A moment of anti-Darwinian honesty at Wiki — the problem of genetic redundancy
|November 22, 2013||Posted by scordova under Darwinism, Genetics, Irreducible Complexity|
Wikipedia is known to be Darwin loving, but here is a moment of anti-Darwinian honesty:
Genetic redundancy is a term typically used to describe situations where a given biochemical function is redundantly encoded by two or more genes. In these cases, mutations (or defects) in one of these genes will have a smaller effect on the fitness of the organism than expected from the genes’ function. Characteristic examples of genetic redundancy include (Enns, Kanaoka et al. 2005) and (Pearce, Senis et al. 2004). Many more examples are thoroughly discussed in (Kafri, Levy & Pilpel. 2006).
A Darwinian Paradox Genetic redundancy has aroused significant debate in the context of evolutionary biology (Nowak et al., 1997; Kafri, Springer & Pilpel . 2009). This is because the redundant character of the genes (which are not associated with genetic duplication and which do not mutate faster) seems to defy natural selection. Usually, biologist try to fit their observations into a selection-framework, but here it does not fit.
To understand genetic redundancy and biological robustness we must not think in linear terms of single causality (“natural selection”) where A causes B causes C causes D causes E. Rather it must be appreciated that biological systems are scale-free networks. In a scale-free network the distribution of node linkage follows a power law, in that it contains many nodes with a low number of links, few nodes with many links and very few nodes with a high number of links. A scale-free network is very much like the internet: the major part of the websites makes only a few links, less make an intermediate number of links, whereas a minor part makes the majority of links. Usually hundreds of routers routinely malfunction on the Internet at any moment, but the network rarely suffers major disruptions. As many as 80 percent of randomly selected Internet routers can fail and the remaining ones will still form a compact cluster in which there will still be a path between any two nodes [Barabasi et al, 2003]. Likewise, genes never operate alone but in redundant scale-free networks with an incredible level of buffering capacity.
An interactive network of cooperating proteins that substitute for or by-pass each other’s functions provide the robustness of biological system. It is hard to imagine how selection acts on individual nodes of a scale-free, redundant genetic system. From an evolutionary standpoint, genes with overlapping functions implies minimal, if any, selective pressures acting on these genes. One therefore expects that the genes participating in such buffering of mutations will be subject to severe mutational drift diverging their functions and/or expression patterns with considerably high rates. Although the functional divergence of paralogous gene pairs can be extremely fast, redundant genes do commonly not mutate faster than essential genes (Winzeler EA et al. 1999; Wagner A, 2000; Kitami T, 2002].
Taking these notions into account, the very existence of genetic buffering, and the functional redundancies required for it, presents a paradox in light of the Darwinian (or: selectionist) concept.
The reason this is difficult for Darwinism is that redundancy is a feature of biology that requires foresight to evolve it. These are features that may not be immediately selectable, in fact they might be selected against in nature because natural selection selects against things that are not advantageous in the present even if they could be advantageous in the future.
Redundancy is a feature that anticipates future difficulties. But selection has a way of getting rid of potentially useful features if they are not immediately needed. See: Behe’s rule vindicated again
I previously highlighted the difficulty at UD:
A Darwinist might say, “redundancy is needed for survival”. I pointed out just because something is beneficial to survival doesn’t mean it will evolve. See:
Selection after something exists is not the same as selection before it exists.
This wiki entry provides a moment of anti-Darwinian honesty. How long will this honest criticism of Darwinism last at Wiki?