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Science Idle

Scientists Make Fish Grow "Hands" In Experiment Revealing How Fins Became Limbs 110

An anonymous reader writes "While fossils have long shown that limbs evolved from fins, scientists have shown live in the laboratory how the transition may have happened. Researchers said that the new study published in the journal Developmental Cell offers evidence revealing that the development of hands and feet occurred through the acquisition of new DNA elements capable of activating specific genes."
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Scientists Make Fish Grow "Hands" In Experiment Revealing How Fins Became Limbs

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  • Re:Bizarre (Score:4, Interesting)

    by InterArmaEnimSil ( 2549238 ) on Monday December 17, 2012 @05:46PM (#42318319)

    the genetic codes for fins and hands are very similar, perhaps differing by just a couple of mutations

    Except for the fact that while the effect of the transplanted gene was relatively small - an increase in the quantity of a protein - there is nothing saying that the code of the mouse genes which produced the change was "just a couple of mutations." My guess is that the scientists probably imported at least several Kb of already-functional code into the fish genome to produce the marginal change in the protein production. Could be more, could be less.

    Saying that the genetics are similar because the effect is similar is akin to going, "Hey, this custom Cinnamon theme on Fedora looks a whole lot like Windows XP - it must be just a few tweaks to get from one to the other!" The underlying code might be similar, or it might not, (In the case of Fedora and Windows XP, it is not) but the presumption of code similarity from product similarity is unfounded. Likewise, the presumption that the functional mouse genes are just a simple tweak or two away from functional fish genes is nonsense. In this case, they might be, or they might not, but there is simply no way to make that judgment based on the effect the code produces.

    Why would a "designer" put in the effort to make the DNA so similar?

    Code similarity is far from a "constraint." Libraries, modularity, and code reuse are the bread-and-butter of effective and efficient programming. Why make something similar? As a designer of code, I have an answer - because if similar code works in similar cases, then you don't have to bother doing it all twice, ten, or ten thousand times, saving work and reducing the likelihood of error or corruption.

    Of course, that doesn't support Intelligent Design. However, claiming that experience designing code suggests that it would be easier to re-implement a feature from scratch for every use case rather than to re-use code is a bad idea.

    On a related note - Hey, let's make this an argument about religion on a tech news site, right where arguments about religion belong! Again....

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"