Re: Evolution being slow ...

From: Matt Jensen (
Date: Mon Apr 23 2001 - 09:31:27 PDT

On Sat, 21 Apr 2001, Gordon Mohr wrote:

> This conversation reminds me of a bunch of things:
> (1) Since the genome has fewer genes than first thought, genes
> likely work together in ways more complicated than expected,
> or are joined in their operation by underestimated external
> influences.

The rest of your (interesting) comments focus on external influences, but
I think you're also dead on here that the smaller-than-expected number of
genes in the genome adds a new argument against the "evolution is highly
improbable" position.

To recap, a human has about 30,000 genes, "a genome about the size of a
corn plant, with roughly a third more genes than the fruit fly[1]". These
in turn produce on the order of 200,000 proteins. The proteins interact in
complex ways to produce a variety of phenotypes.

So, "merely" by juggling the proportions of genes in the existing gene
pool we could have very consequential evolution over the next x million
years. That's true even if no more cosmic rays (or PCB transformers, or
whatever) caused a single additional mutation in any existing gene. The
human genome can express roughly 2^30,000 potential phenotyes. That's
about 2^29,962 times as big as the world's population. And since genes
don't always split cleanly, a more accurate estimate might be 2^2^30,000.

-Matt Jensen


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