Discussion Board

Topic: HERVs and Human Evolution

From: Adam Crowl
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Date: 10/28/2006

Hi Greg

I read "Darwin's Radio" years ago and found your discussion of HERVs and "quantum evolution" to be quite interesting, though unsatisfying incomplete. Have there been more advances in our understanding of evolution along the lines you sketched out in the novel and the endnotes? ERVs have certainly played a significant role in the evolution of all animals and HERVs themselves are now thought to contitute 8% of the human genome - which, as you'd realise, is even bigger than the gene-encoding exons and their regulatory regions in the genome - but there isn't any clearer picture of the kind of natural 'mind' behind evolution as you suggested. Or have we missed something in the regular journals and news sources?

Re: HERVs and Human Evolution

From: Greg Bear
Date: 10/30/2006

While HERV and EREV science and data has increased enormously, and their importance has become more and more obvious, the "networked" view of evolution within and between genomes is still speculative. A number of scientists are exploring similar ideas in bacteria, which very obviously do swap genes and traits on a regular basis using virus intermediaries. But the human view of viral communication is still fairly formative. In this field, data arrives in truckloads now--but theory associating all the data lags far behind. Still, take a look at the recent works of Lynn Margulis, Stephen Jay Gould's massive summary THE STRUCTURE OF EVOLUTIONARY THEORY, and Lynn Caporale's works. Richard Dawkins' recent books are also well worth exploring. Changes are afoot!

Re: HERVs and Human Evolution

From: Adam Crowl
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Date: 10/30/2006

Hi Greg

I've read Margulis and Dawkins - almost opposite ends of the spectrum there - and Caporale's work is clearly the most relevant to your concepts. Her ideas on a genome selected for evolvability makes a lot of sense of the ERV and transposon data. Stripped back genomes do exist which have dumped large parts of their ERV & transposon 'bioburden' and yet most species' genomes hang on to such 'parasitic' DNA. If such components aren't actively selected against and aren't obviously neutral (some cause disease) I do wonder what they might be selected for. Your 'proposal' makes sense.

On a related issue what do you think of Howard Bloom's "The Global Brain" which discusses the biological network, and Robert Wright's "NonZero" which discusses a possible immanent purpose within the evolutionary process? I think they both make strong cases for an overall 'guidance' of evolution, most likely in the distributed intelligence form you describe.

Re: HERVs and Human Evolution

From: Greg Bear
Date: 10/30/2006

I'll look into these. Howard's work I'm familiar with. Thanks, Adam.

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