Archive for January 18th, 2011

Genetics – Where are the missing mutations?

I have been thinking a little about Genetics lately.  As usual questions pop into my head that make me wonder.

This time I began to wonder about the missing mutations.

Mutations are supposedly random variations in the DNA resulting in a variation in the population (people or beetles or whatever) these mutations can either be successful or fail.

For example if a mutation in a beetle makes it brown and birds don’t see it as well against the earth, so more brown beetles survive than say bright red beetles then eventually all the beetles will become brown. That’s a success story, mind you the mutation that caused red beetles is  a failed mutation as the beetle was easily seen and therefore the population of red beetles was diminished.

These mutations must be occurring all the time, but we don’t see that. Why?

Surely say in a population of six billion people we should see huge numbers of genetic variations. Why don’t we see evidence of constant change. why are man and other animals so stable?

These are my as yet unanswered questions.

  • Why don’t we see more evidence of genetic mutations?
  • Why is the gene pool so stable?
  • Why don’t we see more variation in things like skin colour, surely these are simple genetic mutations that would be occurring all the time?
  • When a genetic failure occurs (red beetles) is there some sort of memory of this failure, does our DNA remember to give up on red and not try it again.

It would appear there are rules around genetic mutation, what can be tried what can’t be tried. When something is a failure or when it should continue to develop. If so where are the rules?

Lets look at a finger. One genetic mutation could involve the complete copy of an existing finger or toe.  Yes we see these today, but why does it happen so completely? I mean not only is a sixth finger or toe developed but it works, it has blood flow it has nerves and the brain copes with it and can even sometimes manipulate it. how is it so complete?

What about the original finger, I assume it started out as slight bump. what stopped it growing into a gangling lump of useless flesh. Something that didn’t actually help the person but didn’t actually cause any issues so didn’t cause a reduced chance of mating. At what time is a genetic variation considered a success.

Why aren’t we covered or full of genetic mutations and variations that don’t actually do anything?

It would appear to me that “random mutations” raises many more issues than it resolves.

When is being mystical not mystical

I had an interesting conversation with my sister today.

As some background my family are all very religious (various flavours of Christianity) but I am not.

Anyway we were speaking of our father who has some lets say unusual beliefs, he had told us about these ‘omens’ things that had happened during his life which leads him to believe his latest fantasy. He wants to go to Israel to visit the ‘motherland’ before he dies. That would be cool except he is not a Jew.  he is desperately searching our family tree to find something that says we have a Jewish lineage, we don’t.

Any way that’s an aside my sister said that she was concerned about dad and his belief in the mystical. He definitely doesn’t believe in speaking to the dead (except in prayers) or reading palms or crystals or anything like that. it was just the ‘omens’ that seemed to trigger that comment.

My reply was, yes its a shame the whole family is subject to that. She seemed taken aback and said, Who? I replied we all are, some more than others. to which she replied you can count me out of that, to which I replied “No! I can’t”.

I don’t think she was impressed.

So when is mystical not mystical?

  • It’s when you prayer to an unseen unknown figure (presumably in the sky) who supposedly made everything.
  • It’s when you believe in the “power of prayer” to cure incurable diseases.
  • yada yada yada I am sure you get the idea…

So religious people aren’t mystical? Sorry! Nope you are right there with ‘other’ faith healers, shamans, diviners and palm readers.

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