Home » Human evolution, News » Humanity beat apocalyptic plague 100,000 years ago?

Humanity beat apocalyptic plague 100,000 years ago?

Were we talking about human evolution theories a moment ago? Here’s another, easier to make into a movie: In “Was humanity born in the mother of all plagues?” (New Scientist, 04 June 2012), Michael Marshall reports,

Around 100,000 years ago, the human race was on the brink of extinction. Confined to Africa, our population had fallen to less than 10,000. Yet within a few tens of thousands of years, we began spreading around the world.

New genetic evidence suggests that one factor contributing to the population bottleneck was a massive epidemic of bacterial disease. The bacteria were exploiting two immune system genes, turning them against us. So the solution was simple: get rid of the traitorous genes.

Sure. Bell the cat.

Varki thinks that early humans were confronted with a massive epidemic of bacterial infection. The two bacteria he studied are particularly dangerous to newborn babies, who often die after being infected. That could explain why the human population fell so precipitously, and why we got rid of the Siglec genes that made us so vulnerable.

Whichever Darwinian marvel did that must have been one cell of a scientist.

Funny how much this story sounds like a Left Behind movie, retro-retro, minus the get-religion scenes.

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2 Responses to Humanity beat apocalyptic plague 100,000 years ago?

  1. I agree it’s speculative but why the mocking manner? Surely it’s worth examining humanity’s history and try and answer some questions. Maybe most of the guesses are wrong but sometimes you’ve got to make a guess and see if it pans out.

    “Modern science should indeed arouse in all of us a humility before the
    immensity of the unexplored and a tolerance for crazy hypotheses.”
    -Martin Gardner

    “Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when
    they are first produced.” – Alfred North Whitehead

    “There is nothing particularly scientific about excessive caution.
    Science thrives on daring generalizations.” – L. Hogben

    “If you haven’t found something strange during the day, it hasn’t been
    much of a day.” – J. A. Wheeler

    “Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible.”
    – M. C. Escher

    “The man who cannot occasionally imagine events and conditions of
    existence that are contrary to the causal principle as he knows it will
    never enrich his science by the addition of a new idea.” – Max Planck

    “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research,
    would it?” –Albert Einstein

    “Exploratory research is really like working in a fog. You don’t know
    where you’re going. You’re just groping. Then people learn about it
    afterwards and think how straightforward it was.” – Francis Crick

    “Who never walks save where he sees men’s tracks makes no discoveries.”
    – J.G. Holland

    “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be defeated, but
    they start a winning game.” – Goethe

    “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought
    without accepting it.” -Aristotle

    “There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That’s perfectly
    all right; they’re the aperture to finding out what’s right.
    – Carl Sagan

    “A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can
    be stabbed to death by a joke, or worried to death by a frown on the
    right person’s brow.” – Charles Brower

  2. Um, the article itself says that:

    “The genetic data suggests that the two genes were switched off in some humans between 440,000 and 270,000 years ago”

    So the genes, which are still active in chimps but may have NEVER been active in humans, were switched off 300,000 years BEFORE the bacterial disease showed up. There is also not even a SUGGESTION as to how chimpanzees survived the baterial plague with the genes switched on.

    The current standard explanation for The Genetic Bottleneck is The Toba Eruption: humans died off in the aftermath of a stupdenous volcanic eruption, regardless of which genes they had switched on.

    Varki is just trying to get some press attention for his bit of gene research by making an unsupportable claim that his “discovery” has some great significance.

    I’m sticking with the volcano.

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