the change of the state of the nature of play

15 February 2007

A fascinating paper here, seemingly debunking the possibilities of Lamarckian evolution strategies in bacteria. As we all know (at least those of us that actually care to think), standard evolution by natural selection works its way in all of us multicellular organisms. However, for a long time the idea of Lamarckian–inheritance of acquired characteristics–evolution seemed to have some validity for prokaryotes (the central dogma of genetics is that there is no chance of that kind of evolutionary change in multicellular systems: genotype affects phenotype but not the other way around). Anyway, that possibility seems to have been largely laid to rest now, leaving natural selection as the only alternative even for the bugs. So what? Probably could have guessed that, since Lamarckian ideas do not appear to be very cogent, at least on the surface. But guessing just isn’t the right way to go about things, even if the result seems, at least in retrospect, obvious.

So much research seems to confirm something that we all have thought to be patently obvious that we tend to dismiss it, and complain about funds being spent on it, rather than on some fascinating subject, such as the sexual orientation of Alaskan mosquitoes. But once in a while new data overturns all preconceived notions. Funnily I cannot think of anything from the last year or so that have done precisely that, but this is probably due to insomnia. In any case, 99% of science is rather boring, at least when looked at from the outside; that is the way it should be ;). I don’t believe our society could withstand more than one major scientific revolution a year. I wonder what will happen over the next couple of decades, as the pace of discovery increases and we have thousands of major breakthroughs and paradigm busters each day? May we all live in interesting times…May I get to work without falling asleep…

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