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We acquire trillions of new mutations every day, so why are we still alive?

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From Sarah Zhang at the Atlantic:

As you read this article, the cells in your body are dividing and the DNA in them is being copied, letter by letter. So long is the human genome—more than 3 billion letters—that even an astonishingly low error rate of one in many million letters could amount to 10 new mutations every time a cell divides.

Oh, perhaps you’re also catching some sun (ultraviolet rays) while you read this, or enjoying a beer (alcohol), or have recently been high in the atmosphere on an airplane (cosmic rays). Congratulations, you’ve given yourself even more mutations. In a typical day, scientists estimate, the 37 trillion cells in your body will accumulate trillions of new mutations.More.

We are told that “Evolution has built in a formidable number of safety nets.” It takes considerable faith in the powers of Darwinian evolution (natural selection acting on random mutations) to accept such a statement at face value, given the scale and complexity. But we suspect that Atlantic readers are over-represented in the sample of such people.

See also: Eugene Koonin on how CRISPR is leading to conceptual shifts in evolutionary biology. Koonin: Furthermore, different biological systems that function by genome manipulation appear to have evolved convergently from unrelated MGE.

Actually the mutations we accumulate during our lifetimes will eventually kill us. aarceng
The word "safety net" implies foreknowledge. Like the word "life insurance", "401k" and "teleology". To use the phrase "Evolution has..." with these terms, is equivalent to saying "Evolution has foreknowledge". But "chance" is the opposite of "foreknowledge". So we have just stated that "Evolution is not chance". Darwin would not have approved. Robert Sheldon

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