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Biological Chemistry

Consequences of Misdirected Evolutionary Logic

December 5, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 49

There is no doubt that biomedical research of today is very impressive and makes for fascinating reading. This was the case in C&EN articles on research concerning the fertilization mechanisms of thehuman egg (C&EN, Aug. 29, page 36, and Nov. 1, 2010, page 30). The level of complexity and sophistication is mind-boggling and its explantion thought-provoking, which to me demands a certain implied logic.

The chemical mechanisms I have studied over the years as a physical chemist are all acceptably explained in terms of natural thermodynamic driving forces. Similarly, in theories of human development, evolution also is readily understandable in natural selection terms driven by environmental forces that favor specific traits. However, when I turn to reading about genetic research, the terminology seems to differ somewhat and authors appear to fail to see the implications of their statements.

For example, Karolinksa Institute’s Luca Jovine says, “I wouldn’t be surprised if evolution has introduced a bit of redundancy into the fertilization process. It’s very dangerous for a species to rely on a single mechanism.” The article continues, “If this were the case, then a single mutation could wipe out the next generation.” The logic of such a statement is inconsistent with evolution and implies intelligence. Do we now think DNA developed artificial intelligence along with everything else? Without intelligence appearing somewhere in this logic, evolution can never provide safeguards for unforeseen future situations. It can only develop efficient mechanisms for continued survival in its currently encountered environment.

By Keith Schofield
Santa Barbara, Calif

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