by Carl Zimmer
12/11/13 “The Loom” at nationalgeographic.com’s Phenomena
Excerpt: “Evolution drives relentlessly forward, leaving behind a messy wake. One of the best places to survey its sloppy creativity is inside your nose.”
If we could hear Zimmer tell this story, we could probably detect the panic in his voice. That panic is clearly indicated in his attempt to portray adaptations to cells such as the olfactory receptor neurons, which incorporate the amino acid substitutions in the genes that make us human. He want others to believe that these substitutions result from evolution that left behind a “messy wake.”
Instead of “sloppy creativity,” it is clear that the de novo creation of our olfactory receptor genes with their species-specific amino acid substitutions exemplifies adaptations to the sensory environment. These adaptations occur only in the context of nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled links. These links are from the epigenetic landscape to the physical landscape of DNA in the organized genomes of species from microbes to man. Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptations via amino acid substitutions are now exemplified in many species. Anyone still touting “sloppy creativity” is incapable of “pattern recognition” and is destined to be eliminated from their job via Darwinian selection for truth in science, which I hope extends to truth in science journalism.
The truth of Darwinian selection has never varied from what Darwin referred to as ‘conditions of life.” Darwin’s ‘conditions of life’ clearly depend on “Ecological variation [that] is the raw material by which natural selection can drive evolutionary divergence [1–4].” Simply put, Darwin’s ‘conditions of life’ are nutrient-dependent. Duh! Ecological variation is variation in nutrient availability. Too little food and too many conspecifics are disasters in the context of ecological and social niche construction. Some organisms, if not all of them, are going to die of starvation!
Evolution by natural selection cannot be the outcome if something is not first selected. Selection is always for nutrients. It is as simple as that. (7/25/13) I placed that fact into this context, when I relayed its simplicity: “If you have variation, differential reproduction, and heredity, you will have evolution by natural selection as an outcome. It is as simple as that.” The variation is nutrient availability and nutrients metabolize to species-specific pheromones that control reproduction and heredity.
Zimmer would like others to believe that the de novo creation of olfactory receptor genes with species-specific amino acid substitutions exemplifies mutation-initiated natural selection. Who does he think he is kidding? Virtually every serious scientist knows that “vertebrates and invertebrates, are capable of selecting food sources that optimize not only the gross energy intake, but also the intake of macronutrients such as amino acids…” Where did that ability come from? If it did not exemplify the link from ecological variation to amino acid substitutions and species diversity in olfactory receptor genes, there might be some question about whether mutations are involved. Clearly, mutations are not involved in adaptations! Not in yeasts, and not in other vertebrates.
Thus, mutations cannot be involved in adaptations in the Mosaic Copy Number Variation in Human Neurons, which are obviously responsible for differences in our behavior. There is no evidence of sloppy creativity in their neurogenic niche construction; or in the de novo creation of teeth in nematodes; or in the de novo creation of species-specific blends of pheromones that control the physiology of reproduction in species from microbes to man (see for review: Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model). Instead, there are three different forms of de novo creation that lead to this conclusion by primates who can think and write:
“The epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input calibrate and standardize molecular mechanisms for genetically predisposed receptor-mediated changes in intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression in GnRH neurosecretory neurons of brain tissue. For example, glucose and pheromones alter the hypothalamic secretion of GnRH and LH. A form of GnRH associated with sexual orientation in yeasts links control of the feedback loops and developmental processes required for nutrient acquisition, movement, reproduction, and the diversification of species from microbes to man.”
Compare what is known about the adaptations in species that result in finely tuned GnRH secretion in all vertebrates (e.g., in my model), which resulted from the single nutrient-dependent substitution of the achiral amino acid glycine in the genome of all extant vertebrates. Extant vertebrates are the ones who continue to find food and reproduce via what Zimmer thinks is the “sloppy creativity” of evolution. Oddly, there is only one achiral amino acid, and according to Zimmer, it must have somehow sloppily inserted itself in the GnRH molecule. Kochman (2012) appears to disagree with Zimmer: “The discovery of the fact that one decapeptide molecule, among the GnRHs, was constructed perfectly at the beginning of 400 million years evolution and that it is not possible to improve its physiological potency using the any natural amino acid is, in my opinion, important, fascinating and beautiful.” (p. 21)
Compare what Zimmer says is “sloppy creativity” to what Nei says in his book (see page196, with my emphasis below) about “Mutation-driven evolution:”
”(1) Mutation is the source of all genetic variation on which any form of evolution is dependent…. (2) Natural selection is for saving advantageous mutations and eliminating harmful mutations. Selective advantage of the mutation is determined by the type of DNA change, and therefore natural selection is an evolutionary process initiated by mutation. It does not have any creative power in contrast to the statements made by some authors.”
Compare Zimmer’s sloppy science journalism to any accurate representation of biologically-based cause and effect, which requires adaptations that are manifested in amino acid substitutions in olfactory receptor neurons, and you may see this: The threat to Zimmer’s ongoing misrepresentations of biological facts and his nonsense about evolution’s “messy wake” and it’s “sloppy creativity” is the physical evidence of amino acid substitutions in human olfactory receptor genes in human olfactory receptor neurons. Clearly, amino acid substitutions incorporate nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled epigenetic effects that link olfaction and odor receptors to neuronal signaling among cells via “…a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans.
Note: The report that led Zimmer to yet another misrepresentation of biologically-based cause and effect, includes this sentence: “Here we identify ligands for several orphan odorant receptors, determine the prevalence and functional consequences of missense mutations in odorant receptors, and measure the effect of these functional changes on human olfactory perception.” That is the only mention of “mutations.” Others have built their careers on evolutionary theory that consistently represents the creativity of mutations in the context of species diversity that even Dobzhansky recognized included amino acid substitutions in 1964 and again in his 1973 treatise: ‘Nothing in Biology Makes Any Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.”
Four decades later we still see stories told about evolutionary theory as if mutations caused a change in a single base pair that led to the single amino-acid substitution in a modern human population that supposedly ecologically adapted during the past ~30,000 years. The change in the base pair and the single amino acid substitution are reported as if they were mutation-driven; mutation-linked; beneficial mutations; or beneficial adaptations by the co-authors that established the mouse to human link via the amino acid substitution.
Biophysical constraints prevent mutations from becoming beneficial. Mutations perturb the thermodynamics and kinetics of intercellular signaling and stochastic gene expression, which is required for organism level thermoregulation. That’s why mutations are edited out of the genome or allowed if they do no harm.
The climate change that occurred ~30,000 years ago in what is now central China, is much more likely to be directly linked to a dietary change that caused the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptation. The researchers linked the adaptation to a mutation in humans via a mouse model of epigenetic effects of dietary choline associated with a single amino acid substitution and with fish odor syndrome. Thus, something appears to have gone horribly wrong at Harvard. Is it possible that both teams of researchers have not learned enough about epigenetically-effected adaptations because they’ve been taught only about mutations? Does Carl Zimmer teach at Harvard?
Does anyone at Harvard realize that ‘”Ultimately, the combination of the identification of molecular and neuronal mechanisms and fine behavioral data in genetically and nutritionally manipulated animals, together with associated changes in neuronal dynamics, will allow us to build an understanding of how the animals make feeding decisions allowing them to maintain the stability of the internal milieu.” If Harvard researchers realize that, when will others begin to realize it is the thermodynamics and organism-level thermoregulation of that stability that enables adaptations, which incorporate amino acid substitutions during ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. That stability results in “Mosaic Copy Number Variation in Human Neurons” and our behavioral adaptations to changes in our environment.
However, none of what is currently neuroscientifically known about adaptations and stability has come from those who Dobzhansky (1964) called “bird-watchers” or from evolutionary theory, which is what Zimmer is touting. What has come to us is from experimental evidence that takes theory to the level of serious scientific pursuits. Serious scientists leave ridiculous theories, such as mutation-initiated natural selection, behind. Unlike science journalists, serious scientists must attempt to establish the biological facts that support their discoveries. They cannot simply report on how mutations somehow came to be involved in the amino acid substitutions that distinguish humans from other species who have not adapted as well to their ecological variations. Thus, serious scientist typically leave it to science journalists to explain “sloppy creativity” via evolution to their scientifically uninformed audience of those who have never attempted to understand biologically based cause and effect in the context of experimental evidence.