Monday, May 12, 2008

Recombination hotspots

Ran across an interesting article here. Key quote:

The researchers also identified particular patterns in the DNA that play a role in hotspot activity. ‘That is very exciting because it takes us closer to understanding how recombination is controlled,’ explained Dr Gil McVean, the other senior author. ‘It looks as though there are patterns in DNA which effectively say “recombine here”. Finding out more about that is a step along the road to understanding one of the major mechanisms shaping genetic variation and its consequences.’

The idea that our genome "knows" where and how to recombine is fascinating. It leaves us with two questions: "How does it work?" and "How did it happen?" The first question is purely scientific -- it will doubtless be fascinating, but is unlikely to be particularly controversial. The second question introduces a lot of speculation and philosophy, and is likely to raise a lot of fists on all sides.

From an evolutionary perspective, the answer to the second question is, "More really lucky mutations we can't comprehensively name or describe, but can infer, based on the paradigm of common descent via mutation. Species which randomly developed the capacity to vary in areas of the genome where variation is useful (and not varying in the areas where it is not) had a competitive advantage, and spread."

From a creationary perspective, the answer is, "Maybe the Creator intended to build in the capacity for rapid variation to allow species to adapt quickly to changes in environment, and to continue replenishing diversity."

Neither of those interpretations is particularly falsifiable. Neither of these interpretations will interfere with the ability of scientists to empirically study the mechanisms of the targetted variation.

Nevertheless, both sides will no doubt use the fact of targetted variation to support their own paradigm, and attempt to "debunk" the alternative.

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