Monday, July 23, 2012


Apparently our genetic code contains hints of a "near-extinction event" in humanity's past:
Humans have 46 chromosomes. Our closest primate relatives have 48. So where did those extra two disappear to?   ...
By the mid-1950s, the invention of better microscopes and an easing of restrictions on human tissues allowed scientists to correct Painter’s mistake. But as so often happens, solving one mystery just opened up another, because now scientists had to figure out how humans ended up two chromosomes down. The answer is surprising, and involves the uncomfortable fact that the human race probably almost went extinct at one point.
You need to read the whole thing to get the gist of the argument, but this is what really caught my eye:
But that solves only part of the mystery: How did having 46 chromosomes then spread worldwide? It’s possible that having two fewer chromosomes than everyone else gave Guy and Doll’s family a whopping evolutionary advantage, allowing them to out-compete the 48-chromosome sluggards. But probably not. More likely, they happened to be living at a point when the human race nearly got wiped out.

Take your pick for the cause of our near-extinction—ice ages, plagues, Indonesian gigavolcanoes. But humans have far less genetic diversity than most other species, and the most reasonable explanation for this is a genetic bottleneck: a severe reduction in the population of humans in the past, perhaps multiple times. 
If you change "Guy" and "Doll" to Noah, Mrs. Noah, and their three sons and daughters-in-law, this genetic bottleneck legacy seems to fit the Biblical account.  Of course, mentioning that is Scientific Blasphemy.

But that doesn't make it any less relevant.  More and more, I'm understanding why Jesus so often used the phrase "he who has ears to hear, let him hear."

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