Name Changes in Massonia

Nhu Nguyen
Fri, 18 Jan 2013 13:23:43 PST
I will abstain from the discussion of what is a species because even the
most significant scientist still do not understand what a species is. What
we're decently good at is how to recognize species based on the human
perspective. I will instead try to clarify a few broad points and answer

To respond to Tim:
"If one draws a parallel from human genetic research, which went from
organelle sequencing to full genome, it seems people never learn (but you
can publish papers pretending that you are trying). Even then, when the
full human genome was sequenced, did we learn much? Not really ..."

Science is like trying to reach the top of a never ending ladder. The
scientist is the person on the ladder who must take one step beyond the
last to reach the next step. The knowledge accumulated from all that we
have learned serves as the lower rungs on which we support our weight in
order to move on to the next step. If we do not take a chance and publish
our available data and speculate the next step, we will never move beyond
step one. Science relies on what was before to more or less support and
push the blind steps in the future. That is what we call the cutting edge
that propels us forward.

We have learned a tremendous amount from the Human Genome Project but more
than anything, the human genome has become a tool (a rung on the ladder) to
support researchers for the next step. From sequencing genomes, we have
begun to discover widespread implications of what it means to be human from
a social standpoint, to where we have been in the past, to the latest in
modern medicine. We have learned of the tiny differences that makes up our
ethnicity that are only literally skin deep; we have traced our path of
migration out of Africa and discovered that the early humans mated with
Neanderthals, giving all modern humans Neanderthal genes; we have come
closer than ever to deciphering the genetic code of cancer and the
underlying genes of debilitating genetic diseases. Now for just $99 (vs.
the billions of dollars that went into sequencing the first human genome)
you can have your genome sequenced, and with it comes prediction of any
genetic diseases you may have. In the near future, doctors will have the
choice of keeping your genomic data on record and prescribe treatment
modified just for you. These are just a few examples of the many powerful
tools that have become available by learning about the human genome. What
you may have seen in science fiction movies will soon be reality.

From Aaron:

> A problem with the molecular age is that I have found numerous sequences
> on Genbank that are definitely wrong!
The sequences that we now have access to are only as good as the names that
are put on it. Thus there is a need, I would say loudly, more than ever for
taxonomists who can reconcile morphology and DNA. The molecular age does
not replace the need for taxonomists as some have suggest, but rather
create a need for more. With DNA, we have discovered more life on Earth
than what can be studied and documented by taxonomists for the next 300
years. Taxonomy since the days of Linnaeus have focused on morphology
because that's all we've got to work with. Now we have a new and powerful
tool and it is necessary for a new age of taxonomists to use those tools to
understand and catalog the diversity of life.

Now, to Leo's questions:

> I've forgetten a few things about biochemistry. Could somebody refresh my
> memory about exactly how many base pairs it takes to differentiate a
> species?
The % of sequence differences or similarity are used as a *proxy* for
species delimitation. It is not what makes up the species. Counting number
of basepairs is no longer acceptable as a way to delimit species, but you
have to take into account the evolutionary trajectory of those basepairs
when compared in a broad view.

In the future will it be acceptable to keep DNA sequences in a vault and
> say we're preserving the species?
Not quite preserving species, but DNA preservation of currently defined
species are already being banked. In some cases, DNA is the only thing we
know about a species because the organism may be unicellular and lives in
lake muck along with the other millions of species. In that case, the pool
of DNA is acceptable as the type.

Will people be considered alive for Federal income tax purposes if their
> DNA sequence exists in a vault somewhere? Will the tax rate vary with the
> location of the vault - inside or outside the USA?
I should also be able to accrue interest on my savings account say 100,000
years from now if my DNA were preserved.

Berkeley, CA, USA

More information about the pbs mailing list