Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Get over it

If science has shown us anything in the past few decades, it's that for everything that makes humans unique, there a lot more things that we have in common with all other life on earth (especially other mammals). That's why this figure surprises me:

It comes from Science Magazine's recent issue on big questions in science. This article is entitled, "Why Do Humans Have So Few Genes?" It's as if we have gene content envy, or something. Get over it. This isn't a big question. So what if plant genomes are larger than ours.

Science has committed the fallacy of assuming humans are at the top of some evolutionary hierarchy, and that we are the most complex organisms on earth. What is complexity? Can it be measured? Just because we are us does not mean we should assume we have more genes than every other organism on earth. Gene content does not a special creature make.


At 12:59 PM, Blogger coturnix said...

So why did they put a picture of a human on the graph? Why not rice? Or a hybrid, e.g., Condi Rice?

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous John A. Davison said...

By a curious coincidence I suppose, I just suggested in my Prescribed Evolutonary Hypopthesis paper that evolution may have involved a loss of potentiality as well as a gain. Certainly in ontogeny, the fertilized egg has a greater potential than the individual cells which eventualy result from its development. If evolution were also a front-loaded phenomenon as I believe it was, such a finding would not be unexpected. Of some things I remain certain. Chance had nothing to do with phylogeny and it remains a great mystery.

"Hypotheses have to be reasonable - facts don't."

At 9:30 AM, Blogger RPM said...

Or Jerry Rice? I think the woman on the graph is pondering why we have so few genes (if I'm allowed to read into her subtext).

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Thom H said...

Gene envy: interesting! We know that some people are trying to patent certain gene sequences--make them IP. By that light, plants might have more raw potential value!

But I guess--as suggested--it's the standard species-centric bias. My cat thinks I largely exist for him--he's upset when certain events don't seem to confirm his view.

So humans in turn think they're #1 or should be. No harm, I guess, so long as science isn't being forced to validate or conform to teleology.


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