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Re: The sixth sense

  • Subject: Re: The sixth sense
  • From: Alektra@aol.com
  • Date: Sun, 3 Feb 2002 10:42:33 -0600 (CST)

I think it was discussed on this very forum, a few months ago, Dr. Frank 
Brown's discovery of a hybrid swarm of aglaonemas in the Philippines, where 
speciation was indistinct.

I think it is hard to say to what species most domesticated Ags belong. The 
question almost is meaningless. Costatum? Modestum? Pictum?

And there are more and more intergeneric crosses in the plant trade; for me, 
this is yet another indication that species are fluid, rather than 
crystallized entities. Most recently, I read of a melon-cucumber cross in the 
Park Seed catalog.

Species definitely are not entities in my view. They are names we give to 
especially strong currents in the flow of genetic material which is life. 
Wolves and dogs are interfertile, and so are their offspring, but we call 
them different species.

Moving along to issues of selection:

There are on the market a number of noncorrosive drain cleaners which are 
suspensions of bacteria repeatedly selected to destroy the slime which 
narrows many drain pipes.

There also are industrially available suspensions of microorganisms selected 
to do such tasks as eat the crude petroleum spilled around an oil well, or 
eat the gasoline leaked around a service station.

And on a less universally-agreed-upon note, a strong case can be made that 
HeLa cells constitute an entirely new species of microorganism, one uniquely 
adapted to the man-made environment of cancer research labs, which are no 
longer human cells. Many cancer researchers refuse to have them in their labs 
because of the way that HeLa cells will invade other cell cultures, compete 
with them, and actually destroy them. I understand that there also has been 
some genetic drift from the original material taken from the patient 
pseudonymously known as Helen Lane. Reasonable people may disagree, but I 
think the evidence is good that HeLa cells can be called a species of 
organism which has come about in our own era, evolved from human beings but 
not human.

[By the way, speaking of controvery, has anybody read Barry Commoner's lead 
article in the February issue of Harper's Magazine (not to be confused with 
Harper's Bazaar)?]

Finally, I want to make a suggestion which I hope merits your most serious 
consideration: I suggest that anti-evolution sentiment has turned into a 
defense of the notion of species as real entities, or essences. As you can 
tell from what I have written above, I do not think that species are real 
entities; I think they are simply groups of organisms manifesting many but 
not all traits in common. I am not a fan of the "jump" or "sudden break" 
theory of evolution; I am a gradualist.

What this all implies is: I personally suspect that anti-evolution beliefs 
are arguing against a straw man. Personally, I would like to see an 
antievolution case made against gradualist evolution.

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