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Biotech Science

The Human Mutation 339

eldavojohn writes "Scientists in China have announced finding the gene that makes us human. The article explains that prior work has shown that humans, as compared with the great apes from which we diverged over 5 million years ago, have a longer form of a protein (type II neuropsin) located in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. From the article: 'Gene sequencing revealed a mutation specific to humans that triggers a change in the splicing pattern of the neuropsin gene, creating a new splicing site and a longer protein. Introducing this mutation into chimpanzee DNA resulted in the creation of type II neuropsin. "Hence, the human-specific mutation is not only necessary but also sufficient in creating the novel splice form," the authors state.' The team is urging further analysis of the extra 45 amino acids in type II neuropsin since they believe that chain may cause protein structural and functional changes. The research didn't link anything with this protein, simply identifying it as a very distinct difference between us and our closest cousins."
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The Human Mutation

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @09:36PM (#19046727)

    science - systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation
    Sorry to rain on your parade, but science deals with the natural, not the supernatural. It can neither prove nor disprove God's existence.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @09:42PM (#19046761) Homepage Journal
    One obvious impact would be to look and see if this gene has undergone any further mutations - however trivial - or whether the associated junk DNA has. Of particular interest would be polyglots or other people with exceptional ability in communicating and understanding. Also of interest would be archaeological DNA where the relevant protein has survived. (It's rare for Y chromosomes to survive hundreds or thousands of years, but every so often it happens. Maybe this gene can also survive.)

    I'm assuming here that the mutation is involved in communication, as I know that the wiring in the front of the brain is linked to autism, which impacts the brain's I/O channels, and I/O is a major difference between apes and humans. However, this is an assumption and should be taken as such.

    We know that the ability to filter information has changed over time. Some of that has been changes elsewhere in the brain, but there is no advantage in a brain adapting to process information it hasn't got. Whereas, we already know from tetrachromats and synesthetes that there IS a usable advantage in getting information that would not normally be processed. If this gene is responsible for improving I/O bandwidth, then we should see a series of minor mutations over time that correspond to known I/O improvements within the brain.

    Could this be useful in some other way? Well, provided (a) it is involved in I/O enhancements, and (b) we can understand the relationship between changes within it and those enhancements, it should be possible to induce mutations that can improve the brain further, provided the change did not exceed the brain's ability to adapt.

  • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @10:38PM (#19047247) Journal
    Actually this really worries me.
    What if we produce a subspecies (I think that line is awfully close), are responsible for its care and preventing its extinction?
    What if we create a subspecies with limited intellect and self awareness, but capable of simple tasks: dig here, carry this from here to there, turn the red lever sideways, turn the blue lever up and down, etc.
    What now? What rights do they have? do we allow them to work in mines and nuclear plants? are they disposable? or better yet: are humans (homo sapiens) less disposable?
    This worries me no end and has nothing to do with religion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @10:47PM (#19047321)

    Oh, no. They can just claim that God designed this gene.

    I gotta hand it to them -- no matter what the evidence, they can sidestep it...

    We don't have to claim because it is implied. God set in motion the rules of physics and chemistry for the universe and created everything you see (and don't see). We aren't a result of the universe. It is a result of us. It didn't come from us but it is here for us to exist. Show me conclusive evidence for evolution and we'll talk. As it stands, the fact that multiple species share genes doesn't mean anything other than they share genes. Showing incomplete frames of "evolution" and filling in the gaps to fit a theory is creating evidence where none exists. You act like only one side of a debate ever does the sidestepping. Look in the mirror. I gotta hand it to you, no matter what the lack of evidence, you can still follow the wrong people.

    You need to start thinking for yourself for once and not believe that everything you read is true. You conveniently forgot that scientists make mistakes (even the smart ones) and others take up the slack to correct incomplete and errored theories. Evolution is only a theory and doesn't even make predictions about the world; its existence relies on imperfect and biased humans making guesses about a time period when they weren't alive in order to fit their *own* theory. Biased? Nah, of course not. It's interesting how a few skeletons (why only a few? where was everyone else?) can be used to create a fully detailed timeline of human history. Seems some scientists are looking a little too hard to find what they want to find.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @10:56PM (#19047393)

    I don't believe in god, but I'll be damned if some of you atheist evangelicals aren't just as fucking annoying as the Christian variety.

    You know those annoying assholes who mention god every time they open their mouths? Yeah, that's the way some of you atheists sound too. Ever seen the way some people slobber all over Dawkins like he was fucking Billy Graham?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 08, 2007 @11:48PM (#19047785)
    It's really not fair that you associate ID with geocentricism. Actually, there are a good number of scientists who support ID with actual scientific evidence. Granted, most of it doesn't try to support ID so much as it tries to disprove evolution. However, they are using science: the scientific method, actual data, real research, ect., and that can't be denied simply because of what they're pointing to. Anyone who disregards their findings simply on the grounds that they're trying to prove ID is as bad as the Catholic Church getting all worked up about the idea that Earth might not be the center of the universe. And, yes, there are a few (Ok, more than a few)creationists who never have, and never will, cared what scientific data says. However, there are also atheists who wouldn't change their views if God wrote his name on the moon in huge neon lights. People are stupid like that.
  • by yndrd1984 ( 730475 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2007 @02:33AM (#19048667)
    Well if Monsanto, or any of the other big firms into genetic research produce them, you can be sure that they'll be sterile.

    If you're talking about the "terminator gene" [], Monsanto has pledged not to use it.

    They wouldn't want anyone breeding their own after delivery; they'd want you to go back to the source for another fresh batch of clones.

    They might want repeat business? I may die of shock!

  • Underpeople (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stephen Ma ( 163056 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2007 @04:21AM (#19049129)
    The auther Cordwainer Smith had exactly your thought and wrote some stunning stories about the Underpeople (as he called them). See "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell", "The Dead Lady of Clown Town", and "Norstrillia".

    Also see "The Time Machine" by H. G. Wells, and "The Last Castle" by Jack Vance.

  • by hachete ( 473378 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2007 @07:04AM (#19049809) Homepage Journal
    "Is there a god?" "woof" "good boy, you're human alright."
  • by saforrest ( 184929 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2007 @10:41AM (#19051603) Journal
    It is the recognition of God, the concept of God. No matter if you accept it or deny it, or say "I do not know". If you capable to answer the question "Is there God?" in any way: positive, negative or agnostic way, once you have been presented with it, then you are a human.

    This isn't any sort of counterargument — I think your claim is wildly speculative, and not currently provable or falsifiabl — but I thought I'd mention it as it also concerns human evolution and the capacity for religious thought.

    In The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris suggests that religious impulses are a residual remnant from a more hierarchical social structure earlier in our primate ancestry. We moved from a model where we spent most of our time munching fruit in trees and an alpha male led the monkey troop to a model where we supplemented our diet with small game (as chimps to now) which required greater collaboration and necessitated a more egalitarian social structure. There might still be an alpha male, but one with less power. I quote:

    This change in the order of things, vital as it was to the new social system, neverthless left a gap. From our ancient background there remained a need for an all-powerful figure who could keep the group under control, and the vacancy was filled by the invention of a god. The influence of the invented god-figure could then operate as a force additional to the now more restricted influence of the group leader.

    At first sight, it is surprising that religion has been so successful, but its extreme potency is simply a measure of the strength of our fundamental biological tendency, inherited directly from our monkey and ape ancestors, to submit ourselves to an all-powerful, dominant member of the group.

    Now, this claim isn't provable either, and I think that since The Naked Ape there has been a lot of rethinking about how much of a role collaborative hunting really played in hominid social structure. But it's some food for thought.
  • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2007 @05:27PM (#19058743)

    Science won't ever disprove religion because religion begins a priori from the premise of [insert faith-based foundation of religion here].

    Religious people and organizations can and do make predictions about reality based on their faith. Time and again, science has proven these religious predictions to be false. The religious people make a big fuss, end up looking like fools, and ultimately, dozens or hundreds of years later, change their beliefs, all the while pretending that their creed is unchanging, eternal, and infallible. Even if you could ever find two "Christians" who believe the exact same things, their beliefs would be very different from Christians from the 1st Century. Religion evolves much more quickly than complex organisms do.

  • by yndrd1984 ( 730475 ) on Wednesday May 09, 2007 @07:20PM (#19060017)
    It may not happen any time soon, but you can be sure it will happen eventually.

    Well, sure. My (poorly made) point was that public pressure can make a difference. At the very least it gave us a few more years before such technology will be used, that way we're more prepared for it. On the other hand, it might just demonstrate that the customers are the ones dictating what companies end up doing.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault