Friday, September 18, 2009

Top-Down Genetics versus Mashup Genetics

'Must confess.

We never did like the term 'Horizontal Gene Transfer' , aka HGT ( sometimes otherwise known as LGT ,for Lateral Gene

In particular we always hated that 'transfer' bit.

The denotation is accurate enough, but its connotations conjure up entirely the wrong impression.

We'd bow in the direction of Dawson and call it HGT , Horizontal Gene Transformation.

For in fact the incoming bits of DNA disrupt - creatively - the existing fat and comfortable set of genes in the organism being invaded and the end result isn't some tidy orderly transfer of assets from one bank account to another, but more in the order of a micro-scale catastrophe.

There said it.

Catastrophe, cat-as-tro-phe - not neo-catastrophism, because we don't think it ever really went away - not out there in the real world and not out there in the real minds of many.

Only scientists and their fellow travelers consigned the word to a sudden death.

They said catastrophes rarely happen and when they do they are only local and short term - and soon we will be able to predict and prevent even these rare local events.

Catastrophes at the level of cells and microbes simply never happened.

But they do - we multi-celled creatures are the result of one such genetic mashup - when one sort of bacteria survived inside another type of bacteria to the point where it became part of the bacteria, inside its own cell walls and created the first multi-celled being .

Nine months later,more or less, you and us emerged.

There is no intellectual crime lower than seeking support for some or other human theory by claiming it merely reflects the laws of nature.


But it is interesting to tease out the parallels for human creativity in the current moves to mashup old boring top down controlled copyrights to see what crawls out of the shell and the tremendous effects HGT has had in the past in mashing up stale boring old top down Vertical genetics to see what happens.

Penicillin , after all, was the result when a bacteria and a yeast decided to mashup their quite different DNAs....

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