I guess it came as a surprise to Robert that one of his more scientifically
suspect posts would be challenged by anyone on this list, since most of the
time he is allowed to go scot free.

Robert is entirely wrong about the human genome project and its
significance. It was and is important precisely because not only "some
useful generality about all humans was being produced," a Robert put it, but
that a huge amount of what we have learned and are learning about the human
genome ever since depended on having that first representative sequence.

As for horizontal gene transfer, I simply challenged Robert to come up with
a scenario, which he declined to do. How about this one:

A Neanderthal man and a modern human woman are swimming together in a lake.
The woman is ovulating at the time. A snippet of the Neanderthal's DNA, say
from his skin, hair, or bodily fluids, floats through the water, up the
woman's vagina, and makes contact with the egg. The DNA is taken up across
the egg's cell membrane, and across the nuclear membrane, where various
integrase enzymes incorporate it into the genome. (by the way, it doesn't
count if some of his semen floats in the direction of the egg, as from a
biological point of view that would be considered conventional interbreeding
and not horizontal gene transfer.)

There, that wasn't so hard, was it?

That's it for me, but interested in hearing from others if they wish.


On Tue, Aug 12, 2008 at 11:28 AM, Robt Mann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>  The insolent, arrogant Michael Balter wrote:
> It is rarsome useful generality about all humans was being produced.e that
> one sees as many factual and conceptual errors in one place as Robert has
> provided us in his post, but let me focus on just one: In terms of DNA
> polynucleotide sequence, individual humans vary by less than one base-pair
> per thousand.
>         Michael implies this is a negligible proportion.  But 10^-3, in a
> total of 10^9, is not obviously neglible, is it?
>   Neither Venter nor anyone else involved in the human genome project
> pretended that the sequence they produced was the only sequence that
> existed, ie that it was anything more than a reference sequence.  But
> producing such a reference sequence was a huge accomplishment, and it is now
> possible to sequence part or all of the genome of any particular individual
> because of the new methodologies that were developed and continue to be
> improved upon.
>         The fact remains unchallenged  -  J. Celera Venter & key other
> operatives used the term "the human genome" in a knowingly deceitful way,
> implying that some useful generality about all humans was being produced.
>   And the sequence provided a huge amount of new information as anyone who
> has paid any attention will know, ranging from a reliable estimate of the
> number of genes
>         And why should we believe that figure is now stable, settled?  It
> went down by a factor of several during "the human genome project".
> , a new ability to identify previously unknown genes, the ability to
> compare our genome with that of chimps and other animals, and of course the
> HapMap project would not have been possible without it.
> Oh, one more thing: horizontal gene transfer was probably important in
> bacterial evolution, but I wouldn't count on it having much to do with human
> evolution--unless Robert wants to provide us with a scenario of how
> Neanderthal genes made their way into the human genome other than by
> interbreeding.
>         Not much support for that first fine insolent outburst, eh?  No
> denial, indeed, that HGT may have occurred between Neanderthal & human  -
> which is all I suggested.  I made no implication of HGT having 'much to do
> with human evolution', nor of any frequency, even vaguely.  I merely
> suggested the possibility.  Without contradicting that, Balter issues
> insults.  Goebbels wouldn't have hired you, Michael  -  you're too crude,
> too obviously stupid.
> RM
Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
Boston University

Email: [log in to unmask]

Balter's Blog: