolution.html
Dr. Arthur Jones, who did his Ph.D. thesis in biology on cichlids, comments on “cichlidness”
"For all the diversity of species, I found the cichlids to be an unmistakably natural group, a created kind. The more I worked with these fish the clearer my recognition of “cichlidness” became and the more distinct they seemed from all the “similar” fishes I studied. Conversations at conferences and literature searches confirmed that this was the common experience of experts in every area of systematic biology. Distinct kinds really are there and the experts know it to be so. – On a wider canvas, fossils provided no comfort to evolutionists. All fish, living and fossil, belong to distinct kinds; “links” are decidedly missing." Dr. Arthur Jones - did his Ph.D. thesis in biology on cichlids - Fish, Fossils and Evolution - Cichlids at 29:00 minute mark (many examples of repeated morphology in cichlids) - video http://edinburghcreationgroup.org/video/14
Moreover, explaining the 'shape' of an organism is far more devastating to neo-Darwinian, 'gene-centric', explanations than he let on in the article: Neo-Darwinian evolution, which is predicated on reductive materialism, cannot explain the ‘form’ of DNA and proteins themselves much less can it explain the ‘form’ of an entire organism.
Getting Over the Code Delusion (Epigenetics) – Talbott – November 2010 Excerpt: The standard doctrine has it that functionally important sequences, precisely because they are important to the organism, will generally be conserved across considerable evolutionary distances. But the emerging point of view holds that architecture can matter as much as sequence. As bioinformatics researcher Elliott Margulies and his team at the National Human Genome Research Institute put it, “the molecular shape of DNA is under selection” — a shape that can be maintained in its decisive aspects despite changes in the underlying sequence. It’s not enough, they write, to analyze “the order of A’s, C’s, G’s, and T’s,” because “DNA is a molecule with a three-dimensional structure.”[14] Elementary as the point may seem, it’s leading to a considerable reallocation of investigative resources. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/getting-over-the-code-delusion “It was long believed that a protein molecule’s three-dimensional shape, on which its function depends, is uniquely determined by its amino acid sequence. But we now know that this is not always true – the rate at which a protein is synthesized, which depends on factors internal and external to the cell, affects the order in which its different portions fold. So even with the same sequence a given protein can have different shapes and functions. Furthermore, many proteins have no intrinsic shape, (intrinsically disoredered proteins), taking on different roles in different molecular contexts. So even though genes specify protein sequences they have only a tenuous (very weak or slight) influence over their functions. ,,,,So, to reiterate, the genes do not uniquely determine what is in the cell, but what is in the cell determines how the genes get used. Only if the pie were to rise up, take hold of the recipe book and rewrite the instructions for its own production, would this popular analogy for the role of genes be pertinent." Stuart A. Newman, Ph.D. – Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy Biology’s Quiet Revolution – Jonathan Wells – September 8, 2014 Excerpt: In 1996, biologists discovered a protein that does not fold into a unique shape but can assume different shapes when it interacts with other molecules. Since then, many such proteins have been found; they are called “intrinsically disordered proteins,” or IDPs. IDPs are surprisingly common, and their disordered regions play important functional roles.,,, So it is not true that biologists know all the basic features of living cells and are merely filling in the details. Nor is it true that Darwinian evolution is a settled scientific “fact,” as its defenders claim. Huge unanswered questions remain, and they will only be answered by going beyond the discredited myth that “DNA makes RNA makes protein makes us.” http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/09/biologys_quiet_089651.html podcast – Dr. Jonathan Wells: Biology’s Quiet Revolution – September 17, 2014 “We are talking about 1/3 of the proteins in our body, (could be Intrinsically Disordered Proteins)” – Jonathan Wells http://www.discovery.org/multimedia/audio/idtf/2014/09/dr-jonathan-wells-biologys-quiet-revolution/
supplemental notes:
The face of a frog: Time-lapse video reveals never-before-seen bioelectric pattern – July 2011 Excerpt: For the first time, Tufts University biologists have reported that bioelectrical signals are necessary for normal head and facial formation in an organism and have captured that process in a time-lapse video that reveals never-before-seen patterns of visible bioelectrical signals outlining where eyes, nose, mouth, and other features will appear in an embryonic tadpole.,,, “When a frog embryo is just developing, before it gets a face, a pattern for that face lights up on the surface of the embryo,”,,, “We believe this is the first time such patterning has been reported for an entire structure, not just for a single organ. I would never have predicted anything like it. It’s a jaw dropper.”,,, http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-07-frog-time-lapse-video-reveals-never-before-seen.html podcast – Jonathan Wells: Is There Biological Information Outside of the DNA?, pt. 3 – Bioelectric code http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/entry/2014-06-11T16_35_52-07_00 What Do Organisms Mean? Stephen L. Talbott – Winter 2011 Excerpt: Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin once described how you can excise the developing limb bud from an amphibian embryo, shake the cells loose from each other, allow them to reaggregate into a random lump, and then replace the lump in the embryo. A normal leg develops. Somehow the form of the limb as a whole is the ruling factor, redefining the parts according to the larger pattern. Lewontin went on to remark: “Unlike a machine whose totality is created by the juxtaposition of bits and pieces with different functions and properties, the bits and pieces of a developing organism seem to come into existence as a consequence of their spatial position at critical moments in the embryo’s development. Such an object is less like a machine than it is like a language whose elements… take unique meaning from their context.[3]“,,, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/what-do-organisms-mean
OT: Jonathan M, who has posted on UD before, had a debate on Unbelievable Christian radio today: Unbelievable? Scientific evidence versus religious belief – Jonathan McLatchie & Elliot George debate - Saturday 15th November 2014 http://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Scientific-evidence-versus-religious-belief-Jonathan-McLatchie-Elliot-George-debate bornagain77
Yes, the standard story of the influence of genes is overblown. From "Features of the Universe and of Living Things" section of theory:
Intelligent behavior of living things determines where they want to live, who or what they partner with, feed on, or hide from. And teamwork of living things has led to complex social populations who together are very successful at controlling their environments. Others around them can quickly be forced to find a new behavioral strategy, in response to theirs. At all levels of complexity living things profoundly change each other and environment in response to each other's behavior in ways that make it impossible to explain the origin of one without including all other living things around them. This interrelationship is seen in David Attenborough: The Trials of Life - Living Together. As in Social Learning Theory: There is a three way reciprocal causation whereby the persons (or living things), their behaviors, and their environment all have an influence on each other (A influences B and B influences A). What grazes in an intelligence produced pasture depends on what kind of living thing the intelligent farmers are. We at the multicellular intelligence level have our farm plants and animals such as cows and chickens, along with animals physically able to help with farm chores. For single celled social amoebas (slime mold) the livestock it raises is a special kind of bacteria. When unfavorable conditions produce famine instead of eating them all they save some to store as seed (spores) inside a protective capsule they construct so at least some in the colony survive to reestablish itself again later. Environments where bacteria are raised includes inside of sea creatures, where an impressive self-lighting system is made by coordinated group actions of cultivated bacteria. At our level, we have our farm plants and animals such as cows and chickens. And there are many animals physically able to help with farm chores including catching of rats (ratters) but if they do not want to live among humans then they will stay away. A dog (possibly wolf) with controlling (of other animals) behavior might enjoy protecting and herding the animals for a human farmer. One of any size or breed with a behavior to be a good ratter will prefer being on guard near the food supply all the rats are after. Where it is unhappy with living conditions the dog may run off to another human settlement where conditions are better, then another human group benefits from the dog’s presence. What could outrun a human might not outrun their dog. Here there is a partnership not even of the same species but since both are highly social animals each still sees each other as “part of the family” or as the dog would see it “part of the (wolf) pack”. Sneaking up on the team while they are sleeping is virtually impossible where one barks at the least sign of trouble. Early pioneers of the US knew it was a good idea to make one a priority to have with the family when out in the wilderness. So our arms and hands may not be good for running but the dog that is would just as well the human build the warm dwelling for them, because they sure don’t know how, with their paws. Dogs that have through time done very well in a farming community do not always work well as a house pet. For example one that is born to be an excellent ratter can easily rip a house to shreds trying to dig for them in anything that smells ratty, even the furniture. Dogs that need to run do not like to be in a small space, and ones that are very controlling will only have the human family to dominate which often becomes a fight to the finish that one way or another ends at the veterinarian’s office. Taking away the ability for a living thing to find a stable environment where they belong is harmful to it personally and over time to its entire breed/species. At the molecular and cellular scale intelligence inherently optimizes what it can control therefore convergence on a near optimal biological design for conditions is expected, predicted. Each design is suited for the environment it's for. The cephalopod (octopus, squid, cuttlefish) eye is well designed for a cephalopod. Our eye is well designed for us. The extinction of the long enduring dinosaurs may have mostly been caused by design limitations that made it impossible for them to forever keep up with optimization of insects and pathogens. Asteroids falling or not, given their possible vulnerabilities to pathogens the extinction of dinosaurs might be predictable, as well as the emergence of better adapted to pathogens biological designs such as ourselves to in time becoming a significant feature of a planet such as this. Where repeated on another planet with these conditions, there could be similar plants and animals that would tend to go extinct all at once when environmental change they in the past easily endured stresses them into extinction. Living things change each other in response to each other’s behavior in ways that make it hard to explain the origin of features of one without including features of all living intelligent things around them, all the way to the molecular level to the viruses. Without this life-giving interconnected intelligent causation from nonrandom behavior of matter the planet would likely be just another lifeless carbon dioxide world, so profoundly different that not even the weather could ever be the same anymore.
Gary S. Gaulin
Of related note: podcast - Richard Sternberg - On Human Origins: Is Our Genome Full of Junk DNA? Part 2. http://www.discovery.org/multimedia/audio/2014/11/on-human-origins-is-our-genome-full-of-junk-dna-pt-2/ here is part 1 for those who missed it: http://www.discovery.org/multimedia/audio/2014/11/on-human-origins-is-our-genome-full-of-junk-dna/ bornagain77
News, Is this the paper referred to by the quoted New Statesman article? http://www.nature.com/news/does-evolutionary-theory-need-a-rethink-1.16080 Dionisio

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