A little bit about dogs and us, but mostly us.

A little bit about dogs and us, but mostly us.

As my blog background suggests, I like wolves. Simply from a visual standpoint, there’s something very noble about them that gives them this almost magical quality. It’s not something I could put into words besides those. Unfortunately, for most of my childhood I had terrible allergies and could thus never have pets, so I can’t say I understand when people tell me how much they love theirs. I think it’s because of this I found the genes reading much more interesting than the dog excerpt.

In regards to dogs, though, I couldn’t help but think back to Dr. Nelson’s example of the Russian strays that had only in a few short generations undergone devolution, or a process that resembles it, from dog to wolf. Until now I had considered evolution in the Pokemon sense – once it happens, there’s no going back. But now I see that it’s a little more complicated than pressing B.

The article we read brought up the idea that no species is ever perfectly equipped to deal with its environment. I believe this is true and the evidence is right here. My personal theory is that we would never “evolve” into diseases like diabetes and cancer. That goes against the idea that we adapt to survive.

This is tangentially relevant to our reading, but I thought this would be a good place to discuss it. The idea has been brought up in class that cancer is our response to overpopulation. With some level of firmness, I reject that idea. To me, that implies that there is a sort of collective consciousness that governs which traits do and do not develop. As we learned in last week’s reading and as many of us are likely aware, a species can diverge into multiple species. In that sense, the history of our evolution, I believe, is more tied to our families in much the same way that my Ukrainian roommate can handle his vodka better than I can and has a high metabolism that forces him to eat three meals a day or starve (Keeping ones energy up in those harsh Russian winters). In other words, no matter how closely related my roommate and I are, one could say that my family and his represent different paths of the same species and that therefore we have different traits. He comes from his environment and I come from mine. We both, however, could get cancer at some point in our lives. What I mean to say is this—I don’t think our genes could be aware of overpopulation. That seems like a learned trait, not a genetic one. And if it isn’t a mechanical culling of sorts, what is it? I think that’s where our reading comes in.

What I would instead say is that these diseases (Cancer, diabetes) are the product of scientific progress that has outpaced evolution—we introduce poisons into our systems that our bodies are not yet equipped to handle. I believe that over time, and I certainly think this to be true of diabetes, we will evolve to process artificial sugars and carcinogens such as those in soda better than we do today. By then, of course, we will have new problems to adapt to.

There’s my rambling for this week. Hoping it made at least a little sense.

-Bill

4 thoughts on “A little bit about dogs and us, but mostly us.

  1. I think that your comments on the diseases like cancer and diabetes are very interesting. I definitely agree that we are outpacing evolution with our scientific breakthroughs and that each new generation is getting one step closer to developing natural mechanisms to combat the diseases of today, namely diabetes and cancer. However, I feel that diseases like these are a response to overpopulation to some extent. I agree with you that it isn’t really a natural process, whereby our genes can sense overpopulation and are developing cancers to deal with the problem, but I think that overpopulation may be having indirect effects on disease. I think that the sheer number of people that are consuming resources has increased so dramatically that is has forced us to consume and make use of things that have the potential to cause diseases like cancer, or heart attacks, or diabetes. So, in this sense, I think these diseases could be tied back to overpopulation, but in reality it is likely due to a variety of sources. I think that sort of makes sense but if not we can talk about it more on Tuesday.

  2. I am interested in your ideas about diseases. I think cancer as a check to overpopulation has less to do with changing genetics and more to do with changing environmental pressures. Through overpopulation humans are exposed to things that make cancer more likely, like pollution and such. I also think that as humans live longer we have a better chance to get cancer because you can get cancer if you died at 30 because you’re a hunter-gather in Eurasia. I am not a doctor or biologist, so I might be completely off base, but I am interested in talking about this more.

  3. That is a much more succinct way to say what I was trying to get across, Ben–not changing genetics, but environmental pressures (Which includes, of course, science and how it’s changed our diet in the last generation or so). I think that’s the best way to talk about something like Diabetes.

    In regards to cancer, though, I did some basic searching and found some information that actually makes me doubt my own claims about carcinogens. I thought of this as a modern disease for a very long time, mostly because now we have the means to detect it before it’s fatal. But apparently cancer has been a killer even back into ancient Greece–I just imagine that since lifespans in general were shorter then, less people died from it and therefore it has the illusion of being less fatal then than it is now. And of course, since we couldn’t detect it we have no idea how many people either lived long lives even with cancer or died but weren’t identified as cancer patients.

  4. Bill, I appreciate your rejection of cancer being some kind of ‘population control.’ The claim reminds me of a preacher condemning human sin as the cause of some terrible natural disaster. From what I’ve read, the primary cause in the rise in cancer is simply increasing lifespan. We’re always bombarded on how some previously benign activity has been discovered to cause cancer. It’s as if EVERYTHING causes cancer, and to a point, I think it does. If cancer is a natural phenomena, the rampant spread of mutated cells, then a longer life for an organism simply increases the chance of cell mutation.

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