Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A bit of Science (Fiction?!)... :) :)

Well, I was looking out the window of the BMTC bus I had boarded in the morning... just for say 5 mins or so... taking a break from reading this really interesting book, "Next" by Michael Crichton (interesting till now, only 150 pages into it, can’t really conclude, so hope it turns out to be a good one till the end)... The book had refreshed my genetics interest & knowledge and I was feeling very happy with myself that I was able to recall the terms and concepts used/discussed in there.

So, as I was looking out the window, the bus passing various bus stops on the way, I saw so many youngsters, all between 20 to 35 yrs of age... Every one of them somehow had the signature stamped on them, “IT industry” (no they were not all wearing their ID's out, so please don’t try to act smart now... :)).

Why? I was wondering if it was because I belonged to the same community, that I probability had that antenna that can detect my kin, or has it actually become like a phenotypic, a morphologically identifiable trait... (ya ya showing off, lol, after all, reading a Michael Crichton book after a long time :P)... But according to strict definitions of morphological trait, it should only be a "physical appearance", which is not always the case; it is not just the appearance. So let me resort to using “Phenotype” here, ‘coz there are also "Behavioral phenotypes" not exactly a term, only meaning phenotype may also include behavior....

So is it like a Cultural Evolution, has it happened? Wait let me pause here to explain what I mean by that term…

I was once very interested in Cultural Evolution studies... There have been questions and I have not really been able to keep track of all the new developments in this field, considering it was a relatively recent interest and that is when I took the other road, choosing to leave all these interests behind. Well let’s not get into that one right now... So ya, by cultural evolution here, I refer to the ideas and theories, that suggest/discuss/research that, Culture may also be a part of the Evolution, in the sense, genetic speciation may not be the only way.

–---------- For the benefit of those who do not really know Evolution or Genetic Speciation much –-----------

Evolution is the process by which organisms try to adapt, change subtly, increasingly over time, to suit their environment, to be able to use it to their advantage, so that they can become one of the fittest and hence survive. Now this change that is initially behavioral / functional when found advantageous is passed on down generations by means of genetic inheritance. How this behavioral change becomes genetically incorporated is another interesting question and I would love to talk about it in another entry. So basically through genetics, changes are effected and not all individuals of the same species react to a situation or atmospheric demand the same way. So these different responses, becoming genetic, over a period of accumulated and repeated incorporation, lead to phenotypically and genotypically different group of individuals forming an altogether different species from the one it actually started changing.

This process is called speciation and in essence a genetic process, or to put it more bluntly, the scientific community has believed and come to accept that speciation in general is or should be genetic, meaning, if there was not enough or substantial genetic difference in enough number of individuals (a derivative really for if there are not enough numbers then it would mean it was not advantageous and would not have propagated to sustain/retain the difference; the no is also variable depending on the atmospheric demands. Organisms in an island etc), no group of individual animals of one parent species be accepted as a different species.


So now, all the different ethnics groups, might actually be different species, Culture being a different manifestation of Evolution, taking a different form, may be even a higher form, to maintain balance. Come to think of it, in fact, people with different type of character sets may even be, say subspecies… This is keeping to the context of Humans for if we try to apply it to other organisms, then it would go to very exciting and fun possibilities but for want of a shorter blog and not too much boredom for those who are reading I’ll keep it to the Homo Sapiens context. May be another blog on that other possibilities some other time. So, yes, culture and behavior, could they be different form of evolution? I have pondered over this a lot… Is this the next step…? The next form, or the next dimension Evolution is taking? Speciation, not just through genetic differences, but behavioral, psychological, even intellectual ones may be… We could go on imagining and speculating. To verify these, there has sprung a field of science that researches on very similar ideas. That researches on Cultural Evolution.

Now just to lend more substance and fun to my theory I am going to include one of my other interests, the Mythology – Science link. That way, I feel, there is a connection or basis or let us just say a similarity between one of the concepts (?!) in the Hindu mythology and the Ethnicity species/subspecies theory.

Let me refer to Hindu mythology, or should I rather say, the mythologies of the Sanathana Dharma for am sure these stories are prevelant in the other branches of Sanathana Dharma just as well as Hinduism. So, there were supposed to have been seven different Rishi and Rishi Patni couple, from who the whole of the population of humans on the earth came to be… Now, the interesting bit is, research on lineage conducted through Mitochondrial DNA analysis says that at the very root of the population, there were seven different Mitochondrial DNA set.

_____________ Mitochondrial DNA????!!!@@##$%%^&* ______________

In every cell in our body there are functional regions called organelles that have their own specific functions. Mitochondrion and Nucleus (Plurals: Mitochondria and Nuclei respectively) are two such organelles. Mitochondrion takes care of producing and supplying energy while Nucleus houses the DNA and all the activities related to that. But strangely, may be wisely though we do not know who or what should be credited for this wisdom, there is not just one DNA set available in our cells. Apart from the Nucleus, even the Mitochondrion has its own bundle of DNA that is just a bit different between from the Nuclear DNA.

Now when an offspring is formed, the mother provides with the egg cell and the father provides with the sperm each having one set of genome (23 chromosomes. An adult thus has 46 chromosomes of a 23 pair set). Of these one pair determines the sex of the child, XX being female and XY being male. All this happens only with the nuclear DNA (nDNA). The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is simply passed on from the Mother to the offspring. Hence, the mtDNA mutates very fast but is always traceable throught the mothers and hence there is something called Matrilineage in population genetics and geneaology.


So this research concluded there were seven distinct women, mtDNAs, that came out of the “One mother of all, believed to be some good old lady from Africa who lived about thousands and thousands of years ago”. This research I guess was majorly conducted on European people, not really sure. If interested check out “Seven Daughters of Eve”, a book written by the guy who did this research years ago.

But the irony of it I realized when I was researching for this blog, that bringing mtDNA in, I have only talked about genetic evolution and not cultural…. ;P But the fact is that it is all intertwined and this forms the basis for our cultural evolution too. So what if really we were all different species and subspecies milling about on the face of earth without even realizing that evolution has taken a different form and we are not the same. Think about what will happen if IT, Biotechnology, Engineering, Business and Management to name a few are continued for ages to come and it actually becomes a trait, a gentic difference. Or what if the not only the form/means of evolution but even the pace of evolution has changed and it is not ages far away but actually quite near, the day when you and your neighbor might be of different species. I read a line somewhere, ah, yes in NEXT, “the world is heading to a stage where you do not know if the people at a dinner table are of the same species”. This was written in a different context, Transgenic species, but still holds just fine for the context we are discussing too.

Just the imagination of this keeps you amazed and wondering…. WOW…

So as I was saying, looking out of the window, all these things running in my mind, I saw them all there, the IT crowd, among various people of other industry too, like students, school, college and Govt. employees. One realizes that may be it is true for nowadays you can simply say who is a who, at least at these general categories. I know that one’s ability to gauge a person based on “personal experience, maturity, fashion etc” should not be confused with a “Phenotype”. But just an interesting thought. I was jolted back to reality when a cute girl came and sat beside me. I was sure she was an IT employee, no, no card. No standard laptop bags or any such give always, and sure enough she got down and went into one of the reputed IT company premises, juggling the contents of her bag and finally digging out her ID tag.  

refer: Steven Pinker is one of the prominent people working on cultural evolution and his books, even I have them on my "to be read" list, are supposed to be good. Check them out if interested and of course many such others are there... Well, google is god, pray and u'll be answeres... ;)


Rukmani said...

Interesting viewpoint. Never pondered about these things too much, so I'm not qualified to comment, but yes, who knows what the next level would be? We could evolve into different subspecies based on what we do all our lives! scary, but it is a freaky possibility.

That apart, I just couldn't resist, but

I was jolted back to reality when a cute girl came and sat beside me.

Jolted back because of the cute girl or because she sat next to you? ;)

ujwala said...

rukmani... lol... u know I shud hav written a cute guy... already ppl r assuming things... jus wannd to be honest... just jolted bk wen i saw someone sit beside me and it turned out to a cute gal.... ooofff... ;)

Deeps said...

Have you checked out six degrees of separation?

ujwala said...

@ deeps: nah... will do now tat u have told me... :)

Vikas Jain said...

josh i Already had this theory of urs..still, good combination of u know the genetic Phenotypic characters and wat u cold the physical appearing (phenotypic) characters..and as suggested by Deeps pls go through six Degrees of Seperation...every being is separated atmost by six steps from the other (thats the part of theory)...

Vikas Jain said...

read that 'cold' as 'called'...

Vikas Jain said...

it was moreover like a genetics class for me... dont remind me of those pls..