[Paleopsych] instant evolution in societies of genes

HowlBloom at aol.com HowlBloom at aol.com
Wed May 4 06:02:23 UTC 2005

Note  the following quote in the article below:  “These genes…are changing 
more swiftly than  would be expected through random mutation alone.”   
The genes in  question are genes that code for learning, genes that code for 
adaptive  intelligence. These genes outpace the others in humans and chimps. 
The research  outlined below indicates that these genes are first in the race 
to reorganize  and upgrade themselves—they outspeed other genes in evolution.  
What  do these fast-track genes have in common? They are the genes of the 
immune  system and the genes of apoptosis—the genes of pre-programmed cell 
suicide.  Pre-programmed cell suicide determines  which cells we need and which we 
don’t.  It resculpts the body to fit the exigencies of the moment.  More  
important, the genes of  pre-programmed cell suicide determine which 50% of the 
cerebral neurons we’re  born with will live and which will die.   
In this harsh  process of judgement, apoptosis shapes the brain to live in 
the society we’re a  part of and to deal with the problems that society demands 
we help solve.  Pre-programmed cell death, I suspect,  also shapes our body to 
fit the demands of our physical environment.  It expands the size of our 
lungs if we  grow up in the Andes Mountains, where the air is thin.  It makes sure 
that we don’t waste energy  and materiel on oversized lungs if we’re born 
and raised near sea level (which  60% of us humans are).   
Then  there’s the immune system, a learning mesh, a creative web, a 
neural-net-like  community of nodes, of modules.  The  immune system is, in its own 
way, nearly as smart as the brain.  The brain’s advantages:  a brain brings 
multiple intelligences to  work on a problem—seven of them if you go by Howard 
Gardner.  I suspect the brain has more than that  mere seven if you count the many 
forms of conscious reason, the many forms of  intuition, the many forms of 
muscular metaphor, the many systems that keep us  walking while we’re thinking 
or talking, our sensory systems, and the autonomous  systems that take care of 
functions we seldom have to be aware of—heartbeat,  digestion, and shunting 
blood to the place where it’s most needed at the  moment. 
The  genes of the immune system and of apoptosis.  These are the genes of 
what Global  Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 21st  
Century calls “inner-judges” and of what The Lucifer Principle: A  Scientific 
Expedition Into the Forces of History calls “self-destruct  mechanisms”.   
According to these  two books, the genes of the immune system and of 
apoptosis are the genes that  turn us into modules of a larger collective learning 
machine, a neural net that  wires our subcultures, our nations, and our global 
societies into a massive,  creative computational engine, a thinking, dreaming, 
reperceiving, and invention  machine. The genes of the immune system and of 
apoptosis are the non-stop  sharpeners of learning’s cutting edge.   
And the genes of  the immune system and of apoptosis don’t lazily await 
random mutation to  adapt.  They take adaptation into  their own hands, into their 
own c’s, a’s, g’s, and t’s, into their own thinking  mesh.   
I  suspect they also pull off what Jeff Hawkins talks about in his On  
Intelligence:  they feed their  output back into their input.  They  experiment with 
adjustments in our phenotype, in our bodies and our minds. They  test their 
experiments in our social and physical environment. They incorporate  what 
works and toss out what doesn’t…even if that means tossing out you and  me.  
Which means that like Eshel  Ben-Jacob’s creative webs of bacteria, the genes of 
the immune system and of  apoptosis, the genes of instant evolution, may be 
able to spot problems,  generate potential solutions, then respond to the success 
or failure of these  hypotheses.   
The  bottom line is this:  Communities of  genes—the community of 35,000 in a 
human genome, the community of 3.5  quadrillion (3,500,000,000,000,000) in a 
single human being, or the community of  3.5 septillion 
(3,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) in a society the size of  China--are much more nimble than we 
think.  Howard 
Retrieved May 3, 2005, from the World Wide Web  
|JOBS  Click to PrintFastest-evolving genes in  humans and chimps revealed 
18:37 03 May 2005  NewScientist.com news service  Jennifer Viegas  The most 
comprehensive study to  date exploring the genetic divergence of humans and 
chimpanzees has  revealed that the genes most favoured by natural selection are those  
associated with immunity, tumour suppression [hb: the immune system, like the 
 brain, is one of our swiftest learning machines], and programmed cell death 
[hb:  programmed cell death shapes our morphology to fit the shifts in our  
environment—especially the shifts in human culture.  In other words, apoptosis 
is also a  learning mechanism, part of what makes the connectionist machine  
work.].  These genes show  signs of positive natural selection in both branches 
of the evolutionary tree  and are changing more  swiftly than would be 
expected through random mutation alone. Lead scientist Rasmus  Nielsen and colleagues 
at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, examined the  13,731 chimp genes 
that have equivalent genes with known functions in humans.  Research in 2003 
revealed that genes involved with smell, hearing, digestion,  long bone growth, 
and hairiness are undergoing positive natural selection in  chimps and humans. 
The new study has found that the strongest evidence for  selection is related 
to disease defence and apoptosis - or programmed cell  death - which is linked 
to sperm production.   
Plague and HIV  
Nielsen, a professor of bioinformatics, believes  immune and defence genes 
are involved in “an evolutionary arms race with  pathogens”.  “Viruses and 
other  pathogens evolve very fast, and the human immune system is constantly being 
 challenged by the emergence of new pathogenic threats,” he told New 
Scientist.  “The amount of selection imposed on the human population by pathogens - 
such as  the bubonic plague or HIV - is enormous. It is no wonder that the genes 
involved  in defence against such pathogens are evolving very fast.”  Harmit 
Singh Malik, a researcher at the  Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 
Seattle, Washington, US, agrees. Both  Malik and Nielsen, however, expressed 
surprise over the findings concerning  tumour suppression, which is linked to 
apoptosis - or programmed cell  death - which can reduce the production of 
healthy, mature sperm.  
Selfish mutation  
The  discovery by Nielsen that genes involved in apoptosis show strong 
evidence for  positive natural selection may be due, in part, to the evolutionary 
drive for  sperm cells to compete. Cells carrying genes that hinder apoptosis 
have a  greater chance of producing mature sperm cells, so Nielsen believes 
these genes  can become widespread in populations over time. But because primates 
also use  apoptosis to eliminate cancerous cells, positive selection in this 
case may not  be favourable for the mature animal: “The selfish mutations that 
cause apoptosis  avoidance may then also reduce the organism’s ability to 
fight cancer,” Nielsen  explains. Journal reference: Public Library of Science 
Biology (vol 3, issue  6)  Related Articles Life's top 10  greatest inventions  
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624941.700  09 April 2005  
Sleeping around boosts evolution  
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18424731.500  13 November 2004  Genetically-modified virus explodes  cancer cells  
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn5056  01 June 2004  Weblinks Rasmus 
Nielsen, University of  Copenhagen  
http://www.binf.ku.dk/users/rasmus/webpage/ras.html  Harmit Singh Malik’s lab, Fred  Hutchinson Cancer Research Center  
http://www.fhcrc.org/labs/malik/  Public Library of Science Biology  
http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=index-html&issn=1545-7885  Close 
this window  Printed on Tue May 03 23:54:15 BST  2005  
Howard Bloom
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A  Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of 
History and Global Brain: The Evolution  of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 
21st Century
Visiting Scholar-Graduate  Psychology Department, New York University; Core 
Faculty Member, The Graduate  Institute
Founder:  International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic 
of Evolution  Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The 
Big Bang Tango  Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American 
Association for the  Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, 
Academy of Political  Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International 
Society for Human  Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; 
executive editor -- New  Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology  Project, see: 
for two chapters from 
The Lucifer  Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, 
see  www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of  Mass Mind from the Big 
Bang to the 21st Century, see  www.howardbloom.net

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