Sunday, May 9, 2010

Distant Relatives

An international team of scientists has for the first time decoded the complete Neanderthal genome, and the results, to be reported in the May 7 issue of Science, offer new insights into our closest evolutionary relatives and an exciting new way to explore the genetic basis of what makes humans unique. But the big news? The scientists also found evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. And the results of that prehistoric coupling can be found in most people's DNA.

(Gregory Mone,, May 6, 2010)

I’m delighted by these findings. First, it’s absolutely incredible that we’ve developed the technology the technology to be able to decipher the DNA sequence of our ancestors from pieces of fossilized bone. Not only does this help us to establish relationships between ourselves and other members of the primate tree, but as we gain more understanding of what the coded information means we’ll be able to reconstruct not only how ancient life appeared, but how they lived. It’s a very exciting prospect. I’m also excited because this evidence reinforces the idea that life on earth is a complex web of actions and interactions. It took multiple inputs to get us to today; to ignore the interrelationships within the environment is to condemn the future. Finally, it’s yet another piece of the puzzle supporting the idea that…regardless of whomever or whatever you think triggered it off, a supreme being or the laws of chance…evolution happens. Get over it.

It also helps to explain the Geico caveman commercials. If the Neanderthals are in fact our distant relatives, they’re like the third cousins who you are required to see at funerals and weddings, but avoid at any other time. So a thirty second television commercial is fun and (importantly) done. But half hour weekly visits? Not gonna happen, and the ratings show it.

Ain’t science grand?

No comments:

Post a Comment